Arnold Burton

Arnold Burton
Arnold Burton
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ARNOLD Burton, a philanthropist, motor sport enthusiast and the youngest son of the founder of one of Britain’s biggest tailoring manufacturers, has died aged 95.

His life had many parts and as well as being a director of the family firm which grew to become the Burton Group, he successfully competed in car rallies both nationally and internationally and was part owner of one of the country’s few privately owned toll bridges.

He supported many important causes especially in medicine, welfare and education, and enjoyed helping others, but his involvement was always modest and discreet.

Arnold James Burton was born in Leeds, the youngest of the four children of Montague Burton and his wife Sophia. His older brother Stanley, sister Barbara and twin brother Raymond all predeceased him.

He was educated at Grosvenor House, Harrogate, and Clifton College before winning an English Speaking Union scholarship in 1935 to study for a year at Berkshire School in New England, America. He then studied at Cambridge where he gained a degree in geography.

An expedition to Iceland with the Royal Geographical Society then followed, but while there the Second World War broke out and he immediately returned to England to join the RAF, with whom he served in Burma.

After the war he and his brothers joined what had by then become a vast tailoring empire founded by their father Sir Montague Burton, a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant who arrived in England in 1900, aged 15, with £100. He had started work as a peddler, opened his first shop in Chesterfield in 1903, and within a decade had developed a small chain under the name of Burton & Burton, later Burton Tailoring and then the Burton Group.

The brothers became directors, and Arnold Burton took responsibility for the 600 shops based at Hudson Road, in Leeds until he retired at 65.

He was for a time chairman of the Multiple Shops Federation, and Master of the Merchant Taylors of York which was about to make him a presentation to mark his 50 years of membership this week.

He was a director of several other businesses, often with motoring interests. He was chairman and managing director of the British sports car manufacturer TVR in the 1960s, and a partner in John Woolfe Racing.

He always had a fascination for cars, taking as much pleasure in acquiring a Hillman Imp or a Land Rover as a Bentley or Aston Martin. He also loved motor sport at which he and his brother Raymond competed locally and internationally through the 1950s and 1960s, regularly taking part in the Monte Carlo Rally, the Tulip Rally, and the Alpine Rally.

In 1954 they won a coveted Alpine Cup, awarded to all the competitors who finished the event without penalty, the same year as Stirling Moss won one.

When competing in 1958 the brothers were injured when their car skidded off the road and crashed 150 feet down a mountainside in Northern Italy.

Mr Burton’s then wife, Barbara, was delighted when, aged 50, he eventually agreed to give up international rallying – until he announced that he was taking up scuba diving . He then compounded her horror by buying himself a powerful motorcycle as a 60th birthday present.

He organised motor sprints on private roads in the Burton factory grounds in Leeds, later buying Stockton Farm at Harewood where, with the British Automobile Racing Club, he began what was to become the famous championship Harewood Hill Climb which continues today. He also became a hobby farmer.

Among his charitable interests was the Stoke Mandeville Paraplegic Sports Association, the forerunner of the Paralympics in aid of which he helped to organise the Northern Horse Show with Baroness Masham.

With his brothers he was joint owner of Aldwark Toll Bridge, near Boroughbridge, which they bought 50 years ago so they could own part of their beloved Yorkshire. They had a forestry venture in the Yorkshire Dales.

His greatest regret in life was that in August 2005 he caused a road accident on the A58 in which a husband and wife were killed. Mr Burton, who was driving his Jaguar X-type, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving but was later cleared at Leeds Crown Court on medical grounds. He then gave up driving.

Mr Arnold had a brief wartime marriage to Edith “Bunnie” Rennie, from Harrogate, sister of actor Michael Rennie. They had a son, Simon, who died when young. In 1950 he married Barbara Flatau, younger sister of his brother Raymond’s wife, and they had three sons. She died in 1984 and 10 years later Mr Burton married Jean Rosenthal.

He is survived by his wife, three sons, 13 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.