Henry Joseph Wilson (1833-1914), Sheffield Radical politician and Liberal M.P. for Holmfirth, was born on 14 April 1833 at Old Radford, Nottinghamshire, into a family of strong Nonconformist and Reform sympathies. In 1867, following a fourteen year period as tenant of Newlands Farm, near Mansfield, Wilson came to Sheffield to manage the family firm, the Sheffield Smelting Company, and also began his active involvement in politics.
His wide-ranging political interests included the temperance movement, opposition to the state regulation of vice, non-sectarian education, disestablishment, Irish Home Rule, internationalism, opposition to imperialism and the destruction of the opium trade. He held several offices in organisations connected with his political activities both local and national, amongst which were the secretaryships of the Northern Counties Electoral League for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts from 1872 to 1885, of the Sheffield Liberal Association from 1875, and of the British Continental and General Federation for the Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution, also from 1875. Wilson was a member of the Royal Commission on Opium in India, from 1839 to 1895, Treasurer of the National Vigilance Association in the 1900s, a Justice of the Peace from 1881, and was for fifteen years a member of the Sheffield School Board. He served on the Sheffield Nonconformist Committee, set up to work for the amendment of the Education Act of 1870, from 1872 to the Committee's effective dissolution in 1877. He was elected Liberal M.P. for Holmfirth division of the West Riding in 1885 and held the seat until his retirement in 1912. He died in Sheffield on 29 June 1914.
There are two biographies of Wilson, both based in part on his papers: Mosa Anderson, H.J. Wilson, Fighter for Freedom (London, 1953) and W.S. Fowler, A Study in Radicalism and Dissent: the Life and Times of Henry Joseph Wilson 1833-1914 (London, 1961).