Francis Smith of Warwick
Francis Smith of Warwick (1672–1738) was an English master-builder and architect, much involved in the construction of country houses in the Midland counties of England. Smith of Warwick may refer also to his brothers, or his son.
The architectural work
The county town of Warwick had been devastated by a fire in September 1694, and the projects involved in its rebuilding gave the Smith brothers their first prominence, which they retained for decades by a universal reputation for scrupulous honesty and competence. Howard Colvin, plotting their known commissions on a map, remarked that nearly all of them lay within a fifty-mile radius of their mason's yard, the "Marble House" in Warwick.
The antiquary the Hon. Daines Barrington noted in 1784, after viewing several Smith of Warwick houses, found "all of them convenient and handsome" despite changes in taste, but that "there is a great sameness in the plans, which proves he had but little Invention." Colvin summarised the elements by which a Smith house is easily recognizable: three storeys, with the central three bays emphasized by a slight projection or recession; uniform fenestration with exterior detail confined to keystones, architraves, quoins and a balustraded parapet, which was the most significant modernisation of a formula derived in essence from the late seventeenth-century model typified by Belton House. In the plans there was invariably a hall backed by a saloon in the centre, with a staircase set to one side. In spite of some splendid effects achieved by plasterwork and joinery, Colvin noted that "the spatial effects are simple and unenterprising".
Four exceptional houses did not conform to these conventions. They were Kedleston (demolished and replaced by the celebrated Robert Adam house; Chicheley Hall with William Kent, doubtless in part the design of its owner Sir John Chester, and his virtuosi friends; Stoneleigh Abbey, "a somewhat inept attempt to use a giant order in the grand baroque manner" (Colvin) and Sutton Scarsdale (stripped of its interiors in the 1920s), where Colvin, comparing its assurance with Stoneleigh's "gauche" crowded windows and "leggy pilasters", suspected some intervention by James Gibbs.
Andor Gomme has identified several churches which had Francis Smith’s architectural input, of which four survive in use with Smith’s contribution reasonably intact; namely All Saints Gainsborough, Lincs. (all except tower), St Nicholas Alcester, Warks. (nave), All Saints Lamport, Northants. (chancel) and St Botolphs Sibston, Leics. The first two, with their Corinthian and Doric columns respectively and plastered ceilings, display Smith’s adoption of the Palladian style, as influenced by Gibbs.
William Smith of Warwick (1661-1724), master builder trained as a bricklayer, was his brother: the brothers, who often worked in partnership and with the third brother Richard, were sons of a bricklayer and master builder, Francis Smith, of The Wergs, near Tettenhall, Staffordshire. By the time of William's death in 1724 they had become the most prominent designers and builders of houses in the Midlands.
He was a major employer, and some of his craftsmen were individually credited on a lead plaque formerly at Sutton Scarsdale:
- Thomas Eborall, joiner
- Joshua Needham, plasterer
- Edward Poynton of Nottingham, stone carver
- John Wilkes, door furniture
Another craftsman and architect who worked under Smith was William Baker of Audlem, who was employed as a carpenter by Smith at Ditchley in Oxfordshire in 1727, and later developed an extensive architectural practice in Shropshire and Staffordshire
Buildings (designed or worked on)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Francis Smith of Warwick.|
- All Saints Church, Gainsborough, Lincs
- All Saints Church, Lamport, Northants
- Aston Hall, 1735, attributed
- Buntingsdale Hall, c.1721, attributed to John Prince and Smith
- Calke Abbey, 1727 with James Gibbs
- Chicheley Hall with William Kent, 1719-1723
- Chillington Hall
- Cottesbrooke Hall, attributed
- Davenport House, 1726
- Derby Cathedral, with James Gibbs, 1723-1725
- Dudmaston Hall, 1695-1701
- Fawsley Hall
- Hereford Cathedral
- Heythrop Hall, 1707-1713
- Kelmarsh Hall with James Gibbs, 1732
- Kirtlington House
- Lamport Hall c.1732
- Locko Park, 1725-1730
- Mason Croft, Stratford upon Avon, Warks.
