Eminent men who married sisters

During a recent visit to Sunderland Minster I noted a memorial to a man who connects that building with our local minster.

The Ven William Paley (1743-1805) was a famous rector of Bishopwearmouth, an eminent theologian who supported the abolition of the slave trade.

Two of his daughters married men of note who lived in Calderdale. Elizabeth Paley married William Priestley, of Lightcliffe, in December 1808. Her younger sister, Mary Paley, married her first cousin, Dr Robert Paley, of Halifax, in January 1807.

Elizabeth Priestley lived with her husband, William, at New House, later The Grange, Lightcliffe. Her name appears many times in the diaries of Anne Lister, of whom she was a great confidante.

William Priestley was important to Halifax as founder of our famous choral society around 1817. He often attended church in Halifax.

In the mid-1830s the Priestleys moved to Thorp Arch but returned here for many musical events. Elizabeth died in 1856 and William in 1860.

At William’s death his large collection of music and other books was bequeathed to Halifax Parish Church and to the local literary and philosophical society.

A few volumes remain in the minster cellars but of those assigned to the church most were sold early in the 21st century to raise money for church funds.

Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, married Robert Paley, who was born at Langcliffe, near Giggleswick, in April 1780.

Having qualified as MD he came to Halifax early in the 19th century. He was a key figure in the founding of Halifax’s first dispensary in 1808 and he supported the infant medical establishment with funds.

His name appears in Anne Lister’s diaries for he was a prominent physician and attended several members of the Lister family. He lived at Craven Lodge, near King Cross.

In 1820, suffering from ill-health, Paley left Halifax for Ripon, where he was consulting physician to the Ripon Dispensary. However he returned to Halifax for extended stays, having kept on his house here. Robert died in October 1859.

David Glover