Treasure of the Week no. 34: Holroyd’s almanac for 1864 – and the morals of Bradford. From Cab Fares and Public Baths to Thumps and Rushbearings

In the basement of Bradford’s Local Studies Library 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.

Holroyd’s Historical Almanac for the Year of Our Lord 1864. Published by Abraham Holroyd, Bookseller & Stationer, Bradford. 32 pages (Reference: JND 130/11)

Almanacs (or ‘almanacks’) were popular in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. These annual compilations of local information, often produced by local newspapers, contained a rich mixture of facts: astronomical, calendar, national, local, political, legal, administrative and sometimes hints and anecdotes. The following from the contents pages of Holroyd’s 1864 Almanac is typical:

Phases of the Moon -1864; Eclipses – 1864
Stamps, Duties, Receipts, Agreements, etc.
Rates of Postage, Inland and Foreign
Money Orders, etc.
Telegraph Companies
Delivery and Departure of Mails
Bradford Post Office Regulations
Parcel Offices
List of Fairs, Feasts, Tides, Thumps and Rushbearings

THE CALENDAR with page per month noting:
The Flower Garden
Festivals, and Memorable Events
Rising and Setting of the Sun and Moon

The Kings & Queens of England
The Queen and the Royal Family
Her Majesty’s Government: the Cabinet
Present MPs for the West Riding.
MPs from the Borough of Bradford
The West Riding Magistrates
The Borough Magistrates
Special Sessions
Morality of the Borough of Bradford
Bradford County Court Information
Public Business and Borough Regulations
Banks and Bankers in Bradford
Former Mayors in Bradford
The Bradford Town Council
Committees of the Town Council
Officers of the Corporation
Borough Police Department
Borough Coroner
Inspector of Weights and Measures
Board of Guardians, Bradford Union
Overseers and Collectors of Poor Rates
Relieving and Medical Officers
Public Baths
Registrars of Marriages, Birth and Death
Cab Fares in Bradford
Proverbs and Wise Sayings
The Principal Hotels in Bradford
Temperance Hotels and Boarding Houses
Commercial Dining Rooms
Eating Houses

All human life is here, or a lot of it. Anyone wanting to know what life was like in the past would do well to quarry these yearly almanacs. Absent in this one are descriptions of the towns and village covered by the publication, but we learn that there were three temperance hotels in Rawson Place; that Bradford’s MPs were Henry Wickham and W. E. Forster; that hackney cab fares were a shilling for up to a mile, thence six pence a mile and that the Post Office opened at 7 a.m. (7.30 in winter).

Ah! But what about the ‘Morality of the Borough of Bradford’ as noted in the Contents above? Well:

Number of Constables 119
Known Thieves 91
Receivers of Stolen Goods 5
Prostitutes 151
Suspected Persons 114
Vagrants 491
Houses of Bad Character 5
being Public Houses 20

Brothels 58
Tramps’ Lodgings 45
Crimes Committed 247
Apprehensions 170
Committed for Trial 84
Burglaries 3
Breaking into shops 29
Highway Robbery 4
Laceny 173
Offences against the Person 5
Drunkeness 162

The meaning of some of these headings will have changed over the last century and a half, and also how crimes are allocated to headings, but it is clear that the Borough police force and the courts had plenty to do.
Compiler of the Almanac, Abraham Holroyd, was born in Clayton in April 1815, one of four children. His parents were both handloom weavers and the family were very poor. Self-educated, Abraham joined the army and saw service in Canada, hunting down rebels. He bought himself out of the army, settled in New Orleans, and married. After eight years in North America, Holroyd returned to England, setting up in business as a stationer and bookseller in Bradford’s Westgate. With the assistance of Titus Salt, Holroyd published a number of books on local history and become well-known in literary circles. He died in 1888.
We conclude this peek into 1864 Bradford with some entries from October:

  1. Sudden death in Bolton Road, Bradford, of John Howard, the pedestrian’
    Fire at Bank Mill, Morley, occupied by Mr. James Bradley; damages £2000.
    Luke Knowles, 24, carter, of Bingley, drowned by falling into the Bradford Canal at
    Spinkwell Locks.
    Gale on the East Coast and loss of life.
  2. Mortality of Bradford for the week ending this day, 90.
    William Frankland, 7. Of Lidget Place, Great Horton, killed by being run over by a
    contractor’s cart, in Beckside Road.
    Opening of a new school at Low Moor, erected by the Low Moor Company.
  3. Opening of new Independent Chapel and schools at Little Horton.
    18 John Egan, labourer, killed by being run over on the Midland Line, near Shipley.
    A resolution passed at the West Riding Sessions at Wakefield, pointing out the evils
    caused by the great increase of grocers’ drink licences, and asking that the
    magistrates should have the same control over those licences as they have over
    Laying of the memorial stone of a new United Methodist Free Church at Morecambe.
  4. Death of Professor Wheatstone, the inventor of the electric telegraph.
  5. Samuel Waite, lately manager of Messrs. W. H. Smith & Son’s bookstall at Keighley
    Station, sentenced at the West Riding Sessions to six month’s imprisonment for
    embezzling the moneys of his employers.
    Heavy gales and floods throughout England and Scotland.
  6. Opening of the winter campaign of the Liberation Society by a large meeting in St.
    George’s Hall, Bradford; addresses by Messrs. R. W. Dale and J. G. Rogers.
  7. Further gales and floods in the North and Midland Counties; great loss of life and
    destruction of property.
  8. Mortality at Bradford for the week ending this day, 102.
    The body of Henry Taylor, shoemaker of Cleckheaton, found in Bowling Tunnel
    Laying of the memorial stone, by the Rev. J. G. Miall, of the new Greenfield
    Congregational Chapel, Lumb Lane, Bradford.
  9. Visit of the Royal Italian Opera Company to Bradford.
  10. Explosion of an ammonia still at Messrs. T. Illingworth & Co’s chemical works, Frizinghall.


