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The Late Mr. Hansom

Few men's names have secured a larger quantity of popular renown—the quality is but that of one modest and simple though useful invention—than he who is unconsciously invoked every time we call a Hansom cab. Mr. Joseph Aloysius Hansom, architect, the inventor of the "Patent Safety," died the week before last, at his residence in Fulham-road, at the age of seventy-eight. He belonged to an old Roman Catholic Yorkshire family. In his own profession as an architect, Mr. Hansom early won considerable reputation, and his designs were preferred, in 1833, to those of other competitors for the erection of the Birmingham Townhall. Unfortunately, during the construction of that building, Mr. Hansom became joint security for the contractor, whose bankruptcy involved the architect in serious loses, but he soon partially retrieved his fortunes by the invention, in 1836, of the Patent Safety Cab. The original form of this vehicle, as some of our elder readers will recollect, was different from those of the present "Hansom" and "Forder" cabs; the driver's seat was not behind, but actually upon the roof of the carriage, directly over the passenger's head. There was a rival Safety Cab Company, whose plan was to put the driver's seat at one side (the near side) of the body of the carriage, with aside window for the passenger to communicate with him. It may probably have been found that this arrangement was faulty, and bad for the horse, by throwing too much weight on the near side. Mr. Hansom then altered his original plan, and set the driver at the back of the carriage, but high enough to hold the reins above the roof. We doubt whether this may not be attended with some disadvantage, in lifting the horse too much, so that his feet do not hold the ground securely, for Hansom Cab horses are very apt to slip. Mr. J. A. Hansom's next important venture, in December, 1842, was in periodical literature, as the founder of the “Builder”, which passed into other hands. His practice as an architect had in the meantime become extensive, and examples of his taste and skill are to be seen in all parts of the Kingdom. Churches from his designs were erected at, among other places, Ryde, Preston, Dalkeith, Leeds, Ripon, Boulogne, Marychurch, Oxford, Manchester, and Arundel, and he was the architect of various structures or portions of structures, for the colleges of Ampleforth, Ushaw, St. Asaph, Beaumont, and Fort Augustus. Among his latest works, executed in partnership with his son, Mr. Joseph Hansom, may be mentioned the Church of the Holy Name, at Manchester, and the Church of St. Philip, at Arundel.

Source: The Illustrated London News, No.2254—Vol. LXXXI, Saturday, July 15, 1882, p.56


The late Mr. J.A. Hansom,
inventor of the Hansom Cab