A rediscovered Butterfield Christmas Gift

Although Ian, our ‘Butterfield’ Volunteer has been unable to come in to continue his transcription of the letter we hold,  he’s been busy doing some background research to give context to some of the family history.

He offered to write a blog for us on a timely discovery he’d found.  He writes:

A recent trawl of the Internet turned up the following slight but timely item of Butterfieldiana  – An inscribed copy of a book of poems “The Battle of Maldon and other poems ” by Frederick William Louis Butterfield, son of Henry Isaac Butterfield who built Cliffe Castle.

The front cover (red material with gold text), the book title is 'The Battle of Maldon Etc' with the author's intials FWLB in gold as well)
The front cover of Frederick’s poetry anthology

In the late 1890’s Frederick returned to England from America where he had been working as an independent stockbroker to fulfil a long held dream of studying at Oxford as a very mature student. (He was then in his 40’s)

black and white photo of Frederick William Louis Butterfield in Academic dress
Frederick William Louis Butterfield in Academic dress

Studying English led him to translate some poetry from the Anglo Saxon period (Pre 1066) and he decided to publish these together with some of his own original poetry in aid of the Widows and Orphans Branch of the Transvaal War Fund as in 1900 the Boer War was being fought in South Africa.

F.W.L had a personal interest as Trooper Brown the son of Henry’s trusted manservant (and Henry’s godson) was out fighting in South Africa and Henry was surprised at the privations endured by the troops in the field. Used to opulent surroundings and fine dining Henry obviously hadn’t much personal experience of privation.

This particular copy of the book “The Battle of Maldon and other poems” was sent to Mr and Mrs Jacob Ridgway ‘with F.W. L’s best xmas wishes from Oxford’.

They are presumably relatives of F.W. L’s first wife Jessie Ridgway who was an American and the book has now found its way back to West Yorkshire 120 years after being sent as a Christmas gift.

Tellingly F.W.L has added a separate note to the enclosed flier stressing that all profits from the publication will go to charity, presumably to ensure that his wife’s relatives don’t think that as a wealthy man in his own right and heir to the wealthier Henry. he is reduced to earning his living by his pen.

(Editor’s Note:  Mrs and Mrs Ridgway are Jessie’s parents –  he definitely wouldn’t have wanted them thinking he was making money from writing! )

F.W.L was an occasional poet who also published “The Crevasse”, a dramatic study rather like Thomas Hardy’s “The Dynasts” in 1903 together with at least 2 volumes of reminiscences , the most well known being “My West Riding Experiences” published in 1927 and dedicated to his late wife who died in April 1927 .

Front cover of Frederick's memoirs 'My West Riding Experiences - in dark purple material, with the title and author details impressed into the cover
Front cover of Frederick’s memoirs ‘My West Riding Experiences

We thought you might also enjoy one of the Poems from ‘The Battle of Maldon & other Poems’ –  this one is full of local references.


Within the bound of Staincliffe’s ancient right,

Beside the pregnant Aire; blue hills among,

Where diamond tarns in nodding heather strung,

Refulgent, deck far Rombald’s moorland height,

There lies a town that glads my weary sight.

How oft in thought my soul expectant hung,

On beauty such as thine; and yet my tongue,

Now fails, my hand unnerved can barely write.

Why tremble thus ?my inner self opprest

By blind anxiety no hopes dispel:

The warbler sings in yonder lind recessed;

Red glows the mountain-ash in fairy dell;

Light is your shade, familiar towers blest;

But where , ah where is she I loved so well?


I take the last line as a reference to Sarah Anna who had died in 1870 so the publication of this booked marked her 30th anniversary.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *