Dr Richard J. Butler

Richard ButlerLecturer in the Historic Built Environment

Contact details

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2810
  • Email: rjb86@le.ac.uk
  • Office: Room 23, Marc Fitch House, 3-5 Salisbury Road, LE1 7QR, Leicester
  • Office Hours (Semester 2, 2017-18): Wednesday, 9am-11am; Thursday, 9am-10am (or email to arrange an alternative appointment)
  • Dissertation Office Hour (Semester 2, 2017-18): Wednesday, 11am-12pm (or email to arrange an alternative appointment)

Personal details


I studied at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr Frank Salmon. My doctoral research explored the architectural and political history of the Irish courthouse and prison in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the course of my PhD, I held a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I worked with Prof. James S. Donnelly, Jr. I am a member of the Education Sub-Committee of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB) and a committee member of the Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland (SSNCI). I am on the Board of Directors of the Irish US Alumni Association. I am also a founding member and secretary of the Irish Modern Urban History Group, have served as a peer reviewer for the journal Architectural History, and have acted as an external examiner for Trinity College Dublin. In June 2017 I was a Moore Fellow at the National University of Ireland, Galway. I grew up in Bantry, Co. Cork, in the southwest of Ireland, and outside of my academic work I am a keen hiker, sailor, cyclist and climber.

I joined the School of History and the Centre for Urban History in September 2015.

I am the Dissertations Officer for the School. I am also the AccessAbility and Equal Opportunities Officer, and in 2015-16 served as the School's Athena Swan lead. I am the staff representative for New History Lab. I organise the seminar series for the Centre for Urban History. I chair the Early Career Researchers group within the School of History, Politics and International Relations, and also the Early Career Researchers Action Group within the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.


My teaching focuses on modern Irish history. In particular, it revolves around the research I have undertaken on the historic built environment in Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I also teach a second-year option on post-war Irish politics and society, and a post-graduate course on architectural history and structural engineering for Urban Conservation students. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). In June 2017 I was awarded a Superstar Award from the University of Leicester Students' Union for my teaching.

Examples of modules that I teach or have taught while at Leicester:

  • HS1000: Making History
  • HS1013: Great Britain: The State We're In, [Modern British History, c. 1680-2016]
  • HS1100: People and Places: Dublin's Kilmainham Jail Through History and Memory, 1770-2016
  • HS2331: Modern Ireland, 1939-1975
  • HS2400: Perceiving the Past [Historiography]
  • HS2500: The Historian's Craft [Dissertation Preparation Module]
  • HS3608: Theatres of Conflict: Ireland in the nineteenth century
  • HS7075: How Buildings Work: Architectural History and Structural Engineering from the Ancient World to 2000
  • HS7081: Conservation, Heritage and the Urban Environment
  • HS7251: The City in History
  • HS7253: Urban Sustainability



Academic publications

Richard J. Butler and Erika Hanna, 'Irish urban history: agenda', and special section on Irish urban history, Urban History (forthcoming 2018).

Richard J. Butler, 'Urban governance and prison building in pre-famine Ireland, 1820-1845', in Simon Gunn and Tom Hulme (eds), Powers of the city (forthcoming 2018).

Richard J. Butler, 'Charles Blacker Vignoles, the Irish picturesque, and the unbuilt military railway to Berehaven, 1836-38’, in Niamh NicGhabhann and Danielle O’Donovan (eds), Mapping new territories in art and architectural history: essays in honour of Roger Stalley (forthcoming festschrift, 2018).

Richard J. Butler, ‘The Byzantine Research Fund architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): his archaeological work in Turkey and Greece’, in A. G. Kakissis (ed.), Byzantium and British Heritage: Byzantine influences on the Arts & Crafts Movement (British School at Athens, forthcoming 2018).

