Hepworth, Joseph

MNC layman, born at Lindley near Huddersfield on 12 May 1834. From the age of 10 he worked in the woollen mills, but also studied in his free time at the Lindley Mechanics Institute. In 1864 he set up as a woollen draper in Leeds, and from 1865 combined his wholesale business with a chain of retail shops, which developed into a very successful firm of multiple tailors. His paternalistic attitude to his workforce was shown by the introduction of an eight-hour day, good working conditions and paid holidays. The establishment of branches in Australia and South Africa helped him to survive a disatrous fire at his Prospect Works in 1895.

He was Liberal counsellor for the West Hunslet ward from 1888 and Alderman from 1892, and served on many charitable and educational bodies such as the Leeds Mechanics' Institute and Leeds University. As Mayor of Leeds in 1906, he expressed his advocacy of temperance by donating £500 to the Poor Childrens' Dinner Fund instead of providing wine at mayoral banquets. He was elected a MNC Guardian Representative in 1892 and was Treasurer of the MNC Centenary Fund 1894-1898. In 1907 he gave 1,000 guineas to the funds of the newly inaugurated United Methodist Church. After moving to Harrogate about 1907 he worshipped at Victoria Park UMFC, but retained his membership at Woodhouse Lane, Leeds. He retired to Torquay and established there the only MNC cause in Devon. The MNC churches at both Harrogate and Torquay benefited from his generous support. He died at Harrogate on 17 October 1911.

His son Norris Rhodes Hepworth was born at Lindley in 1857 and educated at Leeds Mechanical Institute. He took over the family business and stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal for the Leeds Borough Conuncil on several occasions. He was a sportsman who captained Leeds Cricket Club and in 1904 was the first Chairman of Leeds City (later United) association football Club..

  • MNC Magazine, 1894 p.239-44
  • Dictionary of Business Biography (1985), vol. 3 pp.170-73
  • T. Sunderland, United Methodist Church, Victoria Park, Harrogate, Jubilee, 1865-1915 (Harrogate, 1915)
  • Oxford DNB