Know your Butler from your Belfast

Know your Butler from your Belfast
Belfast Butler Sink with Weir Overflow

A set of photos sent me on a quest this week to discover just what is the difference between a Butler and a Belfast sink. A quick search on Google revealed that opinion was divided, so I sought the expert help of Richard Tyzack, Managing Director of Brass & Traditional Sinks.

As it turns out the answer is far more interesting that what some people had suggested on Google - that it was just that one sink was shallower than the other - and involved a little bit of history too.

"In actual fact they are both butler sinks (ie made to go in the butler’s pantry), but those made in Belfast have a Weir overflow, while those made in London don’t," explains Richard. The photo above is a Belfast sink, available from Brass & Traditional Sinks, price £197.40.

"This is because, when butler sinks were first made in the late 17th century, each major city had a sanitation officer autonomously responsible for the ordering of pipes, basins, sinks, and decreeing sizes, styles etc. Different patterns were evolved and gave rise to specific types. Hence the Belfast butler sink was different from, say, the London butler sink.

"Belfast, with access to plentiful water housed sinks with overflows, but London, built on clay where deep wells had to be drilled to reach water, discouraged water wastage and no overflows were accommodated. Therefore, the Belfast butler sink has what is known as a Weir overflow built into it, whereas a standard Butler Sink doesn’t."

Towards the end of the 19th Century, French Farmhouse sinks started to make their mark. Using local French clay, which was more refined than that used to produce the Butler sinks in the UK, the French were able to cast more elegant pieces and were typically thinner on the side walls.

Whilst fireclay sinks are extremely hard wearing, there are a number of points to consider in order to keep your sink looking its best. Richard gave me a few tips here too. “You can clean everyday stains such as tannin from tea, coffee or red wine with a non-abrasive liquid or cream cleanser – try using ‘Cif’ or washing up liquid," he says. "To remove really stubborn marks such as pencil thin grey lines from aluminum saucepans I recommend ‘Astonish’ paste.

“In my experience it is extremely difficult to damage a ceramic sink.  However there are two points that the team at Brass & Traditional Sinks will always warn you about.  Firstly, NEVER place a washing up bowl directly into the sink.  If there is any grit on the base of the bowl the friction between the two can cause nasty scratches.  Secondly, don’t drop heavy pans into or onto the sink – it just takes a little common sense!”

For more information about Brass and Traditional Sinks call 01291 650 738 or visit

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