Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect, of Dublin. John Leeson's origins are unknown; he may possibly have been the son of James Leeson, whose carpenter's work at Colonel Brown's cottage, Glenageary, was measured by Bryan Bolger in 1806.(1) As a student at the Dublin Society's School of Drawing in Architecture, John Leeson won one of the two first-class premiums awarded by the School on 22 July 1813.(2) He was clerk of works at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin from August 1819 or earlier until 26 June 1822, when building work was halted.(3) He later 'mapped out the principal lines' of the church of St Nicholas of Myra, Francis Street, begun in 1829.(4)    He may be the 'Mr J. Leeson' who was GEORGE WILKINSON' GEORGE WILKINSON' s most highly paid assistant in 1843-44 duriing the workhouse building campaign and who left at the end of March 1844, though continuing to to give 'partial assistance until the completion of the building accounts'.(5) 

Leeson was one of many architects abused by 'Nicholson Numskull' in his satirical Essay on the Rise and Progress of Architectural Taste in Dublin (1832): 'Without one ray of genius - not a spark, L-s-n comes next - a chapel building clerk; So dull and stupid - could you once suspect This brainless oaf to be an architect.'(6) In a footnote 'Nicholson Numskull' refers to the rebuilding of the Townsend Street Roman Catholic Chapel. Leeson was the architect originally chosen by the parish priest, Matthias Kelly, to design the new church, but, after building had already begun, Kelly's successor, Dr Blake, decided to change the site and to give the commission for the church (now known as St Andrew's, Westland Row) to JAMES BOLGER. JAMES BOLGER. (7)

Leeson probably died in 1855. His name appears in Thom's directories until 1855 at 25 Clare Street, premises which he shared with a Mrs. Leeson, court milliner and dressmaker. By 1857 only his son, Arthur Edmund Leeson, was living at this address.(8) John Leeson is referred to as 'the late - Leeson' in the Dublin entry in the second volume of The Architectural Publication Society's Dictionary published in 1856.(9)

Addresses: 25 Clare Street, <=1839->=1855.



(1) Bolger MSS, NA/PRO 1A/58/124.
(2) MS. transcript from Royal Dublin Society minutes of School of Architectural Drawing admissions and prizewinners (in IAA).
(3) Clonliffe College Archives, Pro-Cathedral Box, account book 1810-25 and minute book (26 Aug 1819, 1 Sep 1819,31 Jan 1821).
(4) N. Donnelly, Short histories of Dublin Parishes, II, 69-71.
(5) 10th Annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners (1844). 
(6) p.10.
(7) See Freeman's Journal 3, 7,9,14 Feb, 12,13 Mar, 9 Apr, 1 May 1832, and E. McParland, 'The Papers of Bryan Bolger, Measurer', Dublin Historical Record 25 (Sep 1972), 128. 
(8) Arthur Edmund Leeson, who was born in 1831, studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, and subsquently emigrated to Buenos Aires, where he married Alice Fraser from Bayonne in 1863. A daughter, Alice Constance was baptised in St John's Anglican Church, Buenos Aires, the following year and a second daughter, Mary, in 1865. (see Alumni Dublinenses, supplement, 70, and Buenos Aires marriage declarations and register of baptisms at St John's Church, Buenos Aires, on ).
(9) APSD II, D, 75.

3 work entries listed in chronological order for LEESON, JOHN

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Date: 1819-1822
Nature: JL clerk of works from 20 Aug 1819 to 26 Jun 1833 when building works suspended.
Refs: Clonliffe College Archive, Pro-Cathedral Box, Account Book (or Minute Book?) 1810-1825

Date: 1829-1834
Nature: New church for Rev. Matthew Flanagan. JL 'mapped out the principal lines, the finishing touches were Dr Flanagan's' (Donnelly). Church dedicated 8 Nov 1841.
Refs: Cork Examiner, 10 Nov 1841; N. Donnelly, Short histories of Dublin Parishes, II, 69-71; M. Craig, Dublin 1660-1860 (1st ed., 1952), 293; Rosalind M. Elmes, Catalogue of Irish topographical Prints and Original Drawings (revised ed., 1975), no. 680 TB;  Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland: Dublin (2005), 631-3,pL.60..

Date: 1831
Nature: First church, for Fr. Matthias Kelly, designed by JL; site moved 1832 when church was half built and James Bolger employed instead.
Refs: Freeman's Journal, ? Feb 1832 (E.McP); E. McParland, 'The Papers of Bryan Bolger, Measurer', Dublin Historical Record 25 (Sep 1972), 128;  Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland: Dublin (2005), 451.