Treasure of the week no. 24: ‘Wot! No telly!’ – Creative recreation for 1858’s working man

Popular Amusements. Four Essays by Working Men of Bradford. (Bradford Review, 1858)

JND 196/1 (Please quote this number if requesting this item.)

Football challenge 001

In 1858, the Bradford Review of 21st August offered a prize of one guinea (£1.05) for the best paper, and half-a-guinea (52½p) for the second best in reply to the following question:

What are the best and most practicable means of promoting recreation among the people, during the winter months, in manufacturing towns?

It is hard to imagine life without television and radio, phones (mobile and landline), i-pads, video and CDs, the internet, even electric light and motorized transport. What were young people to do in the evenings after work but congregate in the streets, visit the pubs and betting shops, and generally be a raucous nuisance? What was needed to provide a positive solution to the problem?

Fourteen essays were submitted and forwarded to the adjudicators, the Rev. J.P. Chown and W.R.Haigh, Esq. In addition to the prizes for the first two, Mr Haigh offered a third prize, and the proposer thought that one of the unsuccessful essays contained suggestions of so practical a character that he thought a pity if these hints could not be discussed. Four essays, then, were printed in the Bradford Review, and reprinted in a 32-page pamphlet by James Hanson of Bradford. It is this latter that is to be found in the Dickons Collection of Bradford tracts.

The prize was won by William Harrison, a compositor, who proposed singing classes, Saturday evening concerts and entertainment, a public gymnasium and popular lectures. Chess, draughts and billiards were also suggested.

Second prize went to Malcolm Ross, a lithographic printer, who urged the establishment of a Working Man’s Literary Association to embrace  debating and other classes of an improving character; also a reading and news-room of social and political knowledge. This reminds us that there were no public libraries in Bradford at this time.

Benjamin Preston, a wooolsorter, won the third prize. He suggested cheap music or popular concerts, together with dancing and theatrical entertainments under judicious regulation.

Brass Band 001

The final prize winner was Edward Sloan, a book canvasser, who proposed that the workmen of each establishment, firm, or location, should form themselves into a small society for their mutual instruction and amusement. As with all the candidates, Sloan emphasized the need to provide creative opportunities to counteract, in his words, “depression of spirits, exhaustion of body, a sickness and deadness of the whole man, [which] cry out imperatively for a change. But hitherto the world has provided for the ignorant no place of recreation half so enticing as the public house.” Wise words from a woolsorter.

Reading these accounts emphasizes how much society has changed since those mid-Victorian times. The essays were followed by a feature article in the Review of October 9th, 1858, commenting on the proposals. Reading them today we see that what was proposed closely foreshadows the establishment of public libraries, youth clubs, and many of the social and cultural activities we have today. Maybe the essays of William Harrison, Malcolm Ross, Benjamin Preston and Edward Sloan had a part to play!


Treasure of the week no. 23: Billygoats, frogs, & pickle-pot : ‘The Old Inquirer’ and the ‘March of Reason’.

The Old Inquirer [The Rev. Wm. Atkinson] A volume of tracts.

B 042 ATK (Please quote this number if requesting this item.)

In my trawl through the basement of Local Studies Library I came across a volume of tracts by ‘The Old Inquirer’. The use of pseudonyms was quite common in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, especially for authors writing on controversial topics or opposing the views of other writers. The Old Inquirer did both. His spat with ’Trim’, the Headmaster of Bradford Grammar School in the years from 1787 to 1791 was very public, bad tempered, and yet clever – both Trim and the Old Inquirer were well educated and highly literate. The prose (and sometimes verse) is fun to read even if we don’t fully understand what it was they were arguing about! The Old Inquirer was a prolific writer: the volume I came across had 16 separately paginated tracts containing some 70 individual letters, essays and other items. He even had his own printing press!

To provide extracts from these writings would be far too ‘heavy’ for these ‘Treasures’. Instead I have extracted some of the verse he used to illustrate his opinionsand  which can be enjoyed just for themselves. They are indicative of the rumbustious satire of The Old Inquirer.

‘The Old Inquirer was the Reverend William Atkinson, M. A. , ‘Lecturer’ or ‘Afternoon Man’ at the Parish Church in Bradford (now the Cathedral) from 1784 till his death aged 89 in 1846, a period of 62 years. The ‘Afternoon Man’ was so-called because he was only required to be in attendance on Sunday afternoons. According to newspaper cuttings in the Local Studies Library, Atkinson was a man of herculean build and of singular strength of mind as well as body. He used to walk from his home in Thorpe Arch on Saturdays and walk back to his home on Mondays, staying over in Bradford for his Sunday lectures. So what did he do for those 62 years? Well, among other things, he wrote letters, essays and poems.

Rev William Atkinson MA

‘Rev William Atkinson’ from ‘Bradford Fifty Years ago, 1807’ by William Scruton

Parish Church and Vicarage 1810

‘Parish Church and Vicarage in the year 1810’ from ‘Pen and Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford’ by William Cudworth

The range of subjects he wrote on was wide: the exportation of wool;  tithes; political reform; dissenters from the Church of England; the Pope; press bias; agriculture; even banking. Anyone interested in understanding our history from 200 years ago would do well to read these tracts. Here, though, we just relish his gift for verse and satire, and be amused at the wit, boldness, and candour of the ‘Old Inquirer’. And maybe wish he was around today!

…  