Before the existing Barton hall was built, the Barton family lived for many generations in a Manor House situated in Barton village to the north of the present building. As early as 1275, in the reign of Edward I, we find mention of an arraignment against Agnes, daughter of Gilbert de Barton, touching lands in Barton, and towards the close of the 15th century there is record of a Gilbert Barton who was outlawed for trespass. History reveals that the early residence subsequently became a farmhouse and in 1786 a manorial residence on the present site was re designated Barton Hall. Charles Roger Jacson, son of founder member of the well known cotton firm – Horrocks Jacson & Co., of Preston – acquired ownership in 1846 and throughout forty seven years as Squire he became a great local benefactor and left much to charity. After his death, in October 1893, no purchaser could be found willing to pay the £104,000 asked for Barton Hall and in consequence the estate was divided into lots by the Trustees and sold by auction.

An interesting snippit from the writings of Mr Jacson’s widow will undoubtedly humour those who have known Barton Hall at some time or other. Referring to the consecration of Barton Church and a gathering of clergy at Barton Hall, she wrote, inter alia: “The clergy arrived in their full numbers and, after delay and much apprehension, the Bishop also. The dinner, with the seven-weeks-kept haunch of venison, passed felicitiously, notwithstanding as an ill augury the Bishop tumbling down over the Drawing Room doorstep as he and I went in……”

It is not at all clear if indeed, Barton Hall was again much occupied in the years before 1910 when ownership transferred to John Booth Esq., a member of the well known Lancashire firm of Grocers and Provisions merchants and, for several years leading up to World War II, Mr Davis W Miller, a farmer was the owner.

It seems a pity, that, in the interests of progress, those halcyon days should give way to Barton Hall as we know it now with its cluttered car park, its clattering vacuum tubes, and its chattering teleprinters. The ghost of Charles Jacson, who did so much to improve the Estate, must surely wander in frantic disapproval of the ghastly, almost obscene, additions and alterations perpetrated on this once gracious Manor House.

Soon after the outbreak of World War II, it was decided, for the more effective protection of North West England, North Wales and the Western Approaches to form No.9 Fighter Group. Barton Hall was requisitioned for the Royal Air Force in July 1940 and on 9th August the Group Headquarters began to form, and set up the North West Filter Room within its precincts.

Throughout the ensuing three years valuable service was rendered in defence of the Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham areas and, apart from much air/ sea rescue work in the Irish Sea and adjoining waters, the Group accounted for no less than 36 enemy aircraft destroyed, 10 probably destroyed and 27 damaged. Henceforth, as the threat to the North West receded, Headquarters 9 Group assumed responsibility for several Operational Training Units and by the time of its disbandonment on 17th September 1944, it had administered some forty stations, operating eighteen different types of aircraft flown by airmen of at least seven nations. His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sir Edwards Ellington, Air Marshall W. Sholto Douglas and the Air Minister Sir Archibald Sinclair, were amongst the most distinguished visitors to Barton hall during the war years.

During the latter part of 1944 Barton Hall functioned as an Education and Vocational Training Centre under the control of Headquarters No. 12 Group, but lapsed to a Care and Maintenance basis in 1945 following the start of demobilisation.

An ‘Area Control Centre’ was established at Barton Hall in the autumn of 1947, and shortly afterwards, on 10th November, the title was changed to ‘Air Traffic Control Centre and Aeronautical Information centre Preston’. On 24th June 1948, the Ministry of Civil Aviation assumed responsibility for the ATCC and although administrative control of military personnel was then transferred to RAF Kirkham, a Royal Air Force element remained at Barton hall as an integral part of its operational function. By March 1949 an Operations Headquarters had formed at Barton Hall and remained there until 1961 after which it moved to Royal Air Force Weeton to become Northern Region Air Traffic Services Centre (NRATSC), an offspring of the National Air Traffic Control Services and Headquarters United Kingdom Air Traffic Services. HQ UKATS was subsequently renamed Headquarters Military Air Traffic Operations and in December 1964 NRATSC, increasing its role considerably, became known as Headquarters Military Air Traffic Operations Northern Region and moved to its new location at RAF Lindholme.

