Blue plaque for ‘rough diamond’ Henry Butt unveiled in Weston
PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 January 2018
The second in a new wave of blue plaques honouring some of Weston-super-Mare’s most venerable past characters has been unveiled in tribute to a philanthropist who made a huge and lasting impression on the town.
Henry Butt was a larger-than-life character whose anti-establishment ways ruffled more than a few feathers, but whose commitment to the town was never in question.
He bought land for the Winter Gardens and Italian Gardens before bestowing them to the town, and single-handedly raised £60,000 (about £3.5million today) to build the former Princess Alexandra Hospital in the Boulevard in 1927 – in part by cajoling passengers on an around-the-world cruise he took with his wife to part with their cash.
It was therefore fitting the old hospital – now a residential development aptly named Henry Butt House – was chosen as the site of the plaque in his memory.
It was unveiled on Friday, the second in a series of 13 new plaques funded by Weston Town Council and Weston Civic Society, and voted for by Mercury readers.
Speaking at the unveiling, Cllr John Crockford-Hawley said: “Henry Butt was an interesting character who was one of those councillors of consequence – he was not one of those politicians who, once they are gone, nobody remembers what they have done.
“He was a bit of a rough diamond and not part of the establishment. When he wanted to achieve something, he achieved it, and didn’t care too much about what stood in his way.”
For example, when he was barred from joining Weston Golf Club because he was not considered gentlemanly enough by its middle class membership, he instead bought new land and formed Worlebury Golf Club.
That single-mindedness was key to him building the hospital in pre-NHS days as a lasting gift to the town, and ultimately led to him becoming the town’s first mayor in 1937.
The plaque was unveiled by current mayor Jos Holder, with help from some of Henry Butt’s descendents – one great-grandchild and two great-great-grandchildren, some of whom who had not previously met.
Henry Butt’s plaque unveiling follows one dedicated to Olympian Paulo Radmilovic at The Imperial pub, in South Parade, in March. Dr Edward Long Fox, who founded the therapeutic spa at Knightstone, will be next.