‘Gentleman Jack’ and a first same-sex wedding ceremony

In this LGBTQ+ History Month, we celebrate the life and love of one of Yorkshire’s greats, Anne Lister of Shibden Hall and the first person in the Yorkshire area to have a same-sex wedding ceremony in 1834.

Anne Lister (1791-1840) was part of the famous mill owning Lister family of Bradford and as such was related to Samuel Cunliffe Lister of Manningham Mills.  Anne, however, lived at Shibden Hall, Halifax where that branch of the Lister family had lived since 1615.

Anne was not born at Shibden but moved there as a child to live with her aunt and uncle. She became co-owner in 1826 and, following the death of her brother, inherited the estate in 1836. She became a keen businesswoman, undaunted by the sometimes openly hostile male chauvinism in her local business and political world, and was an adventurous traveller abroad.  She was also the only woman co-founder of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society.

Anne Lister assiduously wrote diaries and journals, 24 in number. They listed her daily social, political and business life and travelling exploits but at least one sixth of them were handwritten in code. This coded text later revealed the extent of Anne’s romantic affairs and sexual encounters with women, when they were finally decoded from a mixture of Greek letters, numbers and symbols. Apparently, it was not until the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s that it was felt that uncensored editions of her sometimes explicit diaries could be published (Gentleman Jack:  a biography of Anne Lister by Angela Steidele, p.Xi)

Diary extracts and samples of code can be viewed on the excellent web pages of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, that hosts a full exhibition about this remarkable woman, please follow this link:

In 1832, Anne Lister struck up more than her earlier acquaintance with Anne Walker (1803-1854) who, through inheritance with her sisters, had become joint owner of the neighbouring substantial Crow Nest Estate in Halifax. The two Annes became lovers and exchanged rings on 27 February 1834. However, it was on Easter Sunday, 30th March 1834 that they sealed their union when they took communion together in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York. This building now displays a commemorative rainbow plaque.

Anne Walker and Anne Lister lived together as a married couple at Shibden Hall and also travelled a great deal. It was on one of their journeys in Georgia in 1840 that Anne Lister died. She was only 49 years old. Sadly, Anne Walker, who had always suffered with mental health problems had a severe relapse and was removed to York from Shibden Hall in 1843 having been declared of ‘unsound mind’.  Although she returned to Shibden, she later moved back to her family’s estate Cliffe Hall in Lightcliffe,  where she had been born. She died there in 1854.

There is a wealth of material online about Anne Lister, her life and diaries,  Anne Walker, Shibden Hall and about the making of the most recent television series Gentleman Jack, filmed in Halifax and using Bradford popular film locations, and now into the filming of a second series. Bradford Council also has a number of events to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month.  Please follow the links below.

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

Events in Bradford this month:

To borrow (hard copy or ebook) the acclaimed book that the TV series inspired, Gentleman Jack A Biography of Anne Lister: Regency Landowner, Seducer & Secret Diarist by Angela Steidele, translated by Katy Derbyshire (Serpent’s Tail, 2019)

The diaries:

Shibden Hall:

Filming the series in Yorkshire:

A Walk With Sidney Jackson #7

We are very pleased to continue with the series of articles by local historian Derek Barker.

Derek wrote in his introduction:

‘When Sidney Jackson was keeper of Archaeology, Geology and Natural History at Cartwright Hall he edited a subscription journal called the Archaeology Group Bulletin. Although compiled over 50 years in the past it can still be read with interest today. I am impressed by the quality of both articles and the correspondence.’

A walk with Sidney Jackson #7

Sidney Jackson inhabited a totally different world to that of present-day archaeologists. A world in which boy-scouts could excavate caves, and amateur collectors amass large numbers of ancient objects. A world where cruck-built barns, querns, and lengths of Iron Age walling would occupy the thoughts of museum curators for months on end, and the museum service of the City of Bradford would actually spend good money to identify the rocks, potsherds, clay pipe bowls, and coins brought back by its citizens from summer holidays, or turned up in their allotments.

However, in many respects, SJ’s views on investigating and exploring the past were quite modern. In the November 1966 edition of the Archaeology Group Bulletin he tried to promote the concept that those who wished to be involved in archaeology should first learn what could be seen above ground. Members of the public had approached him when they wished to be involved in ‘digging’. SJ tried to explain that dry stone walls in this area were very worthy of study. Many dated from the application of Enclosure Acts to areas of local common land. But some include earth fast boulders or orthostats which might have been as old as the Iron Age. The materials subsequently built into such walls has included: querns, carved heads, mortars, bricks, iron making slag, fossils, and a variety of glacial erratic cobbles. All are well-worth identifying and may well contribute more to our knowledge than yet another Roman coin of a common series.

Although even SJ had his limitations. He once hurriedly arranged a party to excavate a stone circle noted in the woodland between the Hirst Wood and Nab Wood Cemetery, Shipley. His group removed the brambles and other plants growing over the small boulders that formed the circle, but it was soon evident, from the looseness of the boulders, that they had not been in position since prehistoric times. Eventually they came to a hearth made of bricks imprinted with ‘G. Heaton, Shipley’, and it was then pointed out the corners of what had been a square or rectangular hut. It seemed that children in playing on the site had used material from this building to make a small circular enclosure.

While the result of the afternoon’s work was a disappointment to the participants for those of us interested in Victorian industry for several years it was the single piece of evidence that George Heaton, who operated a coal mine at the Shipley end of Heaton Woods (c.1845- c.1875), made bricks too and marked them with his own name. Eventually one of the bricks was spotted at Goitside confirming Sidney Jackson’s observation, but I have never seen another. Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

The Bradford Antiquary 2020

Despite having to abandon their 2020 programme of meetings and visits due to the Coronavirus, the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society have been able to produce their annual journal, The Bradford Antiquary. Copies are now available in several of our libraries. 

