Butterton Hall


Location   Butterton
Year demolished   1924  
Reason   Damage from miltary requisition in WWI  
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Butterton Hall is the story of two houses of that name of which neither has really survived - though more remains of the first than the second.

The first Butterton Hall was built in 1540 by William Swynnerton who had recently acquired the land. Built in red sandstone, it was a elegant Tudor mansion, rising three storeys with mullioned windows, and with the ends buttressed by large chimney breasts. The rear of the house featured a large mullioned arched window - though it's unknown exactly which room it must have cast considerable light, it was probably for the main hall in the centre of the house. Although the house was also castellated the house was not designed as a defensive building as the facades all featured several mullioned windows for each floor.

The house and estate descended through inheritance until it eventually passed to the Pilkington family following the marriage in 1825 of Mary Swinnerton, daughter and heir of Thomas Swinnerton (b.? - d. 1836), to Sir William Pilkington (b.1775 - d.1850) of Chevet Hall, Yorkshire (dem. 1955). According to drawings in the Sir John Soane archive, Thomas Swinnerton had commissioned drawings in 1809 for a new house at Butterton (and later, in 1815, for a new farmhouse) but continued requesting new designs for the next seven years. Whether unhappy with the designs, refining or just indecisive, nothing was actually built (apart from the farmhouse). The minor architect Leonard Wild Lloyd (b.c1802 - d.1868) exhibited designs as 'about to be built' at the Royal Academy in 1830 but these were never implemented2. Thomas seems to have abandoned the idea of replacing Butterton Hall and eventually died in Brighton on 9 May 18361.

It's not known why Sir William decided to move from Chevet Hall and make Butterton Hall his home but in 1847 he commissioned the building of the new house a short distance from the old hall. One possible reason may have been that Sir William wished to settle the old family estate on his heir, Thomas Edward Pilkington (b.1829 - d.1854), later the 9th Baronet, on his coming of age in 1850, aged 21. The new house was complete by 1850 - though this was promptly followed by Sir William's death that same year.

The new Butterton Hall was built to designs drawn up by the well-respected architect Thomas Hopper (b.1776 - d.1856) which were exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1840 as 'proposed to be built'3. Unlike many architects, Hopper worked to the principle that "It is an architect's business to understand all styles and be prejudiced in favour of none", leading to an output which included Jacobean, Tudor Gothic, Greek and Palladian styles. Perhaps following the fashions of the day and in stark contrast to their Palladian Chevet Hall, the new Butterton Hall was designed as a handsome Gothic Revival house. The new house was sited 150 metres to the south west of the old hall, further away from the road, and was seven bays wide on the entrance front with the middle three bays projecting and featuring a prominent porte cochere. The east front featured two hexagonal castellated towers which extended the equivalent of one storey beyond the height of the main body of the house. The south front was dominated by an single storey arcade which ran the full width between the east and west wings which were topped with impressive gables. The windowframes were all given Elizabethan-style hooded mouldings, whilst the windows themselves were mullioned with tracery detailing. Large matched sets of decorated chimneystacks completed the look. The old hall was then largely demolished leaving a section of wall as an 'eye-catcher' to enhance the view from the new house. The overall effect was an elegant and interesting house set in an enviable position.

Lady Pilkington lived in Butterton Hall until her death but it was never to be the Pilkington family seat. After her death, the house, as was common with secondary houses, was let to tenants; in 1870 to a John Gardom, in 1884, a Capt. George Shakerley, and in 1908, a Robert Lewis Johnson were listed as in residence, however these were exceptions as it was often left empty. Throughout this time the estate, now comprising some 1,700 acres, remained in the ownership of the Pilkington family.

This rather neglected house was a prime candidate for requisition during the First World War, being near a large urban area, with parkland, and no family to protest at being moved out. It was quickly taken over with 'G' Company, 5th Reserve of the North Staffordshire Regiment, in residence by October 1914, with the military remaining in occupation until 1916. The depradations of wartime use, with its attendant lack of maintenance and care, meant that the house was in a very poor state by the time the family regained control. With finances undoubtably tight, it would've been difficult to justify spending money on a little used, secondary house. In 1921, the house was found to be severely infested with dry rot and so the decision to demolish was taken. The firm of Berrisfords of Chesterton were contracted to do the work and in 1924 the house was demolished. Some of the stone was reused in nearby buildings including a gentleman's residence which became the local golf club. The stables were spared and have since become a large Grade II listed house which includes the old Butterton Hall as an ornamental garden feature. Of the 'new' Butterton Hall, nothing remains; the land has been ploughed obliterating all traces and is now simply a field in which cattle graze.

1 - 'The Gentleman's Magazine' - 1836
2 - 'A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840' - pg.657 - Howard Colvin (pub. Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)
3 - 'A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840' - pg.543 - Howard Colvin (pub. Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)