Michael Powell


Home Concepts Stories &
Scripture &
Spirituality &
Theses Links Contact Details


Stories & People - Paper 9  




James Piggott Pritchett - Congregational Deacon and Architect


Charles Grey Searle Baptist Architect & Surveyor, AND YOUTH LEADER




Papers 5 and 6 in this series review major studies of the lives and work of, respectively, Sir George Oatley and James Cubitt. Both were architects of distinction and both were to some extent notable in church life. On a smaller scale, this paper brings together historical studies of three further architects who were church members,  officers or leaders, two being Congregationalists and one a Baptist. The patterns are similar. After training and early experience they establish their own practices that carry out some church-related projects and a diversity of others.

They are:

James Piggott Pritchett                       1789-1868

Edward Howard Dawson                    1864-1896

Charles Grey Searle                           1816-1881

James Piggott Pritchett - Congregational Deacon and Architect

These comments are based on a paper by Edward Royal in Journal of the URC History Society Vol 6 Issue 1 p43.

Pritchett was born in 1789 in St Petrox, Pembroke where his father was rector. In due course he would become known as 'Pritchett of York, Congregationalist and Architect'.

His early career proceeded from articles with James Medland of Newington in south London to work on the Maidstone Gaol with Alexander Asher, and a period with the government Barrack Office in London.

In 1813 he was taken into partnership by Charles Watson of York, where he was involved with a full range of public and private clients and projects both within and beyond York. They included:

-  Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Wakefield

-  Bookcase designs for Lord Milton at Wentworth

-  York Savings Bank this commission followed from his work in encouraging servants to save some of thei money

-  Assembly Rooms frontage

-  York Cemetery in Greek style

-  Various Gothic churches

-  New Deanery

-  Quaker Meeting House

-  St Peter's School

-  Various houses

-  Lendal Independent Chapel, York

-  Salem Chapel, York

-  Ramsden Street Chapel, Huddersfield

-  Huddersfield Parish Church substantial re-building

-  Modern school, free from religious influence, for Huddersfield College company

-  Huddersfield town centre redevelopment

-  Lion Arcade, Huddersfield

Notable features of this list include:

-  the range of denominations served Anglican, Quaker, Independent

-  the school free from denominational influences

-  social and community projects the asylum and the Savings Bank

-  possibly more sophisticated works such as the Assembly Rooms and Lion Arcade  

To me, this suggests a form of 'professional ecumenism' which serves a range of clients and interests, perhaps coming under an umbrella of compatibility with broadly Christian ethical values and purposes.

Lendal  Chapel was located near to the Guidhall and Mansion House in York. Pritchett, a formidable figure, was its architect, historian, deacon and driving energy for thirty-five years after his arrival in 1816. A square building in four bays, it consisted of a basement, main floor, gallery and upper gallery. Pritchett built the upper gallery in 1823 to provide free seating for members of the evening congregation. It was the first place of worship in York to be gas-lit. It was said of Pritchett that he knew how to build a good chapel, including using the latest technologies for heating, lighting and ventilation

Lendal thrived under the ministry of James Parsons who came from the Idle Academy. It was for him that Pritchett built the new Salem Chapel. He himself, however, continued with Lendal as his church.

Pritchett's wide-ranging practice is balanced by his chapel building; as a deacon he knew from the inside what was needed of him as an architect. Royal concludes that this combination of insights and skills enabled him to help make the Congregational cause in York in the first half of the nineteenth century the force it undoubtedly was.

His eldest son Richard became a Congregational minister, while his second and third sons took up architecture, Whether they continued with their father's integrated approach is, understandably perhaps, not by entered into by Royal.

