William Francis Caldbeck

c1820 – 1872

Dower Obituary Account Book


William Caldbeck was born in the early 1820s into a family living at Moyle Park Clondalkin near Dublin. There are very few records about him but he was a pupil of Dublin architect William Deane Butler (who designed Shaen House near Emo c1810) and began work in Dublin in the early 1840s. He has been described as “another typical run of the mill architect who designed local banks and commercial premises in mid-century Ireland” (K Theodore Hoppen, The Mid-Victorian Generation 1846 – 1886).


This might not seem too promising, but fortunately William Caldbeck’s Account Book for the years between 1844 and 1860 has been preserved in the Irish Architectural Archive, and so more is known about him than would otherwise be the case. Caldbeck designed attractive Dublin suburban houses (for example, in Leinster Road), and commercial premises, courthouses and churches throughout Ireland. The Account Book tells us that in his late thirties Caldbeck was earning almost £1000 per year, the equivalent of a successful doctor or lawyer of the time. Commercial clients were to form the basis of his architectural practice.


His steadiest income was to come from the National Bank, for whom he designed bank houses and banks in many Irish towns. The first of these was in 1853 at Kells Co Meath, for the plans of which he received £70. In 1857 he designed the Roman Catholic church at Clondalkin, built in a Gothic revival style on land donated by his own family. In 1862-3, both the Town Hall and the National Bank (now the Bank of Ireland) in Mountmellick were designed by Caldbeck.

Caldbeck did not have many noble clients but another local commission in which he was involved was at the demesne church of Ballyfin, Co Laois. In 1857 Sir Charles Coote, the owner of Ballyfin House, paid Caldbeck £30 for the enlargement of the church and the balance of £30 the following year. Ten miles


away, the 3rd Earl of Portarlington was starting to complete the building of Emo Court. In 1857 Caldbeck received £30 from the Earl, and £40 in 1859. In 1860 he was commissioned by the Earl to finish the double height rotunda, the drawing room and the library.



Rotunda Emo Court


Caldbeck is also credited with the service wing of the house, and other small commissions on the estate such as gardeners’ cottages and gate lodges.


Around 1867, Caldbeck was employed by Lord Greville to rebuild the Market House in Mullingar Co Westmeath. In Dublin he also had a hand in designing the original facades of Brown Thomas’s in Grafton Street and Clery’s in O’Connell Street.


Market House Mullingar


William Caldbeck died in March 1872 (leaving his wife and children well provided for, wrote the Irish Builder) and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. On his gravestone it is stated that he was only 48 when he died: experts consider that he was more probably in his early fifties.

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The Dower House or Bachelors’ Quarters



The building known variously as the Dower House or Bachelors’ Quarters was built by the architect William Caldbeck in the mid-late 19th century. It was commissioned by the third Earl of Portarlington, who also employed Caldbeck to finish the rotunda, drawing room and library.


It was originally connected to the main house by a long semi-circular passageway known as the Serpentine Corridor. In the year 1900, it contained 11 bedrooms, an office, a billiards room, a ‘flower room’, and two rooms used for storing lumber. The billiards room contained a billiards table, two card-tables and a gramophone and was decorated with carved ivory mirrors. The flower room contained many flower-stands, prints and pictures, along with cases of stuffed birds. Some of the bedrooms were used for servants; the valet’s room was located here, for example, as was the bedroom of the retired housemaid, Anne Conway.


In his diary, Viscount Carlow recalls that the bachelors’ quarters and billiards room were seldom used in the last ten years of family occupancy at Emo. During the time of the Jesuits at St Mary’s Emo, the eminent photographer Fr Browne had a room here. Today, the building houses the tea rooms and has been beautifully restored.




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William Francis Caldbeck FRIAI


Obituary, The Irish Builder 15 April 1872




It is with the deepest feelings of regret that we have to record the sudden death of the above respected and valued member of the architectural profession, which took place at his town residence 24 Harcourt Street on Friday night, the 29th ult.



Mr Caldbeck was long and favourably known to the public as an eminent and skilful architect, and enjoyed an extensive practice throughout Ireland, where many of his works bear testimony of his taste and judgement. His kind and genial manner to all with whom he came in contact, together with his high sense of honour, endeared him to and made him respected by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance, or entrusted him with their business. Mr Caldbeck was a pupil of the late eminent architect, Mr W Deane Butler, and succeeded him in many of his important works.



There is one consolation to his many friends, that he has left his family – whom he dearly and affectionately loved – perfectly independent, but they nevertheless mourn his loss with the most heartfelt regret, and feel that time alone and a kind Providence can sustain them in the grief they feel for being deprived of a fond husband and a devoted father.
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The Account Book of William Caldbeck, Architect


Irish Architectural Archive (95/150)


William Caldbeck’s personal account book for the years 1844 – 1860 records a professional income which rose from £41-13-0 in 1844 to £1300-10-4 in 1859.  Unfortunately, the handwriting is not easily legible and the entries are not as logical as one would wish; however, the following are the entries relevant to Emo Court.

1855 June 30th To attendance at Emo with Mr Pigott agent to survey of house and inspecting sites for gate and gardeners lodges and examining cottage house (?) building £3-9-0
July 18th Plans for alteration of house and tracings of same (?) £5-5-0
July 18th To plans for gate and gardeners lodges (?) and tracing of same per request of Mr Pigott £9-9-0
August 7th To attendance on Lady Portarlington to confer about plans of lodge (?) and alteration of house per Mr Pigott's request and conferring with Mr P about lodge (?) and Police Barracks now building, fitting shoots for same, all day £3-3-0
1856 October Special visit (?) Mr Pigott's letter to see about finish of top of house £3-3-0
1857 July 30th From Lord Portarlington per Mr Pigott esq ... (illegible) ... plans £30-0-0
October Cash advanced Mr Pigott £3-0-0
1858 June 17th From Lord Portarlington per Mr Pigott esq a bill at ... (illegible) .. for travelling expenses £30-0-0
1859 November 7th
From the Right Honbl Lord Portarlington on account of fees for works at Emo Park


William Caldbeck’s Account Book (courtesy Irish Architectural Archive)

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