Lynn, William Henry (1829–1915), architect and landscape painter, was born 27 December 1829 at St John's Point, Co. Down, elder of two sons of Lt Henry Lynn, RN, of the Irish Coast Guard Service, and Margaretta Lynn (née Ferres). He was educated at a private grammar school in Bannow, Co. Wexford. Apprenticed (1846) to Charles Lanyon (qv) in Belfast, he acted as clerk of works for the building of QCB (1847–9) and for the Antrim county courthouse, Crumlin Road, Belfast (1850). After Lynn's promotion to junior partner (1854), the practice became known as Lanyon & Lynn, and subsequently Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon in 1860 when Lanyon's son, John, joined the firm. The partnership was highly successful, and a branch office was opened (1860) in Dublin at 64 Upper Sackville (O' Connell) St.
One of the greatest Irish architects of his century, a master of the large and intricate plan, he designed many churches, mansions, and commercial buildings in various styles throughout Ireland and overseas. Inspired by medieval architecture, his early works include the Belfast (later Northern) Banks at Newtownards, Co. Down (1854) and at Dungannon, Co. Tyrone (1855), both designed in Ruskinian Venetian style. He excelled in ecclesiastical design and was the first Irish architect to incorporate Lombardic details into his work, as in the Sinclair Seamen's Presbyterian Church, Belfast (1856–7); he designed many churches in English Gothic as in St Andrew's, St Andrew's St., Dublin (1860–66) and Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church, Belfast (1874–5). Stimulated by his work in the restoration of St Doulagh's, Balgriffin, Co. Dublin (1863–4), he designed St Patrick's church at Jordanstown, Co. Antrim (1865–8); complete with round tower, it was the first attempt to revive ancient Irish architecture. His domestic architecture included the baronial style mansions Glaslough House, Co. Monaghan (1860s–1872), and Belfast Castle, Cavehill, Co. Antrim (1865–70). The Lanyon–Lynn partnership ended in 1872 and was followed by a court case, initiated by Lynn in 1874 against Lanyon, concerning the terms of the dissolution of the partnership.
From 1872 Lynn practised independently, maintained a large practice, and concentrated on public buildings. In 1875 he was invited to Canada by the viceroy, Lord Dufferin (qv), to advise on public works. He restored the fortifications of Quebec city and built two turreted gates and the 200 ft (61 m) promenade known as the Dufferin Terrace; his design for the Chateau of St Louis (c.1875), the viceregal summer residence, was never executed. He was successful in an unusually large number of architectural competitions in Ireland, England, and overseas, which gave Irish architecture a greater prestige than it had enjoyed previously. His first competition success was the Londonderry Memorial Tower, Scrabo Hill, Co. Down (1858), followed by English town halls, in Chester (1863–9) in Gothic style, and Barrow-in-Furness (1877–87) in classical style.
Important work in Belfast included the palatial linen warehouse, a masterpiece in Italian Gothic for Richardson Sons & Owden (later Marks & Spencer), Donegall Square (1869), to which Oscar Wilde (qv) referred when he said: ‘in Belfast they had, at any rate, one beautiful building’ (Brett, 54); and in Tudor style, Campbell College (1891–4). Innovative and responsive to new developments, he designed a steel-framed department store in classical style known as the Bank Buildings, Castle Place (1900), and in an anonymous competition in 1910 he defeated fifty-seven applicants to win the contract for extensions to QUB, which were completed in 1915 shortly before his death. Having worked (1896–1910) with Thomas Drew (qv) as consulting architect for St Anne's cathedral, Belfast, he was appointed architect on Drew's death (1910), and designed the Byzantine baptistry.
One of the finest architectural draughtsmen of his day, and a talented landscape watercolourist, he was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition (1867) for his architectural drawing of the New South Wales houses of parliament in Sydney; the design, though selected in competition (1861), was never executed. He won a bronze medal at the Sydney International Exhibition (1879) and first prize for architectural design at the Melbourne International Exhibition (1881). Exhibiting mainly architectural designs at the RHA (1865–96), he was elected associate (1865) and member (1872), and became an honorary member of the Dublin Sketching Club (1888). Elected fellow (1885) and president (1886–8) of the RIAI, he was awarded its gold medal in 1912. He was elected FRIBA (1865), member of the RSAI (1870), and member of the board of managers when the Government School of Art in Belfast opened in 1870.
A scholarly, modest, and retiring bachelor, unknown outside his profession, Lynn died 12 September 1915 at his home, Ardavon, 250 Antrim Road, Belfast, and was buried at the Belfast city cemetery under a monument of his own design, beside his mother and his brother, sculptor Samuel Ferres Lynn (qv). His estate was valued at £68,681; the Irish Builder (15 January 1916) commented: ‘This large fortune must constitute a record among Irish architects’. His bequests included £ 5,000 for the completion of St Anne's cathedral, Belfast, where a commemorative window was erected in 1917; in 1916 a commemorative tablet had been set up in the library of QUB. His niece Ellen M. Cooper presented thirteen of his drawings to the Ulster Museum (1916) and a scrapbook of drawings and photographs to the RIBA (1917). An exhibition of his drawings and the works of his brother was held in Belfast Central Free Library (1916), and an exhibition of his watercolours and building perspectives in the Ulster Museum (1978).