Joseph Charlesworth (1792-1852)

This page is part of the Holmfirth Flood Project which aims to make content available to researchers in advance of the 175th anniversary of the 1852 Flood which will be commemorated in 2027.

Joseph Charlesworth was a Holmfirth J.P. who resided at Eldon House.

Holmfirth Flood of 1852

As a local magistrate, Charlesworth quickly began organising the relief and recovery effort, despite his own residence having been inundated. Within a few hours of the flood, the following notice was issued:

Thursday, 5th February, 1852,
4 o’clock, a.m.

The Holmfirth magistrates request the respectable Inhabitants of Holmfirth and vicinity to meet them immediately, at the house of Mr. Charlesworth, Eldon House, for the purpose of taking necessary steps for the protection of property and such other measures as may be needful, in consequence of the awful calamity which has this morning happened, in Holmfirth, by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir.

Josh. Charlesworth.
Josa. Moorhouse.

His death on Saturday 10 April 1852 was attributed by many locals to the effects of the flood and the strain of organising the relief efforts.

He was buried at Holy Trinity, Holmfirth, on 14 April 1852.


"Local News: Holmfirth" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (17/Apr/1852):

We announce with deep regret the demise of our esteemed townsman and senior magistrate, Joseph Charlesworth, Esq., which occurred rather unexpectedly, at his residence, Eldon House, about ten o’clock on the morning of Saturday last, surrounded by his family and several friends. It will probably be in the recollection of some of our readers, from an account previously given in the Examiner, that on the morning of the recent awful calamity at Holmfirth, his residence, especially the lower portion, was completely inundated, the building being surrounded by the foaming waters. He, in company with the rest of the family, was at the time in an upper room, expecting every moment to perish in the raging element. This circumstance, to which may be added his indefatigable exertions in the discharge of his magisterial duties during the calamity — being up early and late for several days together, the weather being excessively wet at the time — preyed severely upon his constitution, gave his nervous system a shock, and ended in inflammation of the brain. For several days he was expected to recover, but on Saturday morning alarming symptoms manifested themselves, the members of his family were summoned around him, and he expired shortly afterwards, in the 59th year of his age. He qualified for the bench in 1837, which situation he filled up to the time of his decease, with credit to himself, and to the satisfaction of the public. Being connected with most of the Sunday-schools belonging to the church in the neighbourhood, his remains were followed to the grave by about 100 of the wardens and teachers, in addition to a large circle of relations and friends. Though widely differing from the departed gentleman on many political questions, we very willingly bear our testimony that in him the conservatives have lost a staunch supporter and ready advocate; the inhabitants an intelligent and efficient magistrate; and the Church Sabbath Schools, a zealous and able supporter. As a token of respect, the shopkeepers and other tradespeople closed their shops and warehouses during the funeral.

"Holmfirth Flood" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Apr/1852):

It is our melancholy duty this week to record another death, which is as much the effect of the flood as if the individual had been washed down by the water. On the morning of Saturday last, a little before eleven o’clock, a.m., Joseph Charlesworth, Esq., of Eldon House, the chairman of the Holmfirth bench of magistrates, breathed his last, in the 60th year of his age. Of all the deaths caused by the flood this is the most awful in many respects. Mr. Charlesworth was the oldest of a firm of four brothers, sons of the late Mr. Joseph Charlesworth, manufacturer and merchant, of Holmfirth, a gentleman who from comparative obscurity raised himself to affluence by his own unaided exertions, and bequeathed to his sons, as his successors in business, in addition to considerable wealth, a name characterised by integrity, combined in an eminent degree with the essential qualities of a successful tradesman, namely, perseverance and business tact. The deceased, who entered into business in early life, inherited many of his father’s qualities, and the firm of Joseph Charlesworth and Sons, after the death of the principal, first under the management of the deceased, and afterwards under that of one or other of the junior partners, has lost none of that high business character to which it had formerly attained. The deceased, a member of the establishment, was early the subject of deep religious impressions, and we have heard many, who were once his trading acquaintances, speak of him as a man of such uprightness of character, amiability of feeling and devout religious principles as is seldom to be met with in commercial circles. He has been for many years, ever since the year 1822, intimately connected with the interests of the Holmfirth Church Sunday Schools, by the friends of which his worth will be long remembered and his loss deeply felt. His spiritual pastor, the Rev. T. G. Fearne, incumbent of Upperthong, in alluding to him at a late school festival, said that he combined, in a degree seldom to be met with, the qualities of a Christian tradesman and an amiable man; and if he had ever hesitated about the fervour of his religious feeling, he hesitated not then, after having attended him in his last illness. The deceased qualified as a magistrate in the year 1839, at the time a petty sessions was first established for the Holmfirth district. He and the late John Harpin, Esq., were the first dispensers of justice in the Holmfirth valley, and at the death of the latter gentleman, which took place on the 8th May, 1849, he succeeded to the chairmanship of the bench. His conduct in his magisterial capacity has been such as to give general satisfaction, and the integrity of his conduct has nowhere displayed itself with greater force than in his desire to administer impartial justice in all cases brought before him. He has been three times married. His first wife was a Miss Rhodes, of Tintwistle, by whom he had two children, viz., Joseph Rhodes and Penelope. His second wife was a daughter of the late Mr. Barber, of Field-end, who presented him with one daughter, who was named Ruth. His third wife was a Miss Hare, of Kinder, near Hayfield. His son, who imbibed the religious feelings of his father, and cherished to good purpose the early precepts instilled into his mind, was some time ago presented to the incumbency of Linthwaite, and married a Miss Micklethwaite, of Darfield. His daughters are still at home, and unmarried. The deceased’s dwelling stood in the way of the water on the morning of the late flood, and was inundated to a considerable height. The excitement was too much for him, and after the abatement of the water it became gradually apparent that his nervous system had received a severe shock, although he, along with his colleagues, W. L. Brook and Joshua Moorhouse, Esqs., discharged arduous duties at the Town Hall immediately following the catastrophe, in swearing in special constables, and attending generally to the requirements of the neighbourhood at that distressing time. In the meetings of the committee, likewise, when all the judgment, energy, and decision that could be brought to bear was required, the deceased most admirably acquitted himself. Mr. Charlesworth’s health perceptibly gave way, gout appeared, and other internal disorganisation supervened, which on Saturday morning last suddenly terminated his valuable life. His loss will be much felt in the neighbourhood, as he was held in high esteem by all. His interment took place on Wednesday morning last, at the Old Church, Holmfirth, and as a mark of respect to the deceased the shops were all closed. The church Sunday-school teachers walked in the funeral procession, two and two. The pall-bearers were William Leigh Brook, Esq., J.P., Joshua Moorhouse, Esq., J.P., James Bates, Joseph Hinchliff, George Hinchliff, James H. Farrar, C. S. Floyd, and John H. Farrar, Esqs. A large concourse of people also assembled to witness the mournful ceremony.

"The Provinces" in The Spectator (24/Apr/1852):

Mr. Joseph Charlesworth, the senior Magistrate of the Holmfirth bench, died on Saturday night. Eldon House, where he resided, was surrounded by the flood from the Bilberry reservoir but was not swept away ; a few days after the bursting of that reservoir, Mr. Charlesworth was alarmed by the fall of some houses near him ; the insecure state of Holmstyes reservoir kept up the agitation of his mind ; and at last his previously declining health gave way.


On the Trail of the Holmfirth Flood 1852 (1996) by Gordon and Enid Minter:

Opposite the cottages, the Old Bridge Hotel incorporates much of the fabric of Eldon House, a large residence occupied in 1852 by Joseph Charlesworth J.P. and his family. There is no detailed account of the Charlesworth’s escape but it was, apparently, a narrow one as the house was flooded to the first floor ceiling and the surrounding gardens inundated. Extensive warehouses and dye houses belonging to Mr. Charlesworth were completely destroyed.

Joseph Charlesworth had been expected to take the chair at a public meeting held at the Crown Hotel, Holmfirth on Saturday 7th February 1852 but, not surprisingly, it was announced that he was indisposed. He did, however, briefly address the meeting and, because he was one of only a very few victims to publicly express his feelings in the immediate aftermath of the flood, his words are worth quoting in full:

When I tell you that at twenty minutes past one o’clock on Thursday morning myself and my family were mercifully delivered from imminent peril and danger and that I have not since sat down to a regular meal, nor been in bed more than three hours I need not, under these circumstances assure you that I come to the meeting distressed in mind and harassed in body. I feel quite unable to make a speech. I believe however that we have not come to make speeches but to write down our names and give subscriptions.

Shortly afterwards a resolution ‘that a committee be appointed to solicit subscriptions immediately’ was carried unanimously.