Joseph Scholefield

During the spring months of 2018 I had a repair job from a customer with a bass attributed to “Schofield”. There was little to no information about the maker, who he was, where or when he lived. We had a few little snippets of information with some suggesting that he was a farmer or blacksmith, and that he made basses for churches around Leeds, this was commonly agreed upon but nothing much else was known. After researching occasionally for a few weeks I gave up thinking that there was no more information to be found for the customer.

Fast forward a couple of months, whilst doing some other research in some newspaper archives I saw a glimpse of something odd, looking closer, I had inadvertently stumbled on the correct spelling of his name, a small advert from 1914 of someone selling a “double bass made by Scholefied”. From this piece of information I was able to find out a lot more.

Joseph Scholefield was born in Birstall, near Leeds in 1790, and was married to Elizabeth Gill (1794-1861) on 17th August 1814, the two never had children, and his main occupation was listed as a Machine Maker. At the time, the area was very important for cotton manufacturing and it is probable, but not definite, that he would have made and repaired hand looms and spinners for the local workers. During this time most of cotton spinning work was done residentially before it moved into factory work later. He had two apprentices through his career, John Yates and Luke Kelsall (Joseph's nephew), the later taking over Joseph's business when he died.

During his lifetime he made at least 11 basses, however it is likely that there were 13 or maybe even a couple more. They were all of the same model, whether he used a mould or an outline is unknown. All known basses have the same violin corner outline, arched back, and cello shaped top bouts, some have since been cut down or raised at the top bouts. The scrolls are all of large proportion and would have originally been made for 3 strings, there are no labels or branding by the maker.

By 1839 he had made at least 10 basses and he continued to make and advertise them for sale until 1847. It seems as though the first 10 were made for churches around the local areas before 1839 when he started to try and sell them through newspaper advertisements, whether this was because he was in need of money due to the Industrial Revolution impeding on his main career or if the churches no longer needed or wanted them is unknown. The churches that had Scholefield's basses were:

  • Wesley Chapel, Leeds

  • Zion Chapel Wakefield

  • Gomersal Chapel

  • Calverley Chapel

  • Holmefirth Chapel

  • Birstall Chapel

  • Baptist Chapel Salendine Nook, Nr Huddersfield

  • Batley Methodist Chapel

  • Primitive Methodist Chapel, Holbeck

  • Eccleshill Methodist Chapel

They were also located, or bought by:

  • Mr. Marsden in Bradford

  • Mr Wardle in Beeston (Who played for the Leeds Choral Society)

  • The Liverpool Choral Society

  • Bradford Choral Band

Joseph Scholefield died on 16th December 1849 at the age of 59 years old and was buried at the Weslyan Chapel, Birstall.