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
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.
Hospital Street - not far from town centre - on the left.
times: This is an architect's business premises. Not open to
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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