Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010
Historic Pell Wall Hall to be restored to former glory
Pell Wall Hall near Market Drayton
Sir John Soane's Pell Wall Hall is to be restored

Pell Wall Hall near Market Drayton has a new owner who says he is determined to restore it to its original 19th Century glory.

Bernard Goodwin from Stoke may only be 23, but promises patience and a clear vision for the house's restoration.

The hall was built between 1822 and 1828, and was the last domestic property to be designed by distinguished architect Sir John Soane.

It was a school for nearly 40 years and has lain derelict since a fire in 1986.

Sir John Soane: Photo by Martin Charles by courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum
Pell Wall Hall was Sir John Soane's last domestic work

Pell Wall Hall, or villa, as its architect Sir John Soane preferred to call it, was built for wealthy iron merchant Purney Sillitoe, at a total cost of £20,976. In today's money that would be about £1.7m.

The grounds were landscaped in 1820 by William Sawrey Gilpin, an artist who only turned to garden design at the age of 60.

It was Soane's last private house commission of which he wrote: "In composing plans for this villa my best energies have been exerted, intending that when complete my professional labours should cease."

The house passed to Alfred Griffin in 1855 on the death of his great uncle and in 1861 to Griffin's brother Marten. It was then sold to Liverpool brewer James Walker in 1902, who lived at Pell Wall until 1917.

Christian Brothers

Pell Wall Hall was home to St Joseph's College for nearly 40 years
Pell Wall Hall when it was St Joseph's College for boys

Pell Wall Hall remained in private hands until 1928 when a French Catholic order, The Brothers of Christian Instruction, bought it along with 49 acres of land. They used it for theological training for two years, before it became St Joseph's College.

The school closed in 1962 and for a year or so was home to the Silhouette underwear and swimwear company. Production was moved to the hall while the roof of its factory in Market Drayton was repaired.

After that it became a private house again, but it was allowed to fall into disrepair. Parts of it were demolished and many of Soane's original features were lost.

Chris Madden took this picture of the smouldering ruins of Pell Wall Hall
The ruins were still smoking when this picture was taken

In 1986 Pell Wall Hall was severely damaged by a fire. It burned for three days leaving the building a roofless shell in danger of collapse.

Photographer, Chris Madden , was visiting his mother in Market Drayton when the fire broke out and took pictures of the devastation.

Pell Wall was then compulsorily purchased by the then North Shropshire District Council, who sold it to the Pell Wall Hall Conservation Trust, which had been formed to try and save the building. The Victorian and Edwardian additions were then removed, leaving just Soane's original classical design.

English Heritage

English Heritage came up with a £1m grant and by 1996 the shell was waterproof and a considerable amount of structural work had been done to make the building safe and prepare it for internal restoration.

Sir John Soane used classical Greek lines for Pell Wall House
The Greek Key pattern was a favourite motif of Soane's

The trust had hoped to attract lottery money to carry on with the restoration plans but was turned down and reluctantly decided to sell the house.

Hopes of progress rose when the house was sold into private hands in 2004, but once again there was no progress and in 2009 Pell Wall Hall was again on the market with a £750,000 price tag.

It was sold by agents, Strutt and Parker for £550,000 in January 2010, and now Mr Goodwin is making plans for a programme of work which he expects will take between five and 10 years to complete.

Original drawings

Mr Goodwin intends to use the plans for Pell Wall Hall from the Sir John Soane Museum in London: "It's really to be re-instated as a country residence in keeping with the drawings."

It's daunting but there is a good challenge here and I think I'm up to it
Bernard Goodwin

It was the quality of the building that attracted Mr Goodwin: "The architect, Sir John Soane, was as much an engineer as he was an architect and you can see that throughout the building. There are certain qualities such as light and access that appeal to me."

"It is an enormous task which is a five to 10-year project, the latter really. It's daunting but there is a good challenge here and I think I'm up to it."

The owner is also planning to put the original portico back. It is much smaller than the Victorian one which he described as "very grand". Some parts of the original portico have survived and he plans to re-use them.

Mr Goodwin had another reason for being interested in Pell Wall Hall: "I found out that the guy who asked Sir John Soane to build him a house was an iron founder from Telford who traded steel in London.

"That was quite nice as I work in a steel foundry in Stoke and I thought that was a nice connection."

Moving in

Mr Goodwin plans to move into the house as soon as possible to oversee the renovations as they progress. As an engineer himself, he is familiar with construction techniques.

Shropshire Council's Philip Belchere
Conservationist Philip Belchere is pleased with the sale

He said he was looking forward to seeing it all happen: "There are some lovely 12-foot hardwood doors. They will be replaced one day. It's very difficult to describe them, but 12-foot doors are quite something."

He plans to focus on the areas of the house which are still true to Soane's design as the first step in the reconstruction of Pell Wall Hall.

Philip Belchere, Shropshire Council's historic environment team leader for conservation and design, is delighted that the house is to be restored: "I thought Christmas had come very early."

Soane to some was just the greatest classical architect that England's enjoyed
Philip Belchere

"It's gone through a succession of sorry stories but every story has a happy ending."

He is pleased that the house is to be saved: "We had a huge amount of country houses in Shropshire and some of them are still surviving quite well, but we have lost a lot.

"We're lucky that this is the pinnacle of Soane's career and we've got it and we are going to keep it now. It's fantastic."

Raw state

The view across to Market Drayton from Pell Wall
The view from the ladies drawing room at Pell Wall

Mr Belchere is a fan of the architect: "Soane to some was just the greatest classical architect that England's enjoyed. The house came about at the pinnacle of his career.

"He was a professor of architecture. He was a prolific architect, many projects constructed and a great educationalist."

Mr Goodwin's favourite part of the house is the ladies morning room on the first floor with its views over the River Tern and across to Market Drayton.

Mr Belchere said he liked it in its current raw state: "It has this amazing feeling about it, almost a stage set. You can see how the building is actually constructed."

Memories of Pell Wall Hall school
25 Feb 10 |  History
A stroll in Pell Wall's gardens
26 Feb 10 |  History

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