Joseph Pickford, one of Derbyshire's finest architects, was born in 1734, second son of William and Mary Picford of Ashow in Warwickshire.
In 1748 he left Ashow to take up an apprenticeship with his uncle Joseph in London, who at this time was one of the leading architectural craftsmen in the country.
During the years of Joseph's apprenticeship, his uncle was employed on 2 of the finest Palladian buildings in England, the Horse Guards in Whitehall and the University Library in Cambridge.
Little is known about Joseph Pickford's early life, but one of his first Derbyshire assignments was in 1759, supervising the workmen at Foremark Hall, a house designed by David Hione of Warwick, one of his father's old associates.
Pickford married Mary Wilkins at Longford Church in April 1762 and they had 2 children, that were painted by Joseph Wright of Derby. Mary was the daughter of Thomas Wilkins, Derbyshire's agent to Wenman Coke who owned Longford Hall and heir to other large estates. Probably through this connection he was given the job of executive architect responsible for organizing the labour and supervising the erection of the new County Assemby Rooms that were to grace Derby Market place for the next 200 years.
Pickford became aquainted with a group of Midland intellectuals associated with the Lunar Society, in particular, Joseph Wright,P. Burdett, and John Whitehurst the clock maker and geologist. Through these people he met a number of his most important clients.
Over the years Pickford expended alot of effort building up his architecture reputation and but for his untimely death in 1782 would have established himself as a leading figure in the profession.
Pickford designed at least 3 houses in Ashbourne, including The Grey House in Church Street and Francis Beresford's house in the Compton, which is now Lloyds Bank. He had at least one commission in Wirksworth, including the old Moot Hall, now demolished and replaced by a newer building.
In Derby, Pickford built houses in Friar Gate, including his own, which is now the Pickford House Museum. He also designed St Helens House, now an adult education centre.
His prolific output also included a design for a new house at Calke Abbey, Ashford Hall and St Mary's Church in Birmingham.
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