DEATH OF COOKSON STEPHENSON FLOYD, ESQ.
The mournful duty is imposed on us of recording this week the death of the gentleman whose name is placed at the head of this notice : a gentleman who, while living, was held in high esteem by a large circle of friends, and whose loss will be extensively felt and deplored, now that the "grim king of terrors" has claimed him as a subject for the grave.
The name of Mr. Floyd in this connection, imposing on us the duty of ascertaining and stating who he was, and from whom descended, calls up to memory the names and career of several other legal worthies, who, in our own district, had to bear in their day a not unimportant part in the drama of active and useful life.
Cookson Stephenson Floyd was the grandson and inherited the name of that ancient worthy, Cookson Stephenson, of Holmfirth. Mr. Stephenson served his clerkship with Mr. North, of Feuay, who was then one of the only three legal practitioners of the district — Mr. Battye, of Crosland Hill, and Mr. Crosland, of Deadmanstone, being the other two. Huddersfield at that time did not contain a single man of note in the profession.
The father of the subject of our notice was the Rev. Aaron Floyd, Wesleyan Minister for the lengthened period of 32 years. The rev. gentleman married a daughter of Mr. STEPHENSON ; and the fruits of that marriage were a son — the one whose demise we are recording — and three or four daughters.
Mr. Floyd’s father, after a most energetic and useful life, died at Bradford, in May, 1836. He was interred in the burial-ground attached to the Wesleyan Chapel, at Holmfirth; the same vault, or walled grave, receiving about five years ago the body of his widow, Mr. C.S. Floyd’s mother, who died at Horbury. The following inscription, borne on a marble tablet in the chapel, is an account, in brief, of the life and career of the rev. gentleman, and is well worthy of a place in this memoir, if only as an example of that affection which was ever manifest in the son whose death is now lamented. The encomiums thus embalmed in sweet memory are not equal to the deservings of the rev. gentleman, as we are informed by parties who know the facts:—
Mr. C.S. Floyd, was at an early age destined for the legal profession. He received general instruction as a student under Dr. Richardson, of York, now at the St. Peter’s or Collegiate School of that city. So well was the pupil satisfied with the tutor, and with his kind but effectual manner of imparting learning, that when he had sons himself requiring tuition, he placed them under the care of that gentleman. When his own course of education was completed, he was articled to his two uncles, William and Samuel Stephenson, who had succeeded to the business of their father, and who were well-known as worthy bearers of the family name.
During his clerkship, Mr. Floyd displayed early indications of that professional skill and ready tact which afterwards distinguished his career. His attainments were of a character which would have qualified him to take a first-rate stand in the higher walks of the profession. His friends have often regretted that his "lot in life" was not so cast. It is a fact not generally known, that to qualify himself for the gown and coif was at one time Mr. Floyd’s own intention ; and his name was entered on the rolls of the Middle Temple for that purpose. An early marriage, and the necessity thus imposed on him to make the readiest use of his talents and the position he occupied, prevented the accomplishment of his other intention. This was unfortunate both for Mr. Floyd and his family; for had he gone to the Bar, with his talent, with the start which that position would have given him, and with the discipline which his own mind would have received in that walk of life, there is hardly any position in the profession to which he might not have aspired, and won. Quick, clear-sighted, rich in anecdote, of affluent imagination, ready at repartee, with a wonderful power of concentration, so as at times to annihilate an opponent by a single sentence, clear, forcible, and energetic in statement and argument, possessing a fine, ringing, melodious voice, and with the rare quality of being able to identify himself, as it were, with his cause, and of convincing his hearers that he felt what he said, he was an excellent advocate ; and if his powers had been disciplined and drawn out, as they would have been at the Bar, where advocacy would have been his life’s work, and not drudgery at the desk, eminence for him would have been certain. It is not to be wondered at, that with powers of this character, his advocacy in our local courts was much sought after by suitors. Many a memorable battle has he there waged! — and many a conflict has he had with brethren in the profession, and at times even with the constituted authority of the court before which he was pleading. Occasionally he was charged with not paying sufficient deference to that authority ; but if ever be did not, it was his zeal to serve his client, or his honest indignation at a decision which he conceived to be against the weight of evidence, or a stretch of judicial power, that impelled him to mark his sense of what he felt to be wrong.
