Brown Butler has been advising the business community for many years: our heritage dates back to the early 1900’s and its early years were most strongly influenced by Joseph (‘Joe’) Butler.
Joe qualified as an accountant in 1916, having trained with another Leeds firm; he financed his studies and supported himself and his mother by giving piano lessons. He joined forces with Leslie Brown in 1919, who had been in practice in Leeds from 1910, and so Brown Butler & Co was born, occupying offices at 26 East Parade, in Leeds city centre.
The relationship between the two founders was relatively short-lived.
A new partner, D’Arcy Dickson Perkins, joined Joe in Brown Butler & Co in 1922, with the firm developing a presence in Bradford and Keighley, in West Yorkshire, and Southport in the North West, at about this time (although it appears that the Keighley and Southport offices were operational for only two or three years). Like Leslie Brown before him, Joe’s second partner did not stay with the firm for more than a year or so, with Brown Butler & Co being run by Joe Butler as a sole practitioner for most of its first 30 years. Perhaps Joe’s standards were hard to live up to? We get the sense he was a hard taskmaster: he would regularly say “I would rather be respected than liked” and the drinking of tea or coffee and smoking in the office were all prohibited to avoid the risk of damaging clients’ books and records!
Joe Butler was joined by a new partner, Edward Greenwood, in 1950. The Bradford office was closed at about this point, although there were now two offices in Leeds (in the city centre and at Bramley on the outskirts: the Bramley office operated until 1957). A year later, the partnership expanded again to include John Gordon Beaumont, who had been articled to a firm in Sheffield and had gained experience in the steel industry prior to joining the firm.
Joe Butler finally retired from the firm in 1959, 40 years after he had helped to found it.
Roy Garthwaite, a graduate of Oxford University and still known to many practitioners within the Leeds professional community, became a partner of the firm in 1961. Roy served as the firm’s senior partner from 1978 until his retirement in 1990.
Edward Greenwood retired in 1968 and J G Beaumont in 1977. Growth in business during the late '60s and '70s paved the way for new partners who were appointed in 1978. They were Trevor Gurney (senior partner after Roy Garthwaite from 1990 until his retirement in 2004), Tony Thrippleton (retired 1994) and Ken Holmes (retired 1992). Mike Varley was appointed in 1986 and retired as partner in 2006, continuing to work for the firm on a part-time basis for a further year.
Of the current partners, John Brear and Robert Solyom were appointed in 1987, Denis Cross in 1990, Mark Dearnley in 1992 and Steve Hornshaw and James White in 2006.
Leeds is home to one of the strongest financial and legal communities outside London. Brown Butler (we dropped the ‘& Co’ in 2000 to 'keep up with the times') has always focused its practice on Leeds, moving from its first office in East Parade, in 1928, to 66 Albion Street. Then to 32/33 Commercial Street in 1941, back to Albion Street (no. 26) in 1964, then to Infirmary Street in 1981 and to Wellington Street (Apsley House) in 2006. Five years later, in April 2011, we moved to our seventh principle office – Leigh House, 28-32 St Pauls Street, Leeds.
The last 20 years, in particular, have seen a period of sustained growth for the practice.
We have continued to focus on smaller and medium sized businesses, predominantly owner-managed, and have developed specialist services, including corporate tax and corporate finance, to enhance our core general accountancy practice, which, in combination, enable us to provide our clients with well-rounded commercial advice.
Brown Butler is now the largest independent firm of accountants in Leeds and we are well placed to continue providing a professional and highly-personalised service, with the right levels of expertise, to our clients and to help prepare them for the challenges we all face in the business environment of the 21st century.