Butler originally trained as an architect from 1933-6, practising as Cotterell Butler under the firm C. H. James & Bywaters & Roland Pierce. From 1941-5 he worked as a blacksmith, instead of conscripting to fight in the Second World War. He started to sculpt in 1944, and had his first show at the Hanover Gallery in 1949. Later in the 1950s he experimented with clay and plaster away from the forging techiniques he had learnt as a blacksmith. He took part in the Venice Biennale in 1952 and 54 as well as many other international exhibitions; 1953 he won first prize for his monument to The Unknown Political Prisoner. In the 1960s, Butler's output dramatically decreased, only producing one or two works a year. He died in 1981.