The contents of this 81st issue are:

From Donkey-Boy to Oxford Don: the childhood of Dr Joseph Wright of Thackley
by Christine Alvin.

The Birds and the Beasts. Text of a 1830s tract on the ‘Factory Question’.

We Can Take It Again’ by Norman Alvin. On a wartime air raid

‘No food or fire – decent people’: Bradford during the first national coal strike of 1912
by Derek Barker and Jane Wheeler.

Bradford in Fiction by Astrid Hansen. Bradford through the eyes of Willie Riley, J B Priestley, John Brain, A A Dhand and others.

Some Empsall Treasures A selection of topics from the library’s collection of 19th century pamphlets ranging from Homeopathy and the Henpecked Husbands’ Club to the Disorders of Horned Cattle and Spirit Writings! A window into a Bradford long gone.

W E Forster and the 1870 Education Act by Dave Welbourne

A Shelter for the Cabmen of Bradford by Laura Bird of The National Tramway Museum

The Ancestry of the Phoenix Dynamo Company, Thornbury by Gina Bridgeland

Rural Tanners in late 16th and 17th century Bradford by G D Newton

Book Reviews

Society News

Going back to 1882, The Bradford Antiquary provides an unrivalled history of Bradford, Keighley and the West Riding. The Editor, David Pendleton, is always pleased to receive ideas for, and submissions of, possible articles (

Further Information about the Society can be found on the society’s website:

Christmas Capers of Yorkshire Past

Department Store Christmas

Arrival of Father Christmas, Busbys’, Manningham Lane, Bradford
C.H. Wood, (Bradford Museums’ Photos)

The first purpose built department store in England was Brixton’s Bon Marché opened in 1877.
It was not until the end of the 19th Century that electric lighting was common in shops and with that came some wonderful Christmas lighting. Busbys’ department store was founded in 1908 (merging with Debenhams in 1958) and over the succeeding 70 years became one of the most popular shops in Yorkshire. At Christmas, Busbys’ Santa’s grotto was a must visit for many families in the Bradford district. The following quotes are taken from Busbys’ A Shop Full of Memories by Michael Callahan and Colin Neville (Bradford Museums, Galleries & Heritage, 2008).

“I was chosen to be ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and I felt very proud to be doing this. The day the Grotto opened we started out for Busbys’ on a big flat lorry from Dockfield, in Shipley. There was Mother and Father Christmas and their fairy, and myself in the lorry, and we were joined by some of the Hammond Sauce Band and they played Christmas songs and carols along the route. We had a big bags of sweets, and all along Manningham Lane there were children and mothers just lining the road and we threw sweets to them all along the way; it was such a big event. In the Grotto I had my own little sweet shop and talked to the children while they were waiting to see Father Christmas. The Grotto was so big; it was never-ending! There was a lot to see – and it was magical. Dorothy West”

“As the electrician at Busbys’ from 1972-75 I have great memories of the family atmosphere there. The highlight and privilege was wiring all the working models and fairy lights for the Grotto. Seeing the children’s faces from behind the scenes was magical. Keith Brown” p. 71

Father Christmas’s Grotto, Busbys’ Department Store, Bradford
C.H. Wood, (Bradford Museums’ Photos)

“My memory is being taken to see Santa Claus when very small. My memory is a huge display of lights and tinsel and magic. We had to walk down paths and over bridges, pull strings, and glitter snowed down on us. It seemed as though we walked for ages before we saw Santa… that walk and the magic has never been equalled in any display since. A.Wallace” p.59

‘I must have been the only child who didn’t enjoy the visit to Santa’s Grotto. I was aged about 3, and when we finally reached Santa he said, “what do you want little girl” I replied, “I want to get out of here!” Anonymous, p. 61

Mill Christmas

Messrs. Heatons’, Keighley, decorated for peace celebrations, 1918 (Keighley Local Studies)

Many textile mills decorated workplaces, and even some machinery, for royal events but also for Christmastime:

‘We would buy a few packets of crimped paper, which we cut and made into streamers to decorate the room at the mill. We would have a walk round at dinner time to see the other rooms and decide which we liked best. As Christmas drew near there was always someone singing carols during meal-times. Someone would start “Hark the herald angels sing” or “While shepherds watched”, and soon it was taken up by another and another, till soon almost everyone had joined in. It was in the mill that I was introduced to Handel’s Messiah. Most of the mill workers, if they could sing, would be taking part in the Messiah at their own places of worship. They put in a bit of practice while working.’ Picking up Threads Reminiscences of a Bradford Mill Girl by Maggie Newberry (Bradford Libraries, 1993), p. 52

At Christmas we’d take some sherry and mince pies, and happen a Christmas cake, and have a break for about an hour in the afternoon. The weavers, you could hear them going mad, but we weren’t with them, we just sat round our mending tables and had us own bit of fun. We never went in any other part of the mill at all.’ Woman.  Born 1915 From Textile Voices A Century of Mill Life by Tim Smith and Olive Howarth, BHRU (Bradford Arts, Heritage & Leisure, 2006), p. 115

Salt’s Mill (Saltaire) Limited, final Christmas party for the burling and mending department, (n.d.) BHRU, (Bradford Museums’ Photos)

