Tag Archives: Master Mason

Joseph Pratt, Bricklayer

When Thomas Howlett (1678—1759) was appointed master Bricklayer of His Majesty’s Works in 1736 in the place of Thomas Churchill, deceased, he shared the appointment with Joseph Pratt.  Thomas Howlett had been bricklayer to the Prince of Wales, and doubtless owed his new position to that patronage.  What of Joseph Pratt?

Joseph Pratt, junior, (1697—1768) was a well-respected bricklayer, being Master Bricklayer to the Office of Ordnance and was son to Joseph Pratt (d. 1750) also a bricklayer.  In fact both father and son in turn rose to become Masters of The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers of the City of London, in 1721 and 1740 respectively.  Possibly of even more importance, Joseph Pratt had married Thomas Churchill’s only child, Elizabeth (1707-1768).

Joseph Pratt senior and his wife Elizabeth had (at least) nine children, but seven of them died in infancy, including the last four, all of whom died at less than 6 months of age. The survivors were James and Joseph.  James Pratt (1705—1740) also became a bricklayer “to his Majesty”, but died in 1740 apparently without leaving any wife or children.  Joseph Pratt junior and Elizabeth had four children who lived to adulthood, three girls and a boy.

The son, Thomas Pratt, also became a bricklayer, and, on the death of Thomas Howlett in 1759, succeeded in his place as joint Master Bricklayer to the Board of Works with his father. Thomas Pratt married on 23 June 1760 Mary Wright, daughter of Stephen Wright of the Office of Works, at that point Deputy Surveyor. Thomas and Mary had two children, Joseph and Charlotte before Thomas died in 1762. After his son’s death, Joseph Pratt held the office alone until his own passing in 1768, upon which the office was abolished.

Joseph Pratt and his son Thomas both married into the Office of Works. The daughters also married into similar circles. Sarah married James Morris, Master Carpenter of the Board of Ordnance, son of Roger Morris, Master Carpenter to the Board of Ordnance. Sarah died in 1760 without leaving any children. Elizabeth, who also sadly died young in 1759, married George Mercer, Master mason, and left several children.

The only one of Joseph Pratt’s children to outlive him was his daughter Ann.  She married outside of the craftsmen group, to a well-off tradesman, John Barrett, wax-chandler to His Majesty.

We shall have more to say of the interconnections of these families at the top of their trades in mid-eighteenth-century London.

Stephen Wright

Stephen Wright (d. 1780) was Deputy Surveyor and Master Mason to the Office of Works when Kirby was appointed as Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew. Wright was a protégé of William Kent, although exactly how and when they first came into contact is not known. Wright’s DNB article speculates that he is the ‘Stephen’ referred to in some of Kent’s letters from 1738, and he was certainly working for Kent by 1741. In the beginning he was chiefly employed as a `measurer’, gradually taking on more significant responsibilities. That Kent and Wright had a close personal as well as business relationship is clear. When making out his will in October 1743, Kent singled out Wright for a legacy of £50. This is the only monetary legacy Kent left outside of his family (there is a great long list of paintings and busts to be given to specific friends). Shortly before his death in 1748, Kent added a codicil giving more gifts to friends, including half a dozen members of the Office of Works, and the codicil was witnessed by Wright (PROB 11/761/245). Kent’s residual legatee was his nephew William Pearson who only outlived Kent by a few months. Pearson in turn left all Kent’s pictures and drawings to be disposed of by Wright (and John Ferrett), and Wright was named as one of Pearson’s pall bearers. Pearson also left £10 to, “Mrs. Wright the wife of the said Stephen Wright … to buy her Mourning and a ring” (PROB 11/762/373).

Wright’s first appointment in the Office of Works, presumably on the influence of Burlington, was as Clerk of the Works at Hampton Court in December 1746 in the place of John Vardy, who was promoted to Clerk of Works at Whitehall, St. James’s, and Westminster. Along with his government position, Wright began building a private practice. Late in his life, Kent was working on renovations to Henry Pelham’s London house, 22 Arlington Street. When Kent died in 1748, Wright took over the completion of the work.


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