Richard J. Butler, ‘Cork’s courthouses, the landed elite and the Rockite rebellion: architectural responses to agrarian violence, 1820-27’, in Kyle Hughes and Donald MacRaild (eds), Crime, violence, and the Irish in the nineteenth century (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2017), pp. 87-111.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Rethinking the origins of the British Prisons Act of 1835: Ireland and the development of central-government prison inspection, 1820-35’, The Historical Journal 59:3 (Sept. 2016), pp. 721-46.

Richard J. Butler, ‘All Saints, Drimoleague: clarifications and new discoveries’,Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 121 (2016), pp. 141-43.

Richard J. Butler, ‘All Saints, Drimoleague, and Catholic visual culture under Bishop Cornelius Lucey in Cork, 1952-9’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 120 (2015), pp. 79-97.

Richard J. Butler, ‘“The radicals in these reform times”: politics, grand juries and Ireland’s unbuilt assize courthouses, 1800-45’, Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 58 (2015), pp. 109-39. Winner of the Hawksmoor Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain for 2014.

Richard J. Butler (ed.), The foundation documents of Pocklington School, Yorkshire, 1514-2014 (Cambridge: Esson Print, 2014). 114pp. ISBN 978-0-9575728.

Richard J. Butler, ‘British solutions to Irish problems: representations of Ireland in the British architectural press, 1837-53’, Victorian Periodicals Review 47:4 (Winter 2014), pp. 577-96.

Richard J. Butler, Secular & Domestic: George Gilbert Scott and the Master’s Lodge of St John’s College, Cambridge (Cambridge: Esson Print, 2013). 122pp. ISBN 978-0-9575739.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Bantry Library, Co. Cork, 1962-74’, History Ireland 21:1 (Jan.-Feb. 2013), p. 41.

Richard J. Butler, ‘The Anglo-Indian architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): a modernist follower of Lutyens’, Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 55 (2012), pp. 237-68.

Richard J. Butler, ‘George Gilbert Scott and the Master’s Lodge of St John’s College, Cambridge’, Scroope: Journal of the Cambridge Architecture Department 21 (2012), pp. 97-107.

Richard J. Butler, ‘George Gilbert Scott and the University of Bombay’, The Victorian, no. 37 (July 2011), pp. 10-13.


Book reviews

Richard J. Butler, ‘Coventry: the making of a modern city, 1939-73 (Historic England, Swindon, 2016). By Jeremy Gould and Caroline Gould.’ (review), Landscape History 38:1 (2017), pp. 121-22.

Richard J. Butler, ‘P. Barnwell, G. Tyack, and W. Whyte (eds.), Sir George Gilbert Scott 1811-1878 (Oxford, 2014)’ (review), The Victorian no. 50 (2015), p. 29.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire (3rd edition, New Haven and London, 2014)’ (review), The Victorian, no. 48 (Mar. 2015), pp. 26-27.



Richard J. Butler, ‘The first design for the chapel of St John’s College, by George Gilbert Scott’, exhibition staged at St John’s College, Cambridge, Feb.-Mar. 2013.

Richard J. Butler and Sharada Dwivedi, ‘Sir Gilbert Scott’s Architecture in Bombay’, exhibition staged at the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, India, July-Aug. 2011.

Outreach, engagement, public history, local history, newspaper, digital and other publications

Richard J. Butler, 'St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church, Bantry: a history', Journal of the Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society (forthcoming 2018).

Richard J. Butler, 'The stained glass windows in All Saints Church', Drimoleague Christmas Newsletter 2017 (Dec. 2017), pp. 112-13.

Richard J. Butler, Rhoda Cronin-Allanic, et al., Map of Bantry Historic Town (Cork: Cork County Council, 2017). Pamphlet and map.