Artists’ and Writers’ Christmas

David Hockney: One Tuesday afternoon in December 1951 three boys from Bradford Grammar School boarded the trolley bus. The three, namely Hockney (David), Taylor, M.S. (later Oxford University scholarship), and Dixon, M. (minor), had all been subjected to a ‘half Tuesday’ – detention – for a variety of misdemeanours. It was decided a visit to Busbys’ to see Father Christmas and the grotto was in order. We joined a long queue. After what seemed like hours we finally arrived at the head of the queue. Alas! We were approached by a very imposing commissionaire in uniform complete with bristling moustache who enquired ‘where were our parents?’ On being informed they were at home he said ‘sorry, but we could not see Father Christmas’. He politely showed us the Emergency Exit and kicked us out! On the wall immediately opposite was the famous Busbys’ sign with the marching guardsmen and the slogan ‘The Store with the Friendly Welcome’. The now world famous David Hockney was heard to mumble ‘some friendly welcome!’ “ Michael Dixon  in Busbys’  A Shop Full of Memories by Michael Callahan and Colin Neville (Bradford Museums, Galleries & Heritage, 2008) p.71. See also

Charles Dickens: On 28th December 1854, ‘Mr Christmas’ himself, Charles Dickens (author of such Christmassy works as A Christmas Carol, Pickwick Papers and The Chimes) read from his works to a packed audience at the new St George’s Hall in Bradford. Special trains were put on for journeys to Halifax and Huddersfield, such was the popularity of the event. However, for some female members of the audience, the evening might not have turned out quite as Dickens had initially promised, that is like “a small social party assembled to hear a tale told round the Christmas fire…” because, as a skilled actor, his dramatic readings of the violent murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist, for example, had been known to cause women in the audience to swoon into a dead faint.

Charles Dickens’s Mr Pickwick

J.B. Priestley: Much later in time, a great fan of Charles Dickens, a young Bradford born J.B. Priestley, who would frequently forego dinner to buy books, was said to have “spent one Yuletide with a chum at an old inn near Bradford where he smoked a church-warden pipe and tried a brew of punch”, in order “to sample Christmas very much as Dickens’s Mr Pickwick would have done.” (Rebel Tyke Bradford and J.B. Priestley by Peter Holdsworth (Bradford Libraries, 1994), p.45

Nativity Christmas

Nativity play at Heaton Middle School, Bradford, BHRU, (Bradford Museums’ Photographs)

The school nativity has long provided a Christmas gift that keeps on giving to parents and teachers alike. Let’s hope that this year will be the only year that for many has to be watched only on film at home or not at all. If you have never seen or been part of one, Gervase Phinn gives some lovely and humorous accounts from his Yorkshire School Inspector days, such as at St Helen’s school where the teacher, Mrs Smith had asked the children to write parts of the Christmas story in their own words, one child read,

’The three kings were very rich and they wore beautiful clothes and had these crowns and things. They looked at the stars every night. One night one of the kings said, “Hey up, what’s that up there, then?” “What?” said the other kings.  “That up there in the sky? I’ve not seen a star like that one.” The star sparkled and glittered in the blue sky. “You know what?” said another king. “It means there’s a new baby king been born. Shall we go and see Him?” “All  right.”’

The narrator continued: ‘They shouted to their wives: “Wives! Wives! Go and get some presents for the baby king. We’re off to Beth’lem to see Him.” “OK,” said the wives.’ Head Over Heels in the Dales (Michael Joseph, 2002), p. 95  These books are available for loan, follow:

Charity in Depression Christmas, 1932

Roberts’s Model Lodging-house, Leeds St, Keighley, c.1924, (BK36, Keighley Local Studies)

In 1861, Francis Middlebrook wrote, “Mother went to Keighley workhouse to see all the inmates get rum and tea”, the latter being donated by William Busfield Ferrand of St Ives. Keighley News 24 Dec 1982

In Keighley at the two lodging houses, Mr Edward Roberts, landlord, provided a ham and egg breakfast and an anonymous donor provided parcels of tea and sugar. Mr Roberts organised an annual fund and as a consequence each resident was also given free lodgings, tobacco and cigarettes on Christmas day. Each child in various Keighley institutions was also given a new shilling piece by a Mr Asa Smith. Keighley News 10 December 1982

Unruly Christmas

The Keighley Police Force in 1865, (Ian Dewhirst MBE archive)

Hearth and home in Victoria’s reign was not for everyone. With no regular police force yet, law and order in Bradford and Keighley was kept by Watchmen. In Keighley, there were 6 patrolling the streets.  One of these kept a diary between the years 1848-1853, now held in Keighley Local Studies Library archive (BK 309) and was called, James Leach. He had a very busy Christmas in 1848. In his diary he reported that at one o’clock on Christmas Day morning Mrs Wilkins’ Star Inn had “company in her house from 15 to 20 persons”. They were still drinking there at a quarter to three on Boxing Day.   On 27th December one Zyckriah Ashton was found in Cony Lane drunk and very ill. On the 28th December at one o’clock there was fighting at the Black Horse amongst a group of men and at two o’clock Mr Lapish of New Town was found drunk and disorderly. On the 31st , Samuel Smith, ‘comonley caled Mucky Sam’, ‘threw Patrick Waterhouse over the batlment at Damside a depth of 5 yards & cut & wounded im daingerousley’. The New Year started in a similar way…

War Time Christmas, 1939

Christmas war certificate for donations made. (BK10/683, Keighley Local Studies)

During WW2, Keighley people on the Home Front, as in other districts, did their best to provide “comforts” for those serving in the forces. They provided funds for recreational and rest huts. During November, four large bales of knitted woollen comforts were despatched to France, also to the Navy and Air Force. “Cigarettes, sweets, candles etc.,” were also sent. Firms such as Ward, Haggas & Smith; Clapham Bros., and Dean, Smith and Grace also had schemes to provide comforts as well as Christmas parcels to their work people serving in the Forces. Keighley News, 9 December 1939
For those Evacuees remaining in Keighley and the Worth Valley over the holidays, there was a large Christmas party on 4th January with a film show, community singing and a play. On other days, there were to be games in schools, walks and visits to museums and places of interest. Keighley News 23 December 1939.

