Although Butterworth was born in London, his family moved to Yorkshire not long after his birth. He received his first music lessons from his mother, who was a singer, and began composing at an early age. However, his father intended for him to be a solicitor, and he attended Eton College, from there continuing on to Trinity College, Oxford. While at Trinity he became more focused on music, for there he met the folk song collector Cecil Sharp and composer and folk song enthusiast Ralph Vaughan Williams. Butterworth and Vaughan Williams made several trips into the English countryside to collect folk songs, and both saw their compositions strongly influenced by what they heard. Butterworth was also an expert folk dancer, being particularly fond of Morris dancing.
George Butterworth's work as a folk song and dance collector was immensely important. His manuscripts and notebooks, held at the [[Vaughan Williams Memorial Library] have been digitised as part of the [Take 6 Project] and are available online
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