The Butt Ironworks Story

 

Crump Works - located next to where Gloucestershire Archives stand today - made pre-fabricated iron barns, water troughs and other agricultural equipment and - as can be seen from the illustration below - won many agricultural show medals during the 1870s and 1880s.Having explored the story behind Crump Ironworks in Alvin Street, Gloucester, in a companion article on this website, my attention was drawn to the Butt Ironworks, an even older establishment located in Sweetbriar Street, just below the legend “Kingsholm Ward” on the map reproduced left.

 

 

J.M.Butt & Co were one of three companies – the others being Barron and Danks – located at Kingsholm Foundry which was described  by the publication “Industrial Gloucester 1904” as being the oldest and largest such undertaking in Gloucestershire.  It was certainly an important employer for many people living in the nearby streets of Clapham. 

Reader Simon Wright has also kindly been in touch to point out that one of the iron pillars in Stroud Congregational Church - built from 1835 to 1837 - has been cast with the legend "Jackman and Cooke, Kingsholm Foundry".Reader Simon Wright has also kindly been in touch to point out that one of the iron pillars in Stroud Congregational Church – built from 1835 to 1837 – has been cast with the legend “Jackman and Cooke, Kingsholm Foundry”.

John Michael Butt was from a long established Severnside family and his father, Richard Butt, operated the candle and tallow factory close to today’s Folk Museum in Westgate Street.  On Richard’s death another son ran this business until its closure in 1861.

 

 

John’s mother, Deborah Acton (nee Hair)  had family connections with a wine merchant in Bromley, Kent, and, with the development of Gloucester Docks, established a similar business in Gloucester.  The 1841 Census shows that Deborah was living in a large house called Greenfields on the corner of Kingsholm Road and Sandhurst Lane and John was living opposite at “The Bijou”. 

Both properties, which would have been in quite a rural location in 1842 when the foundry was established although both dwellings have now been replaced by blocks of flats.

Much of the production of the foundry was such practical items as rainwater pipes, guttering, bollards and drain covers, of which 90 survive in Gloucester alone.

However, a number of sources suggest that J.M. Butt & Company built the first railway carriage in Gloucester in 1852 – eight years before the foundation of the Gloucester Wagon Company Limited, later better known as The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Limited.

Although this vehicle has long since disappeared, J.M. Butt did cast the unusual pillar box which still remains in use at Barnes Cross, south east of Sherborne in Dorset and illustrated below courtesy of Mr Adrian Steel. Constructed between 1853 and 1859 for the Gloucester and Western District of the Post Office, the non-standard polygonal post box has a moulded plinth, a collecting door with inset for collection time display below the crown flanked with the initials VR and a vertical letter slit. Also moulded in cast iron are a cornice and peaked top.Although this vehicle has long since disappeared, J.M. Butt did cast the unusual pillar box which still remains in use at Barnes Cross, south east of Sherborne in Dorset and illustrated below courtesy of Mr Adrian Steel.  Constructed between 1853 and 1859 for the Gloucester and Western District of the Post Office, the non-standard polygonal post box has a moulded plinth, a collecting door with inset for collection time display below the crown flanked with the initials VR and a vertical letter slit.  Also moulded in cast iron are a cornice and peaked top.

Located at 50.9046 lattitude and  -2.4378 longitude (Ordnance Survey reference ST 693 118) this box was listed as Grade II* on 16 September 1987 and is believed to be the oldest in public service.

Three other pillar boxes of a different design by J.M. Butt and Company survive.  One is located at the National Postal Museum, London, the second at Haverfordwest town museum and the third is a private posting box at Stonehouse Hospital, Plymouth. All four only slightly post-date the very first British pillar boxes erected on Jersey in 1852.

Back in Gloucester, John Michael Butt had a showroom in Market Parade by 1863 to display agricultural ironmongery to farmers visiting the nearby cattle market and when he died suddenly at the age of 68 in 1886 his elder son Harley Kingford Butt took over Kingsholm Foundry in Sweetbriar Street before selling the concern to Danks in 1917.  The site of Kingsholm Foundry is nowadays occupied by Kingsholm Church of England Primary School.

John Michael Butt’s younger son John Acton Butt became an accomplished artist and married Clara Nicks of the renowned Gloucester timber family while John Michael Butt’s daughter Rosa married Sir James Bruton of Reynolds Flour Mill in Gloucester Docks who later became both Mayor and MP for Gloucester.

5 Comments

  1. alan | |

    From the Daily Mail of Thursday 28 March 2013:

    Rural postboxes are rescued from threat of the axe

    Royal Mail had wanted to axe 115,000 postboxes.