Hospital Christmas

Keighley and District Victoria Hospital held regular children’s Christmas parties even during the war years. Ian Dewhirst noted that in 1943, the visiting Santa Claus was none other than Dr Joseph Chalmers, hospital surgeon. Nursing staff also performed a pantomime, “Boy Blue” and patients received presents from the Matron’s Christmas Fund and the Workpeople’s Collection Committee. Keighley News 21 December 2001.

World’s first ‘socially distancing’ cracker

Hawksworth Hall, 1961, C.H. Wood (Bradford Museums’ Photographs)

COVID Christmas 2020

Another shadow, another queue, hopefully we shall soon be on the bright side…….

Father Christmas at a works’ children’s party, 1955 C.H. Wood (Bradford Museums’ Photographs)

To join the library, borrow books and examine local 19thC newspapers using our online services from home, as well as gain free access to Ancestry and Findmypast, follow the link below:

See also Bradford Museums Photo Archives:

Bradford’s Oral History collection is housed in Bradford Local Studies Library. It consists of 800 tape recorded interviews (also transcriptions) with local people’s memories including subject areas such as textiles, health, war, immigration to Bradford.

Other useful sites:  traditional and modern mills’ repository of records and photographs

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies Library

Bradford and District Mills – a continuous contribution to cultural growth and diversity

Photograph of merchants on the main floor of the Wool Exchange, Bradford 1954.
(C.H. Wood, Bradford Museums and Galleries)

By the 1850s it’s estimated that Bradford processed two thirds of the country’s wool production and was generally known as the wool capital of the world. People sought work in Bradford as local rural employment declined but eventually they came from all parts of the world. In 1974, Bradford became a metropolitan district and absorbed other areas such as Keighley that had also experienced early economic and population growth due to its textile trade and related engineering industries.

Despite this propitious beginning and rapid production and success, the District’s textile industry has declined over the years and now the local economy relies on a diversity of industries and technologies. Nevertheless, much of the industrial landscape remains but far from being predominantly the “dark satanic mills” of dereliction and waste, today very many of the old mills have been re-purposed in unique and creative ways so that they can continue to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of the District. Today we see mills playing a role in pioneering digital technology, film, performance art and culture and they will be an essential consideration in the “Northern Powerhouse” agenda for the District.

Architectural innovation and majesty

Fabric Huge by Mark Keighley

The early mill owners built grand houses that we still admire such as Heathcote, Ilkley (John Thomas Hemingway, Richardsons’ wool merchants);  Cliffe Castle, Keighley (Butterfield family, worsted manufacturers and merchants), Eastwood House, Keighley (William Sugden, worsted spinner);  Lady Royde Hall, Bradford (Henry Illingworth, worsted spinner, manufacturer). However, they also built their mills on a grand scale too, continuing to use the best architects around. Amongst the most splendid mill examples still standing today are Lister’s (Manningham) Mills, Bradford built by Samuel Cunliffe Lister to replace the original Manningham Mills, destroyed by fire in 1871. Built in the Italianate style of Victorian architecture (listed Grade II), the architects were a local firm, Andrews & Pepper who went on to design many fine buildings in Bradford. For all architect details, please see:  Salt’s Mills built by Sir Titus Salt and designed by Bradford’s Town Hall architects Lockwood & Mawson,  is also now Grade II listed and in it floor size at the time was the largest industrial building in the world. It has been described as an Italianate palace as the architecture is after the 15thcentury Italianate style;  Dalton Mills , Keighley (Grade II listed 1134129 ) was built for J. and J. Craven, worsted spinners and manufacturers the complex originally consisted of 3 ornate mills in an eclectic classical style (minarets style towers included) round a small courtyard, Tower Mill, Genappe Mill and New Mill. They were designed by William Sugden of Leek, Staffordshire who also built the Secular Hall in Leicester  All these mills can be examined in more detail individually on the English Heritage Listed Buildings web site:

As well as this grand architecture, mill owners built houses for workers, public buildings such as Institutes, offices and warehouses, some similarly ornate such as in Saltaire Model village and Little Germany in Bradford.  In the last century, mills themselves that were structurally still sound began to be refurbished to produce flats and apartments. These were also popular because of their location near scenic waterways, such as in Saltaire at Victoria Mills and in Bingley. Another of Bradford’s main developments is that of Lister’s Mill. Once the largest silk factory in the world, the Grade II listed buildings have now been converted by Urban Splash into apartments, penthouses and commercial units. The following site shows the transformation with excellent photographs:

Conditioning House, Bradford, is another large and prestigious building development and won the UK Property Award for best residential development in Yorkshire 2018/19. Smaller mills all over the District have also been converted such as Hewenden Mill, Haworth, and others such as Baildon Mills are in the pipeline, so maintaining Bradford’s unique industrial architecture.

Technical Education

The Great Exhibition of 1851 exposed weaknesses in Britain’s manufacturing and industrial educational policy and pinpointed deficiencies in technical drawing skills of students going into industry and manufacturing. Subsequently, the Department of Science and Art was created to raise standards, together with the National Art Training Schools of South Kensington to provide specialist instruction in drawing, designing and modelling. A system of national scholarships was also established. In the late 19th century, students of Keighley Mechanics’ Institute particularly benefited and won many scholarships, encouraged by Swire Smith of Fleece Mills. He travelled through Europe examining different educational methods and skills, gave lectures, served on the Royal Commission on Technical Instruction (1880) and contributed papers to the Technical Education Bill (Technical Instruction Act 1889) and its committee. He received a knighthood in 1898. Keighley Local Studies library holds his archive and a collection of pamphlets.

Digital Technology

Salts Mill, small industrial unit, sculptor, Andrew Orlowski, who came to England during 1980 after studying at the famous Academy of Sculpture, in Poland. (BHRU, Bradford Museums and Galleries)

The repurposed Salt’s Mill played a role in training and employment when it opened new units for crafts but also in new technologies when it gave space to Pace Electronics, a British company pioneering digital technology for satellite receiving equipment. Today the mill houses the Advanced Digital Institute (ADI).

