Malcolm Bull's Calderdale Companion : Foldout

Joseph Bentley Leyland


The Halifax-born sculptor Joseph Bentley Leyland was the son of Roberts Leyland, and older brother of Francis Alexander Leyland

He was educated at his grandfather's academy in Halifax. He also wrote poetry.

He began modelling at the age of 16. Christopher Rawson allowed him to study his collection of Greek marbles which possibly inspired later works, such as Spartacus

At the age of 18, he sculpted the head of the minister at Northgate End Chapel which is now in Bankfield Museum.

He was noticed by Thomas Illidge, the portrait painter, whom he followed to London where he met Francis Leggatt Chantrey and Benjamin Haydon. He studied in London for a time, under Haydon, before returning to Halifax.

He was a close friend of Branwell Brontë.

Around 1840, he was to judge the poetry-writing contest between William Dearden and Brontë. About 1846, Leyland encouraged Brontë to write an epic poem about the history of Morley Hall, Lancashire, which had once belonged the Leyland's ancestors. In return for the poem, Leyland would make a medallion showing Brontë's profile. The medallion hangs in the Parsonage at Haworth, but the poem never appeared.

With Brontë and Tom Cliffe, he was a member of a club which met at the Union Cross Inn, and he had a studio at the rear of the inn. Branwell wrote a famous letter to Leyland announcing his intention to write a novel.

After meeting Sir Richard Westmacott, he opened a studio at Number 10 The Square which became a meeting place for artists and poets – including Branwell Brontë, William Dearden, Wilson Anderson.

Although impoverished himself, Leyland paid many of his friends' bar debts.

His studio later became the Halifax Marble Works where Leyland produced marble sculpture and – when Leyland was in financial difficulties – more popular and commercial products:

Halifax Marble Works
Square Road
J. B. Leyland, Sculptor
Monuments, busts, tombs, tablets, chiffonier slabs and all kinds of marble work used in the upholstery business, made to order. A variety of marble chimney pieces on view, cleaned, repaired, or set up

He ended his days heavily in debt and unable to cope with his workload, a victim of drink and drugs, and suffering from dropsy.

He died in the debtors' prison.

He was buried at Salem Methodist New Connexion Chapel, North Parade

Some of his work

Because Leyland made so many of his works in plaster, these often broke or decayed over time.

His works include:

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© Malcolm Bull 2017 / [email protected]
Revised 14:14 on 8th May 2017 / mml113 / 12