    Regulator Ofcom has stepped in and blocked the move.

    Postboxes in rural areas are to be saved by rules which say that almost everyone must have one within half a mile of their home.
    Royal Mail had wanted to lift protection for the country’s 115,000 postboxes, putting those in remote areas at risk of being removed to save money.
    But in a victory for rural communities, regulator Ofcom has insisted that the iconic red postboxes must be protected.

    Postboxes in rural areas are to be saved by rules which say that almost everyone must have one within half a mile of their home.
    Royal Mail had wanted to lift protection for the country’s 115,000 postboxes, putting those in remote areas at risk of being removed to save money.

    But in a victory for rural communities, regulator Ofcom has insisted that the iconic red postboxes must be protected.
    Under its proposals, published yesterday, 98 per cent of Britons must have a postbox which is ‘within half a mile’ of their home.
    The distance is measured by a ‘straight line’ rather than along a winding road.

    It provides more protection for postboxes in obscure locations, such as nestled in the walls of cottages or hidden in bushes on country lanes by the sea.
    Yesterday the Department for Business said the new rules, which will be subject to a consultation ending on May 1, ‘can only be a good thing’.
    Under the current rules people must have a postbox ‘within 500 metres’ of their home.

    But the rules only cover areas where there are at least 200 delivery points – typically, a letter box – per square kilometre, which means people living in rural areas are left out.
    But while Ofcom agreed with Royal Mail that the current rules are ‘not fit for purpose’, it said they did not go far enough.
    An Ofcom report said: ‘They [the current rules] do not protect those users who are most likely to need protection – users in rural areas, where postboxes typically have lower volumes of mail and higher costs of collection per item.’

    Around 2 per cent of addresses would not be covered by the new rules.
    Typically these are in ‘very remote or isolated locations such as farmhouses’, Ofcom said. Royal Mail must provide ‘sufficient’ postboxes or alternatives.
    Claire Norman, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: ‘Quite apart from the iconic value of our much-loved red postboxes, they provide a vital and necessary service on which many still depend.’
    Ofcom also ruled out getting rid of the first class next-day delivery service.
    It scrapped an idea, which it had raised last year, of merging first and second class post into one service taking two days to arrive.

    Anthony Trollope, the 19th Century novelist who worked for the Post Office for more than two decades is credited with introducing postboxes in the UK after seeing them in France and Belgium. Many of the first postboxes were painted green to blend in with the landscape, but the colour was changed to red in 1874 to make them more visible.

    Britain has 115 500 post boxes, compared with only 16 000 in Australia, 7 100 in Finland, 5 900 in Ireland and 1 200 in Luxembourg. Around 500 postboxes are listed by English Heritage.

    In 2012, Royal mail painted 110 postboxes gold for each British Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winner.

    • alan | |

      From the Daily Express of Monday 6 May 2013:

      A red letter day for our rural post boxes

      BRITAIN’S rural post boxes will be given new protection under plans likely to come into force next month.

      Thousands of boxes in remote and countryside areas currently have no protection from removal. It means people living outside towns and cities are at risk of being left with no access to postal services.

      Some parts of the UK are covered by regulations requiring a post box to be within half a mile of 98 per cent of homes and delivery points.

      Royal Mail must provide “other means” of access to postal services for the remaining two per cent. But these rules do not apply to 61 of 121 postcode areas of the country.

      Under new regulations set out by regulator Ofcom, protected status would be extended to these areas.

      Ofcom said it aims to “ensure Royal Mail continues to provide sufficient post boxes”. Its consumer group director Claudio Pollack said: “Consumers and businesses across the UK have told us that they place a high value on the universal postal service.

      “We are also proposing new protections to ensure that everyone continues to have access to local post boxes, including those in rural communities.”

      The move, which means 115,500 post boxes will be protected, was welcomed by Royal Mail.

      Spokesman Stephen Agar said: “Nine out of 10 customers consider Royal Mail a core part of the community – particularly in rural areas where we are part of the lifeblood of day-to-day communication. Easy access to post boxes is an important part of this.”

      A consultation has just finished and a final decision to go ahead is expected in the next month.

    • alan | |

      From the Daily Mail of Monday 3 March 2014:

      Smashed from walls. Ripped out of the ground. As a rash of thefts spreads across the country… who IS stealing Britain’s postboxes?

