Charles Lanyon

The renowned and gifted architect designed and built many of Belfast’s landmarks.

Charles Lanyon was born in Sussex in 1813. As a young man, he was apprenticed to Jacob Owen of the Dublin Board of Public Works, married Owen’s daughter, and was appointed County Surveyor for Kildare. In 1835, at his own request, he transferred to the surveyorship of Antrim, holding the post until 1860.
In 1843, along with engineer John Frazer, Lanyon built the new Queen’s bridge across the river Lagan. Two years later, Lanyon made his name as an architect with his adaptation of the 1775 Assembly Rooms building in Waring Street. He then went on to design and build the Crumlin Road gaol (1846) and courthouse (1850), the Tudor revival main building at Queen’s College (1849, now the Queen’s University), and the nearby Presbyterian college (1853). In 1857 Lanyon designed ‘Belfast’s finest public building,’ the Italianate Custom House in Queen’s Square.
Relying increasingly on his pupil and partner, WH Lynn, and on his son John, Lanyon involved himself in the public life of the city. He became Mayor of Belfast in 1862, and was Conservative MP for the city between 1866 and 1868. In 1868 he was also knighted.
Sir Charles Lanyon died in 1889.
Further Reading
Buildings of Belfast 1700-1914 (1985), by CEB Brett.
Consult the Linen Hall Library catalogue