Sweetbriar Hall

IF the Great Fire of Nantwich has raged any further in 1583, this magnificent building would not have been around to be admired by later generations. But, as the plaque on the front wall says, the building was undamaged when the fire reached the adjacent building.

   Sweetbriar Hall (the plaque has Sweet Briar as two words) was built in the late 15th century, with the octagonal bay added in the 16th century.

   In the 18th century, the building was occupied by Joseph Priestley (between 1758 and 1761) when he was the Unitarian minister in Nantwich. He is the scientist who is renowned for detecting oxygen as he experimented with gases in his laboratory on the estate at Bowood House, near Calne in Wiltshire. He was already famous for the discovery when he came to live in Nantwich, having discovered the gas on August 1, 1774. The 200th anniversary of his death, at the age of 70, occurred on February 6, 2004.

   In fact, it should perhaps be said that Priestley was one of the people who discovered oxygen. According to American-born, UK-resident writer, Bill Bryson, it was one Karl (or Carl) Scheele, a Swedish chemist, who first discovered the gas in 1772 but he wasn't able to get his paper published. So the credit went to Priestley.   

   The plaque on the building was erected to mark the 75th anniversary of the Rotary movement, by Nantwich Rotary Club, with help from Nantwich Civic Society.

lLocation: Hospital Street - not far from town centre - on the left.

lOpening times: This is an architect's business premises. Not open to tourists.


o Details of Joseph Priestley and the discovery of oxygen are taken from a Nantwich Museum publication. The point about Karl Scheele is noted by Bill Bryson in his book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" (Black Swan - paperback - 9.99.) 

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