Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Builder and architect, working in Dublin in the 1770s, who was employed by the first Duke of Leinster and his widow, Emily, at Frascati, Co. Dublin, in 1773-76, and later by the second Duke at Leinster House, Dublin, and Carton, Co. Kildare. He is first mentioned in a letter of 22 February 1773 from Lady Louisa Conolly in London to her sister, the Duchess: 'I hope Mr Owens will turn out clever for then he will be an amusement to the Duke of Leinster.'(1) At Frascati Owen, who seems to have acted there as both architect and builder, proved a frustratingly slow worker; 'Owens is tiresome to the last degree,' Lady Louisa, who had been supervising progress on the house, wrote to her sister's second husband, William Ogilvie, on 10 March 1776, 'but he has really executed the work well.'(2) Owen was responsible for minor alterations at Leinster House for the second Duke of Leinster, circa 1780.(3) He also designed the Maynooth Gate and dog kennel at Carton, but his plan for the addition of a bow to the book room was not carried out. He died in Dublin in 1788.(4)

As well as working on these private projects, Owen was for thirteen years surveyor to the Dublin Paving Board, a post to which he was elected on 29 June 1874 and which he held at an annual salary of £100 until it was terminated in March 1787.  His responsibilites were then outsourced to WHITMORE DAVIS WHITMORE DAVIS , who operated as a consultant rather than as a salaried employee, thereby effecting a useful economy for the Paving Board.  Owen, who was in financial difficulties even before he lost his job, died the following year in 1788.

'Mr Thomas Owen, architect' was a subscriber to Robert Pool and John Cash's Views…in the City of Dublin (1780); 'Mr Owen, Dublin' who subscribed to George Richardson's A Book of Ceilings (1776) is probably the same person. The Irish Architectural Archive holds drawings by Owen for Leinster House and Carton in the Guinness Collection (Acc. 96/68) and a plan for proposed additions and alterations to Forenaghts, Co. Kildare, probably dating from the later 1770s, in the Forenaghts Collection (Acc. 80/33).



(1) Brian Fitzgerald, ed., Correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster III (1957), 75.
(2) Fitzgerald, op.cit., 288.
(3) See D.J. Griffin & C. Pegum, Leinster House(2000), Pls. 27,33,55-6,124.
(4) Peter Eden, ed. Dictionary of land surveyors and local cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1550-1850 (1979), 454.
(5)   Information from Finnian O Cionnaith, Exercise of Authority: Surveyor Thomas Owen and the paving, cleasnsing and lighting of Georgian Dublin (Dublin City Council, 2016), which gives an extensive account of Owen's work for the city.

5 work entries listed in chronological order for OWEN, THOMAS

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Date: 1773-1776
Nature: Employed (as architect and builder?)on enlargement and reconstruction of house, for Emily, Duchess of Leinster.
Refs: Brian Fitzgerald, ed., Correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster III (1957), 88,109,112,136,138,139,145,150,155,157,158,159,163,183,188,192,206,207,208,214 236,244

Date: 1780ca
Nature: Minor alts. to kitchen wing, basement and second floor. Also unexecuted proposal for dividing ground-floor supper room.
Refs: Drawings in IAA, Guinness Collection, Acc. 96/068.1/4/1,2. See David J. Griffin & Caroline. Pegum, Leinster House (Dublin: IAA & OPW, 2000), ix,4,22,33,67,82, Pls. 27,33,55-6,124.

Date: ?
Nature: Proposed addition of bow to book room. For 2nd Duke of Leinster.
Refs: Signed, undated plan with fold-down elevations in collection of Patrick Guinness.

Date: ?
Nature: Dog kennel. For 2nd Duke of Leinster.
Refs: Initialled, undated elevation and plan in collection of Patrick Guinness.

Date: ?
Nature: Maynooth Gate. For 2nd Duke of Leinster.

Refs: Signed, undated elevation and plan, inscr. 'South Front and Plan for a Lodge and Entrance to the Cottage and...Plantations at Waterstone, Carton Park', in IAA, Guinness Collection, Acc. 96/68.2/4/1.