The Somme hero who turned Hartlepool into a modern town

Sixty years ago, Bill Butterworth was the man making a difference to Hartlepool's skyline.

Friday, 15th July 2016, 4:29 pm
Updated Friday, 15th July 2016, 5:54 pm

He spearheaded the demolition of 700 homes with 400 more to come soon after.

But this was a man who came within inches of dying in the bloodiest battle of them all.

Chris Cordner reports.

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One hundred years ago, Bill Butterworth was a man in demand. He was a footballer – a centre forward with Scunthorpe United.

But that was before the First World War came, and he answered the call along with dozens of his friends. They could not get to France quick enough.

War was brutal and Bill found out the hard way. He was serving at the Somme when he was wounded in the right leg. Then, at Levanti on April 8, 1918, he had his left leg blown off.

Somehow, he lived and returned home to Britain with an artificial leg.

By 1922, he had taken up a new hobby of bowls and played 23 times for Durham County. He was so good, he even competed in the finals of the English Bowls Association championships in London in 1951 and 1955.

He refused to take a back seat when the Second World War came.

He served in the Air Raid Precaution Service and the Civil Defence.

He was commended for his prompt action when a bomb dropped in Lumley Square and he came to the aid of a man trapped by rubble.

We first carried a report on this intrepid man in 1956.

The Northern Daily Mail told how he was behind the clearances which left great swathes of open land on the Headland.

By 1956, 700 houses had gone and many people had been rehoused to other more modern areas, mainly West View.

Our report at the time said: “Mr Butterworth recalls that, in 1914, Northgate was so usually crowded with children it was almost impossible to walk along it.

“Now, there are few children in that district.

“To Alfred, Everett, Blandford, Frederick and Durham Streets, Northgate and Middlegate, Mr Butterworth’s men have been leaving their mark.

“In fact, in Blandford and Everett Street alone, 140 houses have been pulled down.”

Born in Carlisle, Bill left school at 13 and served his time as a bricklayer at Driffield in Yorkshire. He earned four shillings and sixpence a week and was doing well.

But after completing his apprenticeship at 19, he came to Hartlepool where his dad was a general foreman.

By 1931, he had taken over his father’s job.

As a man involved in construction, he had a very different view on some of Hartlepool’s best loved points.

“Although the sea provides many Hartlepool folk with a living, to Mr Butterworth it is a destructive enemy. Extensive damage is often done to the sea defences.”

Who remembers him and can tell us more about him?