Joseph Clark 1856-1939

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This impressive black polished granite monument commemorates Joseph Clark and various family members, at least eight of whom are interred and others have their ashes buried here.


The monument was built for Joseph’s wife Sarah Ann Clark, who died aged 67 as the result of a tragic accident on 1st November 1922. Her chauffeur driven car overturned when the brakes were suddenly applied trying to avoid a 14-year-old apprentice electrician, Henry Metcalf, who had walked out in front of the car. Both Henry and Sarah Ann died on 13th November; Henry in Leeds Infirmary from meningitis and it was said that the shock of the accident contributed to Sarah’s death. Joseph Clark was born in South Leeds in 1856, the third of seven children of dyer, Charles Clark and his wife Hannah. The 1861 census gives their address as Coopers Court, one of eight brick-built, blind-backed Georgian houses off Bowman Lane, Hunslet – he started work aged 12 as a paper maker.


In 1877 Joseph married Sarah Ann Gunson from Hunslet and by 1891 the family, now with four sons, Arthur 12, Charles Gunson 10, John 8 and Henry Stanley 3, lived at 31 Kirkstall Road, Headingley with Joseph employed as a foreman dyer. However, it was not long before he went into business on his own at Dean Street Mills, the firm he built from scratch and provided him and his family with a good source of income.


In 1906 he stood for and won the Headingley seat on Leeds City Council for the Liberals. The Leeds Mercury in supporting his election stated that “Mr. Clark has a splendid reputation amongst his work people” and recalled his kindness as a local employer. It stated that as superintendent of a Sunday school, Joseph came to the conclusion there was no point in teaching children with empty stomachs, so he and some others provided breakfast for between 150-200 poor children every Sunday.



After his three year term on the Council finished, he was appointed Alderman, from which he retired in 1913 in order to seek re-election. He won the contest to represent the West Ward, which he did until 1920. He held many posts on Council Committees including Deputy Chair of the Electricity committee for five years, deputy chair of the Library committee from 1910-11 and chair of Book Purchasing for six years. He was also Chair of the Sanitary committee 1911-12 as well as serving on the Finance, Highways Improvements, Gas, Distress, and War Pensions committees. It was said that his fearless outspokenness, combined with a natural wit and sound business qualities, meant his contribution to debates was always welcomed. “In business and in public life Mr Clark never fell below his own high standards of commercial integrity.” Added to this he was a magistrate (JP) for twenty years (1918-1938), often presiding in the second court where his style was said to be “homely rather than judicial.” It was said that he had “a greater knowledge of the weaknesses of his fellow man than he had of the law.


As a businessman he travelled extensively on the continent and it was on a trip to Nice in 1923 that he met Mrs Annette Norman, an American widow. The family said he came back minus his whiskers but plus a bride-to-be. Joseph Clark in 1924 he and Mrs Norman were married at St. George’s, Hanover Square, London. She found our climate rather difficult to adapt to after the Californian sunshine, and died aged just 60 in 1936. Joseph handed his business over to his sons and after she died, he moved from Burley Mount to live with his son in Jackson Avenue, Gledhow, Leeds where he became a regular attender of the Lidgett Park Methodist Church. He was also a freemason – a member of the Excelsior Lodge. Joseph died in 1939 aged 83 years.



Ann Lightman from family details given by Anne Norman