Torquil Norman

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Torquil Patrick Alexander Norman
Born 1933
Nationality British
Occupation Businessman
Insignia of a Knight Bachelor

Sir Torquil Patrick Alexander Norman, CBE (born 1933) is a British businessman, aircraft enthusiast, and arts philanthropist.


An Old Etonian, graduate of Harvard and of Trinity College, Cambridge, he stands 6' 7". Sir Torquil gained his pilot’s licence at eighteen, did National Service in the Fleet Air Arm. When he left bought a Piper Comanche, flew in No. 601 Squadron RAF,[1] and took up skydiving, a passion shared by his wife, Lady Anne née Montagu.

After working as an investment banker in the United States for eleven years, he returned to the UK in the 1960s and subsequently entered the toymaking industry, first as chief executive of Berwick Timpo[2] toy company from 1973, and then in 1980 founding Bluebird Toys, makers of the Big Yellow Teapot House, the Big Red Fun Bus, and the very successful Polly Pocket line of dolls. [3]

A long-term Camden resident, he bought the derelict Roundhouse arts venue in Chalk Farm for £3 million in 1996 "as an impulse buy", having read it was proposed to turn it into an architectural museum.[4] As founder and chairman of the Roundhouse Trust he then raised £27 million from public and private sources, including almost £4 million more of his own personal funds, to restore the crumbling Victorian former railway repair shed, which had been a major arts venue in the 1960s and '70s.

The restored Roundhouse reopened in June 2006 as a 1,700 seat performance space, with a state-of-the-art creative centre for young people in the undercroft, and a new wing with a purpose-built bar and café.[5][6] It was soon the base for a major season by the Royal Shakespeare Company, played host to regular big-name rock concerts, and by 2008 had involved over 12,000 teenagers in creative arts projects.[7]

Norman, who was previously appointed CBE, stepped down as chairman of the Roundhouse Trust in 2007,[8] and was knighted the same year for his "services to the arts and to disadvantaged young people".[9] In 2007 he won the Beacon Fellowship Prize for his work with young people through the Roundhouse Trust.[10]

A collector of classic aeroplanes, he wrote a vivid account of flying a DH Leopard Moth across the Atlantic.[11] In 1995 Torquil Norman and Henry Labouchère undertook a long distance flight in a light aircraft, culminating in their East-West trans-Atlantic flight in a (then) 59-year-old De Havilland Dragonfly, with both of them being awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Royal Aero Club.

Sir Torquil has five children, including Conservative Party MP Jesse Norman, and ten grandchildren. His elder brother is Air Cdre Sir Mark Norman and his younger brother also in remainder to the family baronetcy, Desmond Norman, was co-founder of Britten Norman aircraft.[12]

Published works[edit]

  • 2010 – Kick The Tyres, Light The Fires: One Man's Vision For Britain's Future And How We Can Make It Work. Infinite Ideas. ISBN 978-1-906821-53-1.


  • "I can’t understand the logic of consigning all the people who are no good at exams to the dustheap. What we’ve created is a fantastic problem in society."
  • "I don't want to rearrange the deck chairs. I want to redesign the ship."[13]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]