Dr. Francis John Butt (1863 – 1933)
Francis John Butt was Hoole's Medical Officer of Health for over 30 years and his contribution to the life of the area shows him to have been a remarkable man.
His father, also Francis Butt, appears in the 1851 Census as a clerk in the Inland Revenue, and by the 1861 Census then aged 59 had married Francis's mother Mary Cawley who was 30 years younger than him. He was still listed as an officer of the Inland Revenue, also a City Councillor, but his wife's occupation appears as a jeweller and silversmith, their address being Eastgate Street.
Francis John Butt was born in 1863, his father died in 1869, and in the 1871 Census his widowed mother appears as a goldsmith employing 2 men at the Eastgate Street premises. Francis went to the Kings School and then became a medical student, living at the age of 18 at No.8 Curzon Park with his mother and sister Mary Leonara. He went to medical schools at University College London and at Edinburgh University, worked in Nottingham Hospital and qualified in 1887.
In 1892 Francis married Harriette Hirsch and their first home was 3 Allington Terrace, now No.37 Hoole Road. They had four children, Hortense Nora in 1893, Francis Alfred 1896, Edward Sculthorpe 1899, and Harold Walthew 1900. His wife died suddenly in 1900 and the 1901 Census shows his sister had moved into Allington Terrace to look after the children. The Census also shows Hortense aged 8, as a residential pupil at Miss Neville's school at "The Elms". One of her fellow pupils was Clare Helen Dobbins, the daughter of "Patsy" Dobbins, the well-known canal side scrap merchant, who lived in Newton Lane. In 1903 his youngest son Harold died. Later that year Francis remarried to Charlotte Barell and they had a son John Everett. During this time the family moved across the road to "The Limes" where the doctor was to practice until 1929. (More information on the property can be found in the article on 'Kilmorey Park' in Hoole Road).
From the time of his arrival in Hoole Dr. Butt played a large part in local life. Newspaper reports show that he was a popular doctor, always on call, frequently giving evidence. A notable inquest was on the wife of William Farmery, landlord of The Beehive, who died suspiciously of strychnine poisoning. Dr. Butt became Medical Officer to the local Great Western Railway Company, visiting doctor to children's homes at Dodleston and Saughall and an assessor for several insurance companies.
In 1894 he was elected to the newly formed Hoole Urban District Council and was soon making well informed and considered contributions. A supporter of provision for the wellbeing of inhabitants he was behind the proposals to provide the public park, the first part of which opened in 1904, and the bowling greens which followed. Although a newcomer to Hoole he was not in favour of its amalgamation with Chester, an issue raised several times in the early 20th century. In 1900 Dr. Butt became Chairman of the Urban District Council, but when the post of the Council's Medical Officer of Health became suddenly vacant, he resigned his position and was appointed to the post which he occupied for 33 years. He was instrumental in opening a Child Welfare Centre at No.55 Hoole Road.
Copies of his Medical Reports for 1905, 1913, and 1925 which contain a lot of interesting information about the District at approximately 10 year intervals, can be found at archives provided by the Wellcome Foundation:
They are all attributed to ‘Medical Officer of Health, Hoole U.D.C. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)’
When he joined the Council in 1894 moves were being made by fellow member Richard Cecil Davies to form Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade and Dr. Butt became heavily involved in its operation. He was appointed as Surgeon Lieutenant, he immediately provided St Johns Ambulance training for its volunteers and was a regular attendee at all its events, in 1919 receiving a 25 years’ service award. More information on Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade is in preparation.
Dr. Butt was a founder member of a revived Hoole Cricket Club, playing as wicket keeper. He became its President in 1896 and reports of its dinners (unhealthily called smokers) at the Ermine Hotel show how a lot of off-field activity was enjoyed.
This was the time when Chester Football Club had its ground in Hoole, first at Faulkner Street and then on the site of Hewitt Street. Chester F.C. had origins from the Kings School F.C. and in the 1896/7 season Dr. Butt became a committee member. More than that he also appears to have been the team doctor, being on a number of team photographs of the time.
Hoole Alexandra Park Bowling Club was established in 1912 using the new bowling green, and in 1914 Dr. Butt presented ‘The Butt Cup’ so as to stimulate competition among the members. After ten years it was won outright by T. Bennion and he gave a replacement which is still played for today. The Doctor encouraged the provision of another green - No 3 at the Panton Road end of the playing field, and the putting green which opened next to the tennis courts. He himself had played lawn tennis representing in 1893 Chester in a match against Wrexham. He became an enthusiastic golfer playing at both The Bache and Curzon Park Golf Clubs.
When Hoole Literary Institute was formed in 1897, he became its Vice-president and was a keen member of Hoole School of Cookery which held meetings in the 1900s. For a number of years he sat on the bench at Chester Police Court.
Dr. Butt was the parade marshal of the procession to Alexandra Park in 1911 celebrating the coronation of King George V, leading it in his car which was decorated with roses. He employed a chauffeur, Samuel Gorham from Peploe Street whom he allowed to keep pigeons in the space above his garage.
Many of the social events Dr. Butt attended ended with recitals and a sing song; invariably the Doctor would be a contributor, 'My darling Clementine' and 'There is a tavern in the town' being a part of his often reported repertoire. In a fund-raising event in 1902 for the Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade he is actually listed as one of the artistes appearing!
His obituary in 1933 reported how "he had served the Hoole Authority conscientiously and efficiently, his annual reports to the Council being instructive and models of clarity. He was always proud of the health record of the District and used to claim it as the healthiest spot in the area".
He certainly made the most of it.
- Article researched and written by Ralph Earlam, February 2022, Hoole History & Heritage Society