Butler, Rosemary (5 of 14). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives.
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Interviewee's home, Hertfordshire
Butler, Rosemary, 1930- (speaker, female)
Whiteley, Gillian (speaker, female)
Reg Butler's family background. Reg born 1913 in Buntingford, Herts. Father, master, mother was matron of Buntingford Workhouse. Vagrants, mental patients. It had its own school. Isolated establishment and Reg had superior position. Reg's father born in 1880, mother born 1880 Takeley in Essex. Reg's grandfather was apprentice to Paxton and under-gardener at Chatsworth and then head gardener at Takeley Manor. Related distantly to Butler Yeats, from Sligo in Ireland. Reg's father invalided out of Life Guards with septic hand. Parents married, became master and matron at Buntingford. Reg only, precious child. Education/early life. Reg went to local private school and then at 14 to Hertford Gramma School where he was Head Boy. Every whim satisfied as only child. Coffin-maker showed him how to make wooden things. Reg made lot of furniture. Made all furniture at Leeds in 1950s, bed, tables, chairs. Workhouse - mother looked after illnesses, father looked after garden, school. Anecdotes about workhouse - mad woman, smallpox scare. Tramps moved around workhouses. Unique childhood. Reg's father definite views about school. Never sent to boarding school. Father determined Reg should travel. Reg sent to Germany by boat in 1934 and he saw Nuremberg Rallies and Hitler orating. Very struck by experience. Went to Leyston in Herts. and painted. Neither of his parents were artistic. Reg very versatile though - made first television in Herts. As a child, had servants and nanny, Ada. Always expected to try anything and Reg always had the attitude that he could do anything. Interested in chemistry. Granny Butler religious, stern - lived to 89 years. Grandfather Butler tall and big, ran Bowls Club and wrote about vagrancy. Parents wanted Reg to have a career. Chose architecture. School - interested in science and maths. Remarkable teacher Mr Davies influential. Parents entertained teachers at Buntingford. After school, decided to become architect. Went to Regent Street Polytechnic for 2 years and became apprentice, worked with various architects. Designed clocktower on Slough Town Hall and some houses. Married Joan Child 1938. 1935 - Health Act closed workhouses and parents left Buntingford and moved to Brookmans Park with them. Jo's (Joan) family were farmers from The Bury, Great Munden, her father was farmer and mother was Staniforth (Sheffield steel works). Jo charmed life - hunting, parties, county life. Jo's younger brother was Reg's fag at school. Reg's father died 1937, Jo and Reg married 1938. Jo gentle, pretty. Reg not religious but they got married in church across from The Bury. Reg was in Officer's Training Corps at school. Offered scholarship to Sandhurst but declined. Reg's mother settled in flat in Cockfosters after father died. Reg and Jo had flat near her, made furniture - all very modern design. Decided he wanted to be consultant. Good earnings. War broke out. Reg was a pacifist. Went through call-up procedure and was consigned to Parachute Regiment - then declared he was pacifist. Went back to Jo's family farm. Tribunal. Advised to have solicitor, Ambrose Pelby. Reg allowed to set up small business repairing farm implements.
Rosemary Butler is the wife of the late sculptor, Reg Butler (1913-1981). Over the course of this interview, she discusses Reg Butler's life and work.