Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect, of Belfast. Benjamin Cowser was born in 1897 in Kilkeel, Co. Down, the eldest of the five children of Robert Cowser, headmaster of the Meeting School, Kilkeel; his mother was assistant teacher at the school. After attending the Meeting School, Cowser was sent to the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. He then entered Belfast Technical College with the idea of becoming an engineer but after a short time there decided to become an architect instead, much to his father's disapproval. He served his pupilage with THOMAS HOUSTON  THOMAS HOUSTON of Belfast. During his training he won the RSUA's Lanyon Memorial Competition for Measured Drawings in three successive years.(1) He passed the RIBA final examination in 1928(2) and became Houston's chief assistant. At about this time he also formed an informal working relationship with JOHN MACGEAGH JOHN MACGEAGH , with whom he collaborated in preparing entries for several architectural competitions. MacGeagh and Cowser entered the Portstewart Town Hall competition of 1933 separately; Cowser was awarded first prize, his future partner VAL SMYTH  VAL SMYTH second prize, and MacGeagh third prize. After this success, MacGeagh invited Cowser to join his firm, but instead Cowser decided to set up his own practice at 13 Donegall Square North, Belfast, early in 1934,(3) taking GORDON MCKNIGHT  GORDON MCKNIGHT as his first pupil. The following year he formed the partnership with Smyth, and took another pupil WILLIAM MCVEIGH.  WILLIAM MCVEIGH.

In 1939 Cowser joined the Army and was posted to France and Belgium as a major with the Royal Engineers. Involvement with ENSA allowed him to indulge the penchant for singing and entertaining which he had had since childhood. After the war he remained in France for a short time to work on the reinstatement of the stained glass windows in French cathedrals. He then set up a small architectural practice in Bayswater with H.A.? THOMERSON  THOMERSON as Thomerson & Cowser but returned to Belfast after Thomerson's death to rejoin Smyth in the partnership of SMYTH & SMYTH & amp; COWSER COWSER . He retired from practice in the mid 1960s and lived for a time in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, before moving in 1969 to Malta, where he remained until he suffered a stroke in 1978. His last years were spent in Rostrevor, Co. Down.

Cowser died in 1981 at the age of 84. He married while in his twenties but soon separated from his wife and lived the life of a convivial bachelor. Marie McHugh's dissertation gives a picture of a lively man with a sense of fun who enjoyed drinking and storytelling and found recreation in golf and amateur opera. In Malta he turned to painting; an exhibition of his work was held in Belfast in 1979.

RIBA: elected associate, 3 December 1928;(4) elected fellow, 9 December 1952, proposed by ROBERT HANNA GIBSON ROBERT HANNA GIBSON , JAMES REID YOUNG  JAMES REID YOUNG and REGINALD SHARMAN. WILSHERE. REGINALD SHARMAN. WILSHERE. (5)
RSUA: member of council, 1930-1931;(6) listed as member until 1949 but not in 1951-2 membership list.

Addresses: King's Court, Wellington Place, Belfast, 1930-34;(7) 13 Donegall Square North, Belfast, 1934; 42 Queensway, Bayswater, London, 1948-9;(8) 31 College Gardens, Belfast, 1952.(9)

See WORKS. See also COWSER & COWSER & amp; SMYTH. SMYTH.



References

All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from Marie A. McHugh, 'The Quiet Man: the life and works of Benjamin Cowser, a dissertation submitted to Queen's University of Belfast, Department of Architecture, 30 Apr 1990, for the Diploma in Advanced Architectural Studies. An obituary of Cowser is in RSUA Year Book (1981).

(1) IB 76, 24 Feb 1934, 138.
(2) RIBAJ 36 (1928-9), 130.
(3) See note 1, above.
(4) See note 2, above.
(5) RIBAJ 60 (1952-3), 32.
(6) JRSUA 1930-31.
(7) JRSUA 1930-31, 1933-34,, list of members.
(8) JRSUA 1948-9, list of members.
(9) See note 5, above.


23 work entries listed in chronological order for COWSER, BENJAMIN


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Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, GLANDORE GARDENS, HOUSES (014)
Date: 1923
Nature: For Hugh Turtts.
Refs: IB 65, 14 Jul 1923, 544

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, OLDPARK ROAD, SHOP
Date: 1923
Nature: Alterations, for Joseph Kennedy.
Refs: IB 65, 14 Jul 1923, 544

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, AILESBURY ROAD, HOUSES (020)
Date: 1924
Nature: -
Refs: IB 66, 31 May 1924, 489

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, GRASMERE GARDENS, HOUSE
Date: 1924
Nature: For Miss E.M. Pempraise
Refs: IB 65, 14 Jul 1923, 544

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, LISBURN ROAD, SHOPS, SHOWROOM & MOTOR WORKSHOP
Date: 1924
Nature: -
Refs: IB 66, 31 May 1924, 489

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, MALONE AVENUE, HOUSES (002)
Date: 1924
Nature: -
Refs: IB 66, 18 Oct 1924, 905; 67, 7 Feb 1925, 105

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, MALONE AVENUE, HOUSES (002)
Date: 1924
Nature: 2 new villas.
Refs: IB 66, 18 Oct 1924, 905; 67, 7 Feb 1925, 105

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, IRWIN AVENUE, HOUSES (002)
Date: 1925
Nature: -
Refs: IB 67, 21 Mar 1925, 229

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, BAKERY (CARSON)
Date: 1926
Nature: For Mssrs. M. & M. Carson. Plans approved by City Surveyor.
Refs: IB 68, 26 Jun 1926, 510

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, LISBURN ROAD, SHOP & STORES
Date: 1926
Nature: For Mr E. Smyth. Plans approved by City Surveyor.
Refs: IB 68, 25 Dec 1926, 956

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, DEVON PARADE, HOUSES (002)
Date: 1928
Nature: -
Refs: IB 70, 31 Mar 1928, 280

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, YOUNG'S ROW, PICTURE HOUSE
Date: 1928
Nature: Addition of shelter.
Refs: IB 70, 10 Nov 1928, 964

Building: CO. FERMANAGH, ENNISKILLEN, DUBLIN ROAD (& CASTLECOOLE ROAD), MASONIC HALL
Date: 1930-1932
Nature: Design of Cowser and John McGeagh awarded first prize.
Refs: Architect & Building News 124, 11,25 Jul 1930, 37,115(illus.); IB 72, 19 Jul,30 Aug,13 Sep 1930, 630,636,750,820; 74, 31, Dec 1932, 1158; UAHS Enniskillen, 37; Marie A. McHugh, 'The Quiet Man: the life and works of Benjamin Cowser, a dissertation submitted to Queen's University of Belfast, Department of Architecture, 30 Apr 1990, for the Diploma in Advanced Architectural Studies, 16-17, Figs. 1-8

Building: CO. DERRY, PORTSTEWART, TOWN HALL
Date: 1933
Nature: Winner of competition.
Refs: IB 75, 1 Jul,18 Nov 1933, 542(illus.),537,1000; 77, 18 May 1935, 400; 78, 22 Aug 1936, 732; UAHS Coleraine & Portstewar, 32(illus.),33; Marie A. McHugh, 'The Quiet Man: the life and works of Benjamin Cowser, a dissertation submitted to Queen's University of Belfast, Department of Architecture, 30 Apr 1990, for the Diploma in Advanced Architectural Studies, 18-20, Figs. 9-14,54

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ANTRIM ROAD (NEW STREET OFF), HOUSE
Date: 1934
Nature: -
Refs: IB 76, 30 Jun 1934, 557

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ANTRIM ROAD, HOUSE
Date: 1934
Nature: -
Refs: IB 76, 6 Oct,3 Nov 1934, 865,951 (refs. may be to 2 different houses)

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ANTRIM ROAD, HOUSE
Date: 1934
Nature: -
Refs: IB 76, 14 Jul 1934, 601

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ANTRIM ROAD, HOUSE
Date: 1934
Nature: -
Refs: IB 76, 16 Jun 1934, 517

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, FLORENCEVILLE AVENUE, HOUSE
Date: 1934
Nature: -
Refs: IB 76, 16 Jun,14 Jul 1934, 517,601

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, HUSS STREET, HALL, BAND ROOM, BILLIARD ROOM & STORES
Date: 1934
Nature: Conversion from factory
Refs: IB 76, 29 Dec 1934, 1132

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ANTRIM ROAD, HOUSE
Date: 1935
Nature: -
Refs: IB 77, 4 May 1935, 381

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, DONEGALL PARK AVENUE, GREENHOUSE
Date: 1935
Nature: -
Refs: IB 77, 26 Jan 1935, 73

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, DUNCAIRN GARDENS, BELFAST BANK
Date: 1959
Nature: Rebuilding
Refs: IB 100, 1 Nov 1958, 803