Stephen Butt

Stephen Butt


This blog is about my interests in history and photography. I have always enjoyed discovering something new about the past, and there is always much to discover.

I am always pleased to chat about the subjects covered in my books and to hear about new historical research projects which I may be able to help you with.

I can also present illustrated talks to local history and heritage societies on a variety of subjects, some quite obscure, and I have my own audio-visual equipment.

If you would like to chat about a book, project, visit or idea, in the first instance, please contact me by email here.

A-Z of Leicester

BooksPosted by Stephen Sat, May 06, 2017 06:52:36
Copies of my latest book have just arrived, and as always with Amberley Publishing, it looks good, with a high quality of design, production and reproduction of the images.

A-Z of Leicester will be published on Monday 15th May at £14.99 - from all good bookshops, as they say - and also through your favourite online book supplier.

Celebrating Rutland's Independence

BooksPosted by Stephen Sat, April 01, 2017 07:59:32
Maybe it should have been called 'Rexit'? Twenty years ago today, Rutland regained independent status as a County, able to manage its own affairs. Here is an image from my 'Rutland Through Time', published by Amberley in 2007.

Thomas the Tank Engine

EventsPosted by Stephen Sat, February 11, 2017 16:10:50
On Friday 17th February I am honoured to be chairing an evening to celebrate the work of John Theodore Eardley Kenney, a fine artist of the latter half of the twentieth century who lived and worked in Kibworth.

John worked across many genres, from magnificently-detailed paintings of the hunting scenes of south Leicestershire to avdertisements for Wicksteed Park in Northamptonshire, the illustrations for 31 Ladybird books and six Thomas the Tank Engine stories.

I shall be joined by John's friends and former colleagues at the Kibworth design Studio of J.E.Slater.

Please contact Kibworth Community Library or the Kibworth Bookshop if you would like to join us.

Pochin of Leicester

ResearchPosted by Stephen Sat, February 04, 2017 08:01:31
While researching for my book on High Street brands, I discovered that James Kemsey Wilkinson, founder of the Wilko chain, worked briefly for Pochin who were based at the time in Granby Street. Wilkinson opened his own shop in 1930, appaently because he was disappointed that Pochins would not take up some of his suggestions for new products.

By happy co-incidence, I was recently looking through the souvenir programme of the famous Leicester Pageant and found this photograph of Pochins. The Pageant took place in 1932 so this must be very similar to how the store looked when Wilkinson was working there.

Broughton Astley

EventsPosted by Stephen Fri, February 03, 2017 07:15:33
I have two new talks booked in my diary. The Broughton Astley Heritage Society has invited me to talk about 'Leicester in 100 People' in October, and the Claybrooke Magna History Society about John Nichols - in January 2018!

The Rose and Crown

ImagesPosted by Stephen Thu, February 02, 2017 07:04:28
At the moment, many drivers on the A6 in Kibworth are being delayed by roadworks near to the former Rose and Crown, more recently known as Raithas, and some are no doubt wondering about its past and its future because the building has been empty for some time.

This old coaching inn has a long history. The oldest part is the section facing Main Street, which dates to the late 17th century. In 1815, the route of the turnpike through Kibworth was changed to avoid the dangerous bends along Main Street, effectively making a 'bypass' and the A6 route as we know it today. This made the elevation facing the A6 more important. It was the busiest of the many inns along the route because the bypass diverted business from the inns along Main Street.

Since the closure of Raithas, the building has deteriorated. One hopes that the present owners will soon develop the site and retain at least some of the historic features that remain.

Oak trees from acorns

ResearchPosted by Stephen Wed, February 01, 2017 06:42:46
For the next eight months I will be researching the stories of the men and women behind some of the most familiar High Street brands for a book commissioned by Pen and Sword. Remarkably, several of the big names began in Leicestershire, including Halfords, Currys PC World, Next, George and Wilko.

I recently met Tony Wilkinson, former Chairman of Wilkos, and son of the founder of the company. His father was James Kemsey Wilkinson, who opened his first hardware shop in Leicester's Charnwood Street in 1930. Tony gave me this photograph of his father, and told me of his memories of childhood, and later when he joined the family business and became manager of the company's first Leicester store in Charles Street.

St Michael's Blaston

ImagesPosted by Stephen Tue, January 31, 2017 14:23:12
Just a few miles from Market Harborough is the quiet village of Blaston. The ecclesiastical allegiances of the two modest little chapels in Blaston, separately dedicated to St Giles and St Michael, echo the ancient rivalries of the neighbouring villages of Hallaton and Medbourne.

St Giles has been long associated with Medbourne, and St Michaels with Hallaton. It was not until the twentieth century that they were united to create one ecclesiastical parish. It is said that St Giles was founded by Richard I. John Nichols informs us that this was in recognition of the gallantry of Hugo de Nevill:

By king Richard I, the lordship of Blaston was given to Hugo de Nevill, a valiant knight, who being a servant in court to king Richard the First, was in 1193 with that king in the Holy Land, where he performed the part of a stout soldier; and likewise flew a lion by a shot with an arrow into the breast, then piercing his body with a sword.

St Giles served the greater part of the valley in which Blaston lies. For centuries it was associated with Medbourne but maintained its independence as a free chapel with no obligations other than the payment of a pension of 5s per year which allowed parishioners from Blaston to be buried there. Nichols believed that the chapel's independence arose from being founded on royal demesne.

It was rebuilt between 1710 and 1714 with a round-headed doorway, two-light mullioned windows, and a small bell-cote, and it is this building that is illustrated in Nichols with a nave and small chancel and measuring just 50 feet 6 inches in length.

Both chapels were rebuilt again in 1878 by the Revd. G. C. Fenwicke. The architect was George Edmund Street who also designed the Parish Church of St Peters in Highfields in Leicester.

The chapel of St. Michael is first mentioned in about 1220 as belonging to that part of Hallaton church owned by the Martival family, and was even smaller than St Giles, being only 33 feet 6 inches in length and 17 feet 6 inches in width.

The small chapelry of St Michael comprised the eastern part of the village and a number of fields, and was served for three days of each week from Hallaton. The paddock, to the south of the main street, in which the chapel is situated, was owned by the rectors of Hallaton until it was sold in recent years.

St. Michael's seems to have been kept in very good condition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Longmate’s engraving in Nichols shows it as a simple post-Reformation building with square-headed windows and gables with parapets; but in 1838 the archdeacon reported that the roof was in disrepair and the east and west ends cracking away from the side walls. In 1842 he described St. Michael's as ‘a most mean building in a dilapidated condition, its timbers rotten, slates loose, and ceiling falling.’

The chapel was allowed to fall into worsening repair. In 1858 it was described as 'dilapidated, dirty and dangerous'. Finally, in 1878, it was rebuilt, and services continued to be held there until about 1922. It was partly demolished in 1967 and is now an evocative ruin in a very peaceful setting.

« PreviousNext »