Bower family of Leeds

Joshua Bower I (c1773-1855) and his brother John were founder members of the Methodist New Connexion in Leeds and the family was active in Liberal politics. The family business, located in Hunslet, were they were major employers, included glass manufacturing by 1812 and aquafortis manufacturing. Joshua Bower I also had coal mining, chemical and glue manufacturing interests and was a substantial toll farmer, not only in Yorkshire but also in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire; he served as the Liberal councillor for Hunslet from 1835 to 1844, continuing as an alderman until his death. Politically he linked middle and working-class radicalism in Leeds and the Leeds Radical Political Union, which supported the Reform Bill of 1832, came under his control. In February 1834 he stood as an independent radical candidate in the Leeds parliamentary by-election, receiving the popular vote on nomination day, but was heavily defeated on the election day itself, even MNC members not voting for him. Having a reputation for being uncouth, including his language, he would arrive late at Hunslet Road chapel where his wife would be in their pew with hymn book open for him, awaiting his arrival. On his death on 7 September 1855 he was worth £100,000.

Other members of the Bower family were active in local Liberal politics. John Bower was a Hunslet councillor from 1835 to 1842: Joshua Bower II (d.1868, aet. 67) for the same ward 1856 to 1859; Joseph Bower failed to be elected for the ward in 1851. These three were all brothers. John Richard Bower (1845-1928), son of John Bower II, was elected for the Mill Hill ward in 1876 and became an alderman in 1877 and mayor in 1880. About 1880 he described himself as a 'Methodist but attending Church of England at present'. He died on 27 May 1928.

The various members of the next generation had their own but similar business interests. John I's and Joshua I's merged in 1847, subsequently also absorbing those of Joshua II. The Bower glass manufacturing company subsequently was acquired in 1860 by Pilkington & Hartley, in an attempt to eliminate a major competitor.


[Joshua Bower] 'was well known for the conspicuous part he had taken in most of the political movements of the present [ie nineteenth] century, and was always a welcome speaker at public meetings, uttering sound truths in Saxon English, and accompanying them with illustrations at which the most fastidious was compelled to smile for their quaintness, and applaud for their point.'

John Mayhall, The Annals of Yorkshire (c1860) p.667.

  • John Mayhall, The Annals of Yorkshire (c.1860)

See also

Entry written by: DCD
Category: Person
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