William Butterfield 1814-1900
William Butterfield was born in London on 7th September 1814, the son of a chemist. At 17 years of age he was articled to a builder in Horseferry Road, but the indenture was cancelled after three years when he entered an architectural office in Worcester, where he studied early English church building. As a designer William Butterfield was virtually self taught.
Little is known of his early adult life until he appears as a friend of certain leading figures of the High Church Movement of the early 1840's. It was through the patronage of his uncle, Mr W D Wills, the Bristol tobacco manufacturer, that he obtained his first architectural commission, which was for a non-conformist chapel at Cotham in Bristol.
St Saviour's at Coalpit Heath was to be the first Anglican church by William Butterfield in a long and distinguished career.
From his office at 4 Adam Street, Adelphi, London came designs for over 100 churches, new and restored, including Keble College, Merton College and Balliol College Chapel, all in Oxford, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne Cathedrals in Australia as well as many churches, colleges and schools throughout the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.(see the Links page)
William Butterfield was throughout his life a devout Christian of high church Anglicanism. The Church, church buildings and worship were the chief part of his life. He practised for 50 years and died on 23rd February 1900.
His mature style is vigorous, even aggressive, using hard, angular forms and striking polychromatic brickwork, (the most approved "holy zebra" style in the eyes of it's critics). It served as a defiant assertion of a distinctively high church position. His buildings continue to arouse strong differences of opinion. Admirers think that his work has great originality and conviction, while detractors find it harsh and uncouth. Butterfield's style is never easy, never bland; it arrests the gaze and challenges the understanding.