Joseph Brotherton is considered to be the founding father of the Borough of Salford, its first MP and Minister of the Bible Christian Church for 40 years. He was born on 22nd May 1783 at Whittington, near Chesterfield. His family moved to Manchester in 1789, when Joseph was 6. He worked in his father's cotton mill, becoming a partner in 1804 when he was 21. Joseph became head of the enterprise upon the death of his father in 1810 and went into partnership with his brother and his cousin William Harvey. In 1819 Joseph's brother died and Joseph decided to retire from the business at the age of 36, to focus on being minister of his church.
Joseph belonged to the new, Bible Christian Church in King Street, Salford. He was appointed Minister in 1817 and held that position for the rest of his life. The church's philosophy was not to eat meat and Joseph and his wife Martha became strict vegetarians. In 1847 Joseph chaired a meeting which established the Vegetarian Society. In politics, he was Liberal and worked to establish Salford Council in 1844. He campaigned for the Reform Act of 1832, which granted Salford one Member of Parliament. Joseph became Salford's first MP, from 1832 until his death on 7th January 1857. He was a great Parliamentary campaigner, pursuing factory reform and advocating for the provision of public walks and gardens, museum and libraries. With Brotherton's help Salford became the first municipal authority to provide a free lending library, museum and art gallery. He also supported the provision of municipal cemeteries. Ironically, Joseph was the first person to be buried at Salford's new cemetery in Weaste. He was 73 years of age.