James Pigott Pritchett, Architect (b. 14th October 1789, d. 23rd January 1868)

James Pigott Pritchett was responsible for the entire collection of neo-classical buildings in York cemetery, including the cemetery chapel (1838), a structure inspired by the Erechtheus in Athens and which is fronted by a tetrastyle portico of four ionic orders, along with the much simpler but congruous cemetery gatehouse. These buildings are now listed Grade II* and Grade II respectively. Pritchett lies buried 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, inscribed slab, testament perhaps to Pritchett’s own subscription to the Congregationalist denomination, where austerity and humility were celebrated. The stone is now badly eroded and the inscription barely legible.

York Congregational Chapel, Lendal,York (Image credit: Graham White)

Pritchett was the son of a Pembroke clergyman, Charles Pigott Pritchett, and Anne Rogers of Ludchurch, Pembrokeshire, of whom little is known. Educated at London’s Royal Academy, Pritchett worked in partnership with London based architect Daniel Alexander but was in York by 1813 where he practised 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, Pritchett completed the Lendal Congregational Chapel, a building of which he held a personal affiliation, he held the post of Deacon of the York Congregationalists. This grand but austere building – now Zizi restaurant – cost £3000, could accommodate 950 people and was the first public building in York to be lit by the new gaslight. Pritchett continued to work independently from 1831 and took up residence in St. Mary’s, in the city’s west end.

York Cemetery Chapel (Image credit: Graham White)

Pritchett was also responsible for York Minster Song School in 1830. In a break from his usual Palladian leanings, the building was designed in the Gothic style.
His grandest chapel was the Salem in St. Saviourgate, York (1840),
built to accommodate a further 1,700 Congregationalists and described by Ronald Willis of the York Georgian Society as an “Ionic Temple”, and sadly demolished in 1963. Pritchett’s other prominent Yorkshire landmarks include the Yorkshire Savings Bank in St. Helen’s Square, York, the facade (1824) of Lord Burlington’s earlier York Assembly Rooms (now Ask restaurant) and both St. Peter’s church (1834) and the railway station (1847) in Huddersfield, the station 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 (built 1839-40). Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, his architectural legacies include the church of St. Edward the Confessor in Brotherton, a few miles north of Pontefract.

Prichett’s gravestone in York Cemetery (Picture credit: Graham White)

Pritchett married his first wife, Peggy Terry, of Beckenham in Kent, in 1813. Apart from some involvement in the construction of Maidstone prison, his contribution to architecture in the south of England was minimal. Pritchett’s second wife Caroline, the daughter of a solicitor from Thorne, West Yorkshire, is buried alongside him in the cemetery in York. His eldest son by Caroline, James Pigott Pritchett, continued his father’s profession at Darlington (Linstrum, D. Oxf. DNB 31/3/2010)

Further reading:

  • Willis R. (1964), Nonconformist Chapels of York 1693-1840, York Georgian Society
  • Linstrum, D. (2020), Pigott Pritchett, James, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – online (https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-22826)