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William Hutton & Family


Exiled Brummie
I was reading this recently and thought I should share it. A nice sense of irony I think! :D

Swinney's Birmingham & Stafford Chronicle and Coventry Gazette,
Birmingham, Thursday, July 21, 1791; Issue 1173.

Mr Hutton begs leave to express his sincerest gratitude to those friends who secured any of his property which he was neither able to secure or protect himself. He will thank them to inform him where any of it is deposited, or if they please to return it, it will enhance the obligation.

Birmingham, July 20th 1791.

Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
I love this 1851 prospect (first picture) from the Bell Tower showing from the right, Waterloo St and Christchurch and the Town Hall at the end, then Temple Street, then Needless Alley and New Street Station in the distance, and lastly Cherry Street and St Martins in the distance...plus magnificent views of the Back of Rackhams....(ahem)......

During 18th century Birmingham became one of most populous towns in England. At a time when national population increased by 14%, the population of Birmingham increased by 900%. In 1550 St Martin’s, Birmingham parish church could conceivably accommodate most of the population of 1500 people. But by 1750 Birmingham had 24 000 inhabitants and by 1801 some 74 000. This was particularly galling for the rich inhabitants of the town who, despite their wealth, were unable to rent pews in the parish church.

There were also problems burying the dead. The small churchyard was full almost to overflowing. William Hutton wrote: ‘A considerable hill had arisen . . . so that the dead are raised up . . . and instead of the church burying the dead, the dead would, in time, have buried the church.’ The town was expanding northwards beyond New Street and the High Street in an area that became known as High Town. In 1708 the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry obtained an Act of Parliament to set up a Commission, made up of wealthy local landowners, to build a new church. The site for the church, agricultural land known as Horse Close or Barley Close, was sold at a favourable price by members of the related Inge and Phillips families, hence the dedication. At that time the site was beyond the built-up area of the town.

St Philip's Church was designed by Thomas Archer and built between 1711 and 1725. It is one of only a few churches in the English baroque style and one of the smallest cathedrals in England. Archer had visited the great cities of Europe as a young man and was one of a small number of architects who interpreted the baroque in an English setting. Construction started in 1709 and the church was consecrated in 1715, although lack of funding meant that the tower was unfinished. The church was built in locally-made brick and faced with calcareous limestone from the Archer family's own Rowington quarries on their Umberslade estate. It is thought that much of the timber also came from the Archer estates. Under the parliamentary act the church when consecrated became a parish church taking its parish out of that of St Martin’s.

At the suggestion of Sir Richard Gough of Edgbaston Hall, King George I donated £600 to complete the tower in 1725. The gilded boar's head weathervane derives from the Gough family crest in recognition of Sir Richard ‘s efforts to get the tower completed. At the time of its building the church was surrounded to the north and west and east by fields and orchards. These would soon make way for the elegant town houses of the wealthy were moving from the lower part of the industrial town.

William Hutton, in his 1783 History of Birmingham, wrote of his first impression of the church when he arrived in Birmingham: "When I first saw St. Philip's, in the year 1741, at a proper distance, uncrowded with houses, for there were none to the north, New-hall excepted, untarnished with smoke, and illuminated by a western sun, I was delighted with its appearance, and thought it then, what I do now, and what others will in future, the pride of the place. If we assemble the beauties of the edifice, which cover a rood of ground; the spacious area of the church-yard, occupying four acres; ornamented with walks in great perfection; shaded with trees in double and treble ranks; and surrounded with buildings in elegant taste: perhaps its equal cannot be found in the British dominions." Wonder what he'd have made of it now...after popping in for a swift half at the Old Joint Stock....

View from St Philips Tower 1851

St Philips Church North Prospect

St Philips Westley's East Prospect

Temple Row 1858

St Philips Church

Birmingham 1731
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Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
Now, most Brummie Historians are familiar with William Hutton's seminal tome, but what of the man himself, and his incredibly articulate daughter Catherine?

William Hutton, the son of a wool-comber, was born in Derby on 30th September, 1723. At the age of five William began going to a school ran by Thomas Meat. After two years education he was sent to work at the local Silk Mill owned by Richard Porter. He later recalled: "My days of play were now drawing to an end. The Silk Mill was proposed. I was accepted. There were three hundred persons employed in the mill, I was the youngest. I had now to rise at five every morning; submit to the cane whenever convenient to the master; be the constant companion of the most rude and vulgar of the human race."

