Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 04, 2019
Webpage updated: January 01, 2020



JOHN BUTTER (1791-1877)

John Butter was born on January 22nd 1791 in the village of Woodbury, near Exeter, Devon.

After receiving his education at Exeter Grammar School, he followed in the footsteps of his father and entered the medical profession.  He continued his studies at the Devon and Exeter Hospital and in 1811 became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Physicians (FRSP), Edinburgh, and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS), England.  In 1820 he was awarded a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from the University of Edinburgh and two years later was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

His father was the medical attendant to Lord Rolle and it was through that connection that in 1814 John Butter was appointed as the surgeon to the South Devon Militia, a post he was to hold for 45 years.  The Regiment were at that time providing the guard at the Napoleonic War Prison at Princetown and in 1814 he marched with the Regiment into Plymouth, where they took up residence at Millbay Barracks.  He settled in the Town and practised as surgeon until he was awarded a MD degree by Edinburgh University in 1820, after which he practised as a physician from his home in George Street.  He specialised in diseases of the eyes.

With Doctor Edward Moore he founded the Plymouth Eye Dispensary in December 1821.  In recognition of his services to that institution, he was in January 1854 presented with his portrait, painted by Mr Lucas, and a handsome silver salver worth 100.  The portrait was hung in the boardroom at the Royal Eye Infirmary.

It was at that time that he lost the sight in one eye through ophthalmic rheumatism contracted on the parade ground of Millbay Barracks while he was examining recruits for the Crimean War.  In 1856 he became totally blind and was forced to retire.  His successor as surgeon to the South Devon Militia was a Doctor Morris.

As a long-standing and well respected resident of the Town, he had been asked many times to take part in affairs of local government but he always declined on the grounds that his medical affairs fully occupied his time.   However, he was appointed as a County magistrate.

Doctor John Butter died at his home, 7 Windsor Villas, Plymouth, on the evening of Saturday January 13th 1877.

He survived his wife, the former Miss Elizabeth W Veale of South Brent, by four years.  There were no children of the marriage.