OBITUARY: Darrell Buttery – teacher, diarist and heritage champion

Video darrell buttery

Mr Buttery, who lived on Tadcaster Road, passed away at St Leonard’s Hospice on Wednesday. He had been ill with cancer for some time.

He was well known to a generation of York schoolboys as the popular schoolmaster who taught English at Nunthorpe Grammar from 1974 until 1985.

During his years at the school he kept a diary, extracts of which were published last year as ‘A Nunthorpe Diary’.

It painted a rich portrait of a school that closed in 1986, telling of visits to the crypt at York Minster, an encounter with former Prime Minster Ted Heath – and of the Nunthorpe schoolboy who skyved off for the day to go and meet the recently-married Prince and Princess of Wales.

Former Nunthorpe teacher Darrell Buttery enjoys the joke about a mis-spelled school mug…

It wasn’t the only diary that he kept, however.

Mr Buttery, who was born in Guisborough in 1941 then spent his childhood years in York before his family moved elsewhere, returned to the city he loved in 1968.

He rose to become a leading member of York society – as chair of both York Civic Trust and the York Georgian Society and Governor of York’s Merchant Adventurers, amongst others.

That meant he was in a unique position to overhear (and record in his diary) the conversations of the city’s great and good.

He once recorded an off-the-cuff remark made by the late architect Patrick Nuttgens at a York Civic Trust AGM, for example.

“Excuse me for sitting down,” he recorded Mr Nuttgens as saying. “I’m exhausted by listening to the chairman.”

For all his humour, Mr Buttery was a serious historian and author of several books, among them The Vanished Buildings of York (1984), Pictures of York Minster from the 17th Century to the Present (2007) and, with Sir Ron Cooke, Stephen Lewis and Chris Shepherd, The Streets of York: Four Centuries of Change (2018).

Darrell Buttery centre, with his co-authors at the launch of new book The Streets of York in 2018

Appointed MBE for his services to heritage in 2018, he was also a dedicated champion of York’s heritage.

Civic Trust chief executive Andrew Morrison said: “Darrell was such a generous, knowledgeable, and passionate person inspiring school children and adults alike.

“For nearly a decade he presided as head judge of the Civic Trust’s public speaking competitions for schools and in 2021 received the Lord Mayor’s Award for Conservation. His impact on the city of York is immeasurable.”

Brigadier Jim Richardson, the clerk to the Company of Merchant Adventurers, said the flag at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall would be flying at half mast for a week as a mark of respect.

“Darrell joined our Company in 1981. One of our most dedicated and enthusiastic members, he continued his valuable service as Curator of Paintings, remaining active throughout his final illness,” he said.

Sir Ron Cooke, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of York and a close friend of Mr Buttery, said he had been one of York’s ‘most knowledgeable, passionate, committed and devoted citizens’.

“A gifted lecturer, a selfless and generous entertainer, always supportive of young people, rarely critical of others, and a valued colleague to his army of friends, a man sonorous, occasionally sardonic, always kind, Darrell will be sorely missed,” he said.

Darrell Buttery, May 1941 to July 2022.