Briggs, John Joseph (DNB00)

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BRIGGS, JOHN JOSEPH (1819–1876), naturalist and topographer, was born in the village of King's Newton, near Melbourne, Derbyshire, 6 March 1819. His father, John Briggs, who married his cousin, Mary Briggs, was born and resided for eighty-eight years on the same farm, at King's Newton, which had been the freehold of his ancestors for three centuries. John Joseph went, in 1828, to the boarding school of Mr. Thomas Rossel Potter, the well-known historian of ‘Charnwood Forest,’ at Wymeswold, Leicestershire, and in 1833 to the Rev. Solomon Saxon, of Darley Dale. Early in life he was apprenticed to Mr. Bemrose, the venerable head of the printing firm of Bemrose & Sons, Derby; but ill-health compelling him to relinquish an indoor occupation, he thenceforward devoted himself, like his ancestors, to farming. He became the faithful chronicler of the seasons, and recorded all the facts and occurrences coming within his observation during at least thirty years. He kept these notes carefully bound in manuscript volumes, and shortly before his death they were announced for publication, but have not yet been given to the world. Meanwhile he utilised his notes regularly in the ‘Field’ newspaper, in which as early as 1855 he had originated ‘The Naturalists' Column,’ and entered into correspondence with the leading naturalists of the time. His papers also in the ‘Zoologist,’ ‘Critic,’ ‘Reliquary,’ ‘Sun,’ ‘Derby Reporter,’ and ‘Leicestershire Guardian’ (edited by his old schoolmaster Mr. Potter), were full of picturesque descriptions of nature and sketches of places and objects in the midland counties of archæological and antiquarian interest. He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of the British Archæological Association. In 1869 he married Hannah Soar of Chellaston. Shortly before his death he had retired upon an ample competency, but his health failed, and he died at the place of his birth on 23 March 1876, leaving a widow, a son, and three daughters.

His works consist of:

  1. ‘Melbourne, a Sketch of its History and Antiquity,’ 1839, 4to.
  2. ‘History of Melbourne, including Biographical Notices,’ &c., with plates and woodcuts, Derby, 1852, 8vo, pp. 206.
  3. ‘The Trent and other Poems,’ Derby, 1857, 8vo; with additions, Derby, 1859, 8vo.
  4. ‘The Peacock at Rowsley,’ London, 1869, 8vo, a gossiping book about fishing and country life, descriptive of a well-known resort of anglers at the junction of the Wye and Derwent.
  5. ‘Guide to Melbourne and King's Newton,’ Derby, 1870, 8vo.
  6. ‘History and Antiquities of Hemington, Leicestershire,’ twelve copies, privately printed, with coloured lithographs and woodcuts, London, 1873, large 4to.

Besides these works and the unpublished observations on natural history, Briggs had been for many years collecting materials for a book to be entitled ‘The Worthies of Derbyshire,’ for which we believe he had notes for at least 700 memoirs. This work, however, has not been published.

[Briggs's Works; Reliquary, 1876; personal recollections.]

J. W.-G.