The grave of Captain Alfred Hutton

Thanks to some excellent detective work by members of the Schola Forum, the grave and memorial tablet of former Bartitsu Club instructor Captain Alfred Hutton has been located in Astbury Churchyard, Cheshire, UK.

Hutton was amongst the foremost authorities on swordsmanship in late-Victorian England, writing many books on the subject and serving as a founder and President of the Amateur Fencing Association from 1895 onwards. He was also one of the original revivalists of historical (Elizabethan-era) martial arts such as the use of the two-handed sword, rapier and dagger and sword and handbuckler.

He collaborated with Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright during several exhibitions and then joined the Bartitsu Club as both a fencing instructor and board member, later describing the Club as “the headquarters of ancient swordplay in England”. Hutton also learned basic jiujitsu and the Vigny method of self defence with a walking stick from his fellow instructors.

Captain Hutton died on December 18th of the year 1910.

Those wishing to pay their respects can view his memorial tablet in the chancel of St. Mary’s Church:

Across the road you will see a stepped entrance to the graveyard. Go up these steps and follow the path (you will pass an ancient tree); you will have the Church on your right. Hutton’s grave is about ten metres along the church wall, and 5 metres into the graveyard. Use the pictures below for reference.

Although it appears that the stone cross has toppled onto the boulder, it is in fact designed that way; the cross fits snugly into a carved notch in the boulder. The inscription, which is covered by turf to protect it from the elements, reads:

“OA 392 – In Affectionate Memory of / ALFRED HUTTON late King’s Dragoon Guards & Last Surviving Son of HENRY WILLIAM HUTTON of Beverley / Hold thou Thy Cross Before My Closing Eyes / Born March 10th 1839. Died December 18th 1910, Aged 71 Years.”

The graves of Captain Hutton’s sister, Harriott (died 18th January 1906), another sister, Marianne Eleanor (died 31st January 1908 aged 95), his mother, Marianne (died 19th January 1879, aged 87) are close to his grave.

“Ancient Swordplay: the Revival of Elizabethan Fencing in Victorian London”

During the final decades of the 19th century, a cabal of fencers and historians led by Captain Alfred Hutton and his colleague, the writer Egerton Castle, undertook a systematic study and practical revival of combat with long-outmoded weapons such as the rapier and dagger, sword and buckler and two-handed sword. Their efforts presaged the current revival of historical fencing, a rapidly growing movement that directly parallels the modern renaissance of E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu.

The book Ancient Swordplay details the origins, colourful heyday and ultimate decline of this unusual late-Victorian revival movement. Highlights include reports on many historical fencing exhibitions throughout the 1880s and ’90s, Hutton’s and Castle’s work as theatrical fight choreographers (who paid strict attention to historical accuracy) and Hutton’s determined efforts to revolutionise military sabre fencing with an infusion of “ancient swordplay”, especially that of the Elizabethan English master, George Silver.

Of particular interest to Bartitsu enthusiasts, Ancient Swordplay includes a chapter on Captain Hutton’s collaborations with E.W. Barton-Wright. In his book The Sword and the Centuries (1902), Hutton was moved to note that “the fence of the case of rapiers, as of all the other Elizabethan weapons, is much in vogue at the present time at the Bartitsu Club, now the headquarters of ancient swordplay in this country.”

For all their efforts, though, the Hutton/Castle revival did not directly survive their own generation. The final chapters examine the reasons why, coming to a conclusion that may surprise modern readers, and attempt to trace their legacy into the following decades of the 20th century.

Including numerous rare illustrations and a foreword by author Neal Stephenson, Ancient Swordplay is available now from the Freelance Academy Press website or . For a thorough historical context and commentary, please also see the new article Renaissance Swordplay, Victorian-style on the Freelancer blog.