Hailstones & ranters

Map of the Week 011A

Samuel Hailstone of Bradford (1768-1851) was that rare combination, a lawyer and a botanist. Samuel himself was born in Hoxton, London but his family soon moved to York. In time he became articled to John Hardy, a Bradford solicitor, and Hardy & Hailstone eventually became partners. John Hardy was elected an MP and became the father of another politician, Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, who was created Earl of Cranbrook. I understand that Samuel and John Hardy were the moving spirits behind the 1803 Bradford Improvement Act. More than forty years before Bradford became a borough this act established commissioners with a variety of local government powers such as street cleaning, lighting, and water. Samuel’s brother John meanwhile became a professor of geology at Cambridge.

Samuel continued to practise as a solicitor and was the classic example of a wealthy and highly successful professional man. His politics were Liberal and, unusually for non-conformist Bradford, he was an Anglican. I get the impression that Yorkshire botany and geology were Samuel’s main interests. A collection of more than 2000 plant specimens was passed to the Yorkshire Museum on his death. But despite these studies he was active in issues affecting his chosen town. He helped found the Bradford Literary & Philosophical Society and also the Mechanics Institute. He served as a major in the Bradford Volunteer Infantry and was clerk to the Trustees of the Leeds and Halifax Turnpike Road.

In 1808 Samuel married Ann Jones, the daughter of a Bradford surgeon, and the couple had several children. He died at Horton Hall, Bradford in 1851. In his census return for that year he indicates that he is a widower living alone, except for a house-keeper and five servants. The Hailstones were a very high achieving family. One son, Samuel jnr., was also a noted amateur naturalist and a collector of crustacea. He pre-deceased his father in 1841. There were two surviving sons, Rev John Hailstone (1810-1871), the vicar of Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, and Edward Hailstone FSA (1818-1890). Edward took over the Bradford legal practice but is famous for a huge assembly of books and documents relating to Yorkshire history, especially those of the Sharp family who were the previous owners of Horton Hall. At his death the collection was left to the archives of York Minster where it can still be consulted today.

New Doc 1_2b

In 1837 Samuel Hailstone offered for sale the land between Croft Street & Bridge Street. We have a copy of that sale plan in the Local Studies Library. A second map shows the land to the north. I was intrigued that there was a small ‘Ranters chapel’ with the name crossed out and ‘Providence chapel’ substituted. As a bit of a ranter myself I wondered who these people were. I assume this was the home of the ‘Jumping Ranters’ in whose chapel I have read that Chartist meetings were once held. The ranters seem to have grown out of Primitive Methodism and I assume it was the exuberance of their worship that resulted in the name. They might have been an early nineteenth century group that was properly known as the ‘Leeds Female Revivalists’ but if anyone can tell me more I should be grateful.


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