On August 13th 1846 The Times listed the individuals who had put up money for “Railway Speculation”. Any amount over £20,000 had to be declared to Parliament and therefore became public knowledge. Ledsam put up £186,000 – a serious sum of money.
The Wolverton interest is that a street was named after him, as indeed was another in Birmingham, but it has not been easy to find out much about him. According to the 1851 Census he was a landed proprietor, Deputy Lieutenant of Worcester and a JP. He was living in some comfort on the Harborne Road in Edgbaston. The Ledsams, like many successful Birmingham families, emerge during the 18th century, likely in some manufacturing enterprise. In the 19th century Thomas Ledsam and Sons were button manufacturers and Daniel Ledsam was a merchant in the mid-centry. Joseph was obviously part of the same extended family but his precise place in the family is not apparent from my brief research. What we can say is that he had some capital and was probably smart enough to invest it in the new railway. By 1846 he could easily put up almost £200,000.
The following account, extracted from “Modern Birmingham and its Events 1841-1871”, a compilation of local activities, gives a clearer concept of Mr Ledsam’s role in the community.
On December 28, (1861) Mr. Joseph Frederick Ledsam died in his 72nd year. Until a short time before his decease Mr. Ledsam occupied a prominent position amongst the leading inhabitants of the town, but his failing health compelled him to retire from public life.
He was a Magistrate for the three counties of Warwick, Worcester, and Stafford, and a Deputy Lieutenant of the first named county. He had also filled the important position of High Sheriff of Worcestershire. Mr. Ledsam was, however, best known from his long and intimate connection with the General Hospital, especially as regards the great Musical Festival, held every three years for the benefit of the charity. For many years Mr. Ledsam filled the office of Chairman of the Festival Committee, and only resigned it when his health finally gave way. His remarkable courtesy and kindness of manner, combined with his thorough knowledge of business and a large acquaintance with the musical world, enabled him to render invaluable services as the recognised working head of the Festival Committee ; and his enforced retirement from that position was deeply felt and sincerely regretted. Mr. Ledsam was also, for many years, an active and esteemed member of the Government Board of the Free Grammar School, and was also connected, either in an honorary or a working capacity, with many other educational, charitable and religious institutions or societies. He was likewise well-known as having a prominent share in the management of several important commercial undertakings, amongst which may be mentioned the Birmingham Banking Company, the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas Company, and last, but by no means least, the London and North Western Railway Company, in connection with which, for several years, he performed the laborious duties of Deputy Chairman of the Directors. By those who knew him personally, Mr. Ledsam was highly esteemed, both as a public man and in the relationship of his private life; and the regard generally entertained for him was abundantly justified by his amiable character and his uniformly courteous and obliging disposition.