Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

County surveyor for Cos. Offaly, Mayo, Waterford and Wicklow. Henry Brett, son of John Brett, was born at Carrowreagh, near Tobercurry, Co. Sligo, and, according to his obituary in the Irish Builder, 'was early employed in land improvements, under the Waste Land Reclamation Company on the borders of Mayo and Sligo'. He also worked on the Ordnance Survey as a civil assistant. On 9 December 1834 he was appointed county surveyor for Co. Offaly. Sixteen months later, on 11 April 1836, he was transferred to Co. Mayo.(1) He held the Mayo post for over thirteen years; towards the end of this period he was responsible for the famine relief works programme in the county, which he felt was both extravagant and demoralizing.

On 8 October 1849, Brett was appointed surveyor for Waterford city and county in succession to HENRY OWEN  HENRY OWEN at a salary of £500 per annum.(2) Nearly four years later, on 15 July 1853, he was transferred to Co. Wicklow. He was one of a deputation of seven county surveyors who presented a memorial to the Lord Lieutenant in 1860, requesting that the select committee's recommendation that county surveyors' pay should be increased be brought before the legislature.(3) As county surveyor for Co. Wicklow during the 1860s, he was extremely critical of the waterworks which were being constructed by Dublin Corporation in the county. In November 1871 he had an accident, 'whilst in the discharge of his duties…he was standing up on an outside car, preparing his wraps for a lengthened drive over the roads, when the horse, just taken out fresh from the Wooden-bridge Hotel stables, started suddenly, which caused Mr Brett to be flung violently to the ground over a pile of road metalling.'(4) This does not appear to have caused any lasting damage to his health, however. He was surveyor to Bray Township. When he resigned the post in 1876, he was replaced by JOHN CORBETT JOHN CORBETT , but he was reappointed after Corbett's resignation on grounds of ill-health the following year.(5)

Brett assisted Sir RICHARD GRIFFITH  RICHARD GRIFFITH in his valuation of Ireland. He was also engaged in railway work for many years. He carried out surveys for railway lines in Connaught under Sir JOHN MCNEILL  JOHN MCNEILL in 1843-4, and made the first plans for the Irish West Coast railway; he was acting engineer to the Athenry & Tuam Railway Co., 1863-1872, engineer to the Midland Counties & Shannon Junction Railway Co., 1863-1871, and engineer to the Dublin, Rathmines, Rathgar & Rathfarnham railway, 1868-1874. In 1863 to 1864 he was also engineer for the Dublin to Baltinglass railway scheme, 'which had to be abandoned, entailing heavy pecuniary loss to himself'. From 1868-71 he was architect and surveyor to the National Building and Land Investment Company of Ireland.

Brett died on 13 May 1882 at his house, Rosemount, Booterstown, Co. Dublin, and was buried in Deansgrange cemetery.(6) According to his obituarist in the Irish Builder he had been 'an incessant and laborious worker, and retained to the last all the energy of his earlier years. Well-informed upon nearly every subject, he possessed a remarkable memory for incidents, which, added to his generous and kindly nature, made his society most attractive and agreeable, and gained him a host of friends.' He was survived by his widow, Mary (d.1894) and at least six children,(7) including HENRY CHARLES BRETT  HENRY CHARLES BRETT and JOHN HENRY BRETT JOHN HENRY BRETT , who were partners in his busy private practice known as HENRY BRETT & HENRY BRETT & amp; SON(S) during the 1870s and 1880s.

ICEI: founder member, 1835;(8)  council member, 1845.
AAI: committee member, 1875.

Addresses: Work: 8 Harrington Street, 1858-1874; 49 Dame Street, 1874-1882.
Home: Rosemount, Booterstown, Co. Dublin, from 1874 or earlier until death.

See WORKS and BIBLIOGRAPHY. BIBLIOGRAPHY.



References

The fullest account of Brett's life and particularly of his career as a county surveyor is in Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 110-115, which is the principal source of information for this entry Other information is taken from the obituary of Brett in IB 25, 15 Feb 1883, 64, also published in the Appendix to TICEI 14 (1884), and from Post Office, Pettigrew & Oulton's and Thom's directories.

(1) His report on the Barony of Erris is quoted in Board of Works 6th Report, 1838, 6.
(2) Ballina Chronicle, 10 Oct 1849.
(3) DB 2, 1 Feb 1860, 205 .
(4) IB 13, 1 Dec 1871, 316.
(5) IB 13, 1 Dec 1871, 316.
(6) Irish Times, 15 May 1882.
(7) Inscription on headstone at Deansgrange cemetery (B.O'D.).
(8) Photocopy of transcript of minutes of first meeting of Engineers' Society of Ireland, 6 Aug 1835, in IAA, Jones File F73.


