William Pulteney (formerly Johnstone) (1729-1805) was the third son of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Baronet, of Westerhall, Dumfriesshire. He began his career as a lawyer, being admitted to the Scottish bar in Edinburgh in 1751. In 1759 William moved to London when he acquired a position in the Customs and Excise Office with a salary of £400 per annum. This enabled him to marry, in 1760, Frances (d 1782), daughter and heir of Daniel Pulteney, a cousin to the wealthy 1st Earl of Bath. William took the name of Pulteney in 1767 when his wife Frances succeeded to the estates of the Earl of Bath, including Shrewsbury Castle. He then succeeded his brother, Sir James Johnstone, as 5th Baronet in 1794 to both the Westerhall estate and plantations and enslaved poeple in Granada, Tobago and Dominica. This made Pulteney one of the wealthiest commoners in the country. Sir William remarried in 1804, Margaret, daughter of Sir William Stirling, 4th Baronet, of Ardoch, and the widow of his close friend, Andrew Stuart. Sir William also served - actively - as MP for Cromartyshire in 1768-74, and Shrewsbury in 1775-1805. He took an interest in East India affairs and was sympathetic to American objects to taxation without representation, albeit opponent of American independence.
The Pulteney's only child (Henrietta) Laura Pulteney inherited on her mother's death in 1782, although Sir William remained responsible for the management of the estates until her marriage in 1794 to a cousin, Sir James Murray, 7th Baronet. Moreover, through his political influence, Sir William contrived to have his daughter created Baroness of Bath in 1792, and Countess of Bath in 1803.
Further to his political career, Sir William's other great interests were agricultural and architectural reform, and he was a member of the Board of Agriculture from 1793. He made improvements to his own estate at Westerhall, as well as all of those belonging to his wife, including the land around Shrewsbury Castle, which remained his principal country residence, even following the death of his wife. Having fallen into decay during its long history, Sir William found it necessary to make improvements to the castle, and to renovate the interior into a state fit for domestic usage.
Sir William had been friends with Robert Adam since their time in Edinburgh, and it was to Adam that he turned to make designs for Shrewsbury Castle. This is perhaps unsurprising, as it was Adam whom Sir William commissioned to make designs from 1768 for schemes to improve Frances’s estates in Bath. They built Pulteney Bridge across the River Avon, with the intention of developing a new town suburb at Bathwick. At Shrewsbury Adam made interior designs in a gothic style, although these were not executed. Instead, Sir William employed Thomas Telford (1757-1834), a protégé from Westerhall, to undertake alterations in 1787-89. Adam's unexecuted designs are undated, but can presumably be assigned a date range of between 1768, when Adam made his first designs for the Pulteneys at Bath, and 1787, when Telford was made architect at Shrewsbury.
The castle was purchased by Shropshire Horticultural Society in 1924, and given to the people of Shrewsbury. It is now owned by Shropshire Council, and since 1985 has housed the Shropshire Regimental Museum. The building was damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992, and only re-opened in 1995.
See also: Bath: Pulteney Bridge, Bath Prison, and the new town scheme.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 28, 84; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, p. 181; J. Newman, and N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006, pp. 535-36; History of Parliament online: 'Pulteney, William (1729-1805), of Westerhall, Dumfries and The Castle, Shrewsbury'; Oxford dictionary of national biography online: 'Pulteney [formerly Johnstone] Sir William, fifth baronet (1729-1805)'; Legacies of British Slavery database, UCL: www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs
Frances Sands, 2013
Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.
Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).
Contents of Shrewsbury Castle, Shropshire: unexecuted designs for interior decoration for Sir William Pulteney, c1768-87 (3)
- Designs for walls of the great room, c1768-87, unexecuted (2)
- Design for one end of an unknown room, c1768-87, unexecuted (1)