Broseley Hall and Thomas Farnolls Prichard

By Veronica West  Journal No.10 1982


The Broseley Estate originally stretched from the centre of Broseleyt o the banks of the River Severn, including Jackfield and Coalport, and the land was mainly leased to tenants for industrial purposes such as the mining of coal, clay and iron ore. The Estate was in the ownership of one family and its descendants from at least 1766 until 1955, but the major part of the land was sold off in 1913. Throughout most of this period the house was not occupied by its owners, but tenanted. A map of 1626 shows a village duckpond, a church and a large hall in the vicinity of the present Broseley Hall. Research into the early history of this Old Hall before the building of the present house ( in about 1727) is not yet complete. The earlier Hall is believed to have been demolished in the 1840s at the time the present church (known to be at least the third on this site) was built.


In 1766 Ann Brown, widow, left the Broseley Estate to her brother, who at the same time inherited the Allesley Estate in Warwickshire from his uncle Francis Blithe. Francis Turner then adopted the family name and became Francis Turner Blythe. He lived at Broseley Hall until his death in 1770 and it was he who commissioned Thomas Famous Pritchard’s work there.


Edward Blakeway then lived at the Hall until his death in 1811, aged 92 He was a partner in Blakeway and Rose who controlled the Caughley Chinaworks and the Coalport Chinaworks. He was buried in Broseley Churchyard and there is a plaque to his memory in the church. Blakeway was married to a sister of the wife of John Wilkinson, the famous Iron Master, who lived for a while at The Lawns nearby. Both Blakeway and Wilkinson were subscribers to the Iron Bridge.


In 1851 a Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer rented the Hall. She was a writer of religious children’s books. In a novel of the period it is mentioned that her husband returned to Broseley Hall - a dark mausoleum of a place – to die!


Around the l900s the Hall was rented by the Thorn-Pudseys, and it was during the First World War that the white wooden building next to the house was erected by Major Thorn.Pudsey as the village recruitment hut.


The house is a good example of a smallish early Georgian house built for a fairly well-to-do family. It is basically unaltered, and shows the symmetry of the period, which is featured in its well proportioned windows and its two balanced rear doors. The house contains five Pritchard chimneypieces and the formal lawns of the garden (also basically unaltered) lead down to the Pritchard Temple.


Thomas Farnolls Pritchard (1723 - 1777) was born in Shrewsbury, the son of a carpenter and joiner. He himself trained as a joiner and then expanded into the modernisation of country houses and civil engineering. His work was mainly in Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Wales.


In 1746, at the age of 23, Pritchard was working for an engraver. He produced a drawing for the Royal Salop Infirmary in order to secure finance for the project. In 1749 he revamped a medieval church and shops in Shrewsbury, at the same time building St. Julian’s Church, where there is a tablet to his memory.


During the l750s Pritchard worked on estate surveys, including Dothill Park House and the Shrewsbury Foundling Hospital (now Shrewsbury School). He also did a considerable amount of work in Ludlow, rebuilding the Town Jail (now demolished) and the Hosiers Alms Houses, and giving a facelift to Ludlow Guildhall in Mill Street and No. 27 Broad Street.


In 1769 Pritchard left Shrewsbury and took a lease of Eyton, where he took up farming as well as continuing his architectural work. He branched out into the design of bridges, including one at Stourport, and was Surveyor for the bridge over the River Tame near Downton Castle. He also did preliminary works for the English Bridge at Shrewsbury, and a design for the Iron Bridge, of which he was an original shareholder. Work was started on the Iron Bridge in November 1777, one month before the death of Pritchard after a year of long illness.


In 1772 Pritchard drew plans to modernise Powis Castle and for Downton Castle but the work did not materialise, although the ballroom at Powis Castle was executed by him.


Other works of Pritchard’s are Tern House (the previous building on the site now occupied by Attingham Park), the re-vamping of Croft Castle near Ludlow; the building of Swan Hill Court, Shrewsbury and Hatton Grange; the interior of Shipton Hall; the chimneypieces in The Lawns at Broseley, Benthall Hall and Broseley Hall; and the sumptuous Drawing Room of Tatton Park, Cheshire. Pritchard also designed church monuments and these can be seen in Acton Round, Ludford, and Barrow Churches. His monuments are usually signed by a monograph of the entwined initials T.F.


Pritchard’s designs were mainly Rococo or Gothic and later neo-classical. There is a suggestion that the ballroom in the Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury may be Pritchard’s neo-classical work and not Robert Adam’s as is currently claimed. Typical features of Pritchard’s work are gadrooning and Canterbury Bells (chimneypieces); triple pillars (Croft Castle stair banisters, Broseley Hall Temple, and Doorcase of Ludlow Guildhall); ‘ears’ on his chimneypieces and windows; and Gothic (monument Acton Round Church, chimneypieces and mirrors at Croft Castle, Ludlow Guildhall. interior, Temple at Broseley Hall, and the Iron Bridge).


The skilled woodworkers employed by Pritchard until the 1760s were Alexander Vanderhagen and John Nelson, but it was not until the late 1760s that he employed Joseph Bromfield for plaster work.