Monday, 3 March 2014

Local Man with a National Reputation

So the cataloguing has started now and it’s been really interesting so far. 

We knew Francis Johnson worked extensively on properties in Bridlington where his office and home was situated, and also on properties in Hull such as Maister House, Wilberforce House, Charter House and Rise Hall. Whilst it is understandable that many of the files relate to properties in the East Riding given his place of work, what surprised me was the geographical spread of his commissions throughout the northern region. 

We already knew that he worked on the Merchant Taylors and Merchant Adventurers buildings in York, but now it appears he also worked on the restoration of Fairfax House in York, Birdsall House in Malton for Lord Middleton, Aske Hall at Richmond, Captain Cook’s House and Lythe Hall at Whitby, and various buildings at Ampleforth. 

To the west of the region he worked on Nostell Priory near Wakefield, and Harewood House near Leeds. Heading to the south of the region, we have found files relating to commissions at Cobb Hall, Doddington Hall and Aubourn Hall in Lincoln, and Belton House near Grantham, Lincolnshire, for the Lords Brownlow. 

Proposed design of barn end at Aubourn Hall, Lincolnshire (U DFJ/855)

Also, it seems that Francis Johnson (or FJ to those of us who work alone in a cataloguing room with all his files!) worked fairly extensively in the North East. Again, whilst we knew he had works on St Chad’s College in Durham, he also undertook numerous commissions on behalf of the Raby Estate, including a number relating to Raby Castle itself. One of my favourite finds is that he worked on a lesser known country estate near to my own place of birth – the locally infamous Wynyard Hall near Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees, an estate favoured by north east football stars such as Alan Shearer. 

Proposed design of new private entrance portico facing lake at 
Wynyard Hall, Stockton-on-Tees Wynyard Hall (Ref U DFJ/1534)
Even wider than the northern region, we have uncovered files relating to work in London for the Queen and the Prince of Wales, Derbyshire on Hardwick Hall, Peterborough on Elton Hall and the British Embassies at Oslo, Washington and Tokyo. His network of connections amongst the landed gentry families of the north appear to have spread the knowledge of the quality of his work, his ethos and dedication to principals of classical architecture. The geographical spread of the files in his archive then reflects the national reputation of this first-rate local Yorkshire architect.

Claire Weatherall
Project Archivist

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