Richard J. Butler, 'When a gay man with Indian roots becomes Ireland's youngest prime minister, it is time to take note', Scroll.in, 5 June 2017. Available at: https://scroll.in/article/839712/when-a-gay-man-with-indian-roots-becomes-irelands-youngest-prime-minister-it-is-time-to-take-note

Richard J. Butler, 'An Irish lecturer's story' and 'The Catholic church in Galway', in the St. Patrick's Day Leicester 2017 annual of The Emerald Centre (Leicester), March 2017.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Garryvurcha Church, Bantry’, The West Cork Times, 30 Jan. 2015.

Richard J. Butler, ‘The history of Bagenalstown courthouse, Co. Carlow’, Carloviana, no. 63 (2015), pp. 201-04.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Landscapes and architecture: the Cork & Bandon railway today’, in Michael Patterson (ed.), The Railways of West Cork (Cambridge: Esson Print, 2014), pp. 173-85.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Closure of our courthouses is pennywise and pound foolish’, The Irish Examiner, 30 Oct. 2014.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Historic church to undergo conservation work’, The Southern Star (Cork), 9 May 2014.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Historic Bantry church to undergo conservation following large donation’, The West Cork Times, 29 Apr. 2014.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Advocating for Ireland’s architectural heritage’, The Huffington Post, 1 Aug. 2013.

Richard J. Butler, ‘Restored Bantry church and graveyard opens to public’, The Southern Star (Cork), 7 Nov. 2012.

Richard J. Butler, ‘The fiftieth anniversary of the closure of the Cork and Bandon railway’, The Southern Star (Cork), 17 Mar. 2011.



I am interested in the historic built environment, and in particular Irish urban history from roughly 1700 to the present day. I have also published articles on British colonial architecture in India (Bombay, Delhi), and on the life and work of the architect George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878). My history of Ireland's unbuilt courthouses from c. 1800-1850 was awarded the Hawksmoor Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

I am currently working on Irish town planning in the nineteenth centuries, the role of the Roman Catholic church in town development, and the economic and social impact of public buildings in provincial towns.

My research interests include: British and Irish eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architectural history; the development and history of public architecture, especially courthouses and prisons; the Gothic Revival in Britain; British colonial architecture in India, 1800-1960; British archaeological excavations in Turkey and Greece before World War One; Roman Catholic church architecture in Ireland, 1922-65; Irish Brutalist architecture; urban history; public heritage policy; conservation and heritage; transnational history; penal reform; architectural newspapers and print culture in the nineteenth century; travel writing and architectural tourism; the architecture of transport.

Recent research grants and contract work

  • (PI) Greyfriars Townscape Heritage Initiative, Heritage Lottery Fund/Leicester City Council (£2,000), awarded Feb. 2017. Consultancy work on 'Past and Present Trade Directory' project.
  • (PI) Moore Visiting Fellowship (National University of Ireland, Galway) (£1,200), awarded Dec. 2016 for three-week visit in June 2017.
  • (PI) 'Public architecture in Ireland, c. 1750-1850: designs for provincial courthouses and prisons', Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Research Support Grant (£1,800), awarded Nov. 2016.
  • (PI) 'Cathedral building, post-war Irish Catholic politics, and urban memory: the regeneration of Galway prison, 1935-1965', British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (£7,112), awarded Aug. 2016.
  • (PI) 'St Peter's Belgrave historic village church project', Leicester City Council (£15,057), with Prof. Roey Sweet, awarded Mar. 2016.
  • (PI) 'The demolition of Galway jail, c. 1930-66', Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Research Grant (£500), awarded Oct. 2015.



In addition to supervision MA and MRes students, I am the joint or second supervisor for three PhD students. Their topics are press coverage of the Irish revolutionary period, 1919-21; governance and public health in Bombay, c. 1914-1950; and the culture and consequences of church closures in England, c. 1945-2010. I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students on a broad range of Irish, urban, and/or architectural history topics.



Recent radio/TV interviews:

BBC Radio Leicester, on Irish communities in post-war England, 3 Feb. 2017.

BBC Radio Leicester, on the legacy of Martin McGuinness, 21 March 2017.

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