Joshua Stopford was my great x4 grandfather. He was born 22 November 1798 in Audenshaw near Ashton-under-Lyne, second son of Thomas Stopford (hatter and later innkeeper) and Sally Broadbent. Although he shared the name of numerous clerical Stopfords, including his father's elder brother (see Reverend Joshua Stopford 1759-1835), his own life was certainly less pious than any of theirs, and ends somewhat mysteriously.


After his baptism on 13 January 1799, I know nothing of his early life and education. That he was educated to at least some degree is certain - his signature on his marriage certificate is no scrawl. It also seems certain that he was trained in the art of felt hat-making since he appears in the trade directories 1825-1834 as a hat manufacturer in Audenshaw and took at least one apprentice on himself (see the case of 1834 in note 2 below).

He was married to Sarah Bowker (1802-1865), the educated daughter of another local hatter William Bowker, at the church of St John in Manchester on 19 March 1827. His younger brother Charles was witness. Here is the first mystery. Why marry in a Manchester church when both families were prominent in Audenshaw and the tradition was to marry in the bride's local church?

The answer perhaps can be found in the events of 1822-1823 which can be inferred from the baptism on 6 July 1823 of Alfred Stopford Bowker at the chapel in Gorton, son of the unmarried Sarah Bowker. There is no doubt whatsoever that Alfred was son of a Stopford (if not Joshua himself as seems likely) and that Sarah had become pregnant at the age of 20. Why the families did not organise a quick marriage and be done with it before the birth cannot now be known for sure.

As I have recorded in another post, Joshua's father, Thomas, made his will on 1 April 1827, less than a fortnight after Joshua's wedding, and although making broadly equal provision for all his children, Thomas pointedly passed over Joshua and made two younger brothers executors of the will, and made detailed provision that Joshua had to clear all his debts else suffer having double the amount deducted from his share.

Joshua and Sarah had seven children, six sons and one daughter, all christened at the Gorton chapel. Their second child, Frederick, was born 12 June 1827 - less than three months after the marriage at St John's. Clearly having two children out of wedlock was beyond the pale.

All the baptisms in Gorton(1) from 1827 to 1837 record Joshua as a hat manufacturer or hatter and in all cases record them living in Audenshaw except the baptism of their youngest child William Henry in 1837 when they had removed to Ardwick.

Business and decline.

There is something of a contrast between the happy picture of christening after christening (and all the children survive infancy) and the picture that emerges from the newspapers of the time about Joshua's business and financial failures.

I record the details of some of the evidence below(2), but in short Joshua and his partner William Travis of Red Hall were bankrupt in 1830 and although Joshua clearly carried on under his own steam after this he continued to face financial difficulties ended up losing all or perhaps very nearly all of his inheritance to pay off his debts. He had to sell as much as he was able to sell in 1837 and the family was forced from their Audenshaw home at least temporarily. By May 1839 Joshua had spent time in gaol in London and after that living in a commercial area of London now under the National Theatre and Festival Hall. Although released from gaol in 1839 he still had debts at least until 1841.

There is some potential evidence (below) that Joshua gave up the hatting business in the 1840's and he may even have remained in London until his death. It is often reported that there was a decline in the felt hat-making industry centred to the East of Manchester in the 1840's in any case, so it is unlikely that Joshua would have been able to take up his old profession in any case. Whether his own decline was a due to the changing taste for silk as opposed to felt hats would be a matter for speculation, but he seems at any rate to have been debt-ridden since the 1820's.

Joshua was certainly dead by 1853 because his son John reports that his father was deceased on his marriage in January of that year, but his whereabouts between 1839 and 1853 are not certain by any means. He never appears in the census with his family and seems to have left his wife and children, if not abandoned them.

When and Where did Joshua Stopford die ?

The first thing to note is that Joshua does not appear in the census with his family in 1841 or 1851. In 1841 Sarah was living back in Audenshaw with all seven children very close to her mother-in-law Sally (who died in 1848). In 1851 Sarah was still living in Audenshaw with four of the children, all of working age. Sarah recorded in 1851 that she was married. In the condition column of the 1851 census is the abbreviation for married, and in the occupation column it clearly says "wife". Despite diligent and prolonged searching of the 1851 census I have not seen any entry anywhere in the country for him. Sarah was living next door to her son Alfred's brewery in Garratt Street, Manchester, at the time of the 1861 census, and confirms her status as a widow.

Searching the BMD index for 1851-1853 comes up with only one death for Joshua Stopford - in Stepney in 1852. The death certificate states that this Joshua Stopford died of Bronchitis on 14 August 1852 at School House Lane in the township of Ratcliff (between Shadwell and Limehouse). Unfortunately the other details seem to indicate this is a dead end - the death certificate records that Joshua was 44 years old (should be 53) and a clerk in a solicitors office. No family was present.

