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Bath Prison, Grove Street, Bath, Somerset, unexecuted designs commissioned by William Pulteney, 1771 (2)

1771
William Pulteney (1729-1805) was the third son of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Baronet of Westerhall. In 1751 he began a career as a lawyer in Edinburgh, with a political and financial specialism. In 1760 he married Frances Pulteney (d1782), who, following the unexpected deaths of three distant relatives, inherited the vast wealth and estates of the 1st Earl of Bath in 1767. It was at this time that William Johnstone assumed the name of Pulteney. His wife’s wealth enabled Pulteney to undertake a career in finance, property development and politics, serving as MP for Cromartyshire in 1768-74 and Shrewsbury in 1775-1805.

Frances Pulteney’s estates were principally confined to London and Bath, and it was in Bath that William Pulteney sought the most development. In 1769 he acquired a Private Act of Parliament to build a bridge across the River Avon between the old city on the west bank, and the 600-acre Bathwick estate on the east bank. Pulteney’s fellow Scot, Robert Adam, was commissioned to made designs for this bridge – later known as Pulteney Bridge – as well as a new town development for Bathwick, including a new prison.

In 1782 Frances Pulteney died, leaving their only child, Henrietta Laura as her sole heir. William Pulteney managed the estates on his daughter’s behalf, using his influence to have her created Baroness Bath in 1792, and Countess of Bath in 1803. Pulteney himself succeeded his brother, Sir James Johnstone, in 1794, becoming 5th Baronet and inheriting Westerhall in Dumfries. He married again in 1804, Margaret Stirling, the widow of his friend Andrew Stuart of Craigthorn, Lanark, and died a year later, being buried next to Frances in Westminster Abbey.

The intended location for the prison is shown in two of Adam’s plans for the New Town, one drawn on 20 June 1777 (Adam volume 38/7), and another on 23 December 1782 (Adam volume 38/8). Despite this, Adam's scheme for Bath Prison was not executed. The extant drawings show a U-shaped building around three sides of an enclosed court. Instead a contemporary scheme by Thomas Warr Atwood (c1733-75) was built in 1772-73. This has a simple façade with the appearance of a domestic building, rather than a utilitarian or penal facility. Atwood’s building was superseded in 1842 by a new prison at Twerton, built to designs by George Philips Manners (1789-1866), and Atwood’s building has now been converted into flats.

See also: Pulteney Bridge; New Town, Bath.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 3, 84; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, p. 53; ‘Pulteney, William (1729-1805), of Westerhall, Dumfries and The Castle, Shrewsbury’, History of Parliament online; ‘Pulteney [formerly Johnston], Sir William, 5th baronet (1729-1805)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography online

Frances Sands, 2015
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