Tricia Restorick – The Role of the Mechanics Institute

Established in 1832, The Mechanics Institute Library was part of a national initiative to provide adult education, especially in technical subjects for working men. During this illustrated talk hosted by Institute President Tricia Restorick, we aim to find out how crucial this institute was in imparting  knowledge to the workers of Victorian Bradford.

Follow the link for more information….

Local Studies Lunchtime Lectures

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Bradford Libraries 1872 – 1922

A week of lunchtime lectures during the celebration week 13 June – 17 June featuring aspects of Bradford’s history in the collections at Bradford Local Studies Library and West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford.

All are welcome to join in these free events which will appeal to everyone with an interest in the history of our great city.

The Federer Collection of Victorian literature: A rare treasure at Bradford Libraries

By Simon Ross Valentine

Dr Valentine showing the Federer Collection card index

Bradford Library – celebrating its 150th anniversary this year – has several book Collections of national importance.

One of these, the Federer Collection, consisting of 8,000 books and pamphlets, purchased by the city library on the death of the owner Charles Antoine Federer in 1908, provides a fascinating window into Victorian Bradford.

Federer, born in Switzerland in 1837, on coming to England twenty years later, worked as a teacher in Derbyshire, and East Yorkshire, then at Low Moor, Bradford.

Having a passion for languages, and being fluent in Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish and Dutch, Federer later gained employment as a lecturer at the Bradford Mechanic’s Institute and the Technical College.

Federer had an interest in all aspects of Yorkshire life. With Thomas Empsall, J. Norton Dickons and other local worthies, he founded the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society, later becoming President and editor of its journal, the “Bradford Antiquary”. He was also active in the Yorkshire Dialect Society, the Brontë Society and as editor of the Yorkshire Magazine.

Formerly a Roman Catholic, Federer converted to Methodism and became a member of the White Abbey Wesleyan Chapel.

Charles Antoine Federer 1837-1908

Federer‘s vast library now forms the Federer Collection of Yorkshire Ephemera, kept in the Local Studies Library on the ground floor of the Margaret Macmillan Tower, Princes Way.
The Colllection covers a multitude of subjects. Unsurprisingly, Federer being a Nonconformist, many items relate to Christian theology and the Bible.

As a Methodist he took a scholarly interest in the history of his denomination collecting early biographies of John and Charles Wesley; and the Lives of many ministers and Lay Preachers. These included not only Wesleyan Methodism but also material on Primitive Methodism; the Wesleyan Reform Church and Protestant Methodism.
Federer, ecumenical in attitude, also collected material on Anglicanism as well as various Nonconformist Churches such as the Baptists, Moravians, the Quakers (Society of Friends), Congregationalists, Unitarians and lesser-known groups such as the Swedenborgians; Southcottians and the British-Israelites.

Official tourist guide, c. 1868

Many items in the Collection are non-religious covering the political, economic, social, legal and municipal aspects of Victorian Bradford. Of particular interest are the Reports of Bradford’s Chief Constable’s in the 1880s and Yearbooks of the Bradford Trade and Labour Council. Various leaflets refer to Chartism and the Independent Labour Party (founded in Bradford in the 1890s).

As a Nonconformist Federer had an interest in matters such as the anti-gambling league; the Temperance movement; Church rates, dis-establishment of the Anglican Church and state education.

The Collection contains Reports on the National Census 1851 and the local religious Census undertaken by the Bradford Observer in 1881 “with press & pulpit comments”.

 Other books and leaflets cover local topography, geology, fossils, archaeology, astronomy, dialects as well as poetry and literature.

Certain items relate to Patrick Brontë and his famous literary daughters such as Abraham Holroyd’s “’Currer Bell’ and her sisters”, 1855, and Reports of the Brontë Society & Museum, 1896.

A Temperance tract 1874

The Collection has beautifully illustrated Guide Books to places such as Whitby and Scarborough; Bolton Abbey, Cleckheaton, and Castleford. Railway enthusiasts can enjoy looking at Crowther’s Penny Railway Guide, 1875.

Various books focus on Titus Salt and Saltaire. There are several papers relating to Edward Baines, proprietor of the Leeds Mercury and William Byles, owner of the Bradford Observer.

Federer, possibly a keen sportsman himself, collected publications on Amateur Athletics; Angling, Archery and cricket. A very rare item in the Collection is the Yorkshire Owl Cricket Annual, illustrated cricketer’s guide, of 1896.

The Federer Collection has much material on medicine such as Reports on the local Fever Hospital; Bradford Children’s Hospital and the Hospital for the Blind. Invaluable primary sources include the 1904 Report on Diphtheria in Bradford and the 1849 Report on Cholera in the West Riding.
Educational material includes not only grammar and other text books, but also class lists relating to Bradford Grammar School; Burnsall Grammar School; Ackworth School, and minutes of the Bradford School Board.

Several items are quirky and controversial such as the temperance tract titled “A lecture on a pint of ale: what it is and what it’s not, what it’s worth and what it costs” and a leaflet on “Capital punishment: Hangman’s thoughts above the gallows”.

The Collection contains rare periodicals such as the Babbler, or Weekly Literary & Scientific Intelligencer; the Bradford Chronicle of the 1850s & ‘60s; the British Spiritual Telegraph, 1859; and the Eastbrook Herald, 1889 to1894.

Building on the work previously done by Bob Duckett, a former senior Bradford librarian, I am in the process of putting the catalogue online making the Collection known, and accessible, worldwide. So far about 40% of the Collection is catalogued and can be viewed on the library website.

Enquiries are welcome. If you see something of interest in the online catalogue please ring the library and book an appointment to see the item chosen.

Alternatively, an appointment can be made to look at the card index at Local Studies and request any item of interest. Many of the pamphlets have been microfilmed. Please remember however that items from the Federer Collection are reference only and cannot be borrowed.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, a series of lunchtime lectures will be given at Local Studies in June. In one of these lectures I will talk on Charles Federer and his amazing Collection.

For more information about the Federer Collection or any of the other library Collections of books, photographs and maps of “bygone Bradford”, please contact Local Studies on 01274 433688; or email

Rachel Leach and Anne Lister

A talk by Irene Lofthouse with Keighley and District Local History Society

This month’s History Society guest speaker is writer, actor and social historian Irene Lofthouse, giving her talk on two prominent local women, Rachel Leach and Anne Lister.

Keighley Local Studies Library, Wednesday 13th April 2022

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Open to both members and non-members.

The charge for non-members is £3, payable on the door.

Please check social media or our website nearer the time for any updates.

To reserve a place please email

Keighley Library remembers Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE (1936-2019)

This January, Keighley Library marks the saddest loss of Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE, former Lending and later Reference Librarian, renowned local historian and speaker. We continue to miss him in Keighley itself but especially in the library that he so loved and continued to visit regularly and support up until his death on 20th January 2019.

This time, we thought that we would let this very popular raconteur speak for himself. The quotes are taken from some reminiscences that he wrote for the library when aged 64. We have added library photographs and photographs from Ian’s archive, details given where possible.

Leisure and professional interests

“As regards my interests, I am a total non-sportsman but have always been a walker, both as a daily non-driving pedestrian and as a hiker.”  

These photos include Fellsman Hike, 1970 and Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, 1991.

“However, my main interest is local history from the point of view of original research, writing and lecturing. I average about eighty talks a year, have contributed a weekly feature to the local newspaper for the last nine years, have written hundreds of magazine articles and several books … I also make occasional television appearances, usually on Tyne-Tees and Yorkshire TV.”

These photos include the Brontë Conference, Haworth 1980; the Yorkshire Ridings Magazine Christmas dinner, Hebden Bridge 1989 and some of the many published works by Ian.

Here’s Ian with Khalid Aziz of Look North and John Noakes, Blue Peter presenter, looking at Knurr and Spell equipment, c1970s.

To see a demonstration of the game follow this link, filmed in 1972 at the very lively world championships held at Greetland.

For an updated history, please see Robin Longbottom’s recent Down Memory Lane:

Keighley Library

“From 1965-1967, I was Lending Librarian, then in 1967 I became Reference Librarian, remaining in the same post until I took early retirement in 1991.”

These photos include Ian’s early days in Lending c.1966; during Keighley Library’s alterations June 1984 and Ian at his retirement in 1991 in the Library theatre.

“As a career it was not perhaps very exciting, but from my point of view being Reference Librarian with oversight of a large and growing Local History collection, dovetailed admirably with my personal interests. I was never sure where my work ended and my hobbies began, and vice-versa, and I think both benefited as a result.”

“I count myself fortunate in that I was able to survive until 1991 as basically an Edwardian Reference Librarian (I could scarcely be one now, when a row of Internet screens occupies a prominent place in my former place of work). Granted, microfilm readers and photocopiers became increasingly important, but they were advantages. I remain dubious, however, about technology replacing the human touch.”

