THE ARCHITECTURAL ACHIEVEMENT OF JOSEPH ALOYSIUS HANSOM (1803-1882): Designer of the Hansom Cab, Birmingham Town Hall, and Churches of the Catholic Revival

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This work is the first examination of the life of Joseph Hansom, the Victorian architect and designer of the eponymous cab.


“Penelope Harris’ study complements the developing interest in the culture of nineteenth century Catholicism by exploring the ways in which the neglected architectural output of Joseph Hansom both reflected his individuality and makes plain his unparalleled eclectic genius that perhaps none of his rivals quite possessed and, while working in the aftermath of Pugin and recognizing his cultural obligations in that direction, he was never as pragmatic. Like other nineteenth century practitioners, Hansom was a man of social conscience whose faith was inseparable from his productivity. Harris well conveys the restless side of his character: here was a man always on the move who persisted despite severe early setbacks and, in so doing, helped define his profession, leaving behind not just numerous fine buildings but also an architectural dynasty.” – Dr. Nigel Aston, University of Leicester

“It is remarkable that so eminent a Victorian as Joseph Hansom (1803-1882) has had to await a full-length biography for so long. . . . This is an important study of an important man. It tells us much about Victorian architects and architecture, aesthetics and taste and about patterns of patronage at a momentous time in British history.” – Prof. Maurice Whitehead, Swansea University

“It is clear that [the author] has pursued her quarry with tenacity, and has sought and taken advice from scholars of nineteenth-century architecture . . .” – Prof. Emeritus James Stevens Curl, Honorary Research Fellow, Queen's University of Belfast

Table of Contents

Foreword Dr Nigel Aston
Preface Peter Hansom
1. Birth of a Dynasty - York 1803-1831
Family Background and Origins in York, Freeman Status
Training and Partnership with Edward Welch (1806-1868)
Early Work, Yorkshire and Liverpool
2. A Prize Leading to Bankruptcy - Birmingham 1831-1832
The Competition
The Design
Building Complications
Financial Difficulties
Bankruptcy, Statement in Defence and Handover
3. Complications, Distraction and Upheaval - 1833-1834
Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham Political Union
Robert Owen and the Builders’ Union
Birmingham Free Grammar School
Operatives Builders Guildhall
Harmony Hall, Tytherley
4. New Home, New Career & Hansom “The Inventor” - 1834-1837
Hinckley and Caldecote
Dempster Hemming, Joseph Needham and Two Banks
Design and Implementation of “The Cab”
Lutterworth Town Hall
Hinckley Union Workhouse
5. Getting Started - Serious Work - 1837-1840
Non-Conformist Proprietary School, now Leicester City Museum
Catholic Connections
Convent of the Rosary, Atherstone, later St Scholastica’s Convent
St Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe, now Princethorpe College
Our Lady of the Angels, Nuneaton
Bosworth Hall Extension
6. London, Publishing and back to Leicester - 1841-1849
The Builder, now Building
Builders College
Competitions for Architects
Baptist Chapel, Leicester, now Adult Education Centre
Holy Cross and St Patrick’s Leicester
Ratcliffe College, Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake
7. The prolific Years - Lancashire - 1845-1858
En route, via Spinkhill, Derbyshire
Jesuit Connections - from Mount St Mary to St Aloysius, Oxford
The Talbot Schools and St Walburge’s Church, Preston
Illness, Aborted Work and an Enforced Move
8. Upwards & Onwards - the Rightful Place of the Hansom Legacy

Selected Major Works of Joseph Aloysius Hansom in Later Life Charles Francis Hansom (1817-1888) and Edward Joseph (1843-1900)
Henry John Hansom (1828-1904) and Joseph Stanislaus (1845-1931)
Lasting Impressions
Appendices: Working schedule of extension and improvements to Collingham Vicarage, Yorkshire.
Internal commemorative plaques, Birmingham Town Hall, giving names of Committee Members and Street Commissioners.
Internal commemorative plaques, Birmingham Town Hall, giving names of Architects and Builders.
Summary of Hansom’s works between bankruptcy (1834) and finalising finances of Patent Safety Cabriolet (1839).
Classification of Paupers.
Summary of building works on the Town Hall subsequent to initial construction.
Transcript of letters from Hansom to Hardman regarding St Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe.
Transcript of estimate for extension at Bosworth Hall, 1840.

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