Hutton admitted that in the winter period he struggled to get to work on time: "In the Christmas holidays of 1731 snow was followed by a sharp frost. A thaw came on in the afternoon of the 27th, but in the night the ground was again caught by a frost, which glazed the streets. I did not awake, the next morning, till daylight seemed to appear. I rose in tears, for fear of punishment, and went to my father's bedside, to ask the time. He believed six; I darted out in agonies, and from the bottom of Full Street, to the top of Silk mill Lane, not 200 yards, I fell nine times! Observing no lights in the mill, I knew it was an early hour, and the reflection of the snow had deceived me. Returning, the town clock struck two."

William's mother died in childbirth in 1733. William disapproved of his father's drinking and at the age of fifteen he left Derby and found work with his uncle as a stocking-maker in Nottingham.

One day in 1741 a youth of 18 limped into Birmingham's Bull Ring. He had walked a good distance over the past few days - from Nottingham, where he was apprenticed to his uncle, a weaver. He had 'played the wag' from work to visit Nottingham Races, and his uncle's displeasure had been displayed so forcibly that he had run away. Now here he was in Birmingham, tired and friendless. "I sat to rest," he was to write later, "on the north side of the Old Cross, near Philip Street, the poorest of the poor belonging to that great parish of which, 27 years after, I should be Overseer." Two men in aprons stood him a pint with bread and cheese at 'The Bell' in Philip Street before finding him a night's lodging for three-halfpence.

The young man was William Hutton, who was to fill other important posts in Birmingham in addition to being an Overseer, but who is best remembered as a local historian.

On his first runaway visit young William stayed in Birmingham only a few days, but long enough to say of the inhabitants: "They possessed a vivacity I had never beheld .... I saw men awake: their very step along the street shewed alacrity. Hospitality seemed to claim this happy people for her own."

William was a keen reader and in 1846 began collecting books. Three years later he decided to open his own bookshop in Southwell. The shop was successful and by 1751 he moved to a larger shop in the nearby city of Birmingham, setting up as a bookseller in High Street on the site of the old Tolbooth, or Leather Hall, at £8 a year rent. His premises comprised a 'half-shop' with a modest stock of second-hand volumes, but at once, in 1751, he opened the first circulating library in Birmingham, and in 1756 the first paper warehouse. He later wrote of another innovation: "I was also the first to introduce the barrow with two wheels; there are now more than 100”

The young bookseller quickly established himself in the town of his adoption. Married to Sarah Cock on 23rd June 1755, in St. Philip's Church, which-unlike many of us today-he thought "the credit of the place", he had a daughter, Catherine, in 1756, and a son, Thomas, a year later.

His house called Garland House on High Street, where Waterstone's is now, was bought in 1772, but he rebuilt a new one there in 1775.

When a Court of Requests was set up in Birmingham for the recovery of debts under £2, Hutton was one of seventy-two commissioners appointed, and he delivered his judgements from the chamber over the Old Cross near where he once sat as a penniless wanderer. Local politics in Birmingham in the 1760s was concerned with the Lamp Act, passed ultimately on 21st April 1769. This aimed at improving anti-social conditions in the town brought about by private development. As Hutton wrote in 1765: "When land is appropriated for a street the builders are under no control . . . hence arise evils without a cure, such as narrowness which scarcely admits light." Yet when two of his houses which formed a gateway to New Street were endangered by the Bill, Hutton, in an outburst of blatant self-interest, opposed it.

He was now feeling the urge of all successful men-to build a home out of town. On his frequent visits to Derby and Nottingham he passed through Saltley and was always impressed by a half-acre of land known as Bennetts Hill on the road to Washwood Heath. In 1769 he bought it; building began at once, and Hutton observed with surprise that the workman cutting the first turf "engaged in prayer" before doing so. Red Hill House, as Hutton called his new home, was completed and occupied before 1769 ended. The house stood on the left of Washwood Heath Road leaving Birmingham, and his son was to build a house opposite known as Bennetts Hill House.

Today Bennetts Road, Hutton Road, and Hutton Street are reminders in the area of the connection, while Herrick Road recalls a Councillor Herrick who acquired Bennetts Hill House from the Huttons around 1900 and lived there until it was demolished in the I930s. At Red Hill House there were effigies of Hammond and Pitmore, hanged in 1781 at Washwood Heath for murder and highway robbery. Hanging continued there until 1832, and on 19th April 1802 a crowd of 10,000 gathered to watch the execution of eight prisoners for forgery, sheep-stealing, and burglary. In 1825 Hutton's daughter, Catherine, herself the authoress of three novels, addressed a letter from "Bennetts Hill, near Birmingham", and wrote: "I say 'near' because an upstart of a street has arisen in Birmingham which has assumed the name of Bennetts Hill. " Yet the vicinity of the street, in the city centre, had been known as Bennetts Hill for quite as long as the Saltley site".

