Josiah Wade

Josiah Wade
Josiah Wade

Josiah Wade is often accorded the distinction of being a ‘self-made man’. The phrase is used frequently, and can lose its meaning — it’s worth remembering the scale of Wade’s progress. Born in cottages in Hebden Bridge, losing his father at five, and starting work at seven and a half is an inauspicious beginning. To end life having designed and built presses serving ‘the civilised world’, and having been elected as Mayor of his town is a great accolade. Indeed the Halifax Guardian’s first reports of his death reported that “His business career was one which stamped him as a man who by his own genius, perseverance and shrewdness, rose from the humblest position to one of affluence.” The Halifax Courier stated that Wade was “…one of a fairly numerous band of men produced by this district that could claim the proud distinction of being a self-made man.” Wade must have demonstrated early mechanical skill in being selected for work by Mr Crossley, and later work for Mr Horner, a watch-maker. Before developing the Arab, Wade had opened offices in Manchester to service the market for his eyeletting and labelling machines.

Even while the Arab was successful, Wade had other business interests in Halifax: a boot-makers on St James road; and an ironmongers on Silver Street. Wade also patented a cutting and boring bar with a shield, but this never entered production.

Aside from his commercial work, Wade took an active role in municipal life. It’s easy to forget how well-developed our system of local government is today, and just what needed to be done in the 1890s. Looking after the destitute; supplying clean water and keeping the peace could not be taken for granted.

Wade stood for the Liberal Party and was elected to Halifax Town Council in 1891. As Chairman of the Waterworks Committee, he superintended the construction of the Walshaw Dean Reservoir Scheme. The Halifax Courier reported that his services would be “…possibly tardily recognised by his colleagues.” He also played a key role in the opening of the Salterhebble Hospital.

Wade was chosen as Mayor of Halifax Borough in 1902, and reported that he was utterly unable to cope with the number of telegrams, letters and telephone messages sent by people congratulating him on the appointment.


1842, Dec 16 Josiah Wade born in cottages near Crossley Mill , Hebden Bridge to Hannah and Joseph Wade. Wade had five siblings: William, Sarah, Stephen, John and Edwin
1847 Wades father dies, leaving a widowed mother
1850 Begins work at seven and a half while attending Harry Bob’s school
1855 Moves to full-time work
1858 Appointed by Mr Crossley to work on the production of Horse Rugs for export. However Josiah Wade’s brother – John – was killed by lightning at Crossley’s factory. Wade could not return to work and moved to work for Mr Horner, a watch maker of Hebden Bridge
1862 Wade opens a shop in Hebden Bridge: taking orders for printing. Wade (with the assistance of two engineers) begins work on an eyeletting machine with one of his brothers, Edwin. With Edwin, he also established the “Hedben Chronicle” – a newspaper lasting only a few months
1867 Wade left Hebden Bridge for Well Lane, Halifax to continue work on his eyeletting and labelling machines
1891 Stood for election to Halifax Town Council in the South Ward and elected. Appointed to the Halifax Board of Guardians, which he considered to be the ‘most progressive Board in England’
1892 Appointed vice-Chairman of the Watch Committee
1894 Left the Town Council because of ill-health
1895 Returned to the Town Council after health improved
1897 Became Chairman of the Waterworks Committee. It’s reported that much of his time at this point was spent on the Walshaw Dean revervoir scheme in Hebden Bridge. To secure good supplies for Halifax, he also arranged the purchase of 1,000 acres of land at Ogden
1899 Made a donation to the Church and Sunday School in Hebden Bridge. Wade’s sister – Sarah – died
1900, Nov Elected an Alderman of Halifax
1902 Became Mayor of Halifax for one term, and was persuaded to stand for another term
1904 Awarded a ‘Commission of the Peace’, and re-elected as Alderman
1908, Thu 13 Feb 0200 Died from heart failure at North Park, Halifax, leaving a widow and no children.