Pleasure Butler (née Coales)

Firstly – stop thinking that! And don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean! (Although I’m sure we could all imagine the convenience of having one).

Anyways, Pleasure Butler was born Pleasure Coales in 1834, to Daniel and Jane. I think her name actually came, literally, from her parents pleasure at her arrival, as she came some 14 years after her next oldest sibling! Although some may see that more as a cause for Displeasure.

Pleasure marries one Thomas Butler on St Valentine’s day 1857, yet unfortunately, by 1861 she has already filed for a divorce. She cites cruelty – as she had 3 children in those 4 years (only one survives) and gives several dates, we can assume some of that violence happened whilst she was pregnant (this was later verified by her account in the newspaper). Adultery is also given as a reason, she names some 6 women, 2 of whom appear to be sisters(!).

Thomas replies to say he didn’t do any of it, and if he did she condoned it anyway…

Pleasure replies to say he she condoned his cruelty, that was revoked when he committed adultery, and if she condoned the adultery, that was revoked when he committed the acts of cruelty…

Thomas responds to merely say he takes issue with those statements.

This petition is then recommend to go to court, and is detailed in the Morning Standard in November 1861. You can look more closely by clicking on the image, but I haven’t put in the whole article. Essentially, a lot of Pleasure’s claims are refuted, but mostly by her husband’s sister, and a male doctor. However the relationship does seem a volatile one, the servants speak for her, and a woman named Hannah Davis alias Simmons DOES admit to having had sex with Thomas for money.

Pleasure Butler The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, November 18, 1861

This petition is not successful, I’ve found that often ‘messy’ ones like this are not – and it is not until another petition for divorce on the part of Pleasure in1878 that they finally separate. This time, on top of the previous claims of cruelty, It is claimed he wilfully gives her venereal disease in 1870, and during the years 1872 – 1877 (the years leading up to the second petition) he has co-habited with another woman, a previous servant named Anne Sanderson. This is verified by the 1881 census, when he is still living with her, and still calling her a ‘servant’ (and himself a widow!).

This time Thomas is ordered to pay all of Pleasure’s solicitors costs, alimony and for the youngest child to stay with her, the others being old enough to make up their own minds. (By this time she has sadly lost 6 children, one as stated in the article through suffocation in bed,  it’s not clear whether the violence within their marriage contributed to any of the children’s deaths, although this is alluded to in the divorce proceedings – I very much hope not).

I could not find Pleasure  in the 1861 census (oh the limitless puns) and the entire family is missing in 1871. Perhaps she deliberately did not fill it in, perhaps she was hiding from Thomas, perhaps she gave a different name, or perhaps it’s just one of the sets of records that have disappeared or been damaged over the years (like the 1851 Ousden one that means I’ll never know who my Gx2 Grandfather’s parents were grumble grumble). In 1891 all 3 daughters are living with Pleasure, but her son William is still missing.

Pleasure dies on March 1st 1911, leaving £21 19s 6d (Around £1.198, almost exactly what I would leave if I were to die now!)

I searched for her children in 1911 census and what I found actually made me ‘aaahh’ out loud. All 4 children (now aged 41 – 52) are living together in the house  their Mother lived in, (Lion House, lower square Isleworth, which seems to either no longer exist or it has been renamed) indicating the all lived together or William came to ‘look after’ the women once their mother died.

William is an Engineer, Alice is a Musician, Catherine and Alexandra Artists.

We don’t know whether or not they all remained unmarried so long through choice, perhaps Pleasure talked them out of marriage after her experiences, or perhaps they’d made their own minds up from what they’d witnessed growing up; but it’s nice to think that they all lived happily (I presume) together, doing nice relaxing things like painting and playing music. 🙂

However there is a marriage, quite a way away in Grimsby, for Alexandra and a man named Robert Pangbourn (unusual surname!) quite some time later in 1923. There may be a child another 11 years later, when Alexandra is in her mid-50’s, but without buying the birth certificate (Or finding Robert K. who could actually still be living!) I can’t be sure.

So at least we can hope one of her daughters found marital bliss! 🙂


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