While at Red Hill House Hutton tried his hand at farming. Buying a farm at Stechford, he visited it four or five times a week on foot for several hours' work before breakfast. He wrote: "I have been in Yardley Field making hay when the clock struck nine in the evening and again the next morning when striking four:'
It was 1780 when Hutton set about his famous History of Birmingham. His intentions to publish were made known on 31st January 1781, when he "supped with a large company at the Bull and Gate. Rollason my printer was there."

Publication came on 22nd March 1782 of a volume containing nearly 300 pages, 24 plates, and some drawings which are the only representations remaining of buildings long since gone. In thirteen years the history went through three editions, and there have been others since.

https://ia600300.us.archive.org/17/items ... 3926-h.htm

William was elected a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland. A picture of him around this time shows him in kneebreeches and a frock coat with a white waistcoat and white stockings, a balding man with silvery sideboards, his right hand balancing a book on a table, a spotted dog beside him, and a cornucopia and a beehive immediately behind him.

To be continued...
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Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
Life at Red Hill House was pleasant and dignified but for the fearful episode in July 1791, when Birmingham's historian was himself involved in history. Hutton numbered among his friends the new Unitarian minister of the New Meeting House, Dr.Joseph Priestley, who was becoming regarded more and more as an enemy of the State and an emissary of the Devil, preparing, through his chemistry experiments, to blow up churches. "To dispute with the Doctor," wrote Hutton, "was deemed the road to preferment - he has already made two bishops." Dropping in casually to tea one day at Red Hill House, Priestley invited Hutton to a dinner at Dadley's Hotel, Temple Row, on I4thJuly 1791, to celebrate the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille by the Jacobins during the French Revolution. Said Hutton: "I wish well to liberty everywhere, but public dinners are out of my way."

Dadley's Royal Hotel, Temple Row

As the eighty-one diners dispersed after the function they were greeted with cries of "Church and King for ever" from a mob of anti-Jacobins-men, Hutton wrote, "who would have sold their King for a jug of ale and demolished the Church for a bottle of gin". Strangely, Priestley was not at the dinner, but the mob rushed to burn down the New Meeting House, and moved on yelling and waving torches to Fair Hill, Spark brook, to set fire to his house and laboratory, possibly the best equipped in England. Priestley himself, unrecognised, moved about the fringe of the mob as it wrecked his home, flooded his cellars, and got drunk on his wine. Shortly after the riots he went to America and never returned to Britain.

Among other places attacked by the rioters was Hutton's shop in High Street, because, although not a Unitarian, he had, as a Commissioner, made enemies among those sued for small debts. Chanting his formula, "Thee pay sixpence and come again next Friday," the mob flung Hutton's bales of paper and choice prints in the mud and trampled them underfoot.

On High Street, the rioters had 'demolished all the doors, windows, chimney-pieces, wainscotts, skirting boards, and banisters, together with the roof of the house'. They had also attempted to remove the staircase, but had only reached the sixth step (before, presumably, they realised that they should have begun from the top and worked down). The Beadle of the Court had managed to save some of the Hutton's property and keep it in the Court of Requests, which was very near Hutton's shop; Catherine was also reunited with her guitar which a friend had bought from a rioter for sixpence. .

All this despite appeasement with a barrel of ale and 329 gallons drunk at Hutton's expense at a nearby inn. The rioters then moved on to Red Hill House, but William and his son beat them to it, and, in the early hours of 16th June, removed themselves, Mrs. Hutton, and Catherine in a post-chaise to Sutton Coldfield, where they found accommodation at the 'Three Tuns'. Catherine took it all so philosophically that she wrote: "I went out to purchase muslin for a nightcap, otherwise my pocket handkerchief must have been the substitute as it had been the night before."

In the occupants' absence the mob wrecked Red Hill House, as it had previously done Baskerville House, the home of John Ryland; Bordesley Hall, where the manufacturer, John Taylor, lived; Showell Green, home of the Russells; the house of a Mr. Humphreys at Sparkbrook; Thomas Hawkes's home at Wake Green, Moseley; and Moseley Hall, then tenanted by the Dowager Countess of Carhampton. Throughout the proceedings the rioters were urged on by two leaders on horseback. Robert K. Dent, in The Making oj Birmingham, writes that the third day of the riots struck terror into the hearts of the law abiding inhabitants. The pretty stretch of country visible from the top of the Bull Ring was dotted over with blazing or smoking homesteads.

