These two sections from a Bradford Local Studies Library map are part of a sale plan of the Bolton Hall Estate dating from 1882. Among other things it advertises the availability of building land and stone quarries. The right side of image 1 joins the left of image 2. The map as a whole marks a transitional stage between rural and industrialised phases in the district. Some woodland remains but quarries are in action, roads are being laid out, and houses have been built. Frizinghall mill is drawn although this and its reservoir no longer exist. The Bradford canal spur has also gone now, although the canal bridges remain. The railway line already existed in 1882 and it would appear that the extension of Canal Road to Shipley is being suggested.
I have to admit that I am not sure of the precise boundaries of Bolton Woods. It is to your right as you travel up Canal Road from Bradford to Shipley although the very high ground is occupied by the much more ancient townships of Bolton, Idle, and Wrose. The designation ‘Bolton Woods’ appears on the 1851 OS map but is probably naming the woodland only. I think we can be certain that Bolton Woods was neither an old community, nor a planned one: it ‘just growed’. William Cudworth treats the area as part of Bolton township and two more recent authors have developed his account:
A History of Bolton in Bradford-Dale: RC Allan (ed), 1927, p.107.
The Story of Bolton Woods and St Laurence’s Church : Mary Lister, 1980.
Both these books are available in the Local Studies Library although the second is kept in the stacks and will have to be fetched by a member of staff. Mary Lister (1922-85) was a noted local historian who was ex-President of the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society, and taught at Hanson School. As a further source of information I am indebted to Tony Woods for the unpublished findings of his study into the district’s coal mining.
There is general agreement then that the history of Bolton Woods is quite recent. Before 200 years ago the district was simply noted for fields and a magnificent woodland. There were no roads, only trails through the trees. Peat could be cut there for fuel and the was some question of whether the inhabitants of Bolton had the right of turbary on land lying about Bolton Old Hall. In 1624 Bolton Manor became the property of Thomas Walker. The Old Manor House was soon demolished and Bolton Old Hall erected a short distance away. The Stanhopes of Eccleshill bought the Bolton Hall Estate from Thomas Walker in 1648. Bolton Woods was one of the many districts of Bradford where coal extraction may well have had medieval roots. In 1699 Cudworth describes various freeholders entering into an agreement to extract coal. Coal features again in a 1746 lease: near Hollins Close John Whitaker leased land for £6-10s with a condition of the lease being an undertaking to remove the coal-pit hill when it was dispensed with. By 1750 land around Bolton Grange Field was apparently much broken up by attempting to get coals through trenches or ‘Day-holes’.
An Enclosure Act operated at Bolton Woods in 1819, and in 1825 Bolton Road was constructed. By 1840 Walter Scott-Stanhope had inherited the estate and then sold it to his cousin Richard Watson of Springwood, Manchester. Watson’s Scottish bailiff equipped the farm and, according to Cudworth, by his efforts made it one of the best in the district. At first he grew wheat but later suggested that building stone might be more profitably extracted. The first modern quarry in Bolton Woods was opened by John Holmes and Thomas Dawson in 1853. In the later nineteenth century more organised extraction of the Hard & Soft Bed coal seams was undertaken in Bolton Woods. Shafts and ‘old shafts’ are present on early OS maps but no named collieries are indicated. In the late 1850s there seem to have been two companies: Handforth & Co, and Messrs Brogden & Co. Their enterprise was known as Bolton Wood Colliery which had been leased by Richard Watson. It was under Navy Croft, Far Ellar Carr, Mid Ellar Carr, Nr Ellar Carr, Rough Ing, and part of the Woods.
You can identify these fields on the lovely sketch map Mary Lister drew for her publication. It shows the same area as the sale plan but is 25 years earlier and has a slight different orientation. Essentially it shows the land on which the village was later developed. The field name ‘Delf Close’ suggests that stone extraction pre-dated the nineteenth century; delph being a local name for quarry.
Messrs Brogden was perhaps a partnership of miners extracting coal but their enterprise was dissolved by mutual consent (Bradford Observer, 18 June 1859). The majority of the men involved could not write but the literate James Brogden had been underground steward at Bunker Hill Colliery on Barkerend Road. A well-known Bradford brick-maker, Edward Gittins, is also involved at Bolton Brick Works in 1861 although I don’t know in what capacity. E. Handforth & Co. are listed as fire-brick and sanitary tube makers two years later in a single trade directory (1863). Elsewhere Handforth is listed as a ‘colliery owner and fire-brick manufacturer’. It is probable that the company bought up Bolton Wood Colliery and added a Firebrick works. In 1865 E. Handforth & Co were advertising in the Leeds Mercury for a firebrick moulder at Frizinghall, near Shipley. They seem to have sold up in 1867. The only product I can attest is a firebrick marked [..FORTH & CO BOLTON WOOD]. The extraction of coal was not always easy. Mr Woodhead of Eccleshill Potteries operated a mine in a field facing Home Farm in Hodgson Fold. It was worked by a horse-gin but failed due to flooding. In her book Lister mentions that a Bolton ‘Clay and Firebrick Works’, existed on the Shipley side of the Woods in a piece of land known as ‘Rough Ing’. When it closed it was replaced by Bolton Woods Shed (Woolcombers) which you can see on the first plan.
The ground now covered by village part of Bolton Woods was a part of the Bolton Old Hall estate purchased from Alfred Barton by three men called Holmes, Pullen & Constable as a building speculation for £11,000. John Pullen subsequently sold off Bolton Woods in small lots. Wilkinson Shann built first row of houses in Shann St. During this period the quarries were progressively developed and attracted workers to the area. The light yellow stone was purchased by Leeds for paving slabs and was used for buildings such as Manchester Town Hall and the Bradford Eye & Ear Hospital. In 1870 the construction of the defecation works at Frizinghall created additional employment opportunities and at the same time JT Riddiough opened a saw mill. In 1871 a highly influential man, Harry Stockdale, came to Bolton Woods from Long Preston. He was a builder and brick-maker and with George Lang he constructed Bolton Hall Road. In 1874 he was elected a councillor and was influential in the building of Bolton Woods first school. In a Yorkshire Directory for 1875 one entry for Shipley reads: ‘Harry Stockdale, Bolton Woods Brick & Tile Works’. In the same year Mr H Stockdale was prosecuted for smoke nuisance from his brick kiln. Did he buy the premises of Handforth & Co? Strangely on 17 August 1878, the Leeds Mercury recorded that he appeared in court summoned by Bradford Corporation for the sum of £63.10s: this being the unpaid cost of sanitary works at his properties at Livingstone Road. Apparently he flew into a temper in the court, but was reprimanded and ordered to pay. Something unpleasant had clearly happened to a celebrated Bolton Woods resident. He died early in 1881. In the years before 1914 brick-making took place near the present children’s playground. There were also two rather rarer forms of industrial activity: a factory making glass marbles for Codd bottles and the Guana Fertilizer Works. The last coal-mining in Bolton Woods was in 1923 when Slater Bros worked a large day-hole in the hillside to north-west of Hodgson Fold. Apparently they had access to a 3 feet thick seam of poor quality coal but their colliery was soon abandoned. In 1956 Bolton Woods farm was finally sold for housing.
Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer