Bishop Percy’s House, originally known as ‘Forster’s Folly’, is a historic building located at 52 Cartway Bridgnorth.
It was built in 1580 by Richard Forster and has been a Grade 1 listed building since 18th July 1949. It was one of the few properties of its type to survive the great fire of Bridgnorth in April 1646, and was the birth place of Thomas Percy, the Bishop of Dromore and author of ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’.
The site has history stemming back to medieval times and the building itself is built around a medieval building that was very possibly a defensive tower.
Over the years it has been home to many people including the Bridgnorth Boys Club from the 1940’s until 2003, since then has been unoccupied.
The property went back up for sale again in Augiust 2012 for the sum of £275,000 through Berriman Eaton.
Please note this historic building is not open to the public.
Bishop Percy’s House was reputedly built in 1580 as commercial premises and residential home by Mr Richard Forster. (Often documented as Forester).
Richard Forster was a wealthy shipping merchant who choose its location because of its proximity to the River Severn. It was built on the lower end of Cartway, an area of Bridgnorth stemming back to medieval times when it was known as Cowgate, the actual building itself was infact built around a medieval building that was very possibly a defensive tower. A lane led down from the house to a riverside wharf known as Forster’s Loade.
The house, orginally known as ‘Forsters Folly’, was built from oak posts and beams, many of which were sourced from old ships, with oak framing between the spaces. The original door locked with a substantial key, still in use today was to the left of the building.
Bishop Percy’s House was one of the few properties of its type to survive the great fire in April 1646 started by the Royalist garrison of the castle during the Civil War.
In 1672 it was documented in the Hearth Tax Assessment that the property had seven fireplaces and was occupied by Anthony Nott, who had succeeded Richard Forster as its owner.
By the 18th century the properties recorded residents were Thomas Nott in 1712 and Mrs Nott in 1725. Then in 1727 the house became the property of Arthur Lowe Percy, a wholesale grocer and tobacconist from Worcester when he married Jane Nott. Percy went on to become the bridesman of Bridgnorth in 1733, an alderman in 1737 and served as a town bailiff in 1742 and 1751, he passed away in 1764. Arthur Percy was best known as the father of Thomas Percy, who was born in 1729 and went on to become the Bishop of Dromore. It was from here on the house became known as Bishop Percy’s House.
By 1830 the property had undergone some structural work and a manuscript map of this time showed a long extension to the west of the property. By the middle of the 1800’s there was a brass and iron foundry at the rear of the property run by Charles Rushton and later by the Barker family. The house itself was described in 1856 by George Bellet as being in a ‘neglected condition’. Much of the house was empty, parts of it being used as an iron foundry and parts as a huckster’s shop.
In 1865 the house featured in a sale catalogue of the estate of Lord Sudeley, described as an Ancient Tenement known as the Old House, a fine specimen of Domestic Architecture of the 16th century, famed as the birthplace of Bishop Percy. It contained three rooms, a brewhouse, a warehouse and underground cellarage, and was occupied by Mrs H Barker. The yard contained a farrier’s workshop, a brick and tile warehouse, and a brick and tile engine house. It was noted that the premises were not in a good state of repair.
An Ordinance Survey map of 1884 showed the brass and iron foundry at the rear of the building and the main structure had extended to the east. By 1903 the foundry was still operating and shown on a 1903 Ordinance Survey map. The foundry building was again shown on the 1927 Ordinance Survey map.
In 1909 the house was brought by W H Foster of Apley Estates when it had reached such a poor state it was threatened with demolition.
Records showed in the 1920’s the former foundry building was used by the Bridgnorth Boy Scouts and in the years prior to World War II it was used as a soup kitchen.
In 1945 Major A C Foster of Apley gave the property to the Bridgnorth Boys Club who would occupy the premises until 2003.
Copies of the Bridgnorth Boys Club accounts first record their connection with Bishop Percy’s House in 1940 where an entry by Mr Fred Mold, Hon. Sec & Treasurer, shows expenditure for Alterations & Improvements – Bishop Percy’s House, namely the connection of a gas supply, a hot plate, radiators, erection of a canteen, electric light fittings and billiard sundries amounting to £53 1s 2d.
After inspection in 1948 it was found that externally, the timber framing to the stair enclosure and the rear wall and gable of the main part of the building were in a dangerous condition. Internally, the stair was seriously defective, and there were indications that the main beams at second floor level would need repair. So in 1949 with a grant from the Pilgrim Trust with additional funding from the Ministry of Education and Salop county Council extensive repairs and building works were started. The Ministry of Education also gave permission for a gymnasium to be built on the rear terrace, were the brass and iron foundry had previously stood.
In 1997 the 63 Squadron moved into the historic Bishop Percy’s House along with the Boys Club, they make note of this on their web site: “Although Bishop Percy’s House was not a dedicated cadet building (it was also used by the Bridgnorth Group for Young People and several others) and was not ideally the best accommodation we’ve had to date, the building became very unsafe for the cadets and youth organisations alike, as it is one of the oldest buildings in Bridgnorth.”
In 2003 the Boys Club put the house up for sale due to the high cost of upkeep and restoration works required to make the property safe for their continued use.
It was brought by James Rowley of Alveley Estates a local developer and in the last few years he has got planning permission to convert the house into a one bedroom basement flat, a two bedroom ground floor flat and a three bedroom first and second floor flat. As well as to demolish the now derelict gymnasium at the rear and build four ultra-modern homes.
In July 2012 the plans to develop the property expired and the property was put back on the market for £275,000 in August 2012 through local estate agents Berriman Eaton.
Acknowledgements C Gwilt : A Detailed History Of Bishop Percy’s House (1990) M King : Bishop Percy’s House, Bridgnorth. Archaeological & Architectural Appraisal (2006) C Phillotts : Bishop Percy’s House, Bridgnorth. Archaeological Desk-based Assessment (2007) From Cartway To Riverside In 70 Years: History of The Boys Club (2005) The Bridgnorth Printing Company Limited