There is, however, some evidence that might indicate we have to consider this death even despite the age discrepancy (which could be a mistake given the lack of family present).
  • On the marriage certificate of John Stopford his son in January 1853 the occupation of Joshua is recorded as "attorney at law" (deceased), and on the marriage certificate of Jane Stopford his daughter in April 1859 his occupation is given as "solicitor".
  • Joshua's fourth son, Walter Stopford, was living with his mother Sarah in Audenshaw in 1851, aged 18, and working as a power loom weaver. Yet in 1854 he married in Stepney and was still living there in 1861 working as a Railway Clerk (the census records his age as 28 and his birthplace as Ashton-under-Lyne) although he returns to Manchester by 1865.

    The lack of an alternative death for Joshua, the lack of an alternative Joshua really aged 44, the two children claiming that Joshua had changed profession from hatting to the law, and the otherwise almost inexplicable move of Walter from Audenshaw to Stepney, build up a circumstantial case that convinces me at least. And if you accept that Joshua never moved back to Lancashire from London following his move there in 1838-39 then some other fragments of his life come into view.

    Update: The index to administrations for 1852 (IR27/61) contains an entry for Joshua Stopford in Ratcliffe (intestate) where the administrator is given as Walter Stopford, seems to settle the matter.

    What was Joshua doing if in London ?

    In the London Gazette there was a notice dated Saturday 15 June 1839 stating that Joshua Stopford, late of Commercial Road, Lambeth, had applied to the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors at Portugal Street (briefly featured in Dickens' Pickwick Papers) and that James Ogden has been appointed Assignee, and this address of Commercial Road is again referred to in January 1841 when the creditors of Joshua Stopford are invited to meet the Assignee. What is somewhat interesting about this address is that it is one street up from Stamford Street where Adam and Elisha Stopford of Audenshaw had an office (Pooles and Stopfords Hat Manufacturers)(3). Possibly a coincidence, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Joshua had come to London in some connection with the hat business of his (perhaps) cousins.

    Update: William Bowker, Joshua's father-in-law, appears to have died in 1839 and in 1840 there is an entry in the IR27 index to death duties where Elisha Stopford is given as the executor. Although this is likely another coincidence, it certainly indicates that Elisha had an interest in the Bowker offspring which must have included Joshua's wife.

    If Joshua remained in London after 1839, and the 1841 entry in the London Gazette does not contradict this, two intriguing newspaper mentions could be relevant.

    In 1847, on April 27, in the Morning Post (and other London newspapers around this time), there is an announcement concerning the formation of a company called The United Kingdom Artesian Water Company with capital of £500,000. The company secretary and one of the managing directors is one Joshua Stopford, Esquire, of East India Chambers in the City [at 23 Leadenhall Street opposite St Mary Axe].

    A case heard at the Middlesex Sessions on November 22 1849(4) was reported somewhat luridly in the newspapers of the time. It involved a certain Joshua Stopford, secretary to the Artesian Water Company, then living at 46 St John Street, Clerkenwell(5), who had been assaulted by a jealous husband but the court took a dim view of his character rather than sympathising with his injuries. The assailant was found guilty and fined only a farthing, and the damage to Stopford's reputation must have been much worse than the injuries he sustained.

    One interesting aspect of the case is that Stopford described how he had prevailed upon a friend of his, Wooller(6), of 10 Carburton Street, Fitzroy Square to take in the wife of his assailant (the woman whom the whole world concluded was his mistress). He then went on to say that "Wooller is not my attorney in this prosecution, I drew up the brief myself". This comment indicates that Wooller and Stopford were both solicitors capable of instructing a barrister (a Mr Horry in this case). Another coincidence, or a genuine link to the man who died in Stepney in 1852 and the attorney at law claimed by John Stopford as his father in 1853 ?


    (1) Baptisms at Gorton:

    Alfred Stopford Bowker, born on 17th May 1823, son of Sarah Bowker, abode, Audenshaw.
    Frederick - born 12 Jun 1827, baptised Gorton, son of Joshua Stopford, hatter, and Sarah
    John - baptised 1829 Gorton, son of Joshua Stopford, hat manufacturer, and Sarah
    Jane - born 28th May 1831, bap Gorton, dau of Joshua Stopford, hat manufacturer, and Sarah
    Walter - bapt Gorton 1832, of Joshua Stopford, hatter and Sarah, abode AUL
    Joshua - baptised 1835, of Joshua Stopford, hat manufacturer, and Sarah, abode Audenshaw
    William Henry - baptised 1837 in Gorton son of Joshua Stopford, hatter, and Sarah, abode Ardwick.
    (see and and

    (2) Financial Difficulties:

    August 17 1830, William Travis and Joshua Stopford declared bankrupt.

