Joe Perkin (1809-1868)

Joe Perkin — sometimes misnamed as "Perkins" — was a musician and conductor, arguably best known for his arrangement "Pratty Flowers", otherwise known as "The Holmfirth Anthem."


Joe Perkin (centre)

He was born in Honley in 1809, possibly on 17 January, to clothier Eli Perkin and his wife Ann (likely née Fieldsend).

His obituary article indicated that he was the leader and conductor of a choral society in Holmfirth in the mid-1830s, before being engaged as the choir master at St. James, Meltham Mills. A former pupil apparently recommended Perkin for a vacancy in the Carlisle Cathedral choir, which he reportedly joined for 2 or 3 years, before returning to Meltham — described as lame and eccentric, it was also claimed Perkins was atheist and this led to his dismissal from the choir.

According to Philip Charlesworth's research (published in the Old West Riding journal), claims by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner that Perkin left to join the Carlisle Cathedral choir in 1847 are incorrect. Instead, it 1845 and he resigned a year later to return to Meltham. According to some reports, Perkin was an atheist who views "so shocked the clerical mind at Carlisle that he had to vacate his appointment".[1]

The Leeds Mercury (26/Dec/1846) reported on the return of "Mr. Parkin" to Meltham Mills where he replaced the recently deceased choir master at St. James and took up his old job at Brook family mills. To celebrate his return, "a sumptuous dinner" was given at the Rose and Crown Inn. Following the food, Perkin played violin, accompanied by Mr. Littlewood on the flute and Mr. Woodhead on the bass, and "delighted the company also with several beautiful musical compositions."

He married 36-year-old widow Eliza Bottomley (née Wood), daughter of cloth dresser William Wood, at All Hallows, Almondbury on 16 May 1847.[2]

The two Census returns found for Perkin give almost no indication of his career as a singer, musician, arranger and conductor — except for naming his first son Mendelssohn — and seem somewhat at odds with biographical details published in newspapers after his death:

  • 1851 — A 43-year-old pauper living at Cliff, Wooldale, Holmfirth, with his wife Eliza ("pauper wool piecer") and their three children: John Bottomley (9-year-old stepson working as a "woollen piecer")[3], Mendelssohn Perkin (aged 3)[4] and William Wood Perkin (2)[5]
  • 1861 — A 53-year-old wool sorter living at Cliff, Wooldale, Holmfirth, with his wife Eliza ("birler", i.e. someone who examines cloth for irregularities) and three children: Mendelssohn Perkin (13-year-old "wool piecer"), William W. Perkin (12-year old "wool piecer") and 5-year-old Joe Perkin ("scholar")[6].

After returning to live near Holfmirth, circa 1850, it seems Perkin was able to re-establish his prior links with singers in the area and also with the newly-formed Holmfirth Choral Society. By October 1856 he had become their conductor.

In November 1851, the Chronicle named Perkin as being a member of the "Cliff Harmonic Society", described as a "party of glee singers".[7]

Perkin witnessed the aftermath of the Holmfirth Flood of 1852 and, together with A.B.N. Wildman[8], wrote a commemorative song titled "Holmfirth Flood", which was published in November 1852.[9]

In January 1857, it was reported that he had been in "ill-health for some time past", and that the illness had "materially affected his circumstances" and had left him unable to sing.[10]

the benefit concert

The Choral Society held a "grand miscellaneous concert" on Thursday 5 March 1857 to raise money for Perkin, with the Chronicle stating that, "all lovers of music in the neighbourhood will thus have an opportunity of testifying their sympathy for this talented musician in a practical shape, and there is no doubt the result will be very gratifying."[10] The concert was a sell-out, with many turned away at the door.

Although it is tempting to think that "Pratty Flowers", which was commissioned in 1857, may have debuted at the concert, it was not mentioned in the detailed write up by the Huddersfield Chronicle.

By January 1858, he had also been persuaded to become the conductor of the Meltham and Meltham Mills Choral Society, which had been formed during the summer of 1857 under the patronage of Charles Brook Jnr.[11]

In September 1859, the Chronicle reported that Mr. M. Rollinson of Kirkburton had taken over as the conductor of the Holmfirth Choral Society, following "the resignation of Mr. Perkin."[12]

Cookson Stephenson Floyd, one of the founding patrons of the Holmfirth Choral Society, died on 12 September 1859. At his memorial service, a funeral anthem arranged by Perkin was performed, along with portions of Handel's "Messiah". Perkin conducted the music of the service and the Chronicle reported that the mourners "came to pay a musical tribute to the memory of a worthy man".[13]

Perkin continued to conduct the Meltham and Meltham Mills Choral Society, leading them in performances of Haydn's "Creation" (April 1859, March 1861, April 1862 and May 1863) and Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" (October 1858), "Israel in Egypt" (April 1862), "Samson" (October 1859), and "Messiah" (March 1858, December 1858 and February 1860). He appears to have stepped down after 1863 after which Joseph Oldfield is named as the conductor.

