Butterworth, James (DNB00)

BUTTERWORTH, JAMES (1771–1837), Manchester topographer, was the youngest of eleven children, and was born on 28 Aug. 1771 in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne. His parents were probably handloom weavers. They sent the boy to school under Mr. John Taylor of Alt. Taylor allowed him a share in the instruction of the lower classes. Butterworth attained some skill in ornamental penmanship. He married in 1792 Hannah Boyton, by whom he had ten children; the youngest, Edwin, attained, like his father, some distinction as a topographer. After many years spent in tuition, Butterworth acted for some years as postmaster of Oldham. He produced a lengthy series of books and pamphlets on the history of his native county, which record much that would have been forgotten but for his personal observation. He died on 23 Nov. 1837.

His writings are: 1. ‘A Dish of Hodge Podge, or a Collection of Poems by Paul Bobbin, Esq., of Alt, near Oldham, Manchester, printed for the author, 1800.’ 2. ‘Rocher Vale,’ a poem printed at Oxford 1804. 3. ‘An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Town and Parochial Chapelry of Oldham,’ Oldham, 1817; a second edition appeared in 1826, ‘The Rustic Muse, a collection of poems,’ Oldham, 1818. 4. ‘A Sequel to the Lancashire Dialect, by Paul Bobbin, Couzin German of the famous Tim Bobbin of merry memory,’ Manchester, 1819; professedly written in the local dialects of the parishes of Ashton and Rochdale. The frontispiece is a portrait of ‘Paul Bobbin,’ and represents a thin, sharp-featured, large-eyed man, with long and slightly curling hair. The plate is engraved by Slack from a drawing by Butterworth. 5. ‘The Antiquities of the Town, and a Complete History of the Trade of Manchester,’ Manchester, 1822; reissued in 1823 as ‘A Complete History of the Cotton Trade, &c., by a person concerned in trade.’ 6. ‘History and Description of the Town and Parish of Ashton-under-Lyne and the Village of Dukinfield,’ Ashton, 1823. 7. ‘History and Description of the Towns and Parishes of Stockport, Ashton-under-Lyne, Mottram-Long-Den-Dale, and Glossop, with some memorials of the late F. D. Astley, Esq., of Dukinfield, and extracts from his poems, with an elegy to his memory,’ Manchester, 1827. These four works appear also to have been issued separately; the ‘Memorials of F. D. Astley’ is dated 1828. 8. ‘A History and Description of the Parochial Chapelry of Saddleworth,’ Manchester, 1828. 9. ‘An Historical and Topographical Account of the Town and Parish of Rochdale,’ Manchester, 1828. 10. ‘The Instruments of Freemasonry Moralised,’ Manchester, 1829; a pamphlet. 11. ‘Tabula Mancuniensis, chronological table of the history of Manchester,’ Manchester, 1829; this pamphlet is the foundation of Timperley's ‘Annals of Manchester,’ and the ‘Manchester Historical Recorder.’ 12. ‘A Gazetteer of the Hundred of Salford,’ Manchester, 1830; a pamphlet.

Some of his manuscripts were placed, with those of his youngest son, Edwin [q. v.], in the Oldham Lyceum. Many of his books have become scarce, and in addition to the list given above he is said to have published ‘Mancunium,’ a poem. In a letter addressed in 1802 to a Manchester bookseller he complains of lack of encouragement. ‘How would I exert myself could I find one single friend of genius amongst all the host of Paternoster Row factors!’ He mentions that he has a work entitled ‘A Guide to Universal Manufacture, or the web disclosed,’ which he may submit; ‘but, if like the generality of your tribe, you are not willing to encourage a poor author, I'll commit the work to the flames and for ever renounce the business.’

[Biographical Sketch by John Higson; Ashton Reporter, 9 Oct. 1869; Skeat's Bibliography of English Dialects, 1875; Axon's Folk-Song and Folk-Speech of Lancashire, 1870; Fishwick's Lancashire Library, 1875; Local Notes and Queries from the Manchester Guardian, 1874–5.]

W. E. A. A.