Lawlessness prevailed everywhere. The bankers took the precaution to lodge all their convertible property in places of safety. The inhabitants feared to stir abroad, and if they did so, they were made to vociferate the war cry of the party, "Church and King for ever." The dungeon in Peck Lane was broken open and lost its prisoners ... and hundreds of drunken ruffians lay in the streets in a stupified state. So, little change there then...

Across the town Matthew Boulton and James Watt armed their workers to defend the Soho Factory, but the rioters did not range that far. Despite appeals in the churches for a resumption of law and order, the mob went on Sunday morning to Warstock, where it burned down the house of a Mr. Cox, a place occasionally used as a Dissenters' Meeting House. Then it turned its attentions to Edgbaston Hall, the home of Dr. William Withering, but interruption came in the news that the military were approaching Birmingham, and the rioters broke and went into hiding. Two troops of the 15th Regiment of Dragoons made a forced march from Nottingham, and were greeted by the magistrates and thousands of residents, overjoyed that the short reign of terror was at an end.

As to the Huttons, after some days they returned to rooms at an inn in Vauxhall Gardens, and ultimately William was allowed £5,390 compensation against the £6,736 he claimed from the town for damage to his property. Obviously the authorities were late in taking a strong line with the Priestley rioters. When, in I792, a 'Church and King' mob tried to repeat in Manchester what the anti-Jacobins did in Birmingham their first intended victim, a wealthy merchant and ex-Borough Reeve, gathered his friends, and when they fired over the heads of the mob it dispersed at once. Manchester United 1 Birmingham City 0.

He died on 20th September 1815, is buried in Aston Parish Church, and has a memorial in St. Margaret's, Ward End.
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Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
Re: Some great men of Birmingham..

As a corollary to those tales of yesteryear, it struck me that William Hutton had some TWO years schooling before the work and privations started. And he then wrote with style, panache, erudition and with syntax and grammar to die for. Where did he go wrong?

His daughter wrote even better, in my opinion, witness her beautiful letter to her dear papa...matchless prose. Michael Gove please note...Bring back whatever they had please...

Cathy's letter to dad

Huttons House then..

Huttons House site now..

Hutton Monument

I am grateful to the above for the information and research...William Hutton, Catherine Hutton, the Thylacine, Billy Dargue, Vivian Bird, Carl Chinn, and typeface...thanks boys and girls...


Re: Some great men of Birmingham..

What a lovely piece by Catherine. Sadly the last time we visited St Margarets, William had been relagated to a stool by health and safety. We will have to visit and see if he has been re instated.St_Margarets_Ward_End_4_edited~0.jpg


Gone, but not forgotten.
William Hutton 30/09/1723 to 20/09/1815.

I noticed whilst going through some of the aged threads on the forum that there was no dedicated thread to this very important to Birmingham’s history individual. Yes there are mentions of him scattered throughout the forum, but he doesn’t have his own thread. So I will try to rectify that here.

Born in Derby he was apprenticed to a silk mill at a very early age of 7 years old, later in 1737 he took a second apprenticeship with his uncle as a stocking maker. In 1741 after suffering what he thought to be an unjust beating he ran off to Birmingham as a penniless runaway. This first trip to Birmingham made a lasting impression and he later wrote in glowing terms about the town and the generosity and kindness of its inhabitants. , but due to his inability to find employment he returned home to Derby.

It was some ten years before he returned to Birmingham where he rented a shop at number 6 Bull Street for one shilling a week. Thus was the start of the illustrious career of this businessman and historian of Birmingham. From this humble start Hutton founded a book binding & publishing business and later Birmingham’s first paper warehouse. In 1755 he married Sarah Cock from Aston on Trent and later they had three sons and a daughter Catherine who herself later became a writer. In 1781 Hutton wrote and published his History of Birmingham which is recognised to be the first significant history of the (then) town.

He bought a house on Birmingham High Street and had one built on Bennetts Hill in Washwood Heath which at that time was in a country setting. Both of these houses were damaged in the Priestley riots in 1791, Hutton described these riots in his “narrative of the riots”

William Hutton historian, poet, writer, businessman died at the age of 91 in 1815 and is buried at St Margaret’s Church Ward End.

Photos attached, an engraving of the man himself, and the view he would have saw as he entered Birmingham for the first time as a teenager (from his book History of Birmingham), a couple of views of his house on Bennetts Hill in a very dilapidated condition shortly before demolition I should think.


