Map of the week: Bowling Beck 2

I should now like to take the course of the Bowling Beck from the point it reached on the previous map onwards into the town centre. You can see that the beck runs through a fully urban area. The owners of some of these premises were among Bradford’s most famous names. Understanding the road plan and the building occupancy has caused me many problems. Some of the puzzles can be solved by using other library resources such as trade directories and the nineteenth century Bradford Observer; others have needed shoe leather. A provisional date for the map would be 1850. No railway tracks are drawn although it is possible that the tracks were already in existence and the map maker chose to ignore them.

An 1800 town plan shows this area as totally rural in character. Everything now visible was developed from green field sites in the third and fourth decade of the nineteenth century. None of the institutions mapped are listed in the Pigot’s 1834 trade directory but the library has a freehold sale plan, dated 1847, by which time the road plan was essentially complete. This sale plan shows the Union Foundry which was built by Quaker ironfounder Robert Crosland in the 1830s, and the Britannia Mill, erected in 1836. A good deal of land is owned by the partnership of William Greenwood and Benjamin Berry who made spinning frames at Prospect Mill, Bowling and Portland Mill. Another landowner was worsted spinner John Wood of Horton Hall, either alone or with his partner as Wood & Walker.  Wood played a vital role in establishing ten hour work days at textile factories. He removed to Hampshire in 1835 and his partner was a very different type of man.

Bowling Beck 2a Final

The Bowling Beck passes close to St James’s church school. I assume that the school was constructed in the years 1838-40 along with the church itself. The boys and the girls were evidently kept strictly separate. Flowing northwards the beck next crosses Queen Street and Duke Street, then enters a culvert. Note the Bowling Coal Depot; the first OS map of the area, surveyed in the late 1840s, suggest that this was supplied from the railway line rather than by mineral ways from local pits. A fragment of one line, supported on stone pillars, still remains near the Mill Lane signal box. It is not easy to reconcile the street names on the plan with those now on the ground. Queen’s Street was soon extended to form Caledonia Street which initially ended at the railway line. About 30 years after this map was drawn (around 1875) this street was taken over the tracks by means of a bridge which survives. Remarkably this change was suggested by an anonymous letter to the Bradford Observer. The rail tracks were originally taken by a short tunnel under Chandos Street, Bedford Street and Croft Street. These streets and the tunnel were swept away, also in the 1870s I would assume, and Croft Street was reconstructed as a bridge. Queens Cut and Cross Street are now renamed as Nelson Street. Portland Street retains its original name but has been truncated.

The Waterloo works (Hargreaves & Kennedy) was an example of the many Bradford foundries catering to the needs of house and factory. Among the iron goods produced might be drain covers, railings, cast iron support pillars, cooking ranges, pipes and textile machinery. Between Victoria Street and Portland Street the culverted beck runs under the Britannia Mills and weaving shed. Britannia Mills were operated by a very famous textile manufacturer, Christopher Waud, who spun yarn from mohair and alpaca. I must not give the impression that this whole area consisted wholly of major industries. According to the 1850 Ibbotson’s Directory of Bradford Andrew Bairstow was a hairdresser in Queens Cut close to Britannia Mill, and nearby in Portland Street Henry Farrand dealt in ‘fruit, eggs and herrings’. These ‘silver darlings’ was caught by the million in the North Sea and, cleaned and salted, formed an important food item for the poor.

The Bowling Beck clipped the site of the Portland Foundry and ran under Croft Street past a small ‘gas house’ close to the Union Foundry where Robert Crosland made hydraulic presses. The beck’s rather irregular course seems to include an open section. At the origin of the old Nelson Street the beck is certainly open. This may have lent interest to any patrons standing at the back of the Turk’s Head Inn. Actually ‘inn’ may have been a euphemism. The Turk’s Head appears in the Bradford Observer from time to time but it is always described as a ‘beer shop’. In 1840 its owner, John Smith, was denied a licence at the Brewster sessions but the Turk’s Head was open again by 1845 when it got Squire Auty, constable of Horton, into serious trouble. Auty had attended a supper there but, having noticed card playing, did nothing to stop it. If the Turk’s Head customers did stand by the beck its reported state would probably not have encouraged them to linger. The effluent from Bowling Dye Works was considered especially noisome even by Bradford standards. If the beer shop sold its own brew it is to be hoped that they had access to some less deadly source of water.

Bowling Beck 2b Final.JPG

The Bowling Beck passed another town centre worsted mill and then Chapel Lane. We lose the watercourse at this point on our map but it has to link up with the Bradford Beck, then open across the town centre. The 1800 town plan shows that Bowling Beck turned sharply east at this point and under Cuckoo Bridge over which passed Goodman’s End (now Bridge Street). It than took a short angled course finally to join the Bradford Beck itself. I hope I can convince you that you can pass a very pleasant afternoon in the LSL recalling bits of old Bradford to life. If you would like further information about the Bradford Beck, and its tributaries, the Friends of Bradford Becks are slowly bringing the hidden waterways back into public consciousness. I can recommend their website:


Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s