- Birth date 1831
- Marriage 6 July 1858 to Margaret Roberts at Great Homer Street Chapel, Liverpool.
- Death date 24 December 1891 at his residence, Rhianva, Anfield Road, Liverpool
- Burial Anfield Cemetery
Richard Owens was born in 1831 at Plas Bell, Y Ffôr, (Four Crosses) a small village north-east of Pwllheli, on the Llŷn Peninsula in Caernarvonshire, and was the eldest son of Griffith Owens, (1801-1889) a carpenter and builder, and Catherine his wife. After a short period of elementary education, he was apprenticed to his father and learned the trade of joiner and carpenter. Like so many of his north Welsh compatriots in 1851 he gravitated to Liverpool. At the time the city was, in effect, the economic capital of North Wales with many Welsh-owned building firms and may opportunities for advancement. Here Richard Owens found work as a clerk and later as foreman to John Jones, a builder, in Everton. John Jones later emigrated to the USA and Owens entered the office of Williams and Jones, Castle Street, Liverpool, surveyors and estate agents, where he learnt the principles of architecture and surveying. At this period of his life he also attended night schools and classes at the Institute of Engineering, and according to his obituary “spared no effort to fit himself for the better position he was determined to win.”
Richard Owens is generally understood to have established independent practice in 1862, at the age of thirty, although little is known of his activities in the first two years of operation. The earliest pieces of correspondence indicate that the practice was established at 14, Everton Village, amidst the Welsh community of Everton, and close to many of the housing developments with which Richard Owens was later to be associated. The office existed at this location for almost two and a half years until it was relocated to 2 Breck Road, Everton, in the winter of 1866.where it remained for about fifteen years. In 1882 the practice next moved into part of Westminster Chambers, Dale Street. This city-centre block comprising offices, shops and warehousing had been designed by Richard Owens for the firm of David Roberts, Son and Company, and had been completed in 1881. Westminster Chambers was to become the established home of the business for the next eighty-eight years, until the practice of Richard Owens and Son was taken over by H. A. Noel Woodall, architect, in January 1969.
Richard Owens was one of the most prolific chapel architects in Wales and the favoured late-19th century architect of the Calvinistic Methodists: the only one of the Nonconformist denominations that is indigenous to Wales and without equivalent in England. He designed some 250-300 chapels, mostly in north Wales. Thirty-five were built in the 1860s, twenty-five of which were for the Calvinistic Methodist denomination of which he was a member. He designed no less than 165 chapels in the 1870s, of which 90 were for the Calvinistic Methodists and another 38 are recorded for the 1880s when his reputation was fully established. His first design was for the Welsh Calvinist congregation in his home village of Y Ffôr in 1861-62. By 1864 his first major commission, the Welsh Presbyterian Chapel in (Fitz-) Clarence Street, Everton, was under construction.
It was while working on the design of Capel Mynydd Seion, Abergele in 1867 that he first met David Roberts of David Roberts and Company, Liverpool. In collaboration with David Roberts, Owens was responsible for building over 10,000 terraced houses in the city of Liverpool, particularly those in the Toxteth area known as The Welsh Streets as many of the streets were named after Welsh towns and villages. Ringo Starr was born in one of the Welsh Streets, 9 Madryn Street and attended school on Pengwern Street. On the 13th July 1978 H A Noel Woodall deposited an extensive collection of documentation which had survived from the earliest days of the practice, in the Merseyside Record Office. The sequence of correspondence contained therein shows the extent to which Richard Owens contributed to the expansion of Liverpool and its suburbs during this early period, during which large tracts of land were developed for workers housing by the Welsh ex-patriot community.
On 6 July 1858 he married Margaret Roberts, daughter of Hugh Roberts, Llanfairfechan, at Great Homer Street Chapel, Liverpool. They had one son, Hugh, who trained as an architect and who was taken into partnership by his father in 1882, together with five daughters - Catherine, Anne, Jane, Elizabeth and Margaret Owen. Hugh, Catherine, Anne and Jane never married. Elizabeth married Dr W. Vaughan Roberts of Ffestiniog in 1890; Margaret married Archibald MacFarlane Stewart in 1904 and was living in Alresford, Hampshire in 1911.
Richard Owens died on 24 December 1891 at his home, 'Rhianfa', Anfield Road, Liverpool from gallstones, and was interred at Anfield Cemetery. His practice was continued by his son, Hugh Owen.
1864-1866 14, Everton Village, Everton, Liverpool
1866-1882 Breck Street
1882-1910 Westminster Chambers, Dale Street, Liverpool
1871 65 Aubrey Street, Liverpool
1891 'Rhianfa', Anfield Road, Liverpool
Obituary Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald 1 January 1892 page 6
Reference The Welsh Builder on Merseyside: Annals and Lives. Liverpool: J R Jones. 1946, pages 97-98
Reference www.welsh chapels.org
Reference Capel: The Chapels Society Newsletter No 38 Autumn 2001 page 4-9
Reference Dr Gareth Carr: The Welsh Builder in Liverpool
Buildings and Designs
|Owens, Richard and Son