      The fact the crime took place opposite the quiet 14th-century church which is the final resting place of the artist Henry Corbould — designer of the Penny Black stamp — is an irony almost certainly lost on its perpetrators.
      It’s unlikely the thieves who, in the dead of night, snatched a small, rectangular postbox from a telegraph pole in the East Sussex village of Etchingham, were aware of the graveyard’s distinguished occupant.
      They certainly didn’t care that they were depriving scores of villagers of the means of posting their letters.
      In the realm of the nefarious, it may lack the sensationalism of a jewellery heist, or the shock value of a bank robbery. But the theft of this postbox, and scores of others across Britain, is undoubtedly one of the more bizarre crime waves to sweep the country.
      Since January 2013, at least 25 boxes have been the subject of a police investigation after vanishing from villages and town centres. More than 55 have vanished in the past five years.
      Despite police appeals, those behind the mysterious disappearance of Etchingham’s postbox two weeks ago have yet to be found.
      Neither have there been any breakthroughs in the Norfolk market town of Wymondham, scene of a similar theft in January. And residents of the coastal villages of Wiveton and Bodham, also in Norfolk, are still scratching their heads after two postboxes were snatched in October last year.
      In some areas, these postboxes are the only method of dispatching mail for miles around. Replacing them can cost the Royal Mail more than £1,000 a time.
      Arguably more significant, though, is the loss to local history.

      A box taken from St Peter South Elmham in Norfolk last February dated from the reign of King Edward VII. Another, snatched at around the same time from nearby Denton, was installed during the Victorian era.
      As Robert Cole of the Letterbox Study Group, an organisation of enthusiasts which keeps a database detailing the origins of more than 115,000 postboxes across Britain, says: ‘You can tell a lot about a place from its letterbox. Each one tells a story.’

      He points to the example of his local postbox near Rotherhithe in London. ‘It dates back to Edward VII — but it’s surrounded by Sixties buildings. It turns out the whole area was bombed during the War and the postbox was the only thing left standing.’
      Stealing a postbox is not exactly easy. Boxes are typically in town centres, meaning thieves usually strike under the cover of darkness.
      A nd the boxes are hardly flimsy. Made from cast iron, they can weigh up to 55st. Extracting a large, freestanding pillar box also requires thieves to dig several feet underground. Consequently, the theft of these is extremely rare.

      However, even smaller boxes, such as Etchingham’s pole-mounted model, must be carefully unscrewed before being loaded into a getaway van.
      In May, thieves in Blaxall, Suffolk, went so far as to smash their vehicle into the wall in which the village postbox was mounted to free it from its perch.

      Clearly, Britain’s postbox thieves are a determined bunch. But why? The answer to that, believe police, is profit. But it’s nothing to do with the contents of the boxes — it’s the boxes themselves.
      Unlikely though it sounds, there are collectors willing to pay thousands for their own postbox.

      Websites such as eBay and Gumtree advertise second-hand postboxes for sale from £180 to £5,775.
      The quintessentially British boxes are particularly popular abroad — in the U.S., Russia and the Far East.

      Some people just collect them,’ says Vivienne Newton, whose company UK Architecture Antiques has traded legitimately acquired antique postboxes for more than 40 years.

      ‘Others will buy one to use it as a postbox for their second home, because they hold lots of mail. We sold one to a hotel, which used it as the entrance to a laundry shute.’ The fact is, many of Britain’s working postboxes are antiques in themselves. The pillar box was introduced by novelist Anthony Trollope — then a postal surveyor — in 1852. Each pillar or postbox bears the royal cypher of the monarch in whose reign they were created.

      Some postboxes date back more than 200 years. The oldest, in Wakefield, was installed in 1809. A further 7,000 carry the letters ‘VR’ signifying that they were installed during the reign of Queen Victoria.
      Nearly a quarter of operational boxes carry the GR cypher of George V which makes them more than seven decades old.
      Each era has produced its own range of idiosyncratic designs. Some early models were green and sported vertical slits. Others, from the Victorian era, are hexagonal in shape.
      Among collectors, the most popular — and consequently the most valuable — are Victorian free-standing pillar boxes, which can go for more than £5,000.
      However, there aren’t many for sale which have been acquired legally.
      The Royal Mail used to auction off old postboxes that had been decommissioned, which happens when they are simply too old and worn to use, or because the area in which they are sited no longer needs one. But the practice stopped in 2003, and these days, old boxes are repaired and kept in stock as potential replacements.
      As a result, a thriving black market in stolen postboxes has developed.
      ‘There are only so many legitimately decommissioned postboxes in circulation,’ says Stephen Neil, an antiques dealer based in Antrim in Northern Ireland. ‘You don’t have to be a wizard to work out where many of those for sale are coming from.’
      Yet, so far, police have made little headway in tracing the stolen boxes.

