Joseph Smith was born in 1800 in Scholes, Cleckheaton son of Joseph Smith, Maltster who was of Quaker descent. Joseph senior inherited land and perhaps this lead to his son’s interest. In 1821 Joseph began operating as a surveyor and left Scholes for Bradford in 1827 where he attained a leading position as surveyor and land agent. His clients included the most important residents of Bradford of the time: John Hustler, Richard Fawcett and the Rev. Godfrey Wright. He became the land agent for the Fitzgerald estates at Boldshay. He designed the Bradford and Eccleshill turnpike, which opened in 1826, the Leeds and Halifax Road as well as taking an interest in the surveying the projected railway to Leeds in 1835.
He was elected as a commissioner under the Lighting and Watching Act in 1827 and was one of the most active members of that body. He was zealous in obtaining the Charter of Incorporation and upon incorporation he was made an Alderman which continued until 1853.
His residence was in Little Horton Lane and it is here where he died on 22 April 1858. His wife, Elizabeth had died some years before. They had two children, Jane who in 1858 married Benjamin Farrer who was a land owner and George Belk Smith who like his father was a land agent and took over as land agent at Boldshay.