15 Woolley Street, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Lynchetts, 15 Woolley Street

Lynchetts is a late Georgian house that takes its name from the terraces on the hillside behind. It was built in about 1785, the year when the owner Ann Whatley (1763-1847) married the Curate of Holy Trinity church, Rev Benjamin Richardson (1758-1832). It was probably designed by John Palmer (1736-1817), the City Architect of Bath, partner of  Thomas Jelly (died in 1781), who was married to a cousin of Ann. It may have been built on the site, or incorporates part, of an older building.

The Richardsons moved away after Benjamin gained the Rectory of Farleigh Hungerford in 1796, although they mostly lived in Bath, so the house was let. By 1824 it was owned by clothier Samuel Hart, who died in that year and a descendant sold it to surgeon William Adye in 1867 for £350. The Adyes, a dynasty of medics, had been renting the house since 1811, as well as St Olave’s House (19 Woolley Street). In 1934 it was purchased by Mrs Rebekah Wilbraham Phibbs, from a wealthy Anglo-Irish family of Co. Sligo. She had a bungalow built at the back for her gardener; the garden had been expanded by the addition of a large portion of that of St Olave’s before that was sold in 1910.

In 1941 the house was requisitioned from Mrs Phibbs by the Royal Navy to be the Admiralty’s Chronometer Depot, which had moved from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to escape bombing, first to Clifton, then to Bradford when Bristol became unsafe too. At Lynchetts many famous old timepieces were stored, including those of James ” Longitude” Harrison, but the main work was servicing the chronometers for Navy ships. A bomb-proof shelter was made to store the clocks and a workshop was built on the tennis court in the back garden.

Lychetts was derequisitioned in 1948 when the depot moved to the Royal Observatory at Herstmonceux in Sussex. Mrs Phibbs planned to divide the house into flats, but she died in 1952 and the work was carried out by Rev J.C. Walker and his wife Olga, who were living next door in Moxham’s House. After the Walkers moved away, they donated Lynchetts to the Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust in 1971. The Trust didn’t keep it for long, selling it off with a 999-year lease in 1976 for £21,000 to help finance the restoration project of Silver Street House.

The street façade is set back from the building line of the rest of Woolley Street, probably to provide light to the side of Moxham’s House, which had been in the same ownership. However, the house is wider at the rear, overlapping No 13 next door. It is of cut stone ashlar, on three floors, with two bays, of which the right side is a canted projection, and five triple-windows matched by the pedimented Adam-style doorcase which is flanked by two windows.

It is a listed building, Grade II*