What did Thomas Ellis Owen do?
'...commenced his course by being actually employed in a carpenter's shop for a most respectable and extensive builder expressly with a view of obtaining a practical acquaintance with his business…' Jacob Owen referring to Thomas in a letter to His Majesty's Church Commissioners in 1826
Jacob Owen designed All Saint's Church but Thomas acted as Clerk of Works
Thomas’s career began early and his capacity for hard work was evident from the beginning. At the age of 21 he was Clerk of Works on the site of All Saint's Church, designed by his father, in Commercial Road, Portsmouth. During that time he was also working for Robert Cruickshank, designing the villas and crescent that made Alverstoke (in Gosport) the ‘favourite resort for those who appreciate the union of the most delightful marine and rural scenery’. Most of Thomas’s work was centred around Portsmouth and Hampshire, apart from a few churches, parsonages and schools in other parts of the country. His main legacy, however, can be found in the villas, terraces and curvy lanes bedecked with foliage that are still apparent in modern Southsea.
'Before this gentleman employed his fortune and energies in the advancement of the future town, the “village”, as it was called, was hardly even worthy of that minor appellation. A lonely farmhouse, a single row of small cottages and anomalous shops, and a few detached dwellings were all that existed, prior to the erection of Portland Terrace….' The Observer
Over the years Thomas became involved with other ventures and each of these had the potential to benefit his architectural career. They included building speculation, lease-holding, brick-making, carpentry, land surveying, banking and the provision of gas and water supplies.
Thomas also played a part in local politics and was a member of the Reformed Corporation. He had been an active agitator for its reform and, in November 1843, was elected to represent St Thomas and St Paul's Wards. He became an Alderman in 1850 and was made Mayor in 1847 and again, just before his death, in 1862. During those years he served as a Magistrate, campaigned to bring the Public Health Act to Portsmouth (albeit unsuccessfully) and worked on many committees, for example the Board of Guardians for St Mary’s Workhouse.