Soon after the establishment of the new Poor Law in this district, by the formation of 32 townships into "the Huddersfield Union," Mr. Floyd was appointed to the office of Clerk to the Guardians and Superintendent Registrar. It is well known that the establishment of this law was extremely distasteful to the district, and that its introduction was not accomplished without riot, confusion, and much ill-will. The appointment of Clerk did not follow immediately on the formation of the Board of Guardians; for the avowed policy of the first Board, and of many other members of succeeding Boards was to defeat, not to execute, the law. With this view, they resisted the appointment of a Clerk, and resorted to several manoeuvres for the accomplishment of that purpose. The first Board meeting, after the formation of the Union and the election of the Guardians, was held on the 15th of February, 1837; and it was not till the 29th of January, 1838, that a Clerk was elected. The election then of Mr. Floyd was only by eight out of 31 Guardians present. In the interim between the two dates we have given, five meetings of the Board were held ; at two of which resolutions were passed "that no Clerk be appointed;" at other two resolutions of adjournment for lengthened periods, one for two months and one for four months. At another meeting, held specially, under special order from the Poor-law Commissioners, to "proceed to the election of a Clerk," 32 guardians wore present; and when the chairman and vice-chairman had taken their seats, the whole of the rest left the room, and no business could be transacted. At length the meeting of January 29th, 1838, was held, under the order of the General Board, to "proceed to the election of a Clerk." At that meeting both Mr. Hesp and Mr. Floyd were proposed for the office! an opposing motion being moved for "no appointment," which the chairman refused to receive. When the two gentlemen were put to the vote, six of those present voted for Mr. Hesp and eight for Mr. Floyd, the remainder of the 31 present voting either for "no appointment," or refraining from voting at all. The chairman, therefore, declared Mr. Floyd to be elected. At a subsequent meeting, on February 22, 1838, the chairman announced that the Poor-law Commissioners had confirmed Mr. Floyd’s appointment; and he was thereupon fairly installed in office. The troubles of the Board, however, did not here cease. The majority finding that their tactics had not been successful, attempted to undo what bad been thus accomplished, and to appoint another Clerk. The meetings of the Board itself became scenes of riot and confusion. Still more serious disturbances and conflicts ensued upon the determination of the Board to obtain possession of the Huddersfield Workhouse. A detachment of the London police had to be sent into the district to protect the Guardians when they met, and a number of parties were indicted at York for riot. In the latter case, though a verdict of "guilty" was recorded, no sentence was passed — the defendants being only bound in recognizances to appear to receive judgment when called on. Throughout the whole of these trying times Mr. Floyd conducted the business of the Board with admirable skill, and with unflagging courage. By the energy and indomitable fearlessness of his character, the working of the Poor-law was effectually carried out; and its present peaceful course is in happy contrast with its boisterous inauguration.
In addition to his office as Clerk to the Board of Guardians and Superintendent Registrar under the Registration Act, Mr. Floyd held the appointments of Solicitor to the Woollen and Worsted Association, and to the Licensed Victuallers’ Association; was Clerk to the Trustees of several Turnpike Trusts; had been for a large number of years Vice-president of the Yorkshire Law Association ; was, until very recently, President of the Holmfirth Choral Society; and it was principally through his exertions that the Holmfirth Alms Houses were erected, to commemorate the gratitude of the district for the munificence of the public in subscribing to cover the loss sustained by the disastrous bursting of the Bilberry reservoir.
By the members of his own profession, Mr. Floyd was highly esteemed as an honourable and liberal practitioner; and since death has, in little more than twelve months, taken away Fenton, Barker, Clay, and now Floyd from the front rank of the profession, may those who are in the rear step forward, and supply the places of those "who rest from their labours." Mr. Floyd had long been joined to the Society of Free Masons, and stood high in office. He was always, if not the mover, the hearty supporter, of every humane scheme which adorn the character of the brotherhood.
Nor was his generous heart unmoved, or the tear of pity withheld, at the cry of distress wherever raised. In his own neighbourhood his loss will be extensively and severely felt. He was there foremost in every good work, and his ready hand was never held back when aid was required. In what he did in promotion of public objects, he was thoroughly disinterested. Scorning meanness in others, he was above intrigue and cabal for himself.
On his appointment to the Clerkship of the Union, he came to reside in Huddersfield, where he remained till 1811, when, on his succession to the old business at Holmfirth, at the death of the last of his uncles, the late Mr. William Stephenson, he went to reside in the "old family house" at Sands, where he remained till the day of his death.
