Churchill History Lecture Series: The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury, John Rutter 1796-1851 – John Stuttard

21 Oct 2019
Location: Jock Colville Hall, Churchill College
Start time: 17:30
End time: 19:00

Author, Printer, Publisher, Social and Political Reformer, Public Servant, Philanthropist and Lawyer

John Rutter was a man of many talents and achievements, a polymath who lived in Shaftesbury, North Dorset, at a time of great change in our society.  An accomplished writer, he printed and published some fine books, and his masterpiece, Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey, William Beckford’s cathedral-like mansion, stands out as one of the great architectural publications of the early 19th century. If he had done nothing else in his life than publish Delineations he would be lauded today for this single accomplishment. But Rutter did much more than this. Driven and inspired by his Quaker upbringing, with a belief in equality and fairness, he engaged in political reform in the ‘pocket borough’ of Shaftesbury and he fought against nepotism and corruption in the local borough. For this he was hounded, fined and considered ‘turbulent’. But his actions contributed to the major reforms introduced by successive Whig governments of the 1830s.

After these successes, Rutter qualified as a lawyer, was elected to the reformed town council and became a public servant and philanthropist of some renown. At a national level, he contributed to the abolition of slavery, total abstinence and the international peace movement. Locally, he encouraged Bible reading, established schools, chaired Shaftesbury’s Union and House of Industry, introduced gas lighting to the town and was instrumental in the South Western Railway being built along its present route, linking London to Exeter via Salisbury and Yeovil. John Rutter was a Renaissance man, whose life we should celebrate for what he achieved, for his extraordinary contribution to Shaftesbury and for the changes he made to our society.  In this first biography of Rutter, author John Stuttard has meticulously researched the life, character and qualities of this exceptional man in scrupulous detail, drawing frequently on original sources never before seen in print. The result is one of the most penetrating and revealing studies of life in 19th century Shaftesbury and of the man who was central to many of the major changes and key events that occurred.

John Stuttard was educated at Shrewsbury School and Churchill College, Cambridge. After a year teaching English with VSO in Borneo, he qualified as a chartered accountant with Cooper Brothers & Co (now PwC) in London. During his fifty year career with the firm he worked in the UK and abroad, mainly Finland and the other Nordic countries. He had a spell of two years in the UK Cabinet Office and, later, five years as chairman of the firm in China.  He was elected as an Alderman of the City of London in 2001 and became Sheriff of the City in 2005 and Lord Mayor in 2006.  He has been Chancellor of City University and sponsored the Worshipful Company of Educators, now a livery company.  He was a By-Fellow of Churchill College for six years.  Now living in Shaftesbury he is President of the Shaftesbury Civic Society and the Shaftesbury & District Historical Society as well as the City of London Sheriffs Society.

His first book, The New Silk Road – Secrets of Business Success in China Today, was published by John Wiley in 2000. Since then he has written five further books on very different subjects: Whittington to World Financial Centre - The City of London and its Lord Mayor, Travels in a Lifetime; A History of British McCalls; The Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales – The First Forty Years and now the biography of John Rutter, The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury.

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