Hansom, Joseph Aloysius (DNB00)

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HANSOM, JOSEPH ALOYSIUS (1803–1882), architect and inventor, was born in York on 26 Oct. 1803. In 1816 he was apprenticed to his father, a joiner; but in the following year, having shown an aptitude for designing and construction, his articles were allowed to lapse, and new ones were taken out with Mr. Phillips, an architect of York. Having served his time, in 1820 he became a clerk to Mr. Phillips, doing also some work on his own account, and teaching a nightschool, where he improved his defective education. On 14 April 1825 he married Hannah Glover, and settling in Halifax became assistant to Mr. Oates, architect, where for the first time he studied the Gothic style. In 1828 he entered into partnership with Edward Welch, and with him built churches in Liverpool, Hull, and the Isle of Man. Hansom's design for the Birmingham town hall in 1831 was accepted by the town commissioners, and he erected and completed that structure in 1833, but the terms imposed on him, of becoming bond for the builders, eventually caused his bankruptcy (Architectural Mag. 1834-6, i. 92, 379, ii. 16-27, 237-239, 325-6, 380, iii. 430-4). After this he was appointed manager of the business affairs of Dempster Hemming of Caldecote Hall, including banking, coal-mining, and landed estates, to which he gave his time until Hemming had finally dissipated his large property.

At Hemming's wish Hansom, on 23 Dec. 1834, registered his idea of the 'Patent Safety Cab ' (No. 6733), the vehicle which was named after him. The principle of the 'safety' consisted in the suspended or cranked axle ; the back seat was not in the original patent, and the modern so-called Hansom cabs retain but few of the original ideas. The patent had attached to it another plan for entering the cab through the wheel, a suggestion which has never been carried out. One of the great advantages of Hansom's cab was that the wheels, being much larger than usual, and the body of the vehicle nearer the ground, it could be worked with less wear and tear, and with a diminished risk of accidents. Hansom disposed of his rights to a company for the sum of 10,000l., but no portion of this money was ever paid to him. The company got into difficulties, and in 1839 Hansom took the temporary management, and again put matters in working order. For this service he was presented with 300l., the only money he ever received in connection with his vehicle.

In 1842 Hansom sought to supply the building trade with some channel of inter-communication, and on the last day of that year he brought out the first number of the 'Builder.' Want of capital obliged him to retire from this undertaking, and he had to content himself with a small payment from the publishers. After this he devoted his time to ecclesiastical and domestic architecture, chiefly for the Roman catholic church, of which he was a member. From 1854 to 1859 he worked in partnership with his younger brother, Charles Francis Hansom, from 1859 to 1861 with his eldest son, Henry John Hansom, and from 1862 to 1863 with Edward Welby Pugin, with whom he then had a disagreement. At the beginning of 1869 he took his second son, Joseph Stanislaus Hansom, who had previously been articled to him, into a partnership which lasted until 1879, when he retired from the firm, retaining a life interest in the business. He designed and erected a large number of churches, convents, colleges, schools, and mansions, the chief of which were St. Walburge's Church, Preston, Lancashire ; the cathedral, Plymouth ; the church of St. Francis de Sales, near Boulogne ; the church of Our Lady and St. Philip Neri at Arundel ; the Jesuit church, Manchester ; the Darlington, convent ; St. Asaph College ; Great Harwood school ; and Lartington Hall for the Rev. Thomas Witham. Other works of his are to be seen all over the United Kingdom, and designs of his were carried out in Australia and South America. The spire of St. Walburge's Church, 306 feet high, is believed to be the loftiest built in England since the Reformation. On 14 April 1875 he kept his golden wedding, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. His wife died in 1880, and he himself died at 399 Fulham Road, London, on 29 June 1882, and was buried in the catholic church of St. Thomas of Canterbury at Fulham on 3 July.

[Builder, 8 July 1882, pp. 43-4 ; Birmingham Daily Post, 1 July 1882, p. 5; Mechanics' Mag. 1842, xxxvi. 265-6; llustrated London News, 15 July 1882, p. 56, with portrait; information from Richard Bissell Prosser, esq.]

G. C. B.