(b. 14th October 1789, d. 23rd January 1868)
One of Victorian York’s most prolific but much overlooked architects, James Pigott Pritchett was responsible for the entire collection of neo-classical buildings in York cemetery, including the cemetery chapel (1838), based on the Erechtheus in Athens and fronted by a tetrastyle portico of four ionic orders, in addition to the similarly modelled but much simpler cemetery gatehouse. These buildings are now listed Grade II* and Grade II respectively. Pritchett’s own memorial lies in the non-conformist area to the south of the 24 acre cemetery. In stark contrast to the grandeur of his architectural achievements, his grave is inconspicuous – a simple coped, incised slab, testament perhaps to Pritchett’s own subscription to the Congregationalist denomination, where austerity and humility reigned. The stone is now badly eroded and the inscription barely legible (see photograph below).
Pritchett was the son of Charles Pigott Pritchett, a Pembroke clergyman, and Anne Rogers of Ludchurch, Pembrokeshire, of whom little is known. Finishing his education at London’s Royal Academy, Pritchett worked in partnership with London based architect Daniel Alexander, moving back to York by 1813 to practise alongside Charles Watson, with early commissions including repairs and modifications to York Lunatic Asylum (Borthwick Inst. BOO 2/2/1 1 Jul – 31 Aug 1816). During the 1820s, one of Pritchett’s personal achievements was the design of Lendal Congregational Chapel, of which he was also deacon. This grand but aesthetically austere chapel, now Zizi restaurant, cost £3000, could accommodate as many as 950 people, and was the first public building in York to be lighted by gas. Despite modern alterations and the insertion of an upper storey, diners in the restaurant can still appreciate the acousitcs of the auditorium while seated in the apse below the dome where Congregationalist ministers would have expounded the articles of faith. Pritchett continued to work independently from 1831 and took up residence in St. Mary’s to the west of the city.
Pritchett was also responsible for York Minster Song School (1830), the Yorkshire Savings Bank in St. Helen’s Square, York, the facade (1824) of Lord Burlington’s magnificent York Assembly Rooms (now Ask restaurant) and both St. Peter’s church (1834) and the railway station (1847) in Huddersfield, described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the best early railway stations in England”. His Huddersfield portfolio also included the Independent Chapel in Ramsden Street (1824) “where three of his sons were later to become members” (Royle 1996, 3) and Huddersfield College (1839-40). Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, his legacy can be seen in the church of St. Edward the Confessor, Brotherton. Pritchett married his first wife, Peggy Terry, of Beckenham in Kent, in 1813, although his architectural legacy is little evidenced in the south of England, apart from some involvement in the construction of Maidstone prison. Pritchett’s second wife Caroline, the daughter of a solicitor from Thorne, Yorkshire, is buried alongside him in the cemetery at York. His eldest son by Caroline, James Pigott Pritchett, continued his father’s profession at Darlington (Linstrum, D. Oxf. DNB 31/3/2010).
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