T. A. Critchley

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T. A. Critchley
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Born (1919-03-11) March 11, 1919 (age 104)
DiedJune 28, 1991(1991-06-28) (aged 72)
CitizenshipUnited kingdom
OccupationCivil Service

T. A. Critchley (11 March 1919 – 28 June 1991) was a British civil servant. He rose from the rank of Clerical Officer to Assistant Under Secretary of state|Secretary of State. Key roles included that of Principal Private Secretary to Rab Butler as Home Secretary, Secretary to Tom Denning, Baron Denning|Lord Denning’s enquiry into the Profumo affair, Director of the Uganda Resettlement Board. After retirement he became a magistrate and Chaired the Middlesex Area Probation Committee. He spent a significant amount of his career in the Police Department of the Home Office where he was credited with modernising the Police Force.[1]

Having seen some very significant poverty and deprivation in West Cumbria he joined the Civil Service to improve the world he lived in. He was one of the few who rose from the very bottom rung to near the top. Although well regarded, as Grammar school rather than Public school (United Kingdom)|public school educated he was never fully accepted by some colleagues. He was the author of several published works.

Early life, education and war service

T. A. Critchley was born in London Borough of Barnet|Barnet, London where his father, also Thomas Critchley, was a chemist. His mother, Annie nee Darvell had been a teacher.

He attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Barnet leaving at the age of 17 to join the Civil Service. At the outset of the war he registered as a conscientious objector but joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps|ROAC in a non-combative role.

Early career

After the war Critchley returned to the Civil Service rising to the rank of Principal in the Home Office in 1948. He came to the notice of his permanent secretary by writing the Civil Service Today in 1951 which received good reviews. William Beveridge|Lord Beveridge wrote in the introduction, “Writing from inside a Department with understanding of how ordinary Civil Servants do their work he (Critchley) has been allowed to help the public outside share his intimate knowledge”. In 1954 he joined the Cabinet Office then a small department, where everyone knew everyone else, with some famous names Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, Lord Bridges, Head of the Home Civil Service and Lord Normanbrook, Secretary to the Cabinet.

Mid career

From 1957 to 1960 Critchley was Principal Private Secretary to the reforming Home Secretary, Rt Hon Rab Butler MP. Rab Butler wrote in his memoir, “The Art of the Possible”[2], “with the aid of my able junior TA Critchley….I was able to bring to the Home Office the same spirit of reform and zeal for progress as with the Education Act in 1944”. Through this, Critchley established very close links to the police and was, in 1960, appointed as Secretary to the Royal Commission on Police. As soon as the commission started work it found that the police badly needed public support, better conditions and more money. In meeting these demands Critchley remembered the members “went to the brink” of recommending a national police force, but were too timid or politic to go the whole way.[3]

Profumo affair

In June 1963 Critchley was appointed as Lord Denning’s Private Secretary for Denning’s enquiry into the Profumo affair. He was party to the interviews that Denning undertook with politicians, journalists, Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, Stephen Ward, and others. Over the course of the enquiry he came to like Stephen Ward and, irregularly given his position on the enquiry, rang him to wish him luck the night before he was due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey for a charge of Living on Immoral Earnings. The journalist Tom Mangold was with Ward and later wrote "Suddenly the phone went. Ward answered it. “My dear chap, how kind of you to call… oh, thank you so much… what a welcome surprise… I really do appreciate the trouble you are taking… yes, yes of course, I’ll be totally discreet about this. Thank you again.”[4]

Ward turned to me, and for the first time that evening he was smiling and almost happy. "Christ, you won’t believe this – that was Tom Critchley, Denning’s private secretary. He wished me luck for tomorrow. What an extraordinary man, and what a generous thing to do. Please, Tom, not a word about it." Mangold did not use the story until well after Critchley’s death (Telegraph 19 May 2013) describing in the same article Critchley as a "deeply honourable senior civil servant".

Ward took an overdose that night and died three days later.

Critchley was subject to some embarrassment in 1964 when Ludovic Kennedy published his book, “The Trial of Stephen Ward”[5] and quoted Critchley’s off the record comment to him, "I daresay we were a bit unfair to Ward".

