All Things Warrington

Sir John Butler

Stacks Image 503

But word is come to Warrington,
& Busye hall is laid about
Sir John Butler and his merry men
stand in ffull great doubt. 

when they came to Busye hall
itt was the merke midnight, 
and all the bridges were vp drawen,
and neuer a candle Light.

there they made them one good boate, 
all of one good Bull skinn;
William Sauage was one of the first
that euer came itt within.

hee sayled ore his merrymen
by 2 and 2 together,
& said itt was as good a bote
as ere was made of leather.

 "waken you, waken you, deare father 
god waken you within!
for here is your uncle standlye
come your hall within"

"if that be true, Ellen Butler,
these tydings you tell mer,
A 100 in good redd gold
this night will not borrow mee." 

& then came downe Ellen Butler,
& into her fathers hall
& then came downe Ellen Butler,
& shee was laced in pall.

"where is ffather, Ellen Butler
haue done, and tell itt mee."
"my ffather is now to London ridden, 
as Christ shall haue part of mee."

"Now nay, Now nay, Ellen Butler,
ffor soe itt must not bee
ffor ere I goe fforth of this hall,
jour ffather I must see."

the sought that hall then vp and downe 
theras John Butler Lay;
the sought that hall then vp and downe 
theras lohn Butler Lay;

ffaire him ffall, litle Holcrofft!
soe Merrilye he kept the dore,
till that his head ffrom his shoulders
came tumbling downe the floor.

"yeelde thee, yeild thee, John Butler!!
yeelde thee now to mee "!
"I will yeelde me to my vnckle Stanlye, 
& neere to ffalse Peeter Lee."

"a preist, a preist," saies Ellen Butler,
"to house and to shrine!
a preist, a presit, sais Ellen Butler
"While that my father is a man aliue!"

then bespake him willwira Sauage,
a shames death may hee dye !
sayes, "he shall haue no other priest
but my bright sword and mee"

the Ladye Butler is to London rydden, 
shee had better haue beene att home,
shee might haue beggd her owne marryed Lord 
att her good Brother John.

& as shee lay in leeue London,
& as shee lay in her bedd,
shee dreamed her owne marryed Lord 
was swiminnge in blood soe red.

shee called vp her merry men all 
long ere itt was day,
saies "wee must ryde to Busye hall
with all speed that wee may,"

shee mett with 3 Kendall men
were ryding by the way"
tydings, tydings, Kendall men,
I pray you tell itt mee"

"beauy tydings, deare Madam!
from you wee will not you Leane
the worthyest Knight in merry England,
John Butler, Lord ! hee is slaine!

"ffarewell, ffarwell, lohn Butler!
ffor thee I must never see
ffarewell, ffarwell, Busiye hall!
for thee I will neuer come nye."

Now Ladye Butler is to London againe,
in all the speed might bee;
& when shee came before her prince,
shee kneeled low downe on her knee:

"a boone, a boone, my Leege!
shee sayes, " ffor gods loue grant itt mee"
"what is thy boone, Lady Butler 
or what wold thou haue of mee 2?"

"what is thy boone, Lady Butler? 
or what wold thou haue of mee?
" that ffalse Peeres of Lee, & my brother Stanley,
& william Sauage, and all, may dye."

"come you hither, Lady Butler, 
come you ower this stone;
wold you haue 3 men ffor to dye,
all ffor the losse off one?

"come you hither, Lady Butler, 
with all the speed you may;
if thou wilt come to London, 
thou shalt goe home Lady Gray."


'Sir John Butler' first appeared in an 1868 book entitled 'Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscripts - Ballads & Romances, Vol. 3'. It tells of the murder of Sir John Butler (Boteler) of Bewsey Old Hall, Warrington, in the 15th century. The story has been captured in prose on at least four different occasions. This version, due to the language used, is believed to be the earliest. Bishop Percy (1729-1811) was the Bishop of Dromore in County Down, Ireland, and is famous for publishing Britain's "first great" ballad collection, 'The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry' in 1765. Some of the ballads in Percy's collection were taken from an old manuscript collection that he rescued "from the hands of a housemaid who was about to light the fire with it". Although it is not known if 'Sir John Butler' was among the poems Percy saved (it wasn't included in his 1765 book but then again many others in the 'two inch thick' manuscripts were also omitted), its style suggests it could have been. For further information on this and other works inspired by the Bewsey murder, including a little background information into the murder itself, see The Bewsey Ballads.

For more Warrington poetry visit the
poetry section of All Things Warrington.