Pritchett died in York on 23rd May 1868


(Edward) Howard Dawson 1864-1896 - Congregational Trustee and Architect

These notes are based on Nigel Lemon's paper Missionaries to Lancashire and Beyond: the Dawsons of Aldcliffe in the Journal of the URC History Society Vol 8 No 5 November 2009 pp245-265

Lemon's paper depicts the Dawsons as a Congregational family of wide influence in and beyond Lancashire where they were landowners and industrialists. Over time the family produced one professional architect (Edward) Howard Dawson whose early career of  included:

-  education at the Congregational Mill Hill School

-  serving articles with George Dale Oliver of Carlisle architects Hetherington & Oliver who in 1879 had designed Centenary Congregational Church, Lancaster

-  establishment of his own practice in Lancaster

-  election in 1888 as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects

Specifically Congregational building projects carried out by Howard Dawson included:

-  1888    additions to the Centenary Congregational Sunday Schools

-  1889    alterations to the choir gallery and drawing up a decorative scheme at Garstang

-  1895    new church at Grange-over-Sands in Gothic style

-  1897    new church at Carnforth in Gothic style

In 1889 Dawson became a trustee and designer of the rural Independent Chapel at Little Asby, Westmoreland built with funds left by Joseph Jackson, cabinet warehousman of Shoreditch and Northumberland Park, Tottenham. Dawson was a church member there until 1892 when his membership was erased for non-participation.

Other projects included:

-  designs for four police stations

-  internal alterations at Lancaster Castle

-  branches of the Lancaster Banking Company

Dawson's general religious activity crossed the denominations and included being General Secretary of a Town Mission, teaching in the Church [of England] Sunday School in Warton, Carnforth where he lived and local treasurership for the British and Foreign Bible Society.

His uncle, a Congregational minister, led his funeral according to Congregational rites and his burial was according to those of the Church of England. His death at the age of 32 was a loss to both his church and his profession.


Charles Grey Searle Baptist Architect & Surveyor, and Youth Leader

These comments are based on a paper by Faith Bowers Letters of A Baptist Architect in the Baptist Quarterly 1997 Vol 45 p249

Charles Grey Searle, 1816-1881, was the son of John Searle, a stone merchant with a quarry at Portland and a wharf and house at Wapping. Thomas Cubitt was one of those to whom he supplied stone. Cubitt accepted Charles Grey Searle as a pupil. Searle later wrote, 'I was articled to the late Thos Cubitt of Pimlico and served two years in the Mason's Shop and two in the Carpenter's Shop, and the remainder of the time in the drawing office and on the works'.

Later his church involvement was at Bloomsbury Chapel where he worked with the Young Men's Bible Class, a group of some 45 including mid-teenagers who had started work at 13.

His London architectural work was in the Covent Garden and Drury Lane area and included:

-  Dilapidations to warehouses and schools

-  Work on Duke of Bedford's Bloomsbury Estates

-  Coach factory for Robert Offord (a member of Bloomsbury Chapel)

-  Work to Regent's Park Baptist College

Out of London, in Coleford, his work included:

-  Three shops for John Thomas

-  New frontage for Baptist Chapel

-  House for Isaiah Trotter

-  Cottage for Thomas Batten of Lydney

Another London project was the design of Heath Street Chapel Bloomsbury. He was professionally obliged to charge the fee of 5% of building costs, even though he did not wish to. He resolved the dilemma by making a donation of 100 to the building fund. The building was described as 'a neat, light and elegant structure'.

Other chapels designed included:

-  Oaklands Congregational Chapel, Uxbridge Road, Hammersmith

-  Haywards Heath

-  Lewisham

-  Twickenham

After his death the practice of Searle & Searle at Paternoster Row was carried on by his son Septimus Searle, ARIBA and his grandson Cecil Johnstone Searle, ARIBA.

He is summed up as 'A caring father and a Baptist architect'.



As two-dimensional pieces, these notes are interesting and up to a point useful. They show us, in one dimension, architectural practitioners at work, and in the other dimension members or officers of churches. These two intersect most obviously when the architect is working on a church project. What they do not reveal, and this is the missing third dimension,  is much about how these practitioners think about the totality of their practice in terms of both theology and architecture, their religion and their work.

In spite of the limitations of the material examined, one is nevertheless able to say that these three stand in the long line of those who have 'professed' both architecture and the Christian way of life. In that sense, we can say that they are 'our people' and part of the same story that we are.  



Home Page

copyright www.building-theology.org.uk