That death was peculiarly mournful and striking. On Thursday three weeks his muchloved daughter was married to one who also bears "the old family" name. The occasion was one of rare joy to the gratified father. The exhuberance of spirit exhibited by him, the feeling and eloquent addresses he made in reply to the toasts of his health, and the unmistakeable manifestations of happiness apparent throughout the day, will not soon be forgotten by those who saw and heard. Alas, how soon the scene was to change! On the day after the marriage he complained of being unwell, whilst he was in Huddersfield. In a short time he was really ill with his old complaint, the gout. And on this occasion it was unusually severe. Medical aid was called in ; but all effort availed not. Inflammation of the liver supervened, with typhoid symptoms ; and in spite of all that medical skill could effect, on Monday morning, about half-past ten, at the age of 48, he breathed his last breath on earth.
The deceased has left a widow and eight children to lament their loss, and struggle with the world in the battle of life. To those who hold in affectionate remembrance and esteem the worth and virtues of the lamented father, the bereaved are committed, for sympathy and succour in their affliction:
At the solicitation of friends, made through the Chief-constable of the graveship of Holme, permission was given by the late Mr. Floyd’s family for the funeral to be a public one. This was known in Holmfirth on Tuesday, but in Huddersfield and other places not till Wednesday afternoon.
Brief as was the notice given, the attendance proved how highly the deceased gentleman was esteemed, and how deeply his loss was regretted throughout the whole district. Not only was every township in the union represented, but gentlemen came from Halifax, Dewsbury, Wakefield, and more distant places, to pay the last mark of respect to one whose life had been well known to them, and whose character, ability, and eloquence, had gained for him the esteem of all, and shall be long honoured with grateful memory.
The members of the Board of Guardians, — of which board Mr. Floyd had from the period named above been Clerk, — had decided to attend the funeral ; and members from the various lodges of Freemasons in the district, also attended, — the deceased having long been a distinguished member of that body, and having filled various important offices. The time fixed for the formation of the procession was eleven o’clock, and as the train from Huddersfield by which friends from a distance came, only arrived at Holmfirth at ten minutes to eleven, but short time was allowed. The Town-hall was the appointed place of meeting. The Guardians and Freemasons formed in order at the Victoria Hotel, before proceeding to the Town-hall. At the latter place were assembled the employes of Mr. Floyd and his partner ; ministers of the Church of England and other denominations ; the members of the Holmfirth Choral Society — of which Mr. Floyd was the principal founder—and men of all shades of religious and political opinion — demonstrating by their presence how general and wide-spread was the sorrow at the irreparable loss which had been sustained.
The day, though at times threatening — the heavens occasionally being beclouded and the sun obscured — at this time cleared, but the heat of the sun’s rays was to some extent assuaged by a breeze which swept through the valley, sighing through the trees as it went along, and appearing to mourn, and sing its requiem over the departed. The bellringers at the Holmfirth Church rang a muffled peal, and the melancholy music added to the gloom which overshadowed every countenance.
Under the direction of Mr. Superintendent Heaton, and Inspector Haworth, of Holmfirth, the procession, numbering some 300 gentlemen, was formed two abreast, and walked to Sands House, the late residence of the deceased. The procession, which extended from Sands House to the wood beyond Bridge Mill, then divided, and fell into single file on each side of the road, until the funeral cortege was ready for moving to the place of sepulture. As soon as all the preparations were completed, the single ranks of the procession closed up, and moved towards the Wesleyan Chapel in the following order :—
On arriving at the chapel the procession halted, and again separated into two files, one on each side of the path leading to the chapel, and along the road as far as it extended, allowing the funeral cortege to pass through. On the arrival of the hearse at the chapel gates, the body was taken out and carried into the chapel, preceded by the Rev. Mr. Badger, who read portions of the Church of England burial service. The body was followed by the deceased’s family, Ministers, Magistrates, Employes, Freemasons, Guardians, &c., until the whole of the procession had entered and taken seats.
The Rev. Mr. Badger, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Fern, then read another portion of the impressive burial service. A hymn was next sung, "Come let us join our friends above".
Whilst the body was being removed from the chapel to its last resting place the "The Dead March" in "Saul" was played upon the organ. When all were grouped around the vault, the words were uttered by the officiating minister — "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord." The body was then lowered into the vault, where rest the remains of the parents and two children of the deceased.
The remainder of the service for the dead was then read, and the mournful words once more uttered, as they have been uttered, alas, how many thousand times, falling, as they did now, like thunderbolts on cherished hopes and loving hearts — "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
At the close of the service at the grave, the procession reformed, and accompanied the bereaved family back to Sands House — a house changed how soon from one of mirth and rejoicing to sorrowing and death. Three weeks only had elapsed since the deceased gentleman was rejoicing over the marriage of his daughter ; and now that daughter had wept at the grave of her father!