TREASURE OF THE WEEK. No. 3   FUDGE; or, The Bradford Oracle

In the basement of Bradford’s Local Studies are collections of nineteenth century pamphlets (and some of earlier date). Ranging from sermons and programmes of royal visits, to reports, articles, obituaries and regulations, they are a treasure-trove of local history. What follows is an account of one of these treasures. To consult any of these items please ask the staff. Card catalogues of these collections are located in the Local Studies Libraries. 

JND 187/12 (Please quote this number if requesting this booklet) 

FUDGE; or, The Bradford Oracle. A School Board Discussion. c.1880. 20 pages.


The striking title ‘Fudge’ and the delightful Shakespearean quote on the title page: ‘I am Sir Oracle, and when I ‘ope my lips let no dog bark’, immediately whet the appetite. What on earth is this? Presented in the form of a dialogue between Smith, a retired Bradford merchant, just returned after ten years’ absence abroad, and Fudge, President of the Board School, at the date of this pamphlet (not stated but probably c. 1890) a relatively new institution, this slim pamphlet gives a spirited exchange on the subject of the cost and success (or otherwise) of the newly established Board Schools. No date, printer or author given, but a manuscript note (probably by journalist and historian William Cudworth) reads: Mr. Hanson (Fudge) is tolerably well drawn in some parts of this brochure but here and there is a little too much politeness and suavity of manner accorded.


This text is in the form of a play script, with the scene set in Market Street near the School Board Office.  It opens:

SMITH, Why bless me if that isn’t Fudge, looking as wise as Solomon! Weighed down with all the cares of Bradford! (aloud) Mr. Fudge (F. does not or will not hear, but continues his onward shuffle) Mr. Fudge!

FUDGE. Ha! Who’s that? (sees Smith) Oh Smith, is that you? Pardon my abstraction. How are you after your long absence?

  1. Very well, thanks, and right glad to see the old place again. How have you been? You seem quite bent with age or the rheumatics. Which is it?
  2. Ah, well my dear friend, I’m not a young man any more it is true, but care, care, that’s killing me!
  3. I’m sorry for it. Why what’s up?
  4. Well you know that for the last forty years I have been devoted in all manner of ways to the great cause of education, but the last three or four years of daily strife in its behalf has indeed subdued my natural hilarity, and imparted to me an appearance partaking somewhat I fear in a cross between a philosopher and an undertaker.
  5. Nay, nay, you are still in spite of your cares, a fine and handsome-looking man, Fudge. You’re not on the Scholl Board, I suppose!
  6. (In indignant surprise) Not on the School Board, my dear Sir! To be sure I am! Whatever can you be dreaming of? Why whatever would become of the Board, what of education at all, if I were not a member? Education, sir, particular Higher Grade Education, is, I humbly submit, my forte!
  7. Oh, I beg a thousand pardons. You see I’ve been so long abroad, and only occasionally had the luxury of seeing an English Paper.
  8. And what paper was that, my dear Sir?
  9. Oh, the Standard.
  10. Ah, no wonder you are behind hand. Had you consulted the Daily News, sir, or better still the Bradford Telescope, or the Woollen Observer, you would have been up to the mark.
  11. (takes out pocket book) Daily News or Bradford Telescope.
  12. Good! Mind not the Standard or Night Wail.

After this opening skirmish the discussion turns a touch political, with Fudge extolling the virtue of the new Board Schools compared with the Denominational and Voluntary Schools (which the Board Schools were replacing) and boasting of the money spent on producing superior scholars, while the retired merchant Smith querying both the cost and the attainments of the pupils. Clearly Fudge, as the name implies, believes only what he wants to believe, while the realist Smith is highly sceptical.

The dialogue reflects much of the opinion of Bradfordians of the time, yet can be read today, not only as a window on events over a century ago, but for some pointers today! It is certainly well constructed and fun to read. Who, I wonder, was the author?

Stackmole (Library Volunteer)


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