Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect and builder, of London and Carlow. Thomas Alfred Cobden appears to have been a son of Thomas Cobden, a builder in Chichester, who, with a business partner named William Brooks, built Chichester Market House in 1807, supposedly under the direction of JOHN NASH. JOHN NASH. (1). Thomas Cobden the elder was a widower when he married Mary née Camp; their son Thomas (presumably Thomas Alfred) was baptised on 8 July 1794 at an independent chapel in Chichester.(2)

How this otherwise unknown English architect came to receive so many Irish commissions is not known, but it is tempting to imagine that his father's connection with John Nash could supply the missing link. In 1814 and 1815 he prepared designs for Gurteen le Poer, Co. Waterford, for John William Power(3) and in 1819 a classical scheme for Wells House, Co. Wexford, for Robert Doyne. Between 1835 and 1842, he exhibited several designs for buildings in Ireland at the Royal Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy. Apart from the proposals for Gurteen Le Poer, of which only the stables were executed, and the tower of Downpatrick Cathedral executed in conjunction with JAMES SANDS JAMES SANDS ,(4) all his Irish commissions appear to have been for work in Cos. Carlow and Wexford. His clients included John Dawson Duckett, William Duckett, Robert Clayton Browne, General Robert Browne Clayton, Thomas Elrington, Bishop of Ferns, and Robert Tottenham Ponsonby Loftus, Bishop of Clogher.(5) He must be the 'W. Cobden' of Carlow who exhibited a perspective view of Duckett's Grove, Co. Carlow, at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1830.

Cobden seems to have lived for some time in Carlow,(6) where he built a house for himself in College Street.(7) He was resident in London from 1832 and was living in 14 Upper Clapton Terrace, Hackney,(8) at the time of his death, which occurred at the end of 1842 when he was forty-eight. He was buried on 3 December 1842 in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, Middlesex.(9) His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 16 January 1843. He had married Ann Fleming at St James's Westminster in 1821.(10) She and four of their children - two sons and two daughters - survived him.

See WORKS (NB. This list of works needs revision and expansion in the light of the researches of Rev. Thomas McDonnell, to be published in forthcoming volume on Carlow: History and Society. Individual works needing revision are marked with an asterisk.)



References

Genealogical information in this entry was kindly supplied by John Orbell, who has done extensive research on the Cobden family.  Cobden's will is in the National Archives (NA (Kew), ref. Prob 11/1973). There are entries on Cobden in Howard Colvin, A Biographical dictionary of British architects 1600-1840 (1st edn., 1954), Directory of British Architects 1834-1914 (RIBA 2001), 400, and Dictionary of Irish Biography, ed. by James McGuire and James Quinn, 9 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 2009), II, 612-3.  Thomas McDonnell gives a detailed, illustrated account of Cobden's career in Ireland, in 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842: an architect in County Carlow' in T. McGrath ed., Carlow: History & Society (2008), 613-640.  


(1) Hampshire Telegraph, 9 March, 21 September 1807; copy of agreement with the Chichester authorities dated 17 April 1807 in West Sussex Record Office (information from John Orbell).
(2) John Orbell, citing information from West Sussex Record Office.
(3) The 'Design for a nobleman's mansion' which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1813 (no. 883) may possibly have been a design for Gurteen.
(4) Cobden was earlier associated with Sands in the building of Russellstown House, Co. Carlow, 1824.
(5) A bill from Cobden to Bishop Loftus is in NLI, MS 8821 (10 & 11).
(6) BIGS, October 1979, 9,12 n.45.
(7) See P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123.
(8) This was his address when he wrote his will on 30 Sep 1842.
(9) Burial no. 336, Section J06, index 1S01 (information from John Orbell).
(10) Licence from the Faculty Office, available from the Society of Genealogists in London (information from John Orbell).


