Port Elizabeth of Yore: Arthur Butterworth – City Engineer

Butterworth, a civil engineer by training, played a key role in the development of the town. The Fire Brigade also fell under his remit during the period of growth and professionalisation of this service.

Main picture: Arthur Butterworth at the Military Road Fire Station

Biographical info while in Britain
Butterworth, a civil engineer, was born at Rochdale, Lancashire, England. He was educated at The Leys, Cambridge, and served a pupilage to Ambrose W. Cross, then borough and water works engineer, Loughborough, in 1889-1892. Butterworth was then appointed the assistant engineer to the Loughborough Corporation, and in 1893–1895, was engaged as resident engineer on the Loughborough Refuse and Sewage Disposal Works.

In 1895–1896, he was engaged as a surveying assistant to EG Mawbey, borough engineer, Leicester. In 1896, Butterworth was elected to the position of the second assistant to EJ Purnell, city and water works engineer, Coventry. In 1898–1900, he was the chief engineering assistant to JE Swindlehurst, city engineer of Coventry. In 1900–1902, Butterworth was borough surveyor in Hythe, Kent.

The original location of the Horse Memorial at the corner of Park Drive & Rink Street. The exact placement was performed under the supervision of Arthur Butterworth. It was unveiled by the Mayor, Mr.Alexander Fettes on the 11 February 1905

Biographical info while in Port Elizabeth
Butterworth arrived from England to take up an appointment as Town Engineer of Port Elizabeth from 1902 to 1912 and City Engineer from 1913 until his death in 1917.  He was responsible for the construction and tarring of the main thoroughfares thereby removing the dust nuisance.

He also designed and erected the first Electric Power Station at Mount Road, the abattoirs, introduced the first sewerage mains, the Octagon Café building on the Humewood Promenade and was responsible for the market buildings in the Baakens Valley.  He was also the first Chief Fire Officer. In 1916–1917, Butterworth was the honorary secretary of the African District of the Association of Municipal and County Engineers. Previously, he was a member of Royal Sanitary Institute and Royal Institute of Public Health. * Rochdale, Lancashire, England 1.6.1873 † Port Elizabeth 5.3.1917.

Octagon Cafe on Humewood beach designed by Arthur Butterworth and built by the Municipality was opened on the 12 April 1913. It had a concrete foundation resting on rock

Butterworth was first appointed by the Port Elizabeth municipality in 1902 at the age of 28. While he lacked a formal qualification,he had undergone an apprenticeship. Arthur was to die in office after 15 years’ service of a heart attack. After his death, his widow and children returned to the UK.
Market Buildings opened in 1885. Butterworth’s facade added in 1908. Now Feather Market Centre
The Bathing Pavilion designed by AS Butterworth. Opened 6 Dec 1913. Demolished after 1968 flood

Rating the Civil Engineers
Among the Civil Engineers employed by the PE Municipality over the years, Arthur Butterworth can be rated among the best. Doug McCallum was a real go-getter, who took no nonsense. He and Councillors clashed and eventually he resigned. Notwithstanding that many had great respect for him. Other good CE’s were George Begg and Arthur Clayton.

What makes Butterworth stand out was all the development of the City under his watch as has been documented above. He was the Town and then the City Engineer for a considerable period. Toprove the assertion, Butterworth wrote a report with costs to sewer the town. Concillors did not believe him and accept his report. To prove the veracity of his costing, they appointed another Engineer from the UK to review his report. The other Engineer made a few minor changes such as reducing the pipe sizes of some sewers (probably to justify his appointment). The report was accepted but implementation was delayed for a few years. Some of Port Elizabeth’s City Engineers had great vision for the future and he was one of them.

Arthur Butterworth is standing on the left with hands in pocket and wearing boots.

Obituary
Butterworth, Arthur Shaw, civil engineer. Butterworth was born at Rochdale, Lancashire, England. He was educated at The Leys, Cambridge, and served a pupilage to Ambrose W. Cross, then borough and water works engineer, Loughborough, in 1889-1892. Butterworth was then appointed the assistant engineer to the Loughborough Corporation, and in 1893–1895, was engaged as resident engineer on the Loughborough Refuse and Sewage Disposal Works. In 1895–1896, he was engaged as a surveying assistant to EG Mawbey, borough engineer, Leicester. In 1896, Butterworth was elected to the position of the second assistant to EJ Purnell, city and water works engineer, Coventry. In 1898–1900, he was the chief engineering assistant to JE Swindlehurst, city engineer of Coventry. In 1900–1902, Butterworth was borough surveyor in Hythe, Kent. Arrived from England to take up appointment as Town Engineer of Port Elizabeth from 1902 to 1912 and City Engineer from 1913 until his death in 1917.  He constructed and tarred the main thoroughfares thereby removing the dust nuisance. He also designed and erected the first Electric Power Station at Mount Road, the abattoirs, introduced the first sewerage mains, the Octagon Café building on the Humewood Promenade and responsible for the market buildings in the Baakens Valley.  He was the first Chief Fire Officer. In 1916–1917, Butterworth was the honorary secretary of the African District of the Association of Municipal and County Engineers. Previously, he was a member of Royal Sanitary Institute and Royal Institute of Public Health. * Rochdale, Lancashire, England 1.6.1873 † Port Elizabeth 5.3.1917

Sources
David Raymer
Hills Covered with Cottages: Port Elizabeth’s Lost Streetscapes by Margaret Harradine (2010, Express Copy & Print, Port Elizabeth)
Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (1996, E H Walton (Packaging (Pty) Ltd, Port Elizabeth, on behalf of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth).

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