Thinkers, Technologists, and the Industrial Revolution: The Country House in Shropshire
The National Trust’s Attingham Park – which gives its name to the Attingham Trust for the Study of the English Country House – is generally considered a temple to the arts and the embodiment of fashionable Regency decoration, with its picture gallery designed by royal-favorite John Nash. The Gallery’s ceiling, however, belies the history of industry on the estate.
The pioneering use of cast-iron at Attingham, from local maker William Hazledine, has an unexpected link to skyscraper construction; Hazledine also created Ditherington Flaxmill Maltings – the earliest iron-framed building in the world—which ignited the fashion for building tall. Now almost wholly rural, Shropshire in the 18th and 19th centuries was the home of pioneering industrial developments.
One was the world’s first Iron Bridge, designed by indefatigable country house architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard, whose drawing book is now in the library of the American Institute of Architects in Washington DC. Largely funded by landed country house owners from the locality, the Bridge project was spearheaded by the Darby family who, in the latter 19th century, built Adcote, one of the most inventive of houses of its time designed by Richard Norman Shaw – the collections from which are now at the National Trust’s Dudmaston.
Author and historian Gareth Williams will guide attendees across the centuries to demonstrate how country houses in Britain’s largest inland county have remarkable links to the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. He will also explain how some of the greatest thinkers of the last three centuries, including Shrewsbury-born Charles Darwin and writers such as Mark Twain had connections to Shropshire.
Gareth Williams, Author; Curator and Head of Learning, Weston Park
Gareth Williams is Curator & Head of Learning to the Weston Park Foundation, an independent charity that conserves Weston Park, the ancestral home of the Earls of Bradford on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border. He earned his BA and Master’s degrees from the University of Manchester. Mr. Williams began his career in London at Sotheby’s and later served as Regional Director for the auction house for five years in Chester. Before joining Weston Park in 2006, Mr. Williams held a curatorial position at Nostell Priory, a National Trust property in Yorkshire. In addition to his curatorial and conservation work, Mr. Williams undertakes consultancy work at other private historic houses throughout the United Kingdom. Mr. Williams sits on the regional committee of the Historic Houses Association, and in 2022 was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His recent books include The Country Houses of Shropshire, 2021 and Weston Park: The House, the Families, and the Influence, published in June 2022.