Fletcher, Joshua (1802-1875)

Of Silsden

Early Life

Joshua was born on 24 July 1802 at Silsden, Yorkshire, son of Hannah Fletcher. He was baptised on 15 August 1802 at St Peter (Cathedral), Bradford, Yorkshire.

His early life was one of extreme poverty. As a young child he earned some pennies by picking coal at the pit. He went to Hewnden Mill as an apprentice until he was thirteen. Partial failure of the business led to him moving to live with an aunt at Swartha, nr Silsden.

Conversion and Ministry

At the age of 19, having lived his life without any regard for religion, Joshua met John Flesher. On 21 April 1821 Joshua heard Rev J Hewson preach and he was moved.  Later that day, Joshua was led by John Flesher to a prayer meeting in his father’s barn, where his conversion experience was completed.

His conversion prompted Joshua to learn to read and write, which he was able to with the help of John Flesher’s father. In 1822 Joshua became a local preacher. During the remainder of his life it is estimated that he walked over 16,000 miles and preached over 3,000 sermons as a local preacher.

Joshua took a great interest in chapel building in his part of the connexion. One of his outstanding qualities was perseverance, which was very useful when raising funds to build chapels.

Joshua attended many District business meetings and attended conferences in Newcastle (1842), Sheffield (1852), Doncaster (1858), York (1864), and Chester (1866). The London conference of 1873 elected Joshua as a ‘Deed Poll’ member of conference. Sadly, due to failing health, Joshua was never able to take his seat as a deed poll member.


Joshua married Hannah Berry on 8 December 1823 at Kildwick, Yorkshire. Hannah was baptised at Silsden on 22 July 1802. She died on 18 December 1850. Parish records for Silsden identify 5 children of Joshua and Hannah

  • John (1824-1825)
  • Sarah (1826-1826) – died at 10 days
  • William (1828-1886) – a coal merchant
  • Richard (1832-1836)
  • Alfred (1840-1859)

In later life Joshua earned a living running a general shop in Thanet’s Square, Silsden.

Joshua married Alice Smith on 9 April 1855 at Silsden. Alice was born on 6 November 1819 at Silsden. She was buried on 17 Jun 1880.

Joshua died on 26 April 1875 following a series of strokes.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1874 (picture); 1876/241

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2,  p118

WJ Robson, Silsden Primitive Methodism; Historical Records and Reminiscences, 1910

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Comments about this page

  • Continuing Silsden Stories in the August 2012 Ranter’s Digest

    I was very interested to read the article “Silsden Stories” in the August edition of Ranter’s Digest.
    Richard Fletcher was my great grandfather. In the 1891 census Marshall Laycock, aged 3 is listed as living in his house. I wonder whether there is a connection with William Laycock who gave the organ to Richard Fletcher.
    Joshua Fletcher, Richard’s grandfather was at the prayer meeting in the Flesher’s barn in 1821.He was a 19 year old woolcomber and had a conversion experience described in “Silsden Primitive Methodism”. After this he gave up drinking and learnt to read and write. He became a well-known local preacher and helped to build the first Primitive Methodist Church in Silsden.It is estimated that he walked about 16,000 miles and preached over 3,000 sermons.
    In 1835-36, Joshua together with James Gill and Henry Mitchell, built Becks Mill; the first power weaving shed in Silsden. The Fletcher family continued in the textile business until the 1970’s.

    Jane Fletcher

    By Jane Fletcher (12/11/2018)
  • Joshua Fletcher was born in Wilsden near Bradford. From the age of 5 he was employed in a spinning mill and later apprenticed as a woolcomber. He moved to Silsden as a teenager to work as a woolcomber in the comb shop of John Flesher. In 1836 he together with 2 other “working men” put together their savings to build a worsted mill to provide employment for people in the village. Obituary of Joshua Fletcher Bradford Observer 1875.


    By Jane Fletcher (08/08/2014)

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