William Butterfield was born in London in 1814. His parents were strict Nonconformists and ran a chemist shop in the Strand. One of nine children, William was educated at a local school and at sixteen was apprenticed to Thomas Arber, a builder in Pimlico.
When Arber went bankrupt, Butterfield decided to set up business as a professional architect. In 1840 he opened an office in Lincoln's Inn Fields. His first important commission was St Augustine's College, Canterbury. This was followed by a request to build a new church in Bristol. These buildings were a great success and over the next few years he built schools, churches and several large houses.
All through the 1850s and 1860s Butterfield was earning over £2,000 a year in fees. A leading exponent of the Gothic revival he was the architect of Balliol College Chapel, St Albans, Holban and the chapel and quadrangle at Rugby School. William Butterfield died in 1900.