Joseph Aloysius Hansom was born in York on 26 October 1803 of a Roman Catholic family. He was articled to his father as a joiner in York but having shown some ability in draughtsmanship was allowed to let his articles lapse with new ones taken out with ‘Mr Philips’, remaining as clerk of works. About 1825 he settled in Halifax and took a post as assistant to John Oates and there befriended Edward Welch, with whom he formed a partnership in 1828. He invented and patented the Hansom safety cab in 1834 but was bankrupted by the contract for Birmingham Town Hall in the same year, an event which may have contributed to his becoming a radical socialist. Welch then withdrew from the partnership, re-commencing practice in Liverpool in 1837.
In 1842 Hansom founded ‘The Builder’ and from 1847 to 1852 he practised in Preston, Lancashire, working briefly in association with Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin at the end of the latter’s life. After the practice moved to London he took his brother Charles Francis Hansom into partnership in 1854 but this was dissolved in 1859 when Charles established an independent practice in Bath with his son Edward Joseph Hansom as apprentice. In 1862 Joseph formed a partnership with Edward Welby Pugin which broke up acrimoniously in 1863, Joseph thereafter (1869) taking his son Joseph Stanislaus into partnership. Hansom retired on 31 December 1879 and died at 399 Fulham Road, London, on 29 June 1882.