27 work entries listed in chronological order for COBDEN, THOMAS ALFRED


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Building: CO. WATERFORD, GURTEEN LE POER
Date: 1814-15
Nature: Designs for castellated Tudor house (unexecuted) and stables (executed but demolished in 1852; TAC's name on FS).
Refs: 2 coloured architectural drawings, signed and dated Nov 1814 and Nov 1815 in the possession (1982) of Edmond, Count de la Poer of Gurteen le Poer, Co. Waterford (photographs in IAA); letter from Nigel de la Poer to Desmond Guinness in letter of 15 Jun 1982 and letter from Count Anthony de la Poer to J.A.K. Dean, 32 Mar 2006;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 630.

Building: CO. CARLOW, BAGENALSTOWN, CHURCH OF ST ANDREW (RC)
Date: 1817-1820
Nature: New church,, for Rev. Michael Prendergast, attributed by Williams to T.A. Cobden.   Attribution supported on stylistic grounds by McDonnell, who dates church to ca 1830 however.  Dates above from McEvoy.
Refs: J. Williams, Companion guide to Architecture in Ireland 1837-1921 (1994), 36;  John McEvoy, ed., The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD (Strasbourg: Editions du Signe, 2000), 52(illus.).
Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 625(illus.),626.

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, ST PATRICK'S COLLEGE
Date: 1817-19;1821-1835
Nature: TC architect and builder of Lay College in south wing (1817-11819c) and of north wing (1821-1835). Probably also designed entrance gates and lodge.
Refs: College account books (information from Rev. Thomas McDonnell.); P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008),  628-630(illus.).

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Date: 1818
Nature: New. 3-bay hall with semi-circular headed windows. FS laid 25 Jun 1818. Finished September 1818.
Refs: Carlow Morning Post, 29 Jun, 9, 16 Sep 1818 (information from Rev. Thomas McDonnell); P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 615-617(illus.);  illus. in. Laurence Kirkpatrick, Presbyterians in Ireland: an illustrated history (Booklink, 2006), 246.

Building: CO. CARLOW, DUCKETT'S GROVE
Date: 1818
Nature: Work on same from 1818 onwards, for John Dawson Duckett..  Perspective view exh. at RHA 1830.
Refs: RHA 1830, no. 254; P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 630-631(illus.).

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, BRAGANZA
Date: 1818
Nature: New house for Col. Sir Dudley Hill.
Refs: M.J. Craig & Kt of Glin, Ireland Observed, 23; Mark Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume I, Ireland. (London, 1978), 46-7; P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 631.

Building: CO. WEXFORD, WELLS HOUSE
Date: 1819
Nature: Unexecuted proposal for classical house for Robert Doyne.
Refs: Drawing in the collection of Uli Rossler, Wells House (2024);  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 633.

Building: CO. CARLOW, KILLESHIN, CHURCH OF THE HOLY CROSS (RC)
Date: 1819-1820
Nature: New church, described by Lewis as standing 'on an artificial mound' with 'octagon towers at the corners'. FS laid 6 May 1919 by William Cooper who had given site.
Refs: Samuel Lewis, A Topographical dictionary of Ireland (1837), II, 143; P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  John McEvoy, ed., The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD (Strasbourg: Editions du Signe, 2000), 21(illus.); Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 616-7,625(illus.).

Building: CO. WEXFORD, CLOBEMON HALL
Date: 1820
Nature: Designed by 'Mr Cobden' for Thomas Derinzey. Date given as 1820 by Rowe & Scallan.
Refs: Lewis I, 625 (sub Ferns); NLI MS 3916 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc.2008/44); David Rowe & Eithne Scallan, Houses of Wexford (Ballinakella Press, 2004), no. 334(illus.);  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 633

Building: CO. CARLOW, STAPLESTOWN, CHURCH (CI)
Date: 1821
Nature: New church attr. to Cobden by Brophy; 'a small neat edifice erected in 1821' (Lewis).
Refs: Samuel Lewis, A Topographical dictionary of Ireland (1837), I, 106 (sub Ballinacarrig); P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 625(illus.), 627;  exterior illus. in Clergy of Cashel and Emly; Clergy of Leighlin (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2012), 298.

