The Reverend Joseph Ismay Vicar Of Mirfield 1740-1778
Joseph Ismay was born July 18th 1708 at Aikton (Near Carlisle) in
Cumberland, the son of Thomas Ismay a yeoman. He attended Kirbylonsdale Grammar School and went on to Christ College Cambridge in 1729 where he completed is B.A. degree in 1733.
He was ordained to
the priesthood in 1738 and took up the post of curate at Hartshead, so beginning a life long relationship with the local area.
During Ismay's time at Hartshead he lodged with the family of Sir
Samuel Armytage, First Baronet of Kirklees, High Sheriff of Yorkshire, at Kirklees Hall on the boundaries of Mirfield, Hartshead and Brighouse.
During this time Ismay performed the duties of
Chaplain to the family and tutor to Sir Samuel's sons John & George.
The young Ismay must have impressed Sir Samuel because upon the death of Thomas Hardy Vicar of Mirfield in November 1739 he
presented Ismay as his replacement. (At this time the Armytage family held the Advowsons over Hartshead and Mirfield churches; this gave Sir Armytage the patronage of those churches and the right to
present his chosen candidate for the vacant position of Vicar to the Bishop at York.)
Ismay took up the position of Vicar of Mirfield on the 28th of January 1740. For his parsonage he was handed
over a property near the church belonging to the Armytage Estate, already of some great age and in need of much renovation now known locally as "Ivy Lodge".
For the next 38 years Ismay served the
people of Mirfield well and with great diligence until his death on the 21st of June 1778.
He was buried beneath the alter of his Church and a plate taken from that Church now in the vestry of the
present Church gives the following epitaph-
In memory of the Rev. Joseph Ismay, born in the county of Cumberland, B.A., of Christ's College, in
Cambridge, vicar of this Church into which he was inducted A.D. 1739, this plate was erected. He was a singular lover of antiquity and studied botany, a sincere Christian & in every relation such
as claimed the esteem & goodwill of all who new him. He died June 21st 1778, aged 70 years & lies interred beneath the altar table.
It is through the Rev Joseph Ismay that
much of what is now written about Mirfield's history both during and before his time is known. Ismay was an avid diarist recording not only day to day events of his life in Mirfield and the locality
but often details of important events far away. Like many educated gentlemen of the time he took a great interest in both local and natural history and corresponded greatly on the subject with his
Through his diaries and correspondences Ismay left a detailed study of Mirfield life in the mid 18th century. Unfortunately unlike many "antiquarians" of his time he never published
formally any of his work, so upon his death his diaries etc were passed to the family with little being seen of them since.
Fortunately at some point in late 19th century the diaries and letters
once more emerged long enough for some extracts to be recorded and published in a number of books and periodicals.
The extracts used here are taken from Yorkshire Notes & Queries
published by J. Horsfall Turner.