PETER BUTCHER 1929 - 2009


Peter in Sulgrave, 1940

Peter was born in Greenford, near London in 1929, the elder son of Reg Butcher and Win Butcher (nee Branson).  Peter has a younger brother, Tony, who was also born in Greenford, in 1933.

Peter's first motor car, in Greenford

Reg was working in London as a taxi driver, but his real trade was as a carpenter, or to give it its real title, Cabinet Maker.  Reg and Win were both country dwellers at heart, Win being the eldest daughter of “Grannie” Branson, who lived for many years at 11 Spinners Cottages in Sulgrave.  Reg hailed from Culworth, and he worked as a carpenter at Eydon.  Work in this trade was scarce in the 1920’s, and probably not very well-paid, and so they decided to move to London.

Peter standing, with the family in Greenford

In 1939 the family came to Stuchbury for a 2 week summer holiday, spent with Win’s sister Annie and husband Lew Wootton.  While they were there, war broke out with Germany, and there was a real possibility of air raids on London. So, Reg returned alone, leaving his family in the relative safety of the Northamptonshire countryside.

This proved to be a wise decision, because No. 2 Fermoy Road in Greenford, was demolished by a bomb in 1940. Reg’s house was No. 36, about 100 yards away! [Later in the war, bombs were actually dropped quite close to Sulgrave, with several landing in the neighbouring village of Culworth, one in the middle of the cricket pitch.]

Family group in 1943, Peter at the back

Peter’s father soon decided, to give up taxi-driving in London, to rejoin the family. However, they could not stay with Annie & Lew forever, and so they moved to Sulgrave, to No. 12 Spinners Cottages, next door to  “Grannie” Branson. Reg resumed working as a carpenter once again, this time for the local firm of “Wootton Brothers”. [See tribute to “Young Bill” Wootton.]

Peter and Tony had 2 cousins who also lived in Greenford in 1939. In 1940, when the bombing in London became a real threat, cousins John and Patricia (Pat) Smith joined Peter’s family at Sulgrave. For about 3 years the extended family of 4 children enjoyed the delights of country life, especially remembering the long hot summer days spent in the harvest fields on Bill Henn’s farm, where Uncle Lew worked. They all attended Sulgrave School, where Victoria Cave was Head-Mistress, “ruling with a rod of iron”, and a rather whippy cane, which was felt by everyone from time to time !

In 1943, the family of 6 was reduced to 3, when John and Pat returned to London, and Peter’s father was called up for active service as a Driver in the RASC, where he saw service in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

At 16, Peter left school and started work at the Northern Aluminium Company at Banbury.  NORAL, (or the “Ally” as it was commonly called), produced aluminium sheet and extrusions, which were vital to the war industry, and this was probably why bombs were dropped so close to Banbury.

Early 1950s

Peter attended night school at Banbury, cycling to and from work, sometimes late at night on cold winter evenings. There were no buses in those days, and very few, if any, street lights. Peter became a qualified draughtsman and eventually, a chartered engineer. Peter was a keen sportsman being one of the founder members of the revived Sulgrave cricket club in 1946, where he became a very competent batsman.  He also enjoyed a game of billiards, which was played in the old “Reading Room”, (now the village shop).

In 1947, at 18, Peter was eligible for National Service, but obtained deferment to complete his studies. However, the inevitable call-up arrived, and Peter served his National Service in the RAF, mainly at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. He had saved enough money to buy a motor-bike, a BSA B31, on which he used to travel home to Sulgrave at week-ends.
He may have used it to travel to a dance at Brackley town hall, where he met Hazel, who eventually became his wife. They were married at Brackley on the 3rd July 1953. Peter had graduated to 3 wheels by then, being the proud owner of a Morgan, with the reverse gear disconnected, so that it could be driven on a motorcycle licence.

The three wheeler Morgan.

Peter and Hazel then moved to London where Peter worked for Metal Box. They lived for a while at 36 Fermoy Road, still owned by his father, but converted into 2 flats. They later moved to their own houses at Northolt and at Pinner, where their sons Steven and Russell were born and raised.  Peter was keen on the outdoor life and the boys fondly remember going mountain walking with their parents throughout their childhood.

Russell, Hazel and Peter heading for Tryfan in North Wales in 1977
(Y Garn in the background)

When Metal Box relocated to Wantage in the late 1970s, Peter and Hazel moved to Hinton Waldrist, near Oxford, where they made Orchard House their new home.

Peter on the left, summit of Moelwyn Mawr, North Wales, 1977

In later years Peter took up bowling with his wife Hazel, who he lost to cancer in 1997. They were active club members at the Ardington, Farringdon and Kingston Bagpuise Bowls Clubs, making many new friends.

Left to right, Peter, father Reg, mother Win and brother Tony - Sulgrave 1990s.

A new chapter in Peter’s life was opened by June, who he met at bowls and who went on to become his close friend and companion.  Peter and June remained active in the bowls community and also enjoyed many holidays together in the Canary Islands and Mediterranean to escape the English winter weather. 

Peter was always a very active man, never sitting still for long. He was a very warm person, whose loss is felt deeply by family and friends.


Peter’s parents both came from large families, his father being 1 of 8 children, and his mother being 1 of 12 !  [See recent tribute to Doris Hirons, who was Win Butcher’s youngest sister.]
Consequently, Peter had numerous cousins.  [7 Butchers and 9 Bransons]

While the Branson side of the family tended not to stray too far from South Northamptonshire, the Butchers were quite the opposite, and are now to be found all over the world.

Peter’s cousin Pat, who attended Sulgrave school, married an American GI, and she now lives near Washington in the USA. Her 2 daughters also live in the USA. Peter’s uncle Dolph emigrated to New Zealand, where cousin Arthur now lives. Arthur’s sister Maisie also married an American and they lived in New Hampshire.  By a very strange co-incidence, Maisie’s husband, Hank, was shot down over Germany in the war while serving in the USAF, and was a prisoner of war at the same camp as “Young Bill” Wootton !

Peter had 2 Aunts and an Uncle who emigrated to Australia. Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Jack emigrated in about 1912, before the 1st world war, while Aunt Eva did so in 1939. Eva never married, but Aunt Dorothy had 2 sons, Geof and Jim Cox, who spent all their lives in Australia, never visiting England.

When war was declared in 1914, uncle Jack joined the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, (the ANZAC s). He fought in the trenches in France, and died in action just 1 month before the war ended. His name can be seen on the war memorial stone in Culworth. Had Peter’s Uncle Jack survived, it was likely that all the Butchers would have ended up in Australia, and would all now be bemoaning the loss of the “Ashes” !

Tony Butcher