Building: CO. WEXFORD, FERNS, BISHOP'S PALACE
Date: 1821-22
Nature: Alterations & additions.
Refs: NLI portfolio 17 (old ref.); NLI MS. 8821(11) (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc.2008/44); NLI MS. 9921(11) (information from Rev. Thomas McDonnell); Mark Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume I, Ireland. (London, 1978), 125; David Rowe & Eithne Scallan, Houses of Wexford (Ballinakella Press, 2004), no.903(illus.);  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 634.

Building: CO. CARLOW, RUSSELLSTOWN PARK
Date: 1824
Nature: Agreement by TAC with James Sands, architect, to build same. For William Duckett, brother of John Dawson Duckett of Duckett's Grove. (House demolished in 1950s, but stables, entrance and gate lodge survive.)
Refs: NLI, Ainsworth Report, Private MSS. 259 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc.2008/44); Howard Colvin, A Biographical dictionary of British architects 1600-1840 (4th edn, 2008), 901; Mark Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume I, Ireland. (London, 1978), 25;  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 631

Building: CO. CARLOW, NEWSTOWN
Date: 1824-28
Nature: Remodelling and extension of existing house, with James Sands. For James(?). Eustace.
Refs: Mark Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume I, Ireland. (London, 1978), 225;  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 631-2(illus.).

Building: CO. KILKENNY, CASTLECOMER HOUSE
Date: 1825
Nature: TC paid about £2 for work on 'Lady Ormonde's house' (presumably Castlecomer House).
Refs: Prior-Wandesforde Papers in collection of Kilkenny Archives Ltd, St Keiran's Colleghe, Kilkenny, File 130 (information from John Kirwan, May 2011).

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, BRIDGE OVER RIVER BURREN
Date: 1826-27
Nature: Cast iron construction. (Replaced 1932).
Refs: Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 634.

Building: CO. CARLOW, TULLOW, COURT HOUSE
Date: 1828
Nature: TAC involved in work on Grand Jury Room.
Refs: Co. Carlow Grand Jury Presentments, Summer Assizes 1828 (information from Rev. Thomas McDonnell);  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 634.

Building: CO. DOWN, DOWNPATRICK, CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY TRINITY (CI)
Date: 1829
Nature: Completion of tower by 'Cobden and Sands' of London to design by William Farrell.
Refs: Clergy of Down and Dromore (Ulster Historical Foundation, 1996), Part 1, 102; J. Frederick Rankin, Down Cathedral (1997), 123;  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 627.

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, CHURCH OF ST MARY (CI)
Date: 1829-1830;1833
Nature: Reconstruction of church. Plans selected Jan 1829. Church reopened Dec 1830. Tower and spire added 1833; 'a modern structure, with a beauiful spire terminating at an elevation of 195 feet, having a massive gilt cross presented by the ladies of Carlow' (Lewis)
Refs:  RA 1835, no. 1009; Samuel Lewis, A Topographical dictionary of Ireland (1837), I, 262; P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 623-625(illus.);  exterior illus. in  Clergy of Cashel, Emly and Leighlin (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2012), 215;  exterior and interior illus. in  Claude Costegalde & Brian Walker, The Church of Ireland: an illustrated history (2013), 349.

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION (RC)
Date: 1829-1834
Nature: New Gothic cathedral for Bishop James Doyle. TAC succeeds Joseph Lynch as architect, 1829. FS laid 18 Mar 1828. Dedicated 1 Dec 1833. . Cost £18,000.
Refs: Specification, dated 11 Jun 1829, in Kildare & Leighlin Diocesan Archives (information from Rev. Thomas McDonnell); RA 1835, no. 915; J. Binns, Miseries and Beauties of Ireland (1837), 222-224; J.P. Lawson, Gazetteer of Ireland (1842), 201-2; P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  John McEvoy, ed., The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD (Strasbourg: Editions du Signe, 2000), 10-11(illus.);  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 617-623(illus.).

