Butler, Richard Jago

Richard Jago Butler

Richard Jago Butler


Birth: 11th December 1848 Richard Jago Butler

When Richard Jago Butler was born on 11th December 1848 in Plympton St Mary, Devonport, Devon, his father Stephen was 29 and his mother Jane 33.


Marriage: 13th December 1879 Richard Jago Butler

Richard Jago married Elizabeth Ann Greetham on 13th December 1879.  Richard was 31 years old, Elizabeth was 20.

Marriage: 13th December 1879 Elizabeth Ann Greetham and Richard Jago Butler

Elizabeth Ann Greetham married Richard Jago Butler in Battersea, Surrey, on 13th December 1879.  She was 20 years of age, Richard was 31.


Notable Event

In the 1902 Coronation Honours List, Richard Jago Butler was awarded a C.B.  (Companion of the Order of the Bath) on on 26th June 1902.

Death: 19th August 1902 Elizabeth Ann Butler

Richard Jago Butler’s Wife, Elizabeth Ann, passed away on 19th August 1902 at the age of 42.  They had been married 22 years.


Marriage: 9th July 1907 Richard Jago Butler and Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell

Richard Jago Butler married Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell on 9th July 1907.  Richard was 58 years old, Ethel was 38.


Death: 4th March 1931 Richard Jago Butler

Richard Jago Butler died on 4th March 1931 in London.  He was 82 years old.


Richard Jago was born the first of two sons to Stephen and Jane Butler (nee Jago) in Plympton St Mary, Devon, on 11th December 1848.
At the time of Richard’s birth, his father was 29 years of age and his mother 33.
His younger brother, William James Jago, was born on 29th June 1850.

According to the 1851 Census, the family lived at 7 Cannon Street, Stoke Damerel, Devonport, only about a mile and a half from the Royal Naval Dockyards where Stephen was employed as a Shipwright.  This census entry was the first indication I had that his father, Stephen, was born in Ireland and in Waterford in particular, in 1821.

From recent reading, I learned that Cannon Street was one of the earliest laid down near the Devonport dock when, in the early 1700s, residential buildings were first allowed to be built in the vicinity of the dockyard.

We have little knowledge of Richard’s early life, other than the Census entry for 1861 from which we learn that the family had moved to another property in Cannon Street, namely No 40.  In this entry, he is described as a “scholar”.

The only information that I could find about his early education was in his British Civil Service Evidence of Age Certificate.  In this Richard stated that he had been at the RC National School Stonehouse for about 6 years and a further period as an engineer student at the Dockyard School, in Keyham, Devonport.

His father Stephen passed away at home on 26th June 1863 at the age of 44.  According to his Death Certificate, the cause of death was consumption, a condition he had suffered for twelve months.  This left Jane a widow, possibly but not certainly with a pension,  caring for the two boys, Richard aged 15 and William, 13.

Whatever the circumstances the family found itself in, Jane must have been instrumental in ensuring that Richard, at least, continues his education.   My evidence for this belief is this item from the “Journal of the Society of Arts” dated 12th June 1868, where we learn that as an engineer student at the Devonport Mechanics Institute he won 1st Prize (valued at £5) for Conic Sections and 2nd Prize (valued at £3) for Principles of Mechanics.
In the unlikely event, that you want to know, “Conic Sections are the intersections of a right regular cone, by a cutting plane in different positions, relative to the axis of the cone”!!  And, no, I don’t understand it either.

MURRAY, J., ANDREWS, S., & LE NEVE FOSTER, P. (1868). Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. 16, no. 814. The Journal of the Society of Arts, 16(814), 567-590
Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41323875

To what extent these awards were valuable qualifications for his entry into the Royal Navy, we will never know, but the first entry in his RN Service Record tells us that he was a student at the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in South Kensington in London for 3 years from 15th August 1868.
Also from this time I have a copy of his Certificate of Qualification as an Assistant Engineer of the Second Class which records his time as an Engineer Student at HM Dock Yard, Keyham, Devonport and at the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in Kensington in London.  It is perhaps of interest that the building in which the School was housed later became the Henry Cole Wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
A copy of this Certificate is included in the “Evidence” section.