Into the future, Bradford’s mills are set to play an important role in developing the use of drone technology and smart city management. Dalton Mills, Keighley has already been noted in the report findings of the first phase of the pioneering “Flying High” programme. Bradford is one of only five areas designated “drone cities” for this leading project for the drone industry. For details follow the following links:  (page 56 for Bradford District)

Immigration and Diversity

Illingworth, Morris PLC. Employee of the spinning mill on Thornton Road, Bradford.
(BHRU, Bradford Museums and Galleries)

Since the Industrial Revolution, Britain’s population has been on the move to find work as rural employment became scarcer. Bradford District witnessed large Irish migrations and the use of orphans from as far away as London to be employed in the textile trade. The German worsted merchants built Little Germany warehouse area and also became cultural philanthropists, supporting buildings such as St George’s Hall. The composer Frederic Delius and the painter William Rothenstein came from such families in Bradford. After World War 2,  Displaced Persons were given European Volunteer Worker status and recruited to work in the mills in the Bradford District. By 1987, there was upwards of 10,000 people of Austrian, Italian, Baltic and Eastern European origin living in Bradford, many working in textiles and its related industries (Wool City by Mark Keighley, G. Whitaker & Co. Ltd., 2007, p.143). The largest recent migration, however, was that from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan. Most of the new Commonwealth workers became employed in textiles as well as public transport and the Health Service, making valuable contributions to the local economy and its diverse cultural development. In the late 1960s, textile firms relied so much on workers from India and Pakistan for combing and spinning processes that without them it is recorded that textile production and profit would have seriously faltered. (See also Textile Voices edited by Olive Howarth, BHRU 1989 and Here To Stay, Bradford’s South Asian Communities, BHRU 1994)

Arts, Culture and Heritage

The move to re-purpose rather than demolish mills, championed by such schemes as the Prince’s Regeneration Through Heritage initiative has led to some becoming social, retail but also performance art and cultural hubs.

Aerial view of Salt’s Mill, 1973 (Bradford Museums and Galleries)

Amongst the first in the country, and the most outstanding in Bradford, is Salt’s Mill whose wide ranging contribution has led to Saltaire village becoming recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The original vision of entrepreneur Jonathan Silver (1949-1997) as a retail and leisure scheme, Salt’s Mill became a major cultural centre as it was progressed from Bradford Festival productions in the mill to the exclusive 1853 Hockney Gallery in the former spinning mill. Today it still houses the largest continuous exhibition of art works by the world famous English artist, David Hockney. You will also find there today a large book shop, antiques centre, craft and outdoor retail, cafes and restaurants and the Early Music Shop, (See Salt & Silver A Story of Hope by Jim Greenhalf, Bradford Libraries, 1998) Other mills have also been adapted to the benefit of the local community and encouragement of the Arts.  Dalton Mill complex in Keighley, has also been refurbished in part and now has an arts centre and thriving Business Park. Melbourne Mills opposite Dalton, and like Salt’s Mill, has also contributed to the long tradition and progressive link between mills, music and Yorkshire bands. In the mid-19th Century this consisted of one of the first Yorkshire mill brass bands, Black Dyke Mills band being created, today there are pop and rock bands using recording and rehearsal studios as launched by “Jam on Top”. The mill also houses a radio station.

Examples of smaller conversions also include Antiques at the Mill, Cullingworth; Ponden Mill B & B, Stanbury and Albion Mills business centre, Greengates.

Film and Television

Because of their impressive and historic architecture, and it has to be said because of some dereliction, Dalton Mill in Keighley and Saltaire’s mills and village have frequently been used as film locations. Dalton Mill most recently was filmed for the popular television series Peaky Blinders.

Dalton Mills, Keighley (Keighley Local Studies)

This availability of impressive film locations has contributed to Bradford marking its tenth anniversary in 2019 as the world’s first UNESCO City of Film and helped it to highlight how Bradford is leading the way in film literacy with a programme that is regarded as one of the best of its kind in the UK, promoting new ways of learning in primary schools (Emma Clayton, T&A, 12 Feb 2019 pp. 2-3).  Bradford has now launched a unique FilmMakers 25 project to spot and nurture talent and to teach skills of film making to students across the District.

It’s good to see that Bradford District’s mills not only continue to contribute to the local economy but now also to the District’s cultural development and progress, with a key role to play in the development of some of the most advanced technology in the world. The regeneration of textile mills in the area is now a key part of the “Northern Powerhouse” agenda. This is a fine testimony to Bradford District’s diversity and spirit of hard work and enterprise as Bradford now makes its bid for the title of UK City of Culture 2025.

Bradford and Keighley Local Studies Libraries hold a wealth of books and archive records and resources if you would like to find out more about mills and the textile industry. Bradford is also fortunate to have its own Industrial Museum that hosts regular widely acclaimed exhibitions.

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

Belle Vue Studio collection: a unique collection based in Bradford’s Museums and Galleries. The studio became a popular destination in the 1950s for those coming to work in Bradford from other parts of the world. Digitisation of the photos is almost complete:

See also Bradford Museums Photo Archives:

Bradford’s Oral History collection is housed in Bradford Local Studies Library. It consists of 800 tape recorded interviews with local people’s memories including subject areas such as textiles, health, war, immigration to Bradford.

Other useful sites:  traditional and modern mills’ repository of records and photographs  online illustrated guide to Britain’s industrial history

Update. Local Studies services from 4 November 2020

The Local Studies research appointment service has been suspended at the present time as one of the steps taken by Bradford Libraries in line with the Government regulations. There will be no access to study spaces during this time.

This is a perfect time to delve into local and family history and Bradford Libraries will continue to offer the free use of AncestryLibrary and Find My Past from home at the current time. This is available to anyone with a library card. 

