The John Buttrey Manuscript is a massive hand-written manuscript of 1,061 military and social tunes compiled for the use of a British fife and drum band in the and early 1800s. (Complete list of tunes here.) The paper it is written on is from CURTEIS & SON 1801 &02.

Exciting News:  The Village Music Project in the UK has  transcribed the entire Buttrey Manuscript ! ABC files and pdfs of the tunes are posted here. For the first time you can easily read the music and listen to the tunes !!

“Because of its size and the sheer number of tunes l found it to be a very useful “rosetta stone” for identifying and dating untitled melodies” –  Ian Bell musician and past curator of Port Dover Harbour Museum

Buttrey MS Open First PageThe Buttrey Manuscript is a good representation of the sorts of music that would have been heard in a garrison town like York between 1800 and 1820 where the musicians who played for the soldiers’ parade were often the same ones playing for the Saturday night dance and the Sunday morning church service. There are duty tunes, marches, jigs and reels and song tunes – along with some harmony parts. In the margins and end pages are some wonderful pen and ink and watercolour sketches of various subjects and scenes. Although the book is primarily written out for the fife, on one of its last pages it contains a fingering chart for the fiddle.

Buttrey Pg 3 Mouth of NileJohn Buttrey joined the 34th Regiment in Lincolnshire, England in 1797 as a drummer at the age of 13. He served in Africa and India and was discharged when he returned to England in 1814.

There are sketches in the manuscript of “The Battle of The Nile” and “The Battle of St. Kitts”, battles which took place before John Buttrey became a fifer and where the 34th did not serve, resulting in these stories being written down well after the fact.

John appears to have written Quick Step #616. and thanks to Eamonn O’Keeffee, we know that several members of his regiment also wrote tunes in the manuscript (Tilby, Dorman, Gittings and Quinton).

John emigrated to Canada in 1849 where the manuscript passed to his son Francis Buttrey, to his grandson Alfred Buttrey, to his great-granddaughter Beatrice Buttrey, to her daughter Gladys Cameron, to her daughter Sandra Cameron of Georgetown, ON and on July 31, 2019 to Fort York c/o the City of Toronto Museum and Heritage Services Unit. (Full history of John Buttrey here.)

Requests for copies of the National Archives microfiche of this manuscript were granted to Fort Henry in 1980; Fort George in 1981; Colonial Williamsburg in 1985; and Fort York in 1987; as well as other museums and groups in England. It is with great pleasure that I am now able to make this music available to all who wish to review or use it via this website.

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7 thoughts on “Buttrey Manuscript

  1. This is a fabulous resource.

    Have you thought about making these tunes available in ABC format? This is a large(!) job, but there’s
    a lot of ‘folkies’ out here who would be very, very happy…

    Someone already transcribed one of the tunes and made it available on…

    Roger Hare

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your interest in the Buttrey manuscript. It is always wonderful to hear that people have enjoyed finding this music.

      I was just approached by to give permission to The Village Music Project to create ABC files of the Buttrey music. I have given them this permission.

      Sandy Cameron
      Owner – Buttrey Manuscript


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