As it happens, he may have been one of the very early entrants to the School which had opened only four years before.  That such a school was needed is clear from this excerpt from Dr Denis Griffiths’ “Steam at Sea: Two centuries of Steam-powered Ships”, published by Conway Maritime Press, London, 1997  ISBN 0 85177 666 3:

“At the end of the Crimean War in 1856, it became difficult to find sufficient qualified engineers to man the fleet to a satisfactory level. There was a need for an improvement in manpower, status and training, and steps were taken to ensure that dockyard apprentices were given a better education and to recruit young men of quality.
In 1864 the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was opened in South Kensington to offer a more scientific training to naval engineers, and the year before boys receiving training in the Royal Dockyards became known as engineer students and became eligible to compete for places at the new school. Education in the sciences formed an essential part of the training of young men entering the Navy but the management of men was also an essential for a good officer aboard ship.”

Whether or not as a result of her widowhood, the Census for 1871 shows that his mother, Jane, had moved to 12 Albert Road, Devonport, where her occupation is listed as Housekeeper. Her second son William, who by this time is aged 21, is shown as a carpenter.  Perhaps he was thus able to provide her with the economic support she needed.  In fact, as far as I can gather, she lived with him for the rest of her life.

In the same Census, we find that Richard is now a lodger at 21 Margaretta Terrace in Chelsea, London, where his occupation is given as School of Naval Architecture.  Whether Richard lodged here until the completion of his studies is not clear but according to his Record of Service he was promoted, presumably while still at college, from Assistant Engineer to Assistant Engineer 2nd Class on 7th June 1872 and Assistant Engineer 1st Class on 14th October of the same year.

His sea-going career started with his appointment, still as Engineer 1st Class, to HMS Euphrates on 1st January 1873 and then, HMS Indus on 3rd May and HMS Jumna on 15th July in that year.  His earned his promotion to Engineer on 15th September 1874, a rank he held until  13th April 1875 while serving on one or other of the above ships as well as HMS Royal Adelaide and HMS Asia.

Euphrates-class troopships Jumna, Euphrates & Malabar, and HMS Orontes (far left)
By Illustrated London News [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ships on which served RJ Butler 1873-1875

Having made what appeared to be an encouraging start to his Royal Naval career he “came ashore” on 13th April 1875.  According to his Service Record, he was on that date appointed a Draughtsman 3rd Class in the Controllers Department of the Admiralty and “his name removed from the List of Engineers RN.”   Why he made that decision – or had it made for him – I doubt we’ll ever know.  On the surface, at least, it does not seem to have advanced his career, not least because he is now employed as a Civil Servant rather than a commissioned officer.

From some of what I’ve read, engineering officers were still not fully accepted as proper officers (or indeed Gentlemen) in the Royal Navy of the mid-late 1800s and this was reflected as much in poor pay scales as the lack of formal titles such as Lieutenant.

Whatever the reason for his move, he didn’t remain a draughtsman for too long being appointed an Instructor in Marine Engineering at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London in 1877. He held this position until 1879 when he returned to what appears to have been a more “hands-on” marine engineering role within the Admiralty as an Assistant Engineer Inspector.

A yet more important event in Richard’s life in that year was his marriage to Elizabeth Ann Greetham at the Parish Church of St John, Battersea, London, on 13th December.  Elizabeth was the only daughter and eldest child of Peter and Rosina Greetham. Richard was 31 years of age and Elizabeth 20.
Peter had also served in the Royal Navy as an engineering officer having served over 14 years before his retirement in July 1873 with the rank of Chief Engineer.

One of Elizabeth’s brothers, Charles, also served as an engineering officer in the Navy for over forty years – retiring in 1918 having attained the quite senior rank of Engineer Captain in 1918.  Although I can find no records to support the fact that they ever held appointments on the same ships, the probability is that Richard and Charles could well be described as “brother officers”  and perhaps that’s how Richard met Elizabeth.

Richard and Elizabeth had their first child, a son also named Richard Jago, on 16th February 1880 and second, a daughter, Rose Greetham, on 15 April 1881.

Richard Jago Butler Jnr
Rose Greetham Butler

According to the 1881 Census, the family lived at 26 Cologne Road, Battersea.  As best I can tell it was a quite substantial property, long since converted into what look like flats.  They employed two domestic servants, Sarah Gower and Esther Wood, aged 20 and 16 years respectively.

From 1884, the upward path of Richard’s career really seems to have accelerated with his appointment as Engineer Inspector in that year, elevation to Chief Engineer (Gun Mountings) in 1888 and to Chief Engineer Inspector of Machinery in 1890.

Edward, Richard and Elizabeth’s second son was born on 6th April 1888.

Edward Butler

According to the 1891 Census, the family had moved to 17 Vardens Road,  still in Battersea but which from Google Street View, looks to have been a highly desirable property.  And perhaps indicative of how well Richard was doing, they added another servant, Mary Ann May, to their staff.

Richard and Elizabeth’s third son, Wilfred Joseph, was born on 12th February 1895.
From Wilfred’s Birth Certificate, we find that the family has moved again – on this occasion to  10 Barclay Road, Croydon, Surrey.  The property still exists but, again, seems to have been converted into flats.

Richard and Elizabeth’s last child was my father, Cuthbert “Peter”, who was born on 24th March 1897.  The family was still living at Barclay Road in Croydon at this time.

Wilfred Joseph and Cuthbert Peter Butler

By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved once again to what must have been a larger house named “Brinscall” at 91 Mayow  Road, Sydenham. On the day of the census, Richard’s brother, William’s daughter, Mary, was either living or staying with them, so with 10 in the house at the time it would need to have been a sizeable one.

“Brinscall”, 91 Mayow Road, Sydenham
“Brinscall” was located quite near Mayow Park, Sydenham pictured in this postcard from my father’s collection from this time.

Regrettably, Elizabeth did not live long to enjoy her new home, passing away on 19th August 1902. The cause of death was given as “Granular kidney 10 years, Uraemia 7 days”.
She and Richard had been married for 22 years.

Later in the same year, Richard’s mother died aged 93.  She was, at the time, living with Richard’s younger brother, William’s family in Devonport.

There is considerable evidence of what Richard’s responsibilities were with the Admiralty from a number of articles in “The Times” from as early as 1882 until 1898.  They mainly had to do with his participation in the sea-trials of new ships, but also when he gave evidence at a coroner’s enquiry into the death of a stoker.
One thing that did surprise me was the level of technical detail published both about the tests themselves and the results achieved. I doubt it would be reported in that sort of detail today.

Richard reached the peak of his Admiralty career with his appointment as Assistant Engineer-in-Chief in February 1903 – a position he held until his retirement in 1909 – although, possibly to give effect to the Admiralty’s succession plan, the appointment was held jointly with Engineer Rear-Admiral R.Mayston from 1905.
If this appointment marked the peak of his career, his award of a C.B. (Companion of the Order of the Bath, to the uninitiated) in 1902 must have been the pinnacle.

Coronation Honours List – 1902
Insignia – Companion of Order of Bath (Civil Division)

His Investiture was held on HMY Victoria & Albert at Cowes on 15th August  1902 and reported in “The Times” on the following day.  As Elizabeth was very ill and died only 4 days later, I wonder did he actually attend the Investiture?

HMY Victoria & Albert

Richard married again at the Church of Our Lady and St Philip Neri, in Sydenham, on 9th July 1907.  His bride was Ethel Emily Northcott Cottel who, according to the 1901 Census was a Mayow Road neighbour of Richard and Elizabeth’s.

Richard and Ethel Butler – “At home”

While there is no record of a Retirement date in his Record of Service, the following entry suggests that he may have retired effective 18th October 1909:
“Awarded civil pension in respect of Naval service, O in C, 18-10-09”.

The most recent Census for which information is available is that of 1911, which has Richard, Ethel and my father Peter still living in Mayow Road – but now with only one servant,  Louisa Worsley, who is mentioned in Peter’s post.  Richard’s occupation is listed as “Retired Civil Servant Admiralty, now Director of Firm of Steel Makers”.  The steelmaker in question was John Spencer & Sons of Newcastle-on-Tyne for which, courtesy “The Times”, a copy of the Company’s Advertisement announcing its Prospectus is included in the “Evidence” section below.

Also in the years prior to and after his retirement, he was a Councillor of the Royal Institute of Marine Architects and a regular contributor of articles to “Brassey’s Annual”, an Armed Forces (but primarily Naval) year-book which has been published since 1886.   I hope later to add a copy of one of these articles under “Published Articles”.  But, in the meantime, the following is a review of his entry in the 1932 Edition of Brassey’s entitled ” Mercantile Marine Machinery “,

“Although opening with the remark ‘ that it is not possible to ignore the fact that the industry was very seriously handicapped, if not entirely crippled, by the deplorable conditions of the world trade,’ yet gives a first-class and instructive review of this ever-developing science of mercantile marine engineering.
No summary of this article seems possible, so packed is it with vivid, up-to-date information. Its concluding paragraph, however, shall not be omitted: – ‘Generally speaking, the year proved one of the blackest in the annals of the industry not only In this, but in all maritime countries, and the outlook for the future could only be regarded with dismay were it not for the fact, that in spite of political and economical adversity, technical achievements are being steadily, if not spectacularly, extended and consolidated’.”

His brother, William died on 26th February 1919 aged 68 at home at 59 Pasley Street, East Stoke, Devon.  Cause of death was given as Influenza (7 days), Broncho-pneumonia (3 days).
Perhaps William was a victim of the global Spanish Flu Pandemic from which the death toll was 228,000 people in Britain alone.

Richard passed away at 17 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, England on 4th March 1931.  He was 82 years old.   Cause of death was given as Septicaemia, pyelonephritis, cystitis and an enlarged prostate.   Despite persistent searches, I have been unable to uncover any record of his burial. Another mystery!

Given his relatively high profile, it is surprising that he didn’t rate an Obituary, if not in the national press at least in one of the journals of the engineering organisations of which he was a member.  In fact, on my visit to the Royal Institute of Naval Architecture (of which he was at one time a Councillor), no record of him could be found.  One is left to wonder as to what he did – or didn’t do – that resulted in his name apparently being expunged from the records!

In his Will, he appointed his wife Ethel as his executor and left to her “all the property which I may be possessed of at the date of my death”. The gross value of his Estate was valued at £5,530-8-9 (equivalent to about £350,000 at today’s values).

Richard’s wife, Ethel, survived him by another 9 years, passing away on 15th April 1940.


We have yet another address to add to Richard Jago’s list of residences as evidenced by this cutting from the “Kentish Mercury” of 12th October 1900:


Census Data

Census Data – Richard Jago Butler Snr

Maps or photos


Richard and Ethel
“En promenade”
July 1924
Richard with grandson Peter on his knee
The early 1920s


Published Articles

Still to come


His death was reported in “The Times” of 6th March 1931 as follows

“Mr. Richard Jago Butler, C.B., late of the Controller’s Department of the Admiralty died on Wednesday at his home in London at the age of 82.”


Richard Jago Butler
b: 11 Dec 1848
d: 4 Mar 1931
(Research):Certified copy of Birth Certificate (dated 26 February 2001) held.(Medical):Certified copy of Death Certificate (dated 7 February 2005) held.
  • 11 Dec 1848 - Birth - ; Plympton, St Mary, Devon, England
  • 4 Mar 1931 - Death - ; 17 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, England
Stephen Butler
- 26 Jun 1863
Richard Jago Butler
11 Dec 1848 - 4 Mar 1931
Jane Jago
1809 - 18 Nov 1902
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Stephen Butler
BirthWaterford, Ireland
Death26 Jun 1863 10 Cannon Street, Devonport, Devon, England
Marriage5 Mar 1848to Jane Jago at Chapel of East Stonehouse, Devon, England
FatherJames Butler
MotherMary Connery
PARENT (F) Jane Jago
Birth1809Plymstock, Devon, England
Death18 Nov 1902 16 Pasley Terrace, Devonport, Devon, England
Marriage5 Mar 1848to Stephen Butler at Chapel of East Stonehouse, Devon, England
FatherRichard Jago
MotherElizabeth Cross
MRichard Jago Butler
Birth11 Dec 1848Plympton, St Mary, Devon, England
Death4 Mar 193117 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, England
Marriage9 Jul 1907to Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell at Church of Our Lady and St Philip Neri, Lower Sydenham, Lewisham, London, England
Marriage13 Dec 1879to Elizabeth Ann Greetham at Parish Church Of St John, Battersea, Surrey, England
MWilliam James Jago Butler
Birth29 Jun 18507 Cannon Street, Devonport, Devon, England
Death26 Feb 191959 Pasley Street East, Stoke, Devonport, Devon, England
Marriage26 Dec 1874to Mary Ann Gray at Church of St Mary & St Boniface, Plymouth, Devon, England
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Richard Jago Butler
Birth11 Dec 1848Plympton, St Mary, Devon, England
Death4 Mar 1931 17 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, England
Marriage9 Jul 1907to Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell at Church of Our Lady and St Philip Neri, Lower Sydenham, Lewisham, London, England
Marriage13 Dec 1879to Elizabeth Ann Greetham at Parish Church Of St John, Battersea, Surrey, England
FatherStephen Butler
MotherJane Jago
PARENT (F) Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell
Birth23 Jan 1869Grove Lodge, High Road, Tottenham, Middlesex, England
Death5 Apr 1940 Kensington South, London, England
Marriage9 Jul 1907to Richard Jago Butler at Church of Our Lady and St Philip Neri, Lower Sydenham, Lewisham, London, England
FatherCharles George Cottell
MotherFanny Northcott
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Richard Jago Butler
Birth11 Dec 1848Plympton, St Mary, Devon, England
Death4 Mar 1931 17 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington South, London, England
Marriage9 Jul 1907to Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell at Church of Our Lady and St Philip Neri, Lower Sydenham, Lewisham, London, England
Marriage13 Dec 1879to Elizabeth Ann Greetham at Parish Church Of St John, Battersea, Surrey, England
FatherStephen Butler
MotherJane Jago
PARENT (F) Elizabeth Ann Greetham
Birth1 Oct 185922 North Kent Terrace, Woolwich, Kent, England
Death19 Aug 1902 Brinscall, Mayow Road, Sydenham, London, England
Marriage13 Dec 1879to Richard Jago Butler at Parish Church Of St John, Battersea, Surrey, England
FatherPeter Greetham
MotherRosina ("Rose") Ann Nibbs
FRose Greetham Butler
Birth15 Apr 188126 Cologne Road, Battersea, England
Death23 Mar 1954Victoria Hospital, Deal, Kent, England
Marriage18 Oct 1906to Reginald Francis Butler at ChristChurch Parish Church, Ealing, Middlesex, England
MEdward Butler
Birth6 Apr 1888Battersea, Surrey, England
MWilfred Joseph Butler
Birth12 Feb 189510 Bartley Road, Croydon, Surrey, England
MCuthbert "Peter" Butler
Birth24 Mar 1897Croydon, Surrey, England
Death25 Jan 1972Public Hospital, Whangarei, New Zealand
Marriage19 Apr 1927to Mary Somner at St Francis Xavier''s Church, Whangarei, New Zealand
MRichard Jago Butler
Birth16 Feb 188027 Cologne Road, Battersea, England
Death5 Sep 1956Duart Avenue, Prestwick, Scotland
Marriage4 Jun 1907to Christina Edith Whereat at The Church of the Sacred Heart, Norton Road, Hove, Sussex, England
[S5]Private Family Reseach
[S27]Greetham Family Research
Descendancy Chart
Richard Jago Butler b: 11 Dec 1848 d: 4 Mar 1931
Ethel Emily Northcott Cottell b: 23 Jan 1869 d: 5 Apr 1940
Elizabeth Ann Greetham b: 1 Oct 1859 d: 19 Aug 1902
Rose Greetham Butler b: 15 Apr 1881 d: 23 Mar 1954
Reginald Francis Butler b: 18 Dec 1875 d: 23 Dec 1952
Edward Butler b: 6 Apr 1888
Wilfred Joseph Butler b: 12 Feb 1895
Cuthbert "Peter" Butler b: 24 Mar 1897 d: 25 Jan 1972
Mary Somner b: 28 Oct 1898 d: 13 Aug 1989
Patricia Anne Barnes b: 17 Aug 1933 d: 23 Nov 2004
Richard "Dick" Butler b: 29 Nov 1929 d: 20 Apr 1998
Gwenyth Julia Forsyth b: 15 Apr 1931 d: 25 Dec 1997
Marc Nicholas Butler b: 20 Nov 1989 d: 23 Feb 1998
Richard Jago Butler b: 16 Feb 1880 d: 5 Sep 1956
Christina Edith Whereat b: 23 Jan 1883 d: 1973
Richard Jago Butler b: 13 Jan 1919 d: 23 Feb 1943
Peter Paul Jago Butler b: 16 Jul 1921 d: 13 Apr 2003
Carmel Maureen Lee b: 9 Oct 1924
Christine Mary Jago Butler b: 24 Mar 1959 d: 1970


Sources and citations

Richard Jago Butler: Navy List Entries – 1888 to 1908

Copy of Birth Certificate – Richard Jago Butler

Copy of British Civil Service Evidence of Age Certificate – RJ Butler
Copy of Certificate of Qualification – Assistant Engineer Second Class – R J Butler
Copy of Marriage Certificate – Richard Jago Butler and Elizabeth Ann Greetham


Copy of Birth Certificate – Richard Jago Butler Jnr
Copy of Birth Certificate – Rose Greetham Butler
Copy of Birth Certificate – Wilfred Butler
Copy of Birth Certificate – Cuthbert Peter Butler
Copy of Death Certificate – Elizabeth Ann Butler
Copy of Death Certificate – Jane Butler
(“John Spencer & Sons, limited.” Times [London, England] 11 Mar. 1913: 19. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 20 Oct. 2017.)
Copy of Death Certificate – Richard Jago Butler

Probated Will of Richard Jago Butler – 22nd April 1931