    1834 case brought against Joshua for debt:

    Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Saturday 16th August: “Wednesday. Harker vs Stopford. This was an action to recover the sum of £47 11s, being the value of certain goods furnished to the defendant, who admitted that he had received the goods, and also their value, but alleged that he had given a consideration for them, which the plaintiff denied. This being the form of the pleadings, the defendant's case was first gone into. Mr Pollock, with whom was Mr Brandt, stated the case for the defendant, and called several witnesses, whose evidence went to prove the following facts. In October, 1830, the defendant, Mr Joshua Stopford, who carried on business as a hatter at manchester, procured from the plaintiff (Mr Simon Harker, who had also been engaged in the hatting trade, but had retired from business) a dye-pan, a wool press, and other utensils, which formed the subject of the present action. In the same month, the plaintiff's son, who had served part of this apprenticeship to his father, came to complete the apprenticeship with the defendant, and the goods in question were made over to him as a compensation for teaching the boy his trade. One of the witnesses stated that he was present when part of the goods was removed, and that the plaintiff said to him (Well Johnny, when does thou think our Si (his son) will do as much for me as I am doing for him ? I am giving Josh. (the defendant) all these things to teach Si his trade.” Another witness said he was present when this remark was made, and described it word for word in the same terms. The plaintiff's son did not know his trade until he was taught by the defendant. Some time after he came, there was a dispute between the parties about the goods. The defendant said to the plaintiff, “The things are all here; get a cart and take them away, and I'll send the boy back along with them.” To this the plaintiff replied, “No, let the boy stay and I will give the you the things as I promised.” The defendant did accordingly keep the things and the boy served out his time. Mr Alexander, for the plaintiff, contended that the whole case for the defendant was founded in fraud, and that no such agreement had been entered into. He called several witnesses to prove that the defendant had repeatedly promised to pay for the goods and that in the month of May, last, after he had received an attorney's letter, he offered the plaintiff at bill at four months for £45, observing that if he did not take it he would, at all events, keep him out of his money until August, meaning the assizes. His Lordship having summed up the evidence, the jury immediately returned a verdict for the plaintiff for the amount named in the declaration.

    1835-1836 Joshua Stopford private transactions with brothers and others concerning legacy of Thomas Stopford are documented in some of the papers held by his brother Charles and now in the Lancashire Record Office:

    1837 Joshua sells everything

    Manchester Guardian 27 May 1837

    "To Hat Manufacturers, retailers, and others.—Exempt from Duty By T TOWNSEND, on Wednesday, the 31st Day of May, 1837, at the house and warehouse of Mr. Joshua Stopford, situated near the Blue Pig, Audenshaw, in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne, in the county of Lancaster: The whole of the STOCK IN TRADE, Fixtures and Implements in Business, modern Household Furniture, kitchen requisites, &c. The stock comprises of a large quantity of furs, wools, hats, finished and unfinished; together with the fixtures, and all other implements in business, of a hat manufacturer. Sale to commence at ten o’clock in the forenoon precisely."

    Manchester Guardian 8 July 1837

    "In lots, under certain deeds in trust for sale, by MR OUSEY, on Wednesday the 12th day of July, 1837, at the Globe Inn, in Ashton-under-Lyne, in the county of Lancaster, at seven o’clock in the evening, subject to such conditions of sales as will be then and there produced:
    Lot 1. The Inheritance in Fee Simple of and in all that MESSUAGE or DWELLING HOUSE, HAT MANUFACTORY, WAREHOUSE, and other BUILDINGS, GARDEN, and vacant LAND thereto belonging, situate in Audenshaw, in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne aforesaid, containing, including the site of the buildings 1,655 square yards or thereabouts, and in the possession of Mr. Joshua Stopford, subject to the yearly ground rent of £6. 18s. 0d—N.B. Immediate possession will be given to the purchaser of this lot.
    Lot 2. Two Fifth Shares of and in the MONEYS, ESTATES, and EFFECTS to be produced from the sale of the real and personal estate of Thomas Stopford, late of Audenshaw aforesaid, yeoman, deceased; and of and in the Rents, Issues, and profits of such two fifth shares in the meantime, and until such sale takes place.—The property in this lot consists mostly of freehold land, buildings, and chief rents, situate in Audenshaw aforesaid. There are also two lifehold estates in Audenshaw, and a moiety of the Hopkin’s estate, near Ashton-under-Lyne aforesaid, altogether yielding an annual rental of about £155, subject of the payment of an annuity £31. 10s. 0d. to Sally Stopford, the widow of the said Thomas Stopford, and mother of the said Joshua Stopford, aged 75 years, or thereabouts, and to her occupation of a house for life not included in the above rent of £155. With this lot, will also be sold, a Policy of Assurance for £300 upon the life of the said Joshua Stopford aged 39 years, or thereabouts, and payable in the case he dies before his said mother.—Also another Policy of Assurance for £300 upon the life of William Stopford, the brother of the said Joshua Stopford, aged 32 years, or thereabouts, and payable in case he dies before his mother. In case of either of their deaths during their mother’s life, the interest of such, so dying, ceases, and the purchaser becomes entitled to the assurance money only. N.B. The purchaser will now be entitled to the said two-fifths of the rents, &c.
    Lot 3. One Fifth Part or Share of and in the sum of £5,122. 19s. the New Three and a Half per Cent Consols, Payable upon the decease of Ann Stopford, the widow of the Rev. Joshua Stopford, late of Emsworth, in the county of Hants, clerk, deceased, now aged 70 years, or thereabouts.
    For further particulars apply to Messrs. HIGGINBOTTOM and BUCKLEY, of Ashton-under-Lyne aforesaid, solicitors."

