Hansom, Joseph Aloysius

SUBJECT AREA: Land transport
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b. 26 October 1803 York, England
d. 29 June 1883 Fulham, London, England
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English architect and inventor, originator of the Hansom cab.
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In 1816 he was apprenticed to his father, who was a joiner. After a year his abilities in design and construction were so marked that it was decided that he would have more scope as an architect. He was accordingly apprenticed to a Mr Phillips in York, becoming a clerk to Phillips in 1820. While he served his time he also worked on his own account and taught at a night school. In 1825 he married Hannah Glover and settled in Halifax, where he became Assistant to another architect. In 1828 he became a partner of Edward Welch, with whom he built a number of churches in the north of England. He designed the Town Hall for Birmingham and was responsible for the constructional work until 1833, but he had to become bond because the builders caused him to become bankrupt. He was appointed Manager of the business affairs of Dempster Hemming of Caldicote Hall, which included the landed estates, banking and coal-mining. It was during this period that he designed the "Patent Safety Cab" named after him and popular in Victorian days. The safety element consisted in lowering the centre of gravity by the use of the cranked axle. Hansom sold his rights for £10,000 to a company proposing to exploit the patent, but he was never paid, for the company got into difficulties; Hansom became its temporary Manager in 1839 and put matters right, for which he was paid £300, all he ever made out of the Hansom Cab. In 1842 he brought out the first issue of The Builder, but lack of capital caused him to retire from the journal. He devoted himself from then on to domestic and ecclesiastical architecture, designing many churches, colleges, convents and schools all over Britain and even in Australia and South America. Of note is St Walburga's church, Preston, Lancashire, whose spire is 306 ft (93 m) high. At various times he was in partnership with his younger brother, his eldest son, and with E.W.Pugin with whom he had a disagreement. He was a Catholic and much of his work was for the Catholic Church.
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Further Reading
1882, The Builder (8 July).
1882, Illustrated London News (15 July).
IMcN

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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