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Joseph Brotherton

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Title: Joseph Brotherton  
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Subject: Weaste Cemetery, The Circus Cowboy, Bible Christian Church (vegetarian), Museums Act 1845, Rowland Detrosier
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Joseph Brotherton

Statue of Joseph Brotherton in Manchester

Joseph Brotherton (22 May 1783 – 7 January 1857) was a reforming British politician, Nonconformist minister and pioneering vegetarian.

He was born in Whittington, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and was the son of John Brotherton, an excise collector, and his wife Mary.[1] In 1789 the family moved to Salford, Lancashire, where John Brotherton established a cotton and silk mill.[1]

Joseph received no formal education, instead joining the family firm, of which he became a partner in 1802.[1] On the death of his father in 1809 he went into partnership with his cousin William Harvey. In 1806 he married his business partner's sister, Martha.[1]

Bible Christian Church

In 1805 he joined the Salford William Cowherd, was renamed the Bible Christian Church in 1809. In 1816 Cowherd died, and Brotherton became a minister. The church required abstention from the eating of meat or drinking of alcohol. In 1812 Martha Brotherton was the author of Vegetable Cookery, the first vegetarian cookbook.

In 1819, aged only thirty-six, Brotherton retired from the family business in order to devote his energy to his ministry.[1] He used his position to actively improve the conditions of workers and campaign for reforms. Among his achievements were the building of schools, the opening of a lending library and the establishment of a fund to support the victims of the Peterloo Massacre.[1] He was also an overseer of the poor and a justice of the peace.

Membership of the Little Circle

From 1815 Brotherton was a member of a group of Nonconformist Liberals, meeting in the Manchester home of John Potter, termed the Little Circle. Other members of the group included: John Edward Taylor (founder of The Manchester Guardian), Archibald Prentice (later editor of the Manchester Times), John Shuttleworth (industrialist and municipal reformer), Absalom Watkin (parliamentary reformer and anti corn law campaigner), William Cowdray Jnr (editor of the Manchester Gazette), Thomas Potter (later first mayor of Manchester) and Richard Potter (later MP for Wigan). In 1820 Brotherton, Shuttleworth and Thomas Potter founded the Manchester Chamber of Commerce.[1]

In 1821, after the Peterloo Massacre and the government-led closure of the Manchester Observer, the group without Cowdroy backed John Edward Taylor in founding the Manchester Guardian newspaper.

After the death of John Potter, the Potter brothers formed a second Little Circle group, to begin a campaign for parliamentary reform. This called for the better proportional representation in the Houses of Parliament from the rotten boroughs towards the fast-growing industrialised towns of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Salford. After the petition raised on behalf of the group by Absalom Watkin, Parliament passed the Reform Act 1832.

Salford's first member of parliament

Funerary monument of Joseph Brotherton, Weaste cemetery

The group's aims were achieved with the passing of the Reform Act 1832. Brotherton was elected as Salford's first member of parliament at the ensuing general election.[1] He was re-elected five times, unopposed on two occasions.[1] In parliament he campaigned against the death penalty, for the abolition of slavery and for free non-denominational education.[1] He actively supported the Municipal Corporations Bill, which led to Manchester and Salford having democratically-elected councils. He took an interest in the facilities provided by the new municipalities, and was largely responsible for the opening of Peel Park, Salford and Weaste Cemetery.


Brotherton died suddenly from a heart attack in January 1857, while travelling to a meeting in Manchester.[1] He was buried on 14 January in the new Weaste municipal cemetery, Salford, the first interment at the cemetery he campaigned for, following a two and a half mile long funeral procession.[1] A Joseph Brotherton Memorial Fund was established, and a statue of Brotherton was erected in Peel Park in 1858.[1] The statue was dismantled in 1954 and sold into private ownership in 1969. It was purchased by Manchester City Council in 1986, and was resited at Riverside Walk, overlooking the River Irwell towards Salford. It is currently being relocated onto the Salford bank of the Irwell to make way for a new footbridge linking Salford to the Spinningfield development.[2][3]


Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Peter Shapely (2004). "Brotherton, Joseph (1783–1857)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  2. ^ Wyke, Terry (2005). Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. pp. 51–52.  
  3. ^ Public Monument and Sculpture Association: National Recording Project: JOSEPH BROTHERTON Retrieved on 2008-09-09

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Joseph Brotherton
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Salford
Succeeded by
Edward Ryley Langworthy
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