JOSEPH CHATWOOD

ARCHITECT, ENGINEER, BUILDING AND LAND SURVEYOR


This is how Joseph Chattwood was described in his entry in the Bury Directory Advertiser and the question posed by Joan Merrill when we started our correspondence into the history of the Chattwood Family was, how did he become an architect in the 1840-50's? The story that gradually unfolded was one that would not make you disagree with the remarks of Mr. George Milner in a speech at the Manchester Literary Club's Christmas supper in 1905 in which he referred to Joseph as a "remarkable man".

Joseph was born in Edenfield, Lancashire, the youngest son of Edward and Hannah Chatwood on December 12th 1820 and was christened in the Edenfield Parish Church on the 25th of February 1821. A very good report on his life after this was in the "Bury Times" of the 19th November 1875 on his death in Southport the previous day. His father was a wheelwright in the village and educational facilities were few but by the age of eight he could read the New Testament "fairly" and for two years after this he attended the National School, leaving at ten. For several years he assisted his father in the workshop and ,eventually joined his eldest brother, Samuel, who had taken over the business of blacksmith and wheelwright of Mr James Livesey in Heap Bridge.

All during this period he spent his spare time studying, constantly covering every available board in the shop with figures and problems. By great perseverance, added to a naturally gifted brain, he formed a resolution to become a teacher and obtained a post as a teacher at Greenbooth near Rochdale, which was not densely populated, had only one mill and where his largest number of pupils was only 60.

After a little over 12 months here he decided he couldn't make enough money so he left the school and commenced to lecture on Natural Philosophy in various towns in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire. During this time he started a public discussion with a man who went under the pseudonym " Parallax " on the rotundity of the Earth, at the Old Mechanics Institute Bury. This led to an occasion on the beach at Blackpool when the matter was to be settled by setting up posts with rings on the top, all at the same height and over a long distance, the idea being that if the earth was flat, as Parallax said , then you would be able to see from one end of the rings to the other. When it was all set up by Joseph and his friends Parallax failed to turn up and was not heard of in Lancashire for a long time.

After lecturing for some time Joseph returned to education , this time as an assistant master at a large school at Crowle in Lincolnshire, a post he held until 1844 when he met a Mr. Hull from Northampton who was an architect and Joseph joined him as assistant until towards the end of 1846 . Joseph now returned to Bury where he worked with the surveying staff of the East Lancashire Railway, then just opened, until 1849 when he set up in Union Square Bury as an Architect, Civil Engineer and Surveyor on his own account.

Brunswick New Chapel- Joseph Chattwood Architect 1862

His leisure hours were devoted to literary pursuits and he contributed to Bury Observer and other periodicals. At this time plans were afoot to build an Athenaeum in Bury and a Committee was set up to bring this about. In the minutes of April 9th 1850 there is a minute that Mr Joseph Chattwood be one of the committee. From then until the building was completed and handed over to the trustees on the 13th December 1852 he attended at least 74 meetings, missing very few and from the minutes of the period taking a very active part in the proceedings.

He was not the architect because he was not in business when the Architect for the project was appointed but it is obvious that his knowledge proved very useful. He called the attention of the building committee to the need for proper ventilation of the basement and ground floors and on another occasion he moved that a letter be sent to the Architect, Sydney Smirke, to insist that work be speeded up as the work was not progressing fast enough.

He seemed to be involved in many ways, from being on a committee to invite notables, including Charles Dickens, to the laying of the foundation stone, to collecting subscriptions, being on a committee to organise an exhibition and bazaar.

On the 26th October he was appointed to the Board and it is a pity that minutes from the end of 1852 to 1863 are missing because these may have shown whether the Bury Literary Club he was reported as having started in 1859 was true since there are no written records that this was so in the Bury Library Local History section.

There is no doubt however that he was a founder member and the first President of the Manchester Literary Club founded in 1862. He held this position until 1873 when his health (he had been subject to rheumatism for a long time) and professional work made it impossible to continue. For by this time his knowledge of geology, political and commercial economy and other sciences enabled him to become an arbitrator, probably in regard to the railways being built at this time. He took his assistant into partnership because of the work involved in this work.