      This is partly because few thieves would be so naive as to sell them online directly. Instead, they are likely to offload them to an unwitting specialist dealer as soon as possible.
      Since the trade in antique postboxes is unregulated, it is almost impossible to ascertain which models have been obtained legally and which have been stolen. Boxes are not marked with any form of serial number or identifier.
      Even the most established dealers can be taken in. Vivienne Newton says that, when buying a postbox from a private seller, she will always ask about its history. But she admits that there is no way she can guarantee a seller is telling the truth.

      Other boxes, police believe, are stolen to order. Then, they will be directly handed over to collectors — after which they are unlikely to be seen again.
      Little is known about the identity of the thieves. In some cases, they may be opportunists. In 2012, Gwilym Williams, a 41-year-old builder from Anglesey, was jailed for a year after selling a stolen postbox.
      However, convictions are rare and there has yet to be a prosecution in the recent spate of crimes.
      That many of the thefts have been concentrated in particular areas — such as Staffordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk — would indicate that the crime is being perpetrated by roaming gangs targeting specific regions.
      This was the suggestion in September when five boxes disappeared from Staffordshire within the space of a month. Local police claimed the incidents were linked and warned dealers to be vigilant.
      For its part, Royal Mail says that whenever a box is stolen, it works with local police to try to trace it.
      Royal Mail won’t be drawn on its plans for improved security, but one obvious solution would be to work with dealers to compile a database of those postboxes which are available legitimately.
      Another would be to ban the sale of postboxes completely.
      ‘As soon as you encourage sales, you encourage people to nick them,’ says Robert Cole. ‘They are pieces of public property that people like and admire.
      ‘Every time I see one for sale, it breaks my heart.’

  2. alan | |

    From the Daily Express of Monday 6 May 2013:

    BRITAIN’S rural post boxes will be given new protection under plans likely to come into force next month.

    Thousands of boxes in remote and countryside areas currently have no protection from removal. It means people living outside towns and cities are at risk of being left with no access to postal services.

    Some parts of the UK are covered by regulations requiring a post box to be within half a mile of 98 per cent of homes and delivery points.

    Royal Mail must provide “other means” of access to postal services for the remaining two per cent. But these rules do not apply to 61 of 121 postcode areas of the country.

    Under new regulations set out by regulator Ofcom, protected status would be extended to these areas.

    Ofcom said it aims to “ensure Royal Mail continues to provide sufficient post boxes”. Its consumer group director Claudio Pollack said: “Consumers and businesses across the UK have told us that they place a high value on the universal postal service.

    “We are also proposing new protections to ensure that everyone continues to have access to local post boxes, including those in rural communities.”

    The move, which means 115,500 post boxes will be protected, was welcomed by Royal Mail.

    Spokesman Stephen Agar said: “Nine out of 10 customers consider Royal Mail a core part of the community – particularly in rural areas where we are part of the lifeblood of day-to-day communication. Easy access to post boxes is an important part of this.”

    A consultation has just finished and a final decision to go ahead is expected in the next month.

  3. alan | |

    From the Daily Express of Monday 6 May 2013:

    A red letter day for our rural post boxes

    BRITAIN’S rural post boxes will be given new protection under plans likely to come into force next month.

    Thousands of boxes in remote and countryside areas currently have no protection from removal. It means people living outside towns and cities are at risk of being left with no access to postal services.

    Some parts of the UK are covered by regulations requiring a post box to be within half a mile of 98 per cent of homes and delivery points.

    Royal Mail must provide “other means” of access to postal services for the remaining two per cent. But these rules do not apply to 61 of 121 postcode areas of the country.

    Under new regulations set out by regulator Ofcom, protected status would be extended to these areas.

    Ofcom said it aims to “ensure Royal Mail continues to provide sufficient post boxes”. Its consumer group director Claudio Pollack said: “Consumers and businesses across the UK have told us that they place a high value on the universal postal service.

    “We are also proposing new protections to ensure that everyone continues to have access to local post boxes, including those in rural communities.”

    The move, which means 115,500 post boxes will be protected, was welcomed by Royal Mail.

    Spokesman Stephen Agar said: “Nine out of 10 customers consider Royal Mail a core part of the community – particularly in rural areas where we are part of the lifeblood of day-to-day communication. Easy access to post boxes is an important part of this.”

    A consultation has just finished and a final decision to go ahead is expected in the next month.

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