Joseph Smith was born in the year 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 of 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. When George joined his father in business, they operated under the name Joseph Smith and Son and worked from premises in Leeds Road. After his father’s death, George continued the business.
George acting for Sir Titus Salt bought most of the land on which Saltaire village now stands. He also acted as agent for the Fosters of Queensbury, the Fitzgeralds of Horton and Boldshay, the Leathams of Wakefield, Sir Francis Sharpe Powell and others and was frequently employed in arbitration cases. With their huge wealth the Fosters were buying estates including a 2,000 acre estate at Moor Park in Shropshire which George purchased by private treaty on behalf of Major Jonas Foster of Cliffe Hall, Lightcliffe. This was the fourth estate that the Fosters had acquired over a relatively short period, the others were Hornby Castle estate near Lancaster (John Foster £250,000), Egton Estate near Whitby (John Foster £170,000), and the Canwell Estate in the Midlands (Abraham £200,000). Of course, they were also owners of a large area of land in and around Queensbury.
When Titus Salt Jnr went to America in 1883 he took George Belk Smith with him, along with Charles Stead (partner in Titus Salts company), a Mr Mawsons together with an iron and coal engineer from Middleborough. They were looking at an estate which was ‘ram full of coal and minerals’
George Belk Smith had a large family of seven children including youngest son Frederick Joseph Smith, known as Fred J Smith. Frederick saw opportunities in America and he went off to California in 1881 at the age of twenty. He rode across southern California by horse to settle in Pomona (named after the Roman goddess of fruit). George had ensured that Frederick had a good education by sending him to a private school and later to an international school in London where he graduated. Frederick is regarded as one of Americas pioneers, initially growing fruit including peaches, apricots, olives, oranges and pears. Further, he planted seventy acres of grapes. He progressed in the local community and became president of the San Antonio Fruit exchange, the Canyon Water Company and the Chamber of Commerce. He also got involved in buying and selling property for himself and acted as an agent for Northern Counties Investment Trust who offered loans to buy and improve property.
Joseph Smith’s monument, which is grade two listed, is a huge 33ft obelisk, it stands at the end of the promenade and is testament to the important role he played in establishing Undercliffe Cemetery. The monument itself was designed by William Gay.
Research by Deborah Stirling and Steve Lightfoot
G B Smith obituary – Leeds Mercury 16th Aug 1902, Leeds Times 14th June 1873, History of Pomona.