- Mawley Hall, 1730
- Melbourne Hall
- Ombersley Court
- Preston-on-the-Weald Moors Hospital, 1720–1726, attributed
- St Alkmunds Church, Whitchurch, Shropshire
- St Botolph's Church, Sibson, Leics
- St Mary’s Priory Church, Monmouth, 1732
- St Modwen's Church, Burton upon Trent
- St NIcholas Church, Alcester, Warks, 1729 
- St Peter at Arches Church, Lincoln c1720-24
- Stanford Hall
- Stanwick Hall
- Stoneleigh Abbey, 1714-1728
- Sutton Scarsdale House, Derbyshire
- Umberslade Hall, 1695-1700
- Warwick Court House
- Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, 3rd ed. (Yale University Press) 1995, s.v. "Smith, Francis".
- Andor Gomme (2000), Smith of Warwick. Francis Smith, Architect and Master-Builder
- Quoted in Colvin 1995.
- Colvin 1995.
- 'Newcastle-under-Lyme: Churches', A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8 (1963), pp. 16-24. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=53357. Date accessed: 10 April 2008.
- From: 'Thame : Topography, m, anors and estates', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7: Dorchester and Thame hundreds (1962), pp. 160-178. URL: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63775. Date accessed: 10 April 2008.
- From: 'The borough of Warwick: Economic and social history, 1545-1835', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8: The City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick (1969), pp. 504-514. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=16055. Date accessed: 10 April 2008.
- John Newman, Nikolaus Pevsner, Shropshire (2006), p. 146.
- Colvin H. A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 Yale University Press, 3rd edition London, 1995, 93
- AOTLHG: The Big Houses
- Welcome to Discovering Shropshire's History
- Nikolaus Pevsner, Elizabeth Williamson, Derbyshire (1978), p. 119.
- Bridgeman Art Library - Image Search
- MK Council - Archaeology - MKWeb
- Brewood - Introduction, manors and agriculture | British History Online
- Cottesbrooke Hall & Gardens Northamptonshire
- Evelyn Wallace-The Castle Lady Do you love castles?: Noble Northamptonshire
- Nikolaus Pevsner, Elizabeth Williamson, Derbyshire (1978), p. 168.
- Derby | The Derby Guide | Attractions in Derby
- Dudmaston Hall Shropshire
- Andor Gomme, Smith and Rossi, Architectural History, Vol. 35, (1992), pp. 183-191.
- Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens on AboutBritain.com
- Kelmarsh Hall, Kelmarsh, Northampton, NN6 9LY - www.statelyhomes.com
- Parishes - Kirtlington | British History Online
- Historic Houses Association
- Lamport Hall Northamptonshire
- Drury-Lowe family history - Family and Estate Resources - Manuscripts & Special Collections - The University of Nottingham
- Mawley Hall - occupier Rupert Galliers-Pratt
- Melbourne Hall - You and Yesterday | You and Yesterday
- Nikolaus Pevsner, Alan Brooks, Worcestershire (2007), p. 508.
- John Newman, Nikolaus Pevsner, Shropshire (2006), p. 54.
- St Mary's Church, Monmouth
- From: 'Burton-upon-Trent: Established church', A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9: Burton-upon-Trent (2003), pp. 107-130. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=12339. Date accessed: 10 April 2008.
- Gomme, Andor (2000). Francis Smith of Warwick. Warwick County Libraries: Tyas.
- Joan Thirsk, Peter J. Bowden, Christopher Clay, M. W. Barley, John Chartres, Chapters from the Agrarian history of England and Wales, 1500-1750 (1989), p. 123.
- Parishes - Stoneleigh | British History Online
- McCrea, Kenneth D
- Current Concerns
- The Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire : Documents and Deeds