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.

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.

Weston Seascape

Weston-super-MarePosted by Stephen Tue, January 31, 2017 12:18:39
I grew up by the seaside. We went for cross-country runs along the beach and later my first school holiday job was with a beach photography business. In recent years, the promenade and seafront have been improved beyond measure, mainly because of flood-prevention work. This is the view of the rebuilt Grand Pier, taken from Knightstone.

In its natural state Knightstone was a barren island reached only at low tide. It was a good fishing spot, a salmon of 30lbs once was landed there. The causeway, bath house and swimming pool were among the first features developed to create the health and holiday resort of Weston-super-Mare.

The causeway was heightened using granite from a quarry near Falmouth, owned by Dr Joseph Fox. This weighty cargo was transported round Lands End in ships belonging to his cousin G.K.Fox. Granite was also used for the characteristic Cornish bastions protecting Knightstone from the sea. Contemporary reports state that Dr Fox spent £20,000 or more on the island.

This view is from the building whch once accommodated Dr Fox's medical baths, and which are now Dr Fox's Tearooms.

Leicester in Fifty Buildings

BooksPosted by Stephen Tue, January 31, 2017 12:06:18
I enjoyed writing this book as I was able to take photographs during good weather, and chart my own chronological path around Leicester.

From its origins as a Roman settlement to its current status as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the UK, Leicester has a proud and distinctive identity. This extraordinary history is embodied in the buildings that have shaped the city. Leicester in 50 Buildings explores the history of this rich and vibrant community through a selection of its greatest architectural treasures. From the ancent Jewry Wall to the shiny and modern National Space Centre, this unique study celebrates the city's architectural heritage in a new and accessible way.

Well-known local author Stephen Butt guides the reader on a tour of the city's historic buildings and modern architectural marvels. The churches, theatres, pubs and factories of Leicester's industrial heyday are examined alongside the innovative buldings of a twenty-first century city.

Leicester History Tour

BooksPosted by Stephen Tue, January 31, 2017 09:59:50
My next book to be published is a pocket-sized history tour of Leicester including a map so you can follow the route!

The publisher's blurb says: Leicester History Tour is a unique insight into the illustrious history of this East Midlands city. Local author Stephen Butt guides us through the streets and alleyways, showing how its famous landmarks used to look and how they’ve changed over the years, as well as exploring its lesser-known places and hidden corners. With the help of a handy location map, readers are invited to follow a timeline of events and discover for themselves the changing face of Leicester.'

Published on Wednesday 15th February 2017, it will be available from bookshops and online at £6.99.

John Theodore Kenney

EventsPosted by Stephen Tue, January 31, 2017 09:41:29
I am enjoying researching the life and work of artist John Theodore Kenney for a special evening event at Kibworth Community Library on Friday 17th February 2017. I am looking forward to meeting people from Kibworth who knew and worked with Kenney, and looking at examples of his remarkably broad repertoire.

Kenney was born in Leicester and studied at the Leicester School of Art. He worked for Slaters, the design studio based in Kibworth. He is best known for his images of Thomas the Tank Engine for the Revd W. Awdry, and for his paintings of horses, dogs and other animals. He also illustrated more than thirty Ladybird Books.

Arguably his most outstanding work is a series of sketches and paintings made whilst serving in Europe following the D-Day Normandy beach landings.

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