17 work entries listed in chronological order for BRETT, HENRY


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Building: CO. WICKLOW, BRAY, BRIDGE OVER RIVER DARGLE
Date: 181855-56
Nature: Replacement bridge. FS laid by Sir George Hodson, 24 Jul 1855; completed 1856.  Carved inscription on bridge reads: Bray Bridge/David Edge/Builder 1856. Overseer of works: John Ellis.
Refs: Leinster Express, 28 Jul 1855 (Information from Rob Goodbody, Old Connaught, Co. Dublin, May 2017, who also supplied text of inscription on bridge);  W. Garner, Bray Architectural Heritage (An Foras Forbatha, 1980), 18;  Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112.

Building: CO. MAYO, SWINFORD, COURT HOUSE
Date: 1838ca
Nature: Plans prepared by HB
Refs: NA/SPO CSORP 1838/108/14

Building: CO. MAYO, BELMULLET, COURT HOUSE
Date: 1838ca
Nature: Plans prepared by HB
Refs: NA/SPO CSORP 1838/108/14 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc.2008/44)

Building: CO. MAYO, BELMULLET (NEAR), ROAD
Date: 1839
Nature: Road from Ballygowen to Caurane, Co. Mayo, on Belmullet to Ballina route.
Refs: Drawing(s) in NA, OPW Engineering & Architectural Drawings - Roads and Bridges collection, OPW5HC/6/0091

Building: CO. MAYO, BALLINA, COURT HOUSE
Date: 1840s
Nature: HB 'may…have been responsible for the design of the courthouses built at Balla and Ballina in the early 1840s'.
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112.

Building: CO. MAYO, BALLA, COURT HOUSE
Date: 1843a
Nature: HB 'may…have been responsible for the design of the courthouses built at Balla and Ballina in the early 1840s'. (Datestone of 1843 on Balla court house.)
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112.

Building: CO. WICKLOW, WICKLOW, HARBOUR
Date: 1855-57;1869
Nature: New 460 ft. pier, dredging of river and repair of quay walls, 1855-56.  Contractor: Killen (£8,500).  HB replaced as engineer by James Barton in Jun 1857 after which disputes with Harbour Commissioners over work arose. Killen brought action against Commissioners and was awarded damages and costs in May 1858.  
Refs: B 16, 1 May 1858, 298-9; IB 11, 15 May 1869, 114; Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112,113

Building: CO. WICKLOW, GLEN OF IMAAL, SESKIN BRIDGE
Date: 1856
Nature: New 3-arch bridge over River Slaney.
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112

Building: CO. WICKLOW, BRAY, ESPLANADE
Date: 1861
Nature: Works at same.
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 113

Building: CO. WICKLOW, WICKLOW, STONE BRIDGE
Date: 1862-63
Nature: Widening of existing 7-arch bridge.
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112

Building: CO. WICKLOW, ARKLOW, HARBOUR
Date: 1864a
Nature: Works at same to prevent harbour being blocked by sand.
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 113

Building: CO. WICKLOW, ENNISKERRY, BRIDGE
Date: 1865
Nature: New single-span bridge with 'handsome balustrade' over river Dargle 'in course of erection', Sep 1865.  Paid for by Grand Jury and Lord Powerscourt.
Refs: DB 7, 15 Sep 1865, 228; Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112

Building: CO. WICKLOW, ENNISKERRY, HOTEL (PROPOSED)
Date: 1865
Nature: New hotel proposed. to be paid for by Lord Powerscourt.
Refs: DB 7, 15 Sep 1865, 228.

Building: CO. WICKLOW, BRAY, WATER SUPPLY, DRAINAGE AND SEWERAGE
Date: 1865-1869
Nature: New scheme, costing £10,000
Refs: DB 7, 15 Aug 1865, 201; 8, 1 Nov 1866, 268; Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 113

Building: CO. WICKLOW, WICKLOW, COURT HOUSE
Date: 1866
Nature: Alts. & improvements, 1866.
Refs: Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 113

Building: CO. WICKLOW, AVOCA, BRIDGE OVER AVOCA RIVER
Date: 1869
Nature: New bridge consisting of 3 semi-elliptical arches of 45 ft each. Built of hammered Aughrim granite. Cost: £3000. (Replaced earlier bridge destroyed in floods of 1867.)
Refs: IB 9, 1 Dec 1867, 316; 11, 1 Jun,1 Sep 1869, 135,206; Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 112

Building: CO. WICKLOW, WICKLOW, STONE BRIDGE
Date: 1869
Nature: £2000 granted at Co. Wicklow Grand Jury presentment session, May 1869, for construction of drawbridge on existing stone bridge, deepening of river bed, and building quay walls under direction of HB. (Not executed?)
Refs: IB 11, 15 May 1869, 114.

Author Title Date Details
Brett, Henry The Reclamation of the waste lands of Ireland, considered in connexion with the present crisis 1881 Dublin: M. & S. Eaton, 1881.