 “If this is progress, I am not impressed.” (For one time only, Ian looking at an old Keighley News on the scanner for film viewing, Keighley Local Studies, 2018)

As a speaker

“Whatever the audience – whether it be chapel retirees or an Antiquarian Society – they want to be entertained. It’s a case of getting one’s main serious points over while leavening the subject with humour.” From “The funniest man in Britain” by Christopher Phipps (The Dalesman, Oct 2016 p.60) Photo from a 2017 event in Keighley Local Studies.

Despite professing not to know much of popular music, Ian certainly did not lack some appreciation. We found this picture of Ian getting into the groove at a work’s do in 1974. When Janet Mawson asked him to give a talk in August 2018 at a Musical Heritage event, alongside the Presidents and the Doveston Brothers, he gamely obliged and true to form, he really enjoyed it and gave of his best.

The Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE Memorial Collection, Keighley Local Studies

Here is the Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE library and study corner in Keighley Local Studies that showcases his many interests including amongst many subjects: art, literature, American history, Yorkshire and the countryside. The books and magazine collection were very kindly donated by Ian’s family as part of the archive bequest in 2019.

Keighley Library Customer Support Assistants, January 2022

Treasures of Keighley Library

Artist Steve Manthorp will illuminate the exterior of Keighley Library with an imaginative projection artwork inspired by the library’s archives and collections.

Using a mixture of archival imagery of Keighley and illustrations and images from books, Treasures will create a moving banner of imagery that showcases the building’s incredible architecture and re-connects audiences to the treasures held within.

Outdoor Event, Fri 5 – Sat 6 Nov 2021, free entry

Black History Month 2021 #3 – Abraham Johnson

Abraham Johnson was born in Zanzibar where he was enslaved as a teenager. His slavery took him to China, Japan and India.

He escaped enslavement in South-East Asia before working as a member of crew on board a ship, sailing from the Indian Ocean to Liverpool.

He is referenced in records as having been rescued from a shipwreck.

Abraham worked at John Marshall’s Temple Mill in Holbeck, Leeds before settling in Bradford where he lived in a lodging house. He was married with a daughter. In Bradford he sold pamphlets and newspapers on the streets.

He was painted by John Sowden in June 1888 at the age of 40.

Black History Month 2021 #2 – Street Characters of a Victorian City. Paintings by John Sowden (1838-1926)

Bradford Libraries are Proud To Be part of Black History Month 2021 and delighted to share some of the historical stories featured in the Black History Timeline for Bradford District.

The Black History Timeline showcases the long history of black people in our community and the contribution they have made to our society.

You can view the full timeline here:

Paintings by John Sowden (1838 – 1926)

In the next of our series of posts we focus on some of the characters who could be seen about the streets of the late nineteenth century painted by local Artist, John Sowden.

John Sowden was art master at the Bradford Mechanics Institute for 40 years as well as a key figure in many of the political and current affairs of the time. He was primarily a water colour artist and several of his pictures were exhibited at the Royal Academy.

He compiled a large collection of pictures of notable Bradford characters giving a rare insight into the stories of some of the characters who could be seen about the streets of Bradford, creating a unique social record of the time.

The water colour paintings are in Bradford Museums’ collection and can be viewed here:

The stories have been collected in the book: Street Characters of a Victorian City: John Sowden’s Bradford, edited by Gary Firth, Bradford Arts, Museums & Libraries Service (January 1, 1993), 978-0907734406

Thomas Jackson #2

Thomas Jackson was born in 1815 enslaved in Virginia. He was a well-known local street character known as ‘Old Tom’ and was persuaded to pose for John Sowden and his students in 1888 at the age of 73.

We now know that 3 years later in 1891 he can be found on the census living in Keighley.

His death certificate in 1897 says he died in the Union Infirmary and the informant given is Master of the Union Workhouse. He was buried in Utley cemetery. No grave marker has been found.

Post script:

Keighley Local Studies staff recently located the following entry in the workhouse records:

The Master reported that he had found the sum of 2s/3d upon Frederick Hanworth and the sum of 10s/6d on Thomas Jackson.
Resolved that the 2s/6d be paid into the common fund but that the sum of 10s/6d be dealt with when Jackson takes his discharge.
(Keighley Union Records (KU/1/17)