Congleton Museum

By Ian Doughty from the Congelton Museum

This building, which once housed the town’s day nursery, has emotive associations for many Congleton families. Now declared surplus to requirements by the local council the proposal that it should become the new home of the Congleton Museum has received considerable community support. Our trust is now in the process of turning this aspiration in to reality.

Using archives from a number of sources it has been possible to prepare a detailed statement of significance to illustrate both the heritage and architectural value of the site in illustrating Congleton’s past.

Bradshaw House continues to dominate Lawton Street as its original builder, William Lowndes, had intended in 1820. This was a building which declared that William, on inheriting the property at the age of 25, was now a modern Georgian gentleman of wealth, influence and authority.

In doing this he swept away the timber-framed Cole Hill House, originally the Congleton home of Regicide, Judge John Bradshaw, who was elected Mayor in 1637-38 and High Steward in 1655. Bradshaw subsequently became president of the court that tried and ordered the execution of Charles I in January 1649.

By the mid 18th century this house had become the home of William’s great-grandfather John Sydebotham, and by 1820 it was the focus of a 61 acre estate, comprising 9 smaller houses, 2 farms and a water powered silk mill.

Reflecting over 750 years of Congleton’s heritage Bradshaw House occupies a number of the original burgage plots which formed the medieval nucleus of the town following the granting of its first Charter in 1272. Its unique association with John Bradshaw and his clerk Thomas Parnell emphasises the crucial role played by Congleton and its inhabitants in the course of the English Civil War and the subsequent influence the Parnell family had on the government of Ireland. The inclusion of a Dane Silk Mill as part of the estate firmly links the house to the textile industry which dominated the Congleton for over 200 years.

It was the last of the Georgian merchants’ houses to be built in the town and is an example of how the intellectual, commercial and industrial energy of men associated with the town such as John Whitehurst, clockmaker, geologist and hydraulic engineer, Edmund Antrobus financier and a principal of Coutts Bank, Nathaniel Pattison, Charles Roe and Robert Hodgson silk and copper manufacturers created considerable personal wealth, brought about social change and developed the economic confidence which created Congleton’s age of enlightenment and industrial revolution.

Congleton 4

The occupation of the house in the mid 19th century by relatives of Sir Thomas Reade provides an association with the post 1815 European peace settlement, the imprisonment of Napoleon on St Helena, the abolition of slavery in North Africa and the archaeological exploration of Carthage. At the end of the 19th century, in conjunction with the adjacent property the house had become one of the town’s medical practices with one of the partners, Dr Fern, actively engaged in municipal affairs being Mayor on two occasions. Following his death in 1939, the house became a wartime children’s nursery identifying it with the social and economic changes World War II brought to the town as it provided a temporary home for the Royal Netherlands Army following its evacuation from mainland Europe.