Sir Joseph B Leach

Posted on: 22 May 2021

Sir Joseph B Leach

The JB&B Leach business has been serving the people of St Helens as the town's Premier Estate Agent since Victorian times and has a rich history within the St Helens community.

The business’ founder, Joseph Bithell Leach was born in Runcorn in 1841, the eldest son of a shoemaker with a thriving business on Runcorn High Street.  Joseph originally set out to be a dentist, but whilst commencing work as a dental assistant, in his spare time, he started to collect ground rent on behalf of local freeholders which quickly lead to him identifying significant business opportunities within the property market.

In 1856, at the age of 15 he opened his first estate agency on Bridge Street in Runcorn trading under the name of JB Leach, but was soon joined by his brother Benjamin, an accountant, and “JB&B Leach” was born!

At this point, the town that would become known as St Helens, was a rapidly growing hub of the industrial revolution based around the four manors of Eccleston, Windle, Sutton and Parr.  Already a significant coal mining area, the town had seen the birth of several industries that would become household names – Pilkington glass manufacturers, Beecham pharmaceuticals and Greenhalls brewery.  St Helens was the place to be, so Joseph decided to open the firm’s first estate agency office in St Helens on Hardshaw Street in 1860. 

Joseph married Jane and moved his home from Runcorn to Cowley Hill in 1863 prior to the official incorporation of the town of St Helens in 1868.  By this time, the JB&B Leach business offered an array of services as estate agent, auctioneer and money lender and after relocating to a number of different premises on Hardshaw Street as the town continued to grow, the business settled into what is believed to have originally been a Liberal Club, known as Borough Chambers, 21 Hardshaw Street, St Helens which the business trades from to the present day!

Joseph was a significant local figure in St Helens: a devout Christian, tee-total, staunch Liberal Councillor and philanthropist who arranged annual free meals to the underprivileged children of the town whilst extolling the virtues of honesty, sobriety and perseverance.

Joseph moved his family home to Huyton in 1879 by which time, he and Jane had four children: Florence, Emily, Lawrence and Wilfred and the JB&B Leach firm would have additional offices in Earlestown and Liverpool. 

Joseph died in 1917 two weeks after learning that he was to receive a Knighthood, but before he could attend his investiture.   Sir Joseph became St Helens’ 3rd knight of the realm after Sir David Gamble and Sir Joseph Beecham

A memorial to Sir Joseph B Leach can still be seen at Huyton Cemetery as well as a specially commissioned window within Huyton Congregational Church.

Joseph’s son Wilfred took over the running of the business from 1917 until he died in 1939. 

Sadly Joseph’s direct lineage ended with the passing of his only surviving family member and grand-child Mildred in 1960, but successive owners of the JB&B Leach business have retained the business name and its reputation as St Helens Premier Estate Agents through to the present day.

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