These letters graciously have been shared with the Victorian Web by Eunice and Ron Shanahan; they have been taken from their website. The letters give an insight into the daily lives and concerns of 'ordinary' people without whom history would not exist. The letters are a wonderful example of how much history may be gleaned from such sources.

Owen Jones also joined Hay's party, an architect-decorator of great significance in Victorian decorative art who spent some time in the 1830s touring in Egypt, Constantinople and Spain, producing many drawings and water-colours of great charm. His Egyptian experience led to his appointment as joint decorator for the ornamentation of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham in 1852 where Bonomi joined him in the design and decoration of the Egyptian court.


Sarah Searight, The British in the Middle East (London, Elton Press, 1979), pp. 204, 238-41.

Owen Jones, Grammar of Ornament (London, Day and Son, 1856). It has now been published on CD-ROM and is spoken of as one of the most sought after and influential works on ornamental design ever published. "Hailed as the "Masterpiece of all Chromolithographic books," it was produced on 600 hand-etched stone plates, and took 5 people over a year to complete. It contains over 2,300 beautiful patterns from cultures and epochs throughout history, including Oceana, Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Pompeii, Rome, Arabia, the Moors, Persia, India, Hindoo, China, the Renaissance, Italy, and the Celts. For over 100 years it was used at Universities from Oxford to Stanford to teach art, ornamental design, and mathematical principles.

Taken from Sir Lesley Stephen & Sir Sidney Lee (eds.), Dictionary of National Biography: from the earliest times to 1900 (London, Oxford University Press, 1949).

Added by Marjie Bloy, Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore

Owen Jones, an architect and ornamental designer, was born in Thames Street, London on 15 February 1809. He was the only son of Owen Jones the Welsh antiquary. He was sent to the Charterhouse, and afterwards to a private school. At sixteen he became the pupil of L. Vulliamy the architect, and worked with him diligently for six years, studying at the same time at the Royal Academy. ‘He became a good draftsman, but did not master the figure.’

In the autumn of 1830 he went abroad, and visited Paris, Milan, Venice, and Rome. In 1833 he set out for the East, and saw parts of Greece, Alexandria, Cairo, Thebes, and Constantinople. During this eastern journey he was deeply impressed by Arabic form and ornament, and his future work as a designer was thereby greatly influenced. In 1834 he went to Granada, and made numerous drawings of the Alhambra, revisiting the palace in 1837. In 1836 he published the first part of his Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Details of the Alhambra (London, 2 vols. fol. 1842-5; another edit. 1847-8). To produce this work (which was not completed till 1845) Jones spared no pains, and sold a Welsh property left him by his father. The work contains 101 coloured plates, chiefly from drawings by himself. Financially, this fine publication was not successful.

In 1851 he was appointed superintendent of the works of the Great Exhibition, and took an active part in decorating and arranging the building. In 1852 he was made joint director of the decoration of the Crystal Palace, and specially designed for it the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Alhambra courts. He wrote the description of The Alhambra Court (London, 1854) and published An Apology for the Colouring of the Greek Court (London, 1854). In company with Digby Wyatt he visited the continent, and selected and procured casts of works of art for the Crystal Palace. In his later years Jones was much employed in the decoration of private houses. He decorated the palace of the Viceroy of Egypt, and was the architect of St. James's Hall, London. He was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy of various architectural designs: in 1831, the ‘Town Hall, Birmingham;’ in 1840, ‘St. George's Hall, Liverpool;’ in 1845, ‘Mansions in the Queen's Road, Kensington,’ and designs for shop decoration. He received in 1857 the gold medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (a society of which he was afterwards vice-president); in 1867, the medal of the Paris Exhibition; in 1873, that of the Vienna Exhibition. He died on 19 April 1874 at his house where he had long resided, in Argyll Place, Regent Street, London. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

Jones's forte was interior decoration. He insisted strongly on the decorative importance of colour, declaring that ‘form without colour is like a body without a soul.’ He had much fertility of invention, and by his example and by the publication of his Grammar of Ornament and other writings exercised a considerable influence on the designs of English wall-papers, carpets, and furniture.

Last modified 10 December 2002