Job Hirst (c.1815-1872)


He was born in the Kirkheaton area, the son of mason Joshua "Red Jos" Hirst and his wife Ellen, and was baptised on 24 December 1815 at St. John's, Kirkheaton.

Between 1846 and 1850, Hirst was the master mason for the construction of Lockwood Viaduct on the Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway.

He married Mary Pickard of Armitage Bridge, daughter of wool comber William Pickard, on 25 December 1847 at All Hallows, Almondbury. The couple had five known children:

  • Charles Henry Hirst (c.1850-?)[1]
  • Walter Pickard Hirst (1851-1930)[2]
  • Joshua Hudson Hirst (1854-1934)[3]
  • William Broadbent Hirst (1861-1951)[4]
  • Nancy Ellen Hirst (c.1866-1957)[5]

By 1851, the family was residing near Mill Croft, South Crosland, and Job was working as a farmer. In November 1851, he was fined for non-payment of wages to Job Howard.[6]

At the time of the 1861 Census, they were living at Horsham, Sussex, and Job was recorded as a "stonelayer & mason employing 18 men". He was presumably contracted to work on the Steyning Line which connected Horsham to Brighton.[7]

Hirst's final role was as a sub-contractor on the Ribblehead Viaduct (also known as the Batty Moss Viaduct). The 1871 Census recorded him as a "railway subcontractor employing 52 men" residing in a temporary hut at Batty Wife Hole, Ingleton, with his family. His sons Charles and Joshua likely also worked on the viaduct and were recorded as "railway labourer" and "carpenter" respectively.

His death was reported as follows in the Lancaster Guardian (14/Dec/1872):[8]

Sudden Death of Mr. Job Hirst. — The late Mr. Hirst was sub-contractor for Batty Moss Viaduct, the aqueduct, and all the bridges and mason work as far as the entrance to Blea Moor Tunnel. He employed 150 men at the viaduct and 28 at the aqueduct. He was a man who stood high with his workmen, and he was highly respected by all the men on the Blea Moor works, and at Batty Green. His unvarying cheerfulness, good temper, and kindly behaviour to all men secured him general respect. When the news spread on Saturday morning, that Job Hirst was dead, the people far and near were seized with painful surprise, and many mourned as for the loss of as true a friend as ever breathed. By his men he was looked upon more as a father than a master, and as a navvy quaintly expressed it "He was respected by natives and foreigners." A general gloom spread over the people, for his sudden death was considered a calamity far beyond the circle of his own family. The Saturday previous to his death, he treated at Batty Green all his workpeople and his friends with a dinner, in honour of his son Walter attaining his majority. Mr. Hirst left home on the 4th inst. for Carnforth, where he had a contract for building several cottages under the superintendence of his son, Charles Hirst. On Friday 6th inst., he returned by train due at Ingleton station at 6 29 p.m. On his arrival at home, he complained of being rather unwell, but there was nothing apparently in his case to cause alarm to his wife and family. About five a.m. on Saturday, he awoke, got up, and drank a glass of water, and lay down again. As he spoke Mrs Hirst did not apprehend any danger. Shortly after, feeling that he was cold, and as he spoke not when he was spoken to, Mrs. Hirst called some of her family, when it was discovered that their kind bread-winner had without a struggle or groan succumbed to death. Dr. Griffith, who was the first medical man on the spot, pronounced the cause of death to be heart disease. The funeral of Mr. Hirst took place at the Chapel-le-Dale, at 11 a.m., on Wednesday the 11th inst., when about 130 persons were in attendance, in addition to two mourning coaches and six other vehicles. The first carriage contained Mr. Ashwell; second, Dr. Hatton and Mrs. Price; third, Mr Holland; fourth, Mrs Overman; fifth, Mrs Beck; sixth, Mr Garlick. All the shops at Batty Green were closed, and the blinds of every window drawn down. Great was the sorrow of the mourners, and long will they remember the kindly deeds of their departed friend.