Building: CO. CARLOW, BALLYKEALY HOUSE
Date: 1830ca
Nature: Tudor Revival house, for John James Lecky
Refs: Mark Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume I, Ireland. (London, 1978), 23;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 632-633(illus.)

Building: CO. CARLOW, HACKETSTOWN, CHURCH (RC)
Date: 1836p
Nature: Addition of tower to church of 1803 for Rev. Patrick Morrin, PP.    Possibly attributable to Cobden on stylistic grounds (McDonnell).
Refs: John McEvoy, ed., The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD (Strasbourg: Editions du Signe, 2000), 38(illus.);  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 627.

Building: CO. WEXFORD, CARRIGADAGGAN (CARRIGBYRNE), BROWNE CLAYTON COLUMN
Date: 1839a
Nature: Corinthian column with internal stairs, modelled on 'Pompey's Pillar' at Alexandria, Egypt. For Gen. Robert Browne Clayton, to commemorate Sir Ralph Abercrombie's conquest of Egypt in 1801.
Refs: RA 1839, no. 1088; Civil Engineer & Architect's Journal 3 (May, 1840), 181(illus.); Con Costello, 'Pompey's Pillar in Wexford', BIGS 19 (Jan-Jun 1976), 1-9;  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 634-5;  close-up photographs of top of column before and after restoration in Building a Business: 150 Years of the Sisk Group, ed. by Madeleine Lyons (Dublin:  Associated Editions, 2009), 146.

Building: CO. LAOIS, PORTARLINGTON, CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL (RC)
Date: 1840a
Nature: New church, for Rev. Terence O'Connell.  Opened 1839?. Attributed to Thomas A. Cobden by O'Suibhne. Attribution supported by Rev. Thomas McDonnell on stylistic grounds and because Terence O'Connell had been administrator in Carlow parish while the cathedral was being built.

Refs: Catholic Directory (1840), 287;  note in Buildings of Ireland files, citing P.MacSuibhne, The Parish of Killeshin, Graiguecullen (1972);  John McEvoy, ed., The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD (Strasbourg: Editions du Signe, 2000), 76;  e-mail to editor  from Rev. Thomas O'Donnell, 20 Mar 2009.

Building: CO. LAOIS, PORTARLINGTON, CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL (RC)
Date: 1840a
Nature: New church, for Rev. Terence O'Connell.  Opened 1839?. Attributed to Thomas A. Cobden by O'Suibhne. Attribution supported by Rev. Thomas McDonnell on stylistic grounds and because Terence O'Connell had been administrator in Carlow parish while the cathedral was being built.

Refs: Catholic Directory (1840), 287;  note in Buildings of Ireland files, citing P.MacSuibhne, The Parish of Killeshin, Graiguecullen (1972);  John McEvoy, ed., The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD (Strasbourg: Editions du Signe, 2000), 76;  e-mail to editor  from Rev. Thomas O'Donnell, 20 Mar 2009.

Building: CO. WEXFORD, HORETOWN HOUSE
Date: 1841
Nature: Proposed alterations in the Tudor style for Jacob William Goff.
Refs: NLI AD 3456-58, 3390-95;  ;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 633.

Building: CO. CARLOW, BROWNE'S HILL
Date: 1842a
Nature: Alterations & additions for R. Clayton Browne
Refs: RHA 1842, no. 443

Building: CO. CARLOW, CARLOW, COLLEGE STREET, HOUSE
Date: ?
Nature: Built by Cobden for himself.
Refs: P.J. Brophy 'Braganza - its architect and first owner' in Carloviana Vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan 1949), 123;  Thomas McDonnell, 'Thomas A. Cobden, 1794-1842:  an architect in Co. Carlow', Carlow History and Society (Dublin, 2008), 614.