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 16Josi­ah Wade born in cot­tages near Cross­ley Mill , Heb­den Bridge to Han­nah and Joseph Wade. Wade had five sib­lings: William, Sarah, Stephen, John and Edwin
1847Wades father dies, leav­ing a wid­owed moth­er
1850Begins work at sev­en and a half while attend­ing Har­ry Bob’s school
1855Moves to full-time work
1858Appoint­ed 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
1862Wade 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
1867Wade left Heb­den Bridge for Well Lane, Hal­i­fax to con­tin­ue work on his eye­let­ting and labelling machines
1891Stood 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’
1892Appoint­ed vice-Chair­man of the Watch Com­mit­tee
1894Left the Town Coun­cil because of ill-health
1895Returned to the Town Coun­cil after health improved
1897Became 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
1899Made a dona­tion to the Church and Sun­day School in Heb­den Bridge. Wade’s sis­ter — Sarah — died
1900, NovElect­ed an Alder­man of Hal­i­fax
1902Became May­or of Hal­i­fax for one term, and was per­suad­ed to stand for anoth­er term
1904Award­ed a ‘Com­mis­sion of the Peace’, and re-elect­ed as Alder­man
1908, Thu 13 Feb 0200Died from heart fail­ure at North Park, Hal­i­fax, leav­ing a wid­ow and no chil­dren.