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A Hansom cab.
Joseph Aloysius Hansom (26 October 1803 – 29 June 1882) was a prolific English architect working principally in the Gothic Revival style, who invented the Hansom cab and was one of the founders of the eminent architectural journal, The Builder, in 1843.


Hansom was born at 114 Micklegatemarker, Yorkmarker (now the Brigantes pub) to a Roman Catholic family and baptised as Josephus Aloysius Handsom(e). He was the brother of the architect Charles Francis Hansom and the uncle of Edward J. Hansom. He was apprenticed to his father as a joiner, but showing an early aptitude for draughtsmanship and construction, he was permitted to transfer his apprenticeship to a local architect named Mr Philips.

About 1825 he settled in Halifaxmarker, Yorkshire, and in the same year he married Hannah Glover at St. Michael le Belfreymarker in York. He took a post as assistant to John Oates and there befriended Edward Welch, with whom he formed his first architectural partnership in 1828. Together they designed several churches in Yorkshire and Liverpool, and also worked on the renovation of Bodelwyddan Castlemarker in Denbighshire. In 1831 their designs for Birmingham Town Hallmarker were accepted; however, the contract led to their bankruptcy, as they had stood surety for the builders. The disaster led to the dissolution of the partnership and may have contributed to Hansom becoming a radical socialist.

On December 23, 1834 he registered the design of a 'Patent Safety Cab' on the suggestion of his employer. Distinctive safety features included a suspended axle, while the larger wheels and lower position of the cab led to less wear and tear and fewer accidents. He went on to sell the patent to a company for £10,000; however, as a result of the purchaser's financial difficulties, the sum was never paid. The first Hansom Cab travelled down Hinckleymarker's Coventry Road in 1835. The Hansom cab was improved by subsequent modifications and exported worldwide to become a ubiquitous feature of the 19th-century street scene.

In 1843 Hansom founded a new architectural journal known as The Builder, another venture which was to flourish through the century; renamed Building in 1966, it continues to this day. However, neither he nor his partner Alfred Bartholomew (1801-45) profited from the enterprise, because they were compelled to retire for lack of capital.

Between 1854 and 1879 Hansom devoted himself to architecture, designing and erecting a great number of important buildings, private and public, including numerous churches, schools and convents for the Roman Catholic Church. Buildings from his designs are to be found all over the United Kingdom, as well as in Australia and South America.

Hansom practised in a succession of architectural partnerships. From 1847 to 1852 he practised in Prestonmarker, Lancashiremarker, working briefly in association with Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin towards the end of the latter's life. After the practice moved to Londonmarker, he took his brother Charles Francis Hansom into partnership in 1854. But this partnership was dissolved in 1859 when Charles established an independent practice in Bath with his son Edward Joseph Hansom as clerk.

In 1862 Joseph Hansom formed a partnership with Edward Welby Pugin, which broke up acrimoniously in 1863. Finally (1869) he took his son Joseph Stanislaus Hansom into partnership.

Hansom moved to manage an estate at Caldecote Hall. He retired on 31 December 1879 and died at 399 Fulham Roadmarker, London, on 29 June 1882.

Surviving works

Hansom designed around 200 buildings, including St George's Catholic Churchmarker in York; Mount St Mary's Collegemarker, near Sheffieldmarker; St Walburge's Churchmarker in Prestonmarker (with the tallest church spire in England); St Beuno's Jesuit Theologate in North Wales, (1848): the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Manchestermarker (1871); The Roman Catholic Plymouth Cathedralmarker (built 1856 — 1858); and St Mary's Priory, Fulham Roadmarker (1876). New Walk Museum building in Leicestermarker, formerly a Prep School, as well as Leicestermarker’s central library, formally a Baptist chapel is in Hansom's Classical style. In Cornwall he designed the Roman Catholic churches of Falmouth and Liskeard.


  • Johnson, Michael A., 'The architecture of Dunn & Hansom' (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: University of Northumbria, MA Dissertation, 2003)

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