Later career and publications

Critchley returned to Head the Police Department of the Home Office at the end of 1963 staying there until 1971. He worked with P. D. James|PD James who was later to become a well-known crime writer. Critchley and James collaborated during this period to write The Maul and the Pear Tree[6][7],(ref) an account of the Ratcliff Highway murders|Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811. In 1967 Critchley wrote the, then authoritative, police history, “A History of Police in England and Wales”.[8] Robert Mark|Sir Robert Mark wrote in the introduction, “the author reveals an extraordinary understanding of the police function…..My own view is that he will have an honoured place in the literary history as an all too rare assessor of the evolution of the police service”.  .  From 1971-2 Critchley was Secretary to the Gaming Board for Great Britain and from 1972-4 Director of the Uganda Asian Resettlement Board (Dr B Taylor UEA 2018). Taylor wrote, “The Board constructed itself under the leadership of Sir Charles Cunningham (civil servant)|Charles Cunningham.[9] He and the Board’s Secretary, Tom Critchley, were supported by a mix of representatives from central and local government. Jon Snow (journalist)|Jon Snow wrote of the work of the Board, “Many judge the arrival and embrace of the Ugandan Asians as one of the most successful moments in UK immigration history. They came to play a disproportionally successful role in the UK economy”[10]. Critchley’s final role was to lead the Community Programmes Department of the Home Office. This included race relations and Community Development Projects (CDPs) described in Frank Field (British politician)|Frank Field’s book “Education and the Urban Crisis 2012”[11]. There were twelve CDPs named by the Home Secretary when he announced them in 1970 as “a neighbourhood-based experiment aimed at finding new ways of meeting the needs of people living in areas of high social deprivation”. By the time Critchley took over the leadership for them in in 1974 he described them in his personal diary as being “in an advanced state of decay with academics and practitioners at odds with each other” One was in Cleator Moor in West Cumbria and brought Critchley in full circle in that he had an opportunity to do something to counter the extreme poverty that he had witnessed as a teenager and had brought him into the Civil Service. Notwithstanding Critchley’s diary comments a retrospective evaluation in 2016 described the project, “the most highly significant event to shape the work of community development (and not just in the UK ) over the past 50 years” (Gary Craig Durham University, Concept v7 No 2 2016)[12]. In 1975 Critchley retired from the Civil Service.


In his retirement Critchley became a justice of the peace and the first male vice-chair of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, now Royal Voluntary Service|RVS.

Personal life

In 1942 Critchley married Margaret, nee Robinson in 1942. The couple had three children, Carol, Barbara and Alan. He lived for the last thirty years of his life in Hampstead Garden SuburbWho's Who (UK)|Who’s Who gave his recreations as reading, gardening and walking.[13]


  • The Civil Service Today 1951[14]
  • The Home Office (1954) Sir Frank Newsam ("Ghost written" by TA Critchley)
  • A History of Police in England and Wales (1967)[8]
  • The Conquest of Violence (1970)[15][7]
  • The Maul and the Pear Tree with PD James 1971[6][16]
  • The Police We Deserve (contributor) (1973)[17]


  1. Newburn T. (forthcoming) Official history of Criminal justice, v5: Policing in post-war Britain, London” Routledge)
  2. Butler, Rab (1971). The Art of the Possible – The memoirs of Lord Butler. Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 0-241-02007-7.
  3. ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE POLICE (REPORT) HC Deb 09 May 1963 vol 677 cc680-799 https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1963/may/09/royal-commission-on-the-police-report
  4. Mangold, Tom (19 May 2013). "The Fall Guy For Profumo". The Telegraph.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. Kennedy, Ludovic (1987). The trial of Stephen Ward. London: Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-04194-3. OCLC 16711706.
  6. 6.0 6.1 James, P. D.; Critchley, T. A. (Thomas Alan) (2010). The maul and the pear tree : the Ratcliffe Highway murders, 1811 (Paperback ed.). London. ISBN 978-0-571-25808-6. OCLC 649801988.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Critchley, T. A. (Thomas Alan), 1919- (1970). The conquest of violence: order and liberty in Britain. London: Constable. ISBN 0-09-456880-4. OCLC 77837.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Critchley, T.A. (1966). History of police in England and Wales. Sir Robert Mark- introduction. Constable.
  9. Taylor, Becky (Spring 2018). "Good Citizens? Ugandan Asians, Volunteers and Race Relations in 1970s Britain". History Workshop Journal. 85: 120–141.
  10. Snow, Jon (6 Sep 2015). "The day Britain took in 27,000 refugees". Channel 4 News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Field, Frank (202). Education and the Urban Crisis. ISBN 9780710085351.
  12. [i] Shaw [ii] Armstrong [iii] Craig (2016). "Re-visiting the Community Development Projects of the 1970s in the UK". Concept, 7(2): 16.
  13. Who’s Who?. A and C Black. 1989.
  14. Critchley, T.A. (1951). The Civil Service Today. Introduction by Lord Beveridge. London, Victor Gollancz.
  15. "The Conquest Of Violence by Critchley, T A". biblio.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  16. James, P. D.; Critchley, T. A. (Thomas Alan) (1986). The maul and the pear tree : the Ratcliffe Highway murders, 1811 (1st American ed.). New York: Mysterious Press. ISBN 0-89296-152-X. OCLC 13011130.
  17. Alderson, J. C. (John Cottingham); Stead, Philip John (1973). The police we deserve;. London: Wolfe. ISBN 0-7234-0515-8. OCLC 803486.