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Gone, but not forgotten.
This post was originally posted by a once prolific poster to this forum Graham Knight known to most of us as “Cromwell”. I was recently tidying up the Monuments Section and this was one of the “off topic” posts that I didn’t want to just delete out of hand so I am reproducing it here.

Strange how we get information from a source you would not expect it from...The Pen Museum and the guys their (and lady) went out of their way to help ...so now with added info I can confirm that William Hutton who died at the ripe old age of 92 on the 20th Sept. 1815 at the house he built himself at Bennett's Hill in 1769 is buried in St Margaret's Church, Ward End underneath a flat tombstone which reads Here lieth the body of Sarah, wife of William Hutton who died Jany.23rd 1796 aged 65 years also William Hutton who died Sept 20th 1815 aged 92 years

The Marble bust of William Hutton was erected by direction of the will of Samuel Hutton who died at his home Ward End Hall on 23rd Jan. 1848
The Marble books beneath the bust represent his 'History of Birmingham', History of Darby, Bosworth Field and other books, his ink stand and pen rest on some of these volumes and in the centre near the canopy are the arms and crest of Hutton.
The Above William Hutton and his son were deposited in a vault in the parish churchyard the remains of his daughter Catherine who died on 13th March 1846 lie in a vault beneath the church

George Hutton, Williams father bought most of the furniture for his house from Thomas Spiby in 1740 he paid 4 shillings for the desk, on his father’s death he inherited most of the furniture which was seized in the riots of 1791 and the house torched. Hutton fled and returned years later to the burnt out shell and rebuilt the interior
The old burnt out desk lay dormant in the Lumber-room for many years till William Hutton’s son Thomas had it repaired for £1 & 5 shillings
The old desk what William Hutton sat at (circa 1640) with all his treasures were all preserved at Ward End Hall
Ward End Hall is long gone so who knows what happened to Hutton's possessions


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Gone, but not forgotten.
The first photo in these set of four images shows William Hutton's house and shop on the High Street being demolished in 1928 (I think that's the date). The second and third show his house on Bennetts Hill just prior to being demolished and whilst being demolished in the 1930's. The map shows the location of Bennetts Hill House and the location of Hutton's daughters house Catherine just across the way. Is it one of your maps Mike?


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master brummie
Another picture of William Hutton. The way he has a hand on top of a book is very similar to that shown in Phil's #1. I'm not sure of the location of the large house in the distant background. This image is on page 136 of "The Making of Birmingham" by R.K.Dent, published in 1894. Dave.


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Gone, but not forgotten.

It looks to be his house at Bennetts Hill before it was destroyed in the Priestly Riots of 1791. I would assume the house in the photograph that I posted earlier would be a rebuild. I can't say where he was standing when this drawing was made , I suppose it could have been his daughters house though I'm not sure if this was built in 1791, perhaps it's just a bit of artistic licence. I suppose he could even be standing in his own house with his daughters in the background.


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Super Moderator
Staff member
Not sure if it was my map Phil. I don't seem to hav eit on my computer with those annotations. I think it is Hutton's house, as this one below has it marked as such, and engraving dated 1816


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master brummie
The Hutton memorial reads:
'The above William Hutton and his son were deposited in a vault in the parish churchyard. The remains of his daughter Catherine who died on 13th March 1846 lie in a vault beneath this church.'
'The parish churchyard' was Aston church - St Margaret's was not a parish church at that time. Catherine was buried 'in a vault beneath this church' ie. St Margaret's.


Staff member
phil in your post 2 you said william hutton is buried at st margarets church ward end...just had a look and it says st margarets did not open until 1834..

hi bill is he buried at aston parish church..the one opposite aston hall..have i got that right..



Gone, but not forgotten.
Bill & Lyn

As I could find no definitive source the burial place of William Hutton. I have used "Cromwell's" post as the source for the information as he usually researched these things pretty deeply. Though I have to admit that it seems to hang on what is actually written on the tombstone at St Margaret's. I agree that the present church on the site was not built until 1834 and that William Hutton didn't die until 1815, but I read that there has been a church on the site from the 1517 though it is said that it might have lain derelict since the reformation and all we know is an appeal was launched for it's restoration in 1833. One year seems a pretty short time to raise the money for and rebuild a church to me so perhaps it was in poor condition but still in use.

If as Cromwell says William's wife was interred at the church and as she in fact predeceased him then in fact the church must have been in use when he died. I suppose there is only one way to settle this and that is for someone to come up a record of where is buried that actually states the name of where he is interred.


Super Moderator
Staff member
The Bennett’s Hill house (Washwood Heath) in the process of demolition. Viv.

Source: British Newspaper Archive