Engineer, contractor and architect, for whom see Howard Colvin, A Biographical dictionary of British architects 1600-1840 (4th edn., 2008), 623. George Knowles, who was a son of John Knowles (1741-1814), mason, of Bowling (Bradford, Yorkshire) was born in Yorkshire in about 1776, and was baptised at Bradford on 28 April 1776. He was working in Ireland during the first and second decades of the nineteenth century. He was connected both as a designer and contractor with the building of the Royal Canal. Designs by him for Mullingar Harbour and for the Sheriff Street bridge over the Canal (1808) are in the collection of Thomas Pakenham, Tullynally, Co. Westmeath, and another anonymous design in the same collection for locks on the canal in Co. Westmeath mentions 'Contract by Mr Knowles' in its reference key. Knowles designed and built Lucan Bridge (1814) and was the contractor for Richmond Bridge (1812-16) and Whitworth Bridge (1816-17).
In 1816 and 1817 he was described as 'late of Bradford and now of Dublin, excavator and builder', but by 1819 he was 'late of Dublin but now of Ripon'.
George Knowles married, at York, 20 February 1821, Anne, daughter of Samuel Wormald, who was Lord Mayor of York in 1809. By about 1821 Knowles was living at at Lucan House, Sharow, Yorkshire. He designed and supervised the execution of St John's Church, Sharow (1825). In about 1836 he moved to Wood End, The Crescent, Scarborough, a new house which he may have built himself. Also in 1836 he was appointed one of the four magistrates for the borough of Scarborough. During his years in Scarborough he was involved in the management and development of the spa and made plans for the Spa Gardens. He died in Scarborough on 23 June 1856 at the age of eighty and was buried at Sharow. A monument to him in the church shows a relief of a broken bridge below the inscription. His much younger widow, Ann, who was born in York probably circa 1794, survived him and is recorded in the English census for 1861 as living on in Wood End with a housekeeper, two housemaids and a butler to attend to her.
His 1837-46 correspondence with his nephew, George Knowles (1814-95), architect, of Shipley, is held by West Yorkshire Archives at Bradford.
Information about Knowles's later years in Yorkshire is from Dr & Mrs Paul Bayliss, 2 Cooks Gardens, Scalby, Scarborough, YO 13 0SU unless otherwise attributed. Information about his father, baptism, marriage, magistracy and correspondence with his nephew, is from Paul Hitchings, by email, October 2018; information regarding his location in 1816-1819, from deeds held by the East Riding of Yorkshire Archives under references DDTB/113, 116 and 119, also courtesy of Paul Hitchings, by email November 2018.
According to the English census of 1841 both he and his wife, Ann, were born in Yorkshire.
He is said to have been 80 at the time of his death, though his age is given as only 60 in the English census of 1841.
He is not mentioned, however, in V.T.H. & D.R. Delany, The Canals of the South of Ireland (1966), R. Delany, A Celebration of 250 Years of Ireland's Inland Waterways (1988) or Peter Clarke, The Royal Canal: the Complete Story (1992).
M.B. Mullins, 'Address of M.B. Mullins, Esq. AM, President, being an historical sketch of engineering in Ireland', TICEI 6 (1859-61), 39; Peter O'Keefe & Tom Simington, Irish Stone Bridges (1991), 272,272(illus.); R.C. Cox & M.H. Gould, Civil Engineering Heritage: Ireland (1998), 40(illus.).
J.W. De Courcy, The Liffey in Dublin (1996), 217-18.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, the West Riding (revised edition, 1979), 445.