Joe Perkin died on 27 January 1868, aged 59, and was buried on 30 January at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.

Eliza Perkin later lived in the Holmlfirth Almshouses, which had been built on Station Road in 1856 on land donated by C.S. Floyd to commemorate the 1852 flood. She died in April 1903, aged 86, (possibly at the Huddersfield Union Workhouse, Honley) and was buried on 21 April alongside her husband and two of her sons at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.

Their son, Mendelssohn, married in 1872 but his wife died the following year, shortly after the birth of their daughter, Everelda Perkin. He worked as weaver (1881 Census) before claiming to be a "professor of music" on the 1891 Census. He was reportedly an itinerant fiddler, but had ended up living in the Holmfirth Almshouses by 1898 and died in Deanhouse Workhouse in 1911.

Compositions and Arrangements

The following partial list is compiled from newspaper articles, with publication dates where known.

  • "Merry Mountain Child" (1849) — words by J. Tate
  • "The Song for the Times" (pre-1852)
  • "Hope, Brothers, Hope for the Happier Day" (pre-1852)[14]
  • "O, Where is the Land of the Brave and the Free?" (pre-1852)[15]
  • "Holmfirth Flood" (November 1852) — words by A.B.N Wildman
  • "Pratty Flowers" aka "The Holmfirth Anthem" (likely arranged 1857 and published January 1858) — based on an "ancient ballad"

Further Reading


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Notes and References

  1. "Three Old Musicians: Men Who Helped to Make Holmfirth Famous" in Huddersfield Examiner (04/Apr/1914).
  2. Eliza had previous married Christopher Bottomley in April 1841.
  3. Died 1866, aged 24. Buried 5 May 1866 at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.
  4. Born 18 March 1848 and baptised 7 June 1848 at St. James, Meltham Mills. Worked as a weaver. Married 1872 to Eliza Ann Armitage. Eliza Ann died December 1783, aged 21, and was buried at Christ Church, New Mill, on 23 December 1873 — she had recently given birth to their only daughter, Everelda Perkin (born 30 August 1872, baptised 3 November 1872 at Christ Church, New Mill, married 9 July 1898 to Charles Battye, and died 7 January 1949 aged 76). Lived as an itinerant musician and was living in Holmfirth Almshouses in 1898. He died 1911 aged 62 at Deanhouse Workhouse, and was buried at All Saints, Netherthong on 17 February 1911.
  5. Worked as a tailor. Married 20 January 1872 to Hannah Bailey (daughter of collier John Bailey) at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth (gave father profession as "wool sorter") and they had at least 8 children. Died 1905 in Scissett.
  6. Died 13 January 1873, aged 17. Buried 16 January 1783 at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth.
  7. "District News: Annual Festival of the Church of England Literary Association" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Nov/1851). This group existed as early as 1849 ("Holmfirth: Progress of Music" in Leeds Intelligencer (27/Jan/1849)) although it wasn't until November 1851 that Perkin was named as a member. He continued to be a members until at least October 1853 ("Holmfirth: Wooldale Mutual Improvement Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Oct/1853)).
  8. This was Abraham Wildman (1803-1870), born 14 August 1803 in Keighley, who later lived in Bradford. He published poetry from the late 1820s onwards (e.g. advert in Leeds Patriot (21/Feb/1829)). He worked at Judson and Brother's Mill, Keighley, and gave evidence of the cruel way in which child workers were treated to Richard Oastler (Leicester Journal (18/Jan/1833)). He is named as "A.B.M. Wildman" living on Manchester Road, Bradford, in another newspaper article. His wife died in 1868 and he apparently fell into poverty, which resulted in fiends rallying round and raising funds for him. On hearing of his plight, Sir Titus Salt arranged for Wildman to spend the rest of his life living in an Almshouse in Saltaire, where he died on 13 March 1870, aged 69. His death should not be confused with that of 59-year-old Abraham Wildman of Keighley who committed suicide on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in 1870.
  9. "Publications: Holmfirth Flood" in Huddersfield Chronicle (20/Nov/1852). The advertisement states "the Words by A.B.N. Wildman, the Music by Job Perkin."
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Holmfirth Choral Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Jan/1857).
  11. "Meltham and Meltham Mill Choral Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Aug/1857) reported that a meeting was held in late July 1857 to "agree upon the rules and regulations by which this newly formed society shall be governed."
  12. "Holmfirth: Choral Society at New Mill" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Sep/1859).
  13. "Holmfirth: Memorial Concert" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Oct/1859).
  14. Words by R. Keith.
  15. Word possibly by J. Denman.