Local studies library staff are continuing to provide a telephone and email service to answer enquiries involving the unique local collections. You can contact Bradford Local Studies Library on 01274 433688, email or Keighley Local Studies Library on 01535 618215, email

Apologies for any inconvenience and we hope to see you back soon.

Local Studies Update

An email and telephone service is available for local and family history enquiries. Please contact us with details of your request using the details below. 

In addition we are now able to offer access to visitors by appointment only, to use local studies publications and original records for study and research.

Booking a session

To make an appointment, contact us by email or telephone. We will allocate you a session for research.

We only have limited slots so the date or time you want might not be available but we will do our best to accommodate your needs. Please book your appointment as far in advance of your visit as possible.

To keep staff and visitors safe, all items required must be pre-ordered. Access will be limited to local studies and archive material.

Please note that we require at least 72 hours notice and at busy times this may be significantly longer.

On booking your appointment via telephone or email, our team of library staff will help to search the catalogues to identify appropriate items if required. They will then prepare the items for use prior to your visit.

It is essential that all materials/documents are ordered and an appointment made in advance. No requests can be made on the day.

Customer details (name and contact details) will be taken in compliance with the NHS Test and Trace system. These will be retained securely for 21 days after which the information will be securely destroyed.

Your visit

To ensure a safe and productive visit we request that you follow the guidelines below which have been designed in line with current advice to prioritise the safety of all.   

Please arrive at the allotted time.

Please wear a face covering during your visit. Wearing gloves is optional.

Please sanitise your hands on entry and exit.

Please observe social distancing and keep 2 metres distance from staff and customers at all times.

No food or drink will be permitted during your visit.

We are unable to provide face to face support to our customers such as assistance with using documents and no general browsing facilities are available at the present time.

Our card catalogues are not available to public access at present.

There will be no access to public PC’s however Wi-Fi is available using your own equipment.

Please bring all stationery required as we are not able to supply or lend any stationery.

Photocopying, scanning or printing services will be unavailable at the present time; however researchers are permitted to photograph items from the collection for personal use or study with their own equipment. No other kind of reproduction will be permitted without the necessary permissions which must be arranged via email.

If you have requested the use of a microfilm/fiche reader we request that you use the antibacterial wipes provided to clean the surfaces before and after use and follow the disposal guidelines for the wipes.

When you have finished your research visit please place the research items in the designated area. Please do not leave the documents in the study area or return them to shelves or cabinets. 

We hope that you have a safe, comfortable and productive visit. If you have any further enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us via email or telephone.

Arrangements for disabled visitors

Arrangements for disabled visitors remain the same.

Please let us know when booking if you have any special requirements.

If you require someone to accompany you when you visit, please let us know at the time of booking.

Online services

Please remember too that many of our online offers are still available remotely or from home. These include AncestryLibrary, Find My Past and British Library Newspapers. For further information please visit:

Contact details

Please contact us via telephone or email:

Bradford Local Studies Library


Tel: 01274 433688

Keighley Local Studies Library


Tel: 01535 618215

Brief Guide to Tracing Your Black British Ancestry

New Pentecostal Church of God,
©Bradford Museums Photo Archive

To mark Black History Month, here is a selection of online guides to tracing your family history. Bradford Libraries of course hold book stock for loan covering the basics of family history research, the sort of records you might come across and dedicated guides to aspects of Black history and Black family history, such as Madeleine E. Mitchell’s Jamaican Ancestry How to Find Out More, (Heritage Books, 2008) ISBN 978-0-7884-4282-7.

Background historical information

Black people have been in Britain from at least Roman times and increasingly more research is being done into their history and valuable contribution to the development of British society and culture. Here are a couple of sites you may find useful: 

The website was launched in 2003, and funded by the New Opportunities Fund. It is one in a series of online exhibitions produced by Pathways to the Past web resource. It was established to provide an historical context for lifelong learners using the archives in their own research. It includes resources such as digitised records and artworks from the National Archives’ collections and elsewhere. 

The Every Generation website was launched by Patrick Vernon after mentoring young black people in Brent and Hackney. He was inspired to create this online resource for young people and families for genealogical research and to explore Black British identity.

BBC articles for Black History Month on great men and women

BBC iplayer programmes:  TV series with David Olusoga  Radio 4 series with Gretchen Gerzina

More suggestions are available on the Bradford Council’s page:

Family History – making a start

If your family has a long heritage in Britain then please follow the guides’ link below to a leaflet that includes an outline of some of the records you may come across in your research. Please note that census records did not identify ethnicity until 1971 so although early censuses do identify the country of birth in some cases from 1841, your search will be by address and surname. All are accessible through Bradford Libraries’ Ancestry from home service. You can start with the 1939 Register and then work through 1911 back every 10 years to 1841.

Free online guides are also available on this site on all aspects of general and particular British family history research. Follow this link and type in your search needs:

Further areas of research

This leaflet highlights some of the background history to migration from the 1940s.

Passenger lists for African-Caribbean heritage during the period c1948-1960

The British Transport Collections include some of the migration records of British citizens from Caribbean countries to the UK from this period and these are held at the National Archives, Kew. The National Archives also has a series of guides that you can read online and/or print off to read.

These include the UK inbound passenger lists up to 1960. However, these are currently available to all Bradford Library card holders from their own home. Follow the instructions below to access Ancestry and/or the more restricted access to Findmypast.

Ancestry includes the ‘Windrush’  inbound passenger lists and other inbound lists 1878-1960. UK outbound lists from 1890-1960.

To access Ancestry Library you will need a Bradford Libraries membership card.
Go to and log in to your library account with your card number and pin.
Remember to input just the numbers. Next, click on the special link to Ancestry Library Edition.

Findmypast  includes UK outbound lists from 1890-1960. Access is limited to a certain number of searches per month.  To access please email

A guide for National Archive records that relate to aspects of the slave trade, slavery and unfree labour in the British Caribbean and American colonies:

Personal Accounts of Research for Black Ancestry

One man’s journey to uncover his routes back from his Liverpool family:

African-Caribbean heritage: two free online talks this month with Paul Crooks

If you would like to pursue this topic more informally, Manchester Library is hosting two family history talks, free online, by the author and family historian, Paul Crooks who pioneered research into African Caribbean genealogy during the 1990s. Join him as he explains how he traced his family history from London back 6 generations through to slavery in a Jamaican sugar plantation and how he researched his father’s history using the Passenger lists above mentioned. The events take place on the 19th and 20th October and are online, you register using your email and do not have to be a member of Manchester Libraries.

Paul Crook’s books are available in Bradford Libraries, please follow this link and you can use the click and collect service

Family Research War Records

You can search for war records on the Ancestry and Findmypast web sites. You may also wish to look at the following:  American soldiers

Bradford Museums’ and Libraries’ Records

Belle Vue Studio collection: a unique collection based in Bradford’s Museums and Galleries. The studio became a popular destination in the 1950s for those coming to work in Bradford from other parts of the world. Digitisation of the photos is almost complete:

See also Bradford Museums Photo Archives:

Leading fireman , Alfa Kalay of the Green Watch
©Bradford Museums Photo Archive

Bradford’s Oral History collection is housed in Bradford Local Studies Library. It consists of 800 tape recorded interviews with local people’s memories including subject areas such as textiles, health, war, immigration to Bradford.

Further links for tracing immigrant and ethnic ancestors:

The BBC continues to be involved with black history and family history research. Here is a useful link:

The British Library houses the Oriental and India Office Collections, relating to all the cultures of Asia and North Africa and European interaction with them.

UKIRA  UK Information Resources on Asia provides collection descriptions of resources held in university, special and public libraries; also access to holdings of newspapers in any language published in Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and information on the range of linguistic expertise in Asian languages available across the UK.

The National Archives holds the records of the Colonial Office, Commonwealth and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices.

SOAS Library & Information: housed at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, this is one of the world’s most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Site covering the history of the Commonwealth including a photo archive   The Mundus Gateway is a guide to collections of overseas missionary materials held in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

General Archive Research links   the A2A database contains catalogues of archives held across England and dating from the 1900s to the present day.

AIM25: provides electronic access to collection level descriptions of the archives of over fifty higher education institutions and learned societies within the Greater London area.

ARCHON: the Archon Directory includes contact details for record repositories in the UK. The Archon Portal provides information about archival resources and projects. The site is hosted and maintained by the National Archives.

A good web site with some current free tips on getting children involved in their family’s history.  This site also has free genealogy layout forms to help you organise your research as you go.

We hope that this guide proves useful to you, please follow this link to find out what else is on in Bradford and Bradford Libraries and Museums  to honour Black History Month.

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies

Follow the Vets’ Film Trail through our region.

Once again our region has been chosen to feature as the backdrop to heritage filming. Bradford and Yorkshire are key areas chosen for some great television and film productions. The most recent is the remake of the popular classic All Creatures Great and Small , based on the hilarious and uplifting best seller books by James Herriot about the novice vet from Glasgow who settles into a veterinary practice in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s.

The current village of Darrowby is essentially Grassington and Mrs Pumphrey’s  palatial home is Broughton Hall Estate near Skipton but Bradford District makes its appearance in the use of the wonderful Worth Valley railway line, Oakworth and Keighley Worth Valley stations for all things rail related.

Of course Bradford District is no stranger to filming from films such as Room at the Top and Billy Liar of the 1950s/60s to Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, the Railway Children and Peaky Blinders. The list is a long one and starting earlier through the decades. Bradford’s City Hall, its centre, and local towns and villages have become firm location favourites for heritage sites and atmospheric shoots. Heritage buildings like Little Germany’s former 19th century wool merchant district have been used for a Hindi horror movie in 2013, when the streets doubled as 1920s London,  and most recently for Gentleman Jack, Downton Abbey and the Netflix history of football in the North of England, The English Game.  The model village of Saltaire too is a popular venue for period streets, shop fronts and terraced housing and The English Game crew made full use of these as a film location. Also on football, let’s never forget the Ripping Yarns’ episode Golden Gordon (1979), also filmed locally, about the trials of footy fan Gordon Ottershaw in his support of the worst team of 1935, Barnestoneworth United, starring Michael Palin. The diversity of the townscape has also attracted Bollywood film makers, Bombay Stores was used for the film Karachi, a comedy drama, in 2015:

If you would like to follow some inspirational tours of award winning filming in our region check out the site for Filmed in Yorkshire:  and see where it takes you in our very own district. Why not plan your own trail, taking in your favourite films and TV series.

James Herriot’s Vet novels and non-fiction about the glorious dales are still available for loan in Bradford Libraries, just click and collect:

Books on cinema and film are also available for loan, such as Made in Yorkshire by Tony Earnshaw and Jim Moran that includes in-depth accounts of more than 30 films and looks at the history of filming in this beautiful county.

Of course no conclusion can be reached without a reminder of the National Science and Media Museum  and also that Bradford has been internationally recognised as the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, a permanent title,  and in part attained because of such popularity as a location hotspot. If you would like to find out more about this accolade, what it means to you and your area and also subscribe to a newsletter that will keep you right up to date with local films and filming please follow:

For the future, Bradford can look forward to the development of a diversity of film talent as a result of Screen Yorkshire’s successful initiative Beyond Brontës to help young people (18-24) from diverse backgrounds to establish careers in the creative industries. In June 2020, the first group of trainees successfully completed the scheme. The following link gives full details of the initiative and the kind of training and experience that the students gained. There is also a video link as well:

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies