Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Hutton, Alfred

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HUTTON, ALFRED (1839–1910), swordsman, born at Beverley on 10 March 1839, was eleventh and youngest child and seventh son of Henry William Hutton (1787–1848) of Walker Gate, Beverley, captain in the 4th (Royal Irish) dragoon guards (retired 1811). His mother was Marianne (d. 1879), only child of John Fleming of Beverley. A brother, Edward Thomas, was father of Lieut.-general Sir Edward Hutton, K.C.M.G. (b. 1848). Educated at Blackheath, Alfred matriculated at University College, Oxford, on 25 Nov. 1857, but left without graduating to join the 79th (Cameron) highlanders (31 May 1859). At the age of twelve he had taken hia first fencing lessons at the school in St. James's Street from Henry Angelo the younger (d. 1852), his father having been a pupil of Henry Angelo the elder [see Tremamondo, Henry]. On arrival at the depot of his regiment at Perth he soon proved himself an expert fencer. Upon joining the headquarters of his regiment in India, at the request of his commanding officer, Colonel Hodgson, he organised in the regiment the Cameron Fencing Club, for which he prepared his first book, 'Swordsmanship' (1862). In 1864 he exchanged into the 7th hussars, and in 1866 into the 1st (king's) dragoon guards, popularising fencing in both regiments. He was gazetted captain on 30 Sept. 1868, and retired from the service in 1873.

Invalided home in 1865, he had become the pupil and friend of McTurk, Angelo's successor, at the school of arms in St. James's Street. On leaving the army he devoted himself to the practice of modern fencing with foil, sabre, and bayonet, but chiefly to the study and revival of older systems and schools. His chief work, 'Cold Steel' (a title sometimes transferred from the book to the writer by his friends), was published in 1889. This was a practical treatise on the sabre, based on the old English backsword play of the eighteenth century, combined with the method of the then modern Italian school. Hutton successfully advocated the use by cavalry of a straight pointed sword for thrusting rather than a cutting sword. In 1890 he published 'Fixed Bayonets,' but his views of bayonet fighting were regarded in the army as too theoretical for modern practical instruction.

Under Hutton's instruction the school of arms of the London rifle brigade reached a high level of all-round swordsmanship. For its benefit 'The Swordsman' was written in 1891 (enlarged edit. 1898). In 1892 he published 'Old Sword Play,' a summary history of fencing as practised in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. In 1894 he was elected F.S.A., and an honorary member of the Cercle d'Escrime de Bruxelles, on whose invitation he took the chief part with several English pupils in a historical display of 'L'Escrime à travers les Ages,' held at the opera-house on 22 May. From 1867 he was a member of the London Fencing Club, and from 1895 till death he was first president of the Amateur Fencing Association, originally the fencing branch of the Amateur Gymnastic Association, the earliest attempt at organising English fencing. His last published work was 'The Sword and the Centuries' (1901), a popular illustrated epitome of his deeper researches.

Hutton was one of the founders of the Central London Throat and Ear Hospital in 1874, and for thirty years its first chairman. Of tall and picturesque figure, handsome face, and chivalrous bearing, traits suggestive to friends of Don Quixote, he was wholehearted in his devotion to the science of arms, which he did much to rescue from neglect. He died unmarried at his chambers in 76 Jermyn Street, London, on 18 Dec. 1910, and was buried in Astbury churchyard, Cheshire. A momorial tablet was unveiled at Astbury Church by Lieut.-general Sir Edward Hutton on 8 Oct. 1911. Besides the works mentioned and articles in periodicals, he published: 1. 'Swordsmanship for the Use of Soldiers,' 1866. 2. 'Swordsmanship and Bayonet Fencing,' 1867. 3. 'The Cavalry Swordsman,' 1867. 4. 'Bayonet Fencing and Sword Practice,' 1882. 6. 'A Criticism of the Infantry Sword Exercise,' 1895. 6. 'Sword Fighting and Sword Play,' 1897. 7. 'Examples of Ju-Jitsu for Schoolboys.'

Hutton's fine collection, of fencing and duelling literature, with some admirable specimens of Oriental sword-cutlery, he bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Hutton was often painted, usually in ancient or modern fencing costume. A portrait by John Ernest Breun, entitled 'Cold Steel,' won the gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1892, and is reproduced in Hutton's book so named (1889). Another portrait by W. Howard Robinson, foil in hand and mask under arm, was reproduced in 'The Field,' 25 June 1910; a caricature by 'Jest,' rapier in hand, was in 'Vanity Fair,' 13 Aug. 1903.

[Arthur W. Hutton, Some Account of the Family of Hutton of Gate Burton, Lincolnshire, 1898 (privately printed); private information supplied by Colonel Cyril G. R. Matthey, F.S.A., one of Hutton's executors; Thimm, Fencing Bibliography; Saturday Review, 6 July 1889 (Cold Steel), 14 June 1890 (Fixed Bayonets); The Times, 19 Dec. 1910; personal knowledge.]

A. F. S.