Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect and engineer, of Kilkenny and Limerick. Christopher Colles, born on 3 May 1739, was the son of Richard Colles of Skinner's Row, Dublin, and his wife Henrietta, née Taylor.(1) He was the nephew of WILLIAM COLLES  WILLIAM COLLES of Kilkenny, who effectively adopted him after Richard's death in 1749. He received his early education at the Quaker school at Ballitore, Co. Kildare. Bishop Richard Pococke, who, as Bishop of Ossory, was living in Kilkenny from 1756, also took an interest in his education and career. By 1761, on the bishop's recommendation, Colles was acting as pay clerk for the Nore Navigation, for which William Colles was a contractor. Generally more enterprising than commercially successful in his ventures, in May 1862 he advertised his services as as a surveyor in Pue's Occurrences; later the same year he attempted to set himself up as a manufacturer of launderer's blue. During this period in Kilkenny he was also involved in a stone-quarrying business. On 14 January 1764 he married Ann Keough of Kilkenny, and by the following year had moved to Limerick, where he was employed by DAVIS DUCART  DAVIS DUCART to superintend the erection of the Custom House, begun in June 1765 and completed in 1769. In Limerick he again bought an interest in a stone-quarry. He was also engaged in surveying and mapping the city and its suburbs for Hugh, Earl Percy, later 2nd Duke of Northumberland, who paid him fifty guineas for the completed map when he visited Limerick in August 1769.(2) In the same year he was appointed Director of the Inland Navigation of the Shannon; this post, which provided him with a house at Gillogue Lock, was terminated in 1770. In February 1771 he was working on plans for a new Bishop's Palace in Limerick and hoping to find other work locally as an architect. However the possibility of emigrating to America was already in his mind, and in the summer of 1771, with his wife and four children, he set sail from Cork for Philadelphia.

For Colles's career in America, where he made a name for himself as an engineer and inventor, see the Dictionary of American Biography and Deborah Epstein Popper, 'Poor Christopher Colles: an innovator's obstacles in early America', Journal of American Culture 2 (2005), 178-190. He died on 4 October 1816.


All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the account of Colles's life in Judith Hill, 'Davis Ducart & Christopher Colles: architects associated with the Custom House at Limerick', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 2 (1999), 119-145. A copy by James Frothingham of a portrait of Colles in the last years of his life by John Wesley Jarvis is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

(1) www.familysearch.org.
(2) For further information about this map see Judith Hill, The Building of Limerick (1991), 90,91,93,105,109,185n.

2 work entries listed in chronological order for COLLES, CHRISTOPHER

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Date: 1765-1769
Nature: Employed by Davis Ducart to superintend erection
Refs: Patrick Fitzgerald & John James McGregor, The history, topography, and antiquities, of the county and city of Limerick (Dublin, 1826-7), II, 589; Judith Hill, 'Davis Ducart & Christopher Colles: architects associated with the Custom House at Limerick', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 2 (1999), 119-145

Date: 1771
Nature: Plans, for 'new' bishop of Limerick. (Unexecuted)
Refs: Judith Hill, 'The Custom House: building in Ireland in the mid-eighteenth century', in Catalogue of the Hunt Museum, Limerick (1998)