Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Land surveyor and engineer, of Dublin and Dusseldorf. William Thomas Mulvany was born in Sandymount, Dublin, on 11 March 1806, the eldest son of the painter Thomas John Mulvany and an elder brother of JOHN SKIPTON MULVANY JOHN SKIPTON MULVANY . He was educated at Dr Wall's school in Hume Street and entered Trinity College, Dublin, to study medicine. After less than a year he abandoned the idea of medicine as a career and became a pupil first of FRANCIS JOHNSTON  FRANCIS JOHNSTON in 1824 and then of JOHN SEMPLE[2] JOHN SEMPLE[2] . He was engaged as an assistant surveyor on the Ordnance Survey in 1826, and the following year joined the Boundary Survey as an assistant surveyor under RICHARD GRIFFITH RICHARD GRIFFITH . In 1835 he was appointed an assistant engineer on the Shannon Navigation, preparing surveys and plans for the lower and upper reaches of the river. When construction work began in 1839, he was appointed district engineer for the Lower Shannon.

Following the passing of the Arterial Drainage Act in 1842, Mulvany was appointed to the position of Commissioner for Drainage, at an annual salary of £400, and Commissioner for Fisheries, for which he received a further £200 per annum. In order to implement the act, he engaged a small group of engineers, who included the veteran canal builder JOHN MCMAHON  JOHN MCMAHON and the young SAMUEL USHER ROBERTS SAMUEL USHER ROBERTS . According to the terms of the Act, the cost of a drainage project was to be charged on the lands which benefited from it, the implementation of such a project requiring the previous assent of two-thirds of the proprietors of those lands. When public works were increased in response to the potato famine of 1845, Mulvany promoted the Summary Proceedings Act (1846), which allowed preliminary surveys for drainage projects to be undertaken more rapidly and reduced the proportion of assenting proprietors from two thirds to one half. With over 200 drainage schemes projected or undertaken between 1846 and 1851, landowners became increasingly indignant about the drainage charges which were levied on them. In 1852, at the instigation of Lord Rosse, a House of Lords Committee investigated their grievances, which were focussed on Mulvany himself. As a result of this inquiry, Mulvany was retired on a pension.

Only forty-six when he was removed from his post in Ireland, Mulvany then embarked on a new career in Germany. At the invitation of Michael Corr van der Maeren, an Irish entrepreneur resident in Brussels, he visited the Ruhr to investigate its coal prospects and decided to devote his energies to their exploitation. Together with Corr, Joseph, William and David Malcomson, James Perry, senior, and James Perry, junior, he established the Hibernia Mining Company at the village of Gelsenkirchen near Herne, Westphalia. He was later to open several more mines in the region, assisted by his youngest brother, THOMAS JOHN MULVANY THOMAS JOHN MULVANY . He settled in Düsseldorf with his family in 1855. Over the next thirty years he played a pioneering role in the development of the economic life of the Ruhr and became a prominent public figure in Düsseldorf, where he remained until his death in 1885 and where he was buried. Mulvany-strasse in Düsseldorf is named after him.(1)

Mulvany was married to Alicia Winslow (1800-1886), by whom he had a son, Thomas Robert, a mining engineer and British Consul-General in Düsseldorf,(2) and four daughters.

ICEI:(3) elected member, January 1845; reads various papers, 1845-51 (see BIBLIOGRAPHY BIBLIOGRAPHY ); member of council, 1845-1848; vice-president, 1849-1855
Geological Society of Ireland:(4) council member, 1846-48.
Royal Irish Academy:(5) elected member, 1841. Dublin Statistical Society:(6) council member, 1849-50

Addresses: Home: Dove House, Blackrock, 1844;(7) Dundrum Lodge, Dundrum 1847;(8) Wickham Lodge, Dundrum, 1853.(9)



All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from James C.I. Dooge, 'Manning and Mulvany: river improvement in 19th century Ireland', in G. Garbrecht, ed., Hydraulics and Hydraulic Resarch (Rotterdam/Boston, 1987), 173-183, and from notes made Professor Dooge for overhead projection at his lecture on Mulvany to the ICEI, 22 Oct 1996 (in Jones file W146). Professor Dooge also published an article on Mulvany, 'Hibernia im Ruhrgebiet: William Thomas Mulvany & the industrialisation of the Ruhr' in History Ireland 5 (Autumn 1997), 31-35.  The most extensive work on Mulvany is Olaf Schmidt-Rutsch, William Thomas Mulvany. Ein irischer Pragmatiker und Visionär im Ruhrgebiet (Köln: Stiftung Rheinish-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv zu Köln, 2003). See also Frederick O'Dwyer, 'The architecture of John Skipton Mulvany', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 3 (2000), 46-47.

(1) E. Brauer, 'William Thomas Mulvany', IB 101, 8 Aug 1959, 581,
(2) See note 1, above.
(3) Jones transcripts from Thom's directories.
(4) See note 3, above.
(5) See note 3, above.
(6) See note 3, above.
(7) Post Office Directory (1844).
(8) Pettigrew & Oulton's Directory (1847).
(9) Post Office Directory (1853).

Author Title Date Details
Bloemers, K. William Thomas Mulvany (1806-1885) 1992 Veroffentlichungen des Archivs fur Rheinisch-Westfalische Wirtschaftsgeschichte VII (Essen, 1992).
Brauer, E. 'William Thomas Mulvany, an Irishman who was 100 years ago a pioneer in German industry' 1959 IB 101, 8 Aug 1959, 579-581.
Dooge, James C.i. 'Manning and Mulvany: river improvement in 19th century Ireland' 1987 G. Garbrecht, ed., Hydraulics and Hydraulic Research. A Historical Review (Rotterdam, 1987), 173-183
Henderson, W.o. 'W.T. Mulvany: an Irish pioneer in the Ruhr' 1954 Britain and Industrial Europe, 1750-1870 (Liverpool, 1954), 179-193.
Mulvany, William Thomas 'On the drainage and improvement of Ballyteigue Lough' 1845 TICEI 1 (1844-45), 106-108.
Mulvany, William Thomas 'Observations on regulating weirs' 1845 TICEI 1 (1844-45), 83-93. (Paper read to ICEI, 25 Feb 1843.)
Mulvany, William Thomas 'On the Ballyteigue drainage works' 1849 TICEI 3 (1847-49), 92-94. (Paper read to ICEI, 14 Nov 1848.)
Mulvany, William Thomas 'An account of the proposed balance gates and regulating weirs for Lough Erne' 1849 TICEI 3 (1847-1849), 31-32. (Paper read to ICEI, 8 Feb 1848.)
Mulvany, William Thomas 'On facts concerned with the costs of blasting operations' 1851 TICEI 4, Pt II (1851), 104-117.
Ryan, John 'William Thomas Mulvany' 1923 Studies 12 (1923), 378-390.
Schmidt-rutsch, Olaf William Thomas Mulvany. Ein irischer Pragmatiker und Visionär im Ruhrgebiet 2003 Köln: Stiftung Rheinish-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv zu Köln, 2003