Joseph Priestley was a pioneering scientist who dicovered oxygen. He spent three years in Nantwich from 1758-1761 while in his twenties and before his big discovery.
A plaque on Sweetbriar Hall on Hospital Street, Nantwich:
tells us that the building was occupied from 1758 to 1761 by Joseph Priestley. However we’ve to find evidence that he stayed there, or taught there. See our page on Sweetbriar Hall for more information.
We know from Priestley’s autobiography, and James Hall, that he was boarded with John Eddowes in and after the year 1758. John Eddowes was a tobacconist and grocer, in High Town, Nantwich.
At the time, Joseph Priestley was a teacher and a Unitarian minister. He preached in the nearby Unitarian Chapel, which was built in 1726 and demolished in 1970. If you’re wondering what the chapel looked like, the V & A have a picture of the interior (done by the war artist, George Hooper in 1942) here.
Joseph Priestley used to have a bad stammer. In his autobiography he writes “for the first two years I was at Nantwich, this impediment had increased so much that I once informed the people that I must give up the business of preaching, and confine myself to my school. However by making a practice of reading very loud and very slow every day, I at length succeeded in getting in some measure the better of this defect, but I am still obliged occasionally to have recourse to the same expedient”.
Appalled at the quality of the available English grammar books, whilst in Nantwich in 1761 he wrote his own textbook: The Rudiments of English Grammar. This book was very successful and was reprinted for over fifty years. Warrington Academy offered him a teaching position, which he accepted, and he moved there in 1761.
You can read more in our booklet: Joseph Priestley, Discoverer of Oxygen: His time in Nantwich 1758-1761 which is available from our shop.