Treasure of the Week no. 21. The Low Moor Iron Works – what poetry!

Low Moor Iron Works: a poem. By John Nicholson. 1829 (1856 reprint).

JND 187/1 (Please quote this number if requesting this item.)

Tres 21 John Nicholson

Image reproduced from ‘Poets of Keighley, Bingley, Haworth and District’ by Charles F Forshaw.

In common with other writers of the early nineteenth century, John Nicholson (1790-1843), ‘The Bard of Airedale’ found romance in the achievements of industry.  The coal-fired flares of the iron works at Low Moor were compared to the smoking volcanoes of Etna and Strombolo. Beyond romance though, were the utilitarian products that issued

When first the shapeless sable Ore
Is laid in heaps around Low Moor,
The roaring Blast, the quiv’ring Flame,
Give to the mass another name;
White as the Sun the Metal runs,
For Horse Shoe Nails, or thund’ring Guns;
The trembling hair-spring of a Watch,
An Anchor, or a Cottage latch –
Most implements the Farmers have,
And those of Steamers on the wave
The Tailor’s Needle, or the Shell
The levell’d once where Princes dwell;
The Engine, Boiler, Cobler’s awl,
The Carronade, the pond’rous ball;
The place where Steam first moved his wings,
The Nails in Beggars’ Shoes and Kings’;
The Anchor’s Chain, the Fisher’s Hook,
The Sword – the Hatchet – and the Crook,
The sounding Anvil, all the blades,
The cause of many thousand trades;
No pen can write, no mind can soar
To tell the Wonders of Low Moor.

The importance of the Low Moor Iron Works in the manufacture of weapons is noted:

Throughout the world thy heavy Guns are known:
From the Pacific to the Indian shore,
Nations have heard their dread tremendous roar.

And at the Woolwich arsenal:

There Pyramids of balls for battle form’d,
By which each fortress of our foes is storm’d,
The bursting bombs of every size are there,
To guard the land Britannia holds so dear.

But now

Silent the Cannon, peaceful all the host;

In particular, and prophetically, the coming of the railways is noted: the days of the Courier, the Pilot, and the Duke of Leeds, stage coaches all, are ending:

Ye panting horses, smoking on the road,
Mark’d with the whip, and struggling with your load;
Your race of cruelties will soon be done,
The mail without you soon will swiftly run.

Summing up, Nicholson tells how Low Moor helped make Bradford:

What millions sterling have been made,
What tens of thousands have been paid,
What thousands here has genius fed,
Since the first blast has rear’d its head,
Crown’d with flame that dar’d on high,
And cheer’d the midnight cloudy sky.
But for Low Moor, old Bradford Town,
Had never like a City grown.

This poem was first published in 1829 and reprinted in 1856 by J Dobson of the Market Place, Bingley.

Nicholson started his working life in the mills but aged 32 moved to Harden Beck and became an established poet. After success with works such as Airedale in Ancient Times and The Siege of Bradford, he tried his luck in London, but soon returned to Bingley. In the 1841 Census, John (aged 50) and his wife Martha (45) were living with their eight children, aged 6 through to Ann (22) and Sarah (20), both worsted warpers, and Thomas (20), a wool sorter. John Nicholson was drowned while trying to cross the River Aire on stepping stones on a stormy night.

Tres21 birthplace of Nicholson

Image reproduced from ‘Poets of Keighley, Bingley, Haworth and District’ by Charles F Forshaw.

The Low Moor Iron Works have long since gone, but the recent re-opening of Low Moor station would surely have pleased ‘The Bard of Airedale’!

Stackmole

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