Building contractor and entrepreneur, of Kilkenny. William Colles, second son of William Colles, of Kilcollen, Co. Kilkenny, was born on 30 August 1702. He was the originator and owner of the marble works at Millmount, Co. Kilkenny, and the inventor of machinery for sawing, boring and polishing marble, tasks which had previously been performed by hand. By 1734 he was selling marble chimneypieces and furniture from his Kilkenny marble warehouse in Batchelor's Lane, Dublin. He built and may have designed the Tholsel in Kilkenny, 1761; he is said also to have been the contractor for Woodstock and Bessborough, Co. Kilkenny, both designed by FRANCIS BINDON , and to have finished the monument to Lord Mountgarret in St Canice's Cathedral. During the later 1750s and 1760s he was engaged as a contractor on the Nore Navigation.
Colles was an alderman of Kilkenny Corporation, and also held the posts of treasurer in 1746 and 1752-53 and mayor in 1756.. On the outside wall of St Mary's CI Church, Kilkenny, which he is said to have remodelled, is a monunument erected by his son William with the following inscription: 'To the memory of Alderman William Colles whose steady attention to all religious and civic duties gained him the love of his fellow citizens and whose ingenuity procured him the admiration of strangers. By an uncommon genius he discovered and by unwearied application and patience [perfected?] the art of sawing boring and polishing marble by water mills, which by lowering the price of that valuable manufacture rendered it more extensive. His whole life was employed in works beneficial to Society. His manner was inoffensive and his conduct always upright. He died the 8th day of March 1770 in the 68th year of his age.'
William Colles married twice: by his second wife Rachel, daughter of Thomas Servant of Dublin, whom he married in 1743, he was the father of WILLIAM COLLES  , who carried on the family business. He was the uncle of CHRISTOPHER COLLES.
For an expanded account of William Colles's life, see Judith Hill, 'Davis Ducart & Christopher Colles: architects associated with the Custom House at Limerick', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 2 (1999), 119-145. See also the entry on Colles by C.J. Woods in Dictionary of Irish Biography, ed. by James McGuire and James Quinn, 9 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 2009), II, 665-6. For the Colles family, see J.H. Glascott & W.M. Colles, Pedigree of the family of Colles in Ireland (1886). An oil portrait of Colles by S. Whitmore is in the collection of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, Rothe House, Kilkenny. For the Kilkenny Marble Works, see Tony Hand, '"Doing Everything of Marble wch can be Done with it": some descriptive accounts of the Kilkenny Marble Works', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 11 (2008), 74-99, which reproduces in colour a portrait of Colles by S. Whitmore.in the Rothe House, Kilkenny.
Faulkner's Dublin Journal, 26-30 Nov 1734.
John Hogan, 'The Three Tholsels of Kilkenny', JRSAI 15 (1879-82), 236-252; the suggestion that Colles may have designed the Tholsel is made by Maurice Craig, The Architecture of Ireland (1982), 202.
Communication from J.G.A. Prim in JRSAI 4 (1856-7), 54; notes on William Colles are in the Prim MSS in NA/PRO (?MS2/469/10)(IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
Information from Kenneth Severens; see also V.T.H. & D.R. Delany, The Canals of the South of Ireland (1966), 140-141.
Note by J.G. Robertson in scrapbook in NLI, cited by Knight of Glin in his thesis on Irish Palladianism.
Transcript supplied by Mrs Margaret Phelan, Kilkenny.
Information from Kenneth Severens.