Civilian and military staffs, working in harmony and co-operating from the inception of Preston ATCC, provided services respectively to civil and military aircraft operating within the Flight Information Region. Policy for Royal Air Force operations changed very little over the years and, in essence dictated the need;

a. To provide Air Traffic Control services to all RAF units, formations and military aircraft within the Northern FIR.
b. To provide an emergency and position fixing service to civil and military aircraft on the International emergency frequencies.
c. To provide advice to operational authorities about aerodromes suitable for diversions of aircraft and to arrange diversions where necessary.
d. To provide Flight Information Services to all military aircraft (including USAF) within the Northern FIR)
e. To trace overdue aircraft and initiate Air, Sea and Mountain Rescue action. To alert and liase with appropriate Rescue Co-ordination Centres and such other agencies as may be necessary.
f. To supply information regarding civil and military aircraft movements to the Air Defence System and to assist in tracing unidentified aircraft.

Perhaps, the military function of greatest significance has been the provision of emergency services and to meet this end, direction finding has always been a primary requirement. In the early ‘fifties’ this was accomplished with the aid of D/F outstations conveniently situated and dispersed throughout the United Kingdom. Bearings determined from aircraft transmissions were telephoned to the ‘centre’ and transcribed to a display map provided with cords, each emanating from a compass rose centred on the map position of the D/F stations. The co-ordinated alignment of cords with bearings provided the ‘Fix’…. Simple and ingenious, it became known as ‘Triangulation’ and confounded many an unwary pilot who inadvertently, or otherwise, caused a transmission to be made on the international distress frequency.

Keen interest arose from the results and the introduction of Auto-Triangulation followed. Auto-Triangulation was first installed at Preston during 1957.
The service was at first limited to VHF, the majority user of that time, and the UHF installation was added in November 1961. Auto-Triangulation, designed by ‘ Standard Telephones and Cables’, was none other than a sophistication of the cord and compass rose system, but it achieved results with much greater speeds and accuracy, and consequently led to greater efficiency. The system was linked to CRDF or CADF installations at the outstations – later known as Forward Relay Stations. Bearings automatically received by these stations were simultaneously fed by landline to the ATCC. By a system of back projection they were then automatically displayed as coloured lines on a large translucent screen depicting the areas covered by the network.

With the origin of each bearing trace centred on the map position of relative Forward Relay Stations, the intersection of several traces provided positional information for as long as the aircraft transmitted and, coincidentally, the landlines enabled the Controller’ speech to be transmitted to the aircraft via the Forward Relay nearest to the aircraft. Thereafter, the lengths of cord, with weights, and suction pads gave way to an electronic presentation. No longer the doubtful and sketchy telephone calls, the lengthy transmissions from aircraft, the piece by piece plotting of information, whilst the aircraft courteously remained airborne….

The new arrangement of personnel and equipment remained quite unchanged for many years after the advent of auto triangulation. A few interim modifications were introduced to facilitate the handling of VHF and UHF traffic simultaneously, but procedural method remained much the same until the influence of area radar began to be felt. This influence, though gradual at first, developed rapidly during the late sixties, and demanded the streamlining of procedures at the emergency desk - the once known panic position. Responsibility was re-appraised, duties reallocated, functional detail specified and the eighty or more landlines serving the ATCC were geared to integrate the ATCRU services, so that nowadays area radar may be gainfully associated with almost every emergency situation.

Progress, progress and we can still only guess at the emergency plans, which will no doubt materialise to back up such spectacular enterprises as moon trips. Meanwhile Barton Hall looks to the end of an era and to the beginning of yet another. Records reveal that from 1953 the ATTC handled more than fourteen thousand incidents ranging from minor situations to the most serious aircraft disasters and, often in conjunction, the vast telecommunications network served to aid mountain and maritime rescue. Happily the great majority at these were concerned with helping pilots to avert or recover from more dangerous situations. However there can never be grounds for complacency. Recent accomplishments only serve to show how horizons are ever widening at a startling pace and speeds of a thousand miles per hour heralded with awe not so long ago, suddenly gave way to cruising speeds of twenty five thousand miles per hour. And this with the accuracy, which could be the envy of British Rail....

'Triangulation' was a great idea at the time, although not entirely new. Heaven knows, apart from the early mariners, when the principle was first used. The aeronautical world certainly had a limit fixer service operating MF – W/T in 1935 and probably much earlier. Moreover, preceding the advent of VHF/UHF fixer services the Adcock Fixer and the fighter command HF 'Pip squeak' were used throughout the war years. Nevertheless, we must remember with gratitude he who formulated the idea of those pieces of string to plot and form a ‘fix’. He could not possibly have conceived the developments.

Since the closure of Barton Hall in 1975, the new sophisticated and integrated services of West Drayton have taken over. However, for those who worked and served at the Hall, it is now a time to look back with pride and great affection.




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