Simpson family of Leeds

John Simpson I (1742-1813) and Sarah Tingle (1756-1829), who married at Aberford to the east of Leeds in 1780, had five sons, at least three of whom were active in Leeds Wesleyan Methodism.

1. John Simpson II (1781-1855), a Leeds grocer, born at Aberford on 11 April 1781, was a trustee of Brunswick chapel, opened in 1825. Two of his sons, Morris Simpson (3 October 1809 - post 1881) and Edward Simpson (28 April 1818 - 28 November 1904), also a Brunswick trustee, founded the Leeds firm of Stead and Simpson in 1834, originally curriers, but later boot and shoe manufacturers and retailers, claiming to be the largest in the world. A further son, John Simpson III (1808-post 1891) went into business in 1853 with George Lee of Wakefield as George Lee & Sons, yarn spinners of Providence Mills, Wakefield; he was elected as a Tory to the Leeds Borough Council in 1839. A fourth son, William Simpson (1812-1900) was born in Leeds on 14 June 1812. Educated at The Queens' College, Cambridge, he was ordained deacon in 1838 and priest in 1839, and was headmaster of Rochdale Grammar School 1840-1841 and vicar of Holy Trinity, Dobcross, Lancs., 1844-1900. He died at Dobcross on 27 September 1900.

2. The middle son, Thomas Simpson I (1784-1848), was baptized at Aberford on 4 June 1786. He became a Wesleyan in 1804 and was a local preacher and trustee at Brunswick, where he was commemorated by a plaque. He was a painter and sign-writer and obtained the contract for painting some of the newly built stations on the Leeds and Manchester Railway, completed in 1841. He died on 26 June 1846. Among his children were Thomas Simpson II (1829-1898), also a Brunswick trustee, who was born in Leeds on 9 April 1829. He established a solicitor's practice in Leeds. A Conservative councillor, he was elected in 1886 as chair of the Borough Conservative Association. He married Elizabeth Smith (1832-1901). He died in Leeds on 4 October 1898. William Overend Simpson (1831-1881; e.m. 1853) was born in Leeds on 15 April 1831. He trained at Richmond College and was a missionary in India, 1854-1865. Dinsdale T. Young described his ministry in Bradford (1873-1876) as 'outstanding'. He died suddenly at Huddersfield on 18 May 1881 during a District Meeting.

W.O. Simpson's sons included William Burton Simpson' (1859-1909; e.m. 1883), who followed his father into the ministry, Thomas Stephenson Simpson (1861-1905), graduate of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and a solicitor, who was secretary to the Kingswood School governors and Edward Overend Simpson (1865-1927), born at Salford on 5 December 1865, a Leeds solicitor and a prominent Leeds Conservative, who stood unsuccessfully for Dewsbury in 1910. He married Annie Bray (1876-1951), daughter of George Bray, inventor of the gas mantle, and died at Hazelwood Castle, near Tadcaster, on 18 April 1927.

3. The fourth son, James Simpson II (1791-1864), began life as a joiner, being responsible for much of the work in Brunswick chapel. He later became an important northern chapel architect, using both Italianate and gothic styles. A number of his WM chapels continue in use. Oxford Place, Leeds (1835, now much altered), Central (formerly 'Centenary'), York (1839-40), Wesley, York (1855-56, no longer in Methodist hands), Longholme, Rawtenstall (1841-42), Barnby Gate, Newark (1844) and Temple Street, Keighley (1845-46) were of almost identical design. Others include Eccleshill, Bradford (1844-45, now Orthodox), Collingham, Notts. (1855) and Central, Queen Street, Morley (1860-61). A major loss was the gothick Summerseat, Greater Manchester (1847) which contained the mausoleum of the Kay family. Elijah Hoole jr. was articled to him in 1854. He died on 13 March 1864. His son John Simpson IV (1831-99) continued the practice after his father's death and designed his cousin Thomas Simpson's house, Bardon Hill, Leeds (1873-75).

The family married into the wider Leeds WM community, including the Martin and Smith families. Subsequent generations of the family tended to move from Methodism to the Church of England.

  • J. Bush (ed.), W.O. Simpson, Methodist minister and missionary (1886)
  • C.J. James, MP for Dewsbury: one hundred years of parliamentary representation (Brighouse, 1970)
  • D. Linstrum, West Yorkshire Architects and Architecture (1978)
  • Ian Serjeant, 'James Simpson', in Christopher Webster (ed), Building a Great Victorian City:Leeds Architects and Architecture 1790-1914 (2011) pp.135-58