Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Co-architect with WILLIAM JOHN WELLAND  WILLIAM JOHN WELLAND to the ECCLESIASTICAL COMMISSIONERS ECCLESIASTICAL COMMISSIONERS , 1860-1870.  William Gillespie, a son of William Stawell Gillespie of Cork and his wife Catherine Terry Williams was born in 1818.(1)  Details of his education and professional training are not recorded, but he appears to have remained in Cork during the early part of his career.(2)    In 1845, together with the Scottish engineer Robert Thom, he made proposals for supplying Cork with water from the River Shournagh.(3)   By 1847 he was working as a district inspector for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.(4)   It was as a district inspector that in May 1860 he was appointed jointly with WILLIAM JOHN WELLAND  WILLIAM JOHN WELLAND to the post of architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, following the death of JOSEPH WELLAND. JOSEPH WELLAND. (5)   Then (as now) nothing much seems to have been known about him;  he may be the intended target of a letter which appeared in the Dublin Evening Mail at the time of the selection process: 'I am credibly informed that, even before the Commissioners' advertisements appeared, the appointment was virtually arranged, and that the person likely to be nominated is not a professional architect, and only served a few years to a country builder and measurer, and is at present a junior inspector in the office.'(6)  On being promoted Gillespie moved to Dublin and worked from the Commissioners' offices at 24 Upper Merrion Street until the Commission was disbanded at the end of 1870. He lived on in retirement for almost thirty years but moved at the very end of his life to Plympton House, near Plymouth, Devon, a private lunatic asylum belonging to a Dr Charles Aldridge, where he died of 'senile decay' on 20 December 1899.(7)   He was unmarried.  In his will of 12 January 1894 - which is largely taken up with matters relating to his concerns as the last surviving executor of John, 1st Baron Rathdonnell - he makes bequests to his brother Franklin, sisters, nephews and nieces, naming Franklin as his executor in a codicil of 10 July 1897.(8)

RIAI: elected fellow, 21 May 1863;(9) council member, 1868-69, 1869-70;(10) resigned membership, 14 December 1895.(11)
RSAI: elected member, 7 March 1855;(12) no longer a member in 1858.(13)

Addresses: Work: 24 Upper Merrion Street, 1860-1870.
Home: 15 Charlotte Quay, Cork, 1855;(14) Racefield House, Mount-town Lower, Dun Laoghaire, <=1874-1895ca.(15)



(1) Information from Mrs Wynne Parker, Auckland, New Zealand, great-granddaughter of William Gillespie's brother Henry, Aug 2010. 
(2) See Cork Post Office Directory 1842,1843; JRSAI 3 (1854-55), 275.
(3) Colin Rynne, The Industrial Archaology of Cork City and its Environs  (1999), 229).
(4) King's County Chronicle, 28 Jul 1847; in December of the same year he is named as the 'superintendent architect' for the building of Welland's church of St Nicholas in Cork (Cork Constitution, 13 Nov 1847, information supplied by Roger Herlihy, Cork, May 2011). 
(5) B 18, 9 Jun 1860, 368. The fact that the appointments were made from among the Commissioners' existing employees, although applications had been invited from outsiders, caused some disappointment; see DB 2, 1 May,1 Jun 1860, 245,281.
(6) DB 2, 1 May 1860, 245.
(7) Copy of death certificate in IAA, supplied by Mrs Wynne Parker, Aug 2010.
(8) Copy of will in IAA, supplied by Mrs Wynne Parker, Aug 2010.
(9) RIAI council meeting minutes, 8 May 1863, 5; general meeting minutes, 21 May 1863, 127.
(10) Although he was appointed to the Council for the session 1868-69, he wrote a letter of resignation to the council on 4 Dec 1868 as he was unable to attend meetings, see council meeting minutes, 21 Dec 1868, 117; nevertheless he was re-elected to the council for the following session.
(11) RIAI general meeting minutes, 14 Dec 1895, 315.
(12) JRSAI 3 (1854-55), 275. 
(13) JRSAI 5 (1858-59), membership lists.
(14) See note 12, above.
(15) Post Office Dublin Directory (1874) and RIAI list of members 1895 (where the house is wrongly called Rockfield House).

1 work entries listed in chronological order for GILLESPIE, WILLIAM

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Date: 1854
Nature: Proposed extension of nave with attached porch and belfry.
Refs: Plans and elevation, inscr. 'Mr Gillespie's Plan/Send original to the Incumbent/ through the Office/Feb 27/54', also unsigned, undated plan of spiral steps to belfry, in Representative Church Body Library, see RCB Library - Architectural Drawings, https://archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org/items/show/1898-1899 (last visited, Jan 2017).