Thomas Butler

Thomas Snowden Butler (1846 – 17 September 1874, Knaresborough district)

Butler is the only person commemorated in St Michael’s who died before the inception of the parish and his connection to it remains elusive. He was the second son of John Octavius Butler (1812 – 1883, Leeds district), who had been baptised in Lancaster on 22 March 1812, son of Robert and Nancy or at Headingley, Yorkshire on 9 June 1814, son of Thomas and Ann. He married Anne Snowden in Hull on 22 May 1839.

Thomas had married at Kirkstall parish church on 18 October 1873 to Jessie Catharine Maddy Bowers (21 May 1852, Macclesfield, Cheshire – 1911, Maidstone, Kent), a daughter of the Rev Thomas Smallwood Bowers (1825, Wakefield, Yorkshire – 1875, Kirkstall), vicar of Kirkstall since at least 1861 and his wife Sarah Ellen, with whom she had been living in 1861 and 1871. Despite this seemingly Anglican pedigree, Jessie had been christened at Sunderland Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Macclesfield on 26 September 1852.

The Harrogate Advertiser of 26th September 1874 stated Thomas had died suddenly at his residence in Harrogate “on Thursday week, from the rupture of a blood vessel” and that he was the son of Major John Octavius Butler “of the Abbey House, Kirkstall, Leeds”. It noted that Thomas was himself a captain in the Leeds Artillery, a local volunteer or militia unit. He was buried on 22nd September in Kirkstall churchyard with military honours. The Advertiser’s account of the funeral stated:

The hearse, containing the oak coffin with the body of the deceased, was driven by road from Harrogate, followed by private carriages with some of the nearer relatives. At St Ann’s Lane the funeral procession was joined by a number of the workmen from Kirkstall Forge, and a detachment, numbering about 100, of the West Riding Volunteer Artillery, who had marched from Leeds with their band, under the command of Major Harding. The other Artillery present were Captain and Adjutant Shields, Captains Sykes, Hirst, Cooper, Atkinson, and Dolan; Lieutenants Coghlan, Nelson, Brown, and Cundy; Surgeon Kelly, and Quartermaster Varley. There were also present Major Ward and Captain Nelson, as representing the Leeds Engineers; and Captain Flood, of the Leeds Rifles.

At the church the service was read by the Rev L E W Foote, of Harrogate, assisted by the Rev T H Terry, curate of St Stephen’s, Kirkstall, and the Rev G W H Carr, of Whitby. The last named gentleman was formerly curate of the Kirkstall church, and in that capacity, on the 18th October last, he married the deceased [to Jessie Bowers] …. On account of ill-health, [Thomas’ father-in-law] Mr Bowers was unable to be present at the funeral.

On approaching the church the Artillery Band played the “Dead March in Saul”, which was also played upon the organ as the procession entered. The coffin was carried by the heads of the departments at Kirkstall Forge, and there was a crowded attendance in the church. Amongst the relatives and intimate friends of the deceased present was – Major Butler and Mrs Butler, widow of the deceased; Mr Ambrose Butler, the Misses Butler; Messrs Theobald Butler, Edmund Butler, Roland Butler, Bernard Butler, and Hugh Butler; Mr A Joy, Mr S Martin, Mr H Bowers; Mr G Barrett, manager of the forge, &c. the chapel choir, of which the late Mr Butler was a member, was supplemented for the occasion by members of the Kirkstall Vocal Union, of which he was president. In the course of the service they sang a hymn beginning “Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom”, which was a favourite with the deceased, also a chorale, composed by Mr Stables, the organist and choirmaster, on the occasion of the burial of a member of the choir who was killed by the Newark railway accident.

After the coffin had been deposited in the family vault, three volleys were fired over the grave by a firing party of 20, under the command of Captain Nolan. During the funeral heavy showers fell, but so general was the sympathetic interest of the villagers that a large crowd remained until the last tribute of respect had been paid to one who they all esteemed.

Thomas’ widow Jessie did not remarry – in 1881 she and her sister Edith Mary Bowers (1854, Headingley, Yorkshire) were both working as governesses and living with their widowed mother on Outwood Lane, Horsforth, Wharfedale, Yorkshire. In 1901 Jessie and Edith Mary were both living on their own means at Victoria Dwellings, 147 Queens Road, Battersea.

The October 1885 parish magazine stated that the window was “being put in its place as we are going to press”. The issue the following month stated “we are deeply grateful to the kind donor” but omitted to give a name.