A public subscription raised funds for a tombstone which contains the following inscription:[9]

Sacred to the memory of Job Hurst who died December 7 1872 aged 57 years deeply lamented by his beloved wife and family he was sub-contractor for Batty Moss viaduct on the Settle Carlisle Railway this tomb was erected to his memory by his employees and friends as a mark of respect and esteem.

The following notice was published in the Lancaster Gazette (19/Jul/1873):


Pursuant to an Act of Parliament of 22nd and 23rd Victoria, chapter 35, intituled "An Act to further amend the Law of Property and to relieve Trustees."

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, That all Creditors and other persons having any Debts, Claims, or Demands against the Estate of JOB HIRST, late of Batty Green, in the Township of Ingleton, in the County of York, Contractor, deceased (who died on the 7th day of December, 1872, Letters of Administration to whose Estate were granted to his son Charles Henry Hirst, of Batty Green aforesaid, by the District Registry attached to Her Majesty's Court of Probate, at Wakefield, on the First day of April last), are hereby required to send the particulars of their debts, claims, and demands to the said Administrator, on or before the Twelfth day of August next, after which day the Administrator will proceed to distribute the assets of the said deceased among the parties entitled thereto, having regard to those debts, claims, and demands only of which he shall then had had notice.

AND NOTICE IS HEREBY FURTHER GIVEN that the said Administrator will not be answerable or liable for the assets so distributed, or any part thereof, to any persons of whose debt, claim, or demand, he shall not have had notice at the time of such distribution.

Dated this Seventeenth da of July, 1873.
Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmoreland,
Solicitors for the said Administrator.

In more recent years, it has been suggested that Job Hirst died as a direct result of injuries sustained during a robbery on the previous day, but this does not tally with the contemporary reports of his death.[10] It may be that the robbery occurred some days or weeks prior to his death and the family believed that it weakened him, ultimately leading to his death.

By 1881, widow Mary had moved to Chantrey Road, Norton, Derbyshire.

In September 1932, his son William Broadbent Hirst wrote to the Yorkshire Post:[11]


My father, Job Hirst, son of Joshua ("Red Jos" of Kirkheaton), was master mason at the building of Lockwood Viaduct, and, about the year 1848, an oil painting, kit-cat size, was done of him by one Paul Stancliffe. My father then built high masonry viaducts in India and in other parts, and the family got out of touch with Yorkshire.

I still possess the portrait and would like to know something of the painter of it. Mr. Peter Cardno, who has recently published a most excellent book on the Huddersfield painters, tells me that he does not know Stancliffe as one of them. The Rev. J. S. Stancliffe, vicar of Holmesfield, informs me that he heard casually of the sale of a religious picture by one Stancliffe some few years ago, but has no details.

I should be extremely obliged if you, or one of your readers, could give me some particulars of Stancliffe, and of any paintings by him.

Yours, etc.,

5, Templeton Place, S.W.5, Sept. 16

Notes and References

  1. Born Berry Brow.
  2. Born South Crosland. Married Mary Jane Moody.
  3. Born Monmouthshire, Wales. Worked as a joiner and builder (1891 Census). Died 22 April 1934 at 78 Clarkehouse Road, Sheffield. Buried Norton Cemetery, Sheffield.
  4. Born Trimpington, Cambridgeshire. Died 5 April 1951 in Monmouthshire.
  5. Born St. Pancras, Middlesex.
  6. "Huddersfield Police Court" in Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Nov/1851).
  7. Wikipedia: Steyning Line.
  8. Transcription from Settle Carlisle Railway Conservation Area website.
  9. Settle Carlisle Railway Conservation Area - Memorials to SCR Construction Workers at St Leonards' Church, Chapel-le-Dale.
  10. For example, "Settle-Carlisle line: The fascinating fate of Ribblehead Viaduct builder Job Hirst" in Craven Herald & Pioneer (11/Apr/2019). Some of the details in the article are incorrect, e.g. Gwenllian Davies Hirst (1892-1976) was Job's granddaughter, she died a spinster and she seemingly lived her entire life in the UK.
  11. "Correspondence" in Yorkshire Post (19/Sep/1932).