Owen Jones was the son of a prosperous Welsh furrier; educated at Charterhouse and then at the Royal Academy Schools, he was articled to Lewis Vulliamy from 1825-31. In 1833 he made a tour of the Middle East painting watercolour landscapes; the following year he visited Spain, a trip which resulted in the publication in 1842 (with Jules Goury) of Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra. He designed the internal decoration of the Vulliamy and Roumieu church, All Saints, Ennismore Gardens (c.1850), which is no longer an Anglican church. [Geoffrey Lang writes to inform readers of the Victorian Web that "it now is the very lively Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London, and is open for the public to see and enjoy much if not all of Jones's work."]
Jones was appointed Superintendent of the works for the Great Exhibition in 1851, and when the Crystal Palace was removed to Sydenham in 1854 he designed the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Alhambra Courts. In 1856 he published, with Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, the celebrated and monumental Grammar of Ornament, creating a nucleus of ornamental ideas that was to be used for almost half a century.
Jones is better known as an interior and pattern designer than as an architect. His advocacy of formal and stylised pattern as against the riotously naturalistic style favoured by contemporary taste, was to be widely influential, paving the way for the even more rigorously formalised ideas of Christopher Dresser. Jones' designs for fabrics for Benjamin Warner and wallpapers for John Trumble & Sons and Jeffrey & Co. exemplified and disseminated his design philosophy.
Towards the end of his life Jones designed interiors for wealthy patrons, among them the collector and connoisseur, Alfred Morrison at Fonthill and 16, Carlton House Terrace for which he did a scheme including the panelling, coffered ceilings and fireplaces, as well as furniture, carpets and wall-hangings; and for James Mason of Eynsham Hall, Oxfordshire. He also decorated the drawing room at The Priory, 21, North Bank, Regent's Park, for George Eliot, the novelist. [Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh]
Jones produced designs for textiles for Warner, Sillet & Ramm and for wallpapers for Jeffrey & Co., John Trumble and Townsend & Parker. He also designed mosaic floors, tiles, book jackets and playing cards. His interiors for Alfred Morrison at 16 Carlton House Terrace were exhibited and won gold medals at the International Exhibitions in Paris 1867 and Vienna 1873. [Arts & Crafts Textiles in Britain.]
Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh. Exhibition catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society with Haslam & Whiteway Ltd., 1981.
Arts & Crafts Textiles in Britain. Exhibition Catalogue. The Fine Art Society in Association with Francesca Galloway, nd.
“The Late Mr. Owen Jones.” Illustrated London News. 64 (9 May 1874): 445-46. Hathi Trust online version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. Web. 9 May 2021.
Last modified 29 October 2006
Portrait added 9 May 2021