Thomas Wright excelled in many areas of learning. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a clock- and watchmaker; he had a facility for drawing, designing buildings and making maps. Within five years he had studied mathematics and navigation and by his 20th year he had set up his own school, teaching the same subjects and selling mathematical instruments.
Wright's astronomical and mathematical prowess is demonstrated in the publication of his nautical almanacs and Pannauticon: The Universal Mariner's Magazine (1735), which was approved by the Lords of the Admiralty. As an astronomer he is renowned for explaining the milkiness of the Milky Way (Via Lactea) - as an optical effect caused by the position of the solar system immersed in a disc-like system we know as the galaxy - in his An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe (1750). His contribution to architecture can still be seen at a few buildings such as Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire, Nuthall Temple, Nottinghamshire, and Hampton Court House, Bushy Park, Richmond; Durham Cathedral's pinnacles were also designed by him. As a garden designer, Wright saw many of his works eclipsed by those of Capability Brown, who was born in the neighbouring county, Northumberland.
An exhibition about Wright will be housed in the old school at Byers Green; outside a garden with a gravel entrance parterre will include a dovecot built to one of Wright's designs. The project will cost pounds 195,000. For further information, contact: Thomas Wright Memorial Committee, The Old Vicarage, Witton-Le-Wear, Co Durham DL14 0AN, telephone 0388 488334.