    London Gazette notices: 
    February 1839: Joshua Stopford, late of 38 Commercial Road, Lambeth, Surrey, out of business, and previously of Audenshaw in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancaster, Hat-Manufacturer.-In the County Gaol for Surrey.
    January 1841: The creditors of Joshua Stopford, formerly of Audenshaw, in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne, in the county of Lancaster, hat-Manufacturer, and late of 38 Commercial Road, Lambeth, out of business, who, in or about the month of May 1839, was discharged from Her Majesty's Gaol of Horsemonger-Lane, in the county of Surrey, under the Act of Parliament made for the relief of insolvent debtors, are requested to meet the assignee of the estate and effects of the said insolvent, on Saturday the 6th day of February now next, at one of the clock in the afternoon precisely, at the offices of Messrs. Clutton, Waller, and Cooper, Solicitors, No 48, High Street, Southwark in the county of Surrey, to determine in what manner, and at which place or places, and at what time or times, the real estate, to which the said bankrupt was, at the time of his discharge, interested or entitled, situate at Audenshaw aforesaid, may be put up to be sold by auction, and to give such directions with reference thereto as may be deemed proper and expedient, pursuant to the Act of Parliament in that case made and provided. Dated this 13th day of January 1841.

    (3) Post Office London Directory 1843: Pooles & Stopfords hat manuf'rs. 35 Stamford St. Blackfrs. rd ; Stopfords’ Adam & Elisha, hat ma. see Pooles’ & Stopfords’

    (4) Middlesex Sessions, Nov 22 (Before Mr. Serjeant Adams, Assistant Judge) Assault. "Mr Stephen Bailey, a publican in Newgate Market, surrendered to take his trial upon an indictment charging him with having assaulted Joshua Stopford. Mr Horry appeared for the prosecution, Mr Ballantine for the defendant...The prosecutor was then examined. He stated that his name was Joshua Stopford, and he was secretary to the Artesian Water Company, residing at 46, St John Street, Clerkenwell, and occupying offices in Southampton Buildings. On the 14th of the present month he had occasion to go to Richmond, and whilst there he met by the purest accident Mrs Bailey, the wife of the defendant. They returned together by the South Western Railway and, on leaving Waterloo Station, he accompanied Mrs Bailey over Waterloo Bridge, to the end of Lancaster Place...the defendant rushed up, and struck him a tremendous blow with a brass-headed stick.....I went to Richmond for the purpose of discharging an obligation I thought I was under. It was to pay for the maintenance of Mrs Bailey's child, which was with a person name Foster. Mrs Bailey had no home for it, and I told her to send the child where she liked, and I would pay for its maintenance....I am paying six shillings a week for the child....The learned Judge said it was certainly a most disgusting case. Nobody who had heard the evidence could have any doubt as to the character of the intimacy between the prosecutor and this Mrs Bailey, and nobody could wonder that the defendant acted in the way that he did. The crime of adultery by the wife was no excuse for an assault upon the paramour by the injured husband, and the Court hoped he would not repeat his conduct. The Court fully considered the provocation given; and as a farthing was the smallest coin known in this country, the sentence was that the defendant pay to the Queen a fine of a farthing....The result was received with applause, and the defendant left the court with a numerous body of friends."

    (5) It is not certain whether Joshua Stopford was really living at 46 St John Street, Clerkenwell, in 1849, as it is a warehouse in the 1851 census. There is a 46 1/2 in the census but no Stopford of course.

    (6) Thomas Jonathan Wooler can be found in the 1851 census living at 10 Carburton Street as related in the 1849 case. His offices seem to have been at 93 Hatton Garden. Stephen Bailey, the man who assaulted Joshua Stopford, can also be found in the 1851 census, a licensed victualler, at 9 Great Russell Street - he seems to have accepted his wife (Mary) back. The child mentioned in the case may have been Jane Rebecca Bailey who was christened 22 December 1848 and buried in 1850.