Mary Butterwick,
Mary Butterwick, Courtesy of Butterwick Hospice Care

Mary Butterwick OBE (1924-2015) was a social campaigner who established the Butterwick Hospices group. She was born in Manchester, the fourth of five children. After leaving school, she worked in an office and as a farm hand, before joining the Land Army. During the war, she drove an ambulance. It was at this time she met her future husband, John Butterwick. The couple raised four children: Keith, Carol, Susan and Julia, with Mary as a full-time mother.

John was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1979 and died shortly afterwards, aged just 54. Mary was disappointed by the level of support they received when he was dying and decided that others coping with a terminal illness should have a better experience.

Shortly after John’s death, she sold her only asset, the family home, and bought a three-storey Victorian house in Heartburn Lane, Stockton, which became the John Butterwick Day Care Centre, opened in 1984. In its 25-year existence, it has moved premises three times as a result of increasing demand for its services, before settling in a purpose-built unit next to the University Hospital of North Tees in 1997. In 2011, the Butterwick Charity opened another centre in Bishop Auckland, thereafter opening smaller centres attached to hospitals in Sedgefield, Stanhope and Barnard Castle. The charity is now able to provide care to over 2,000 people across our region. Mary’s view of her hospices was simple:

We are not a hospital. We are looking after people at the end of their lives, giving the patient and family their time to stop and care, to say what they feel, and show they love each other. This place is all about love. Without the love of the community, it can’t exist and I think that’s how it should be… you help me – and I help you.

Mary had a strong Christian faith that she claimed was part of her inspiration for opening the hospices. She was given the Freedom of the Borough of Stockton in 1999 and awarded an OBE in 2002 for her work with the terminally ill. When she passed away in 2015, aged 91, in her hospice in Stockton, the North East lost one of its most inspirational women.


Thomason, C. (2011). Every Moment Counts, London: Darton Longman & Todd.

Robson, D. (2015). Mary Butterwick: The remarkable life story of the Butterwick Hospice founder, Available here (Accessed 30/01/2018).

Butterwick Hospices. (2018). The Butterwick Story, Available here (Accessed 31/08/2018).

The Northern Echo. (2015). Mary Butterwick - the hospice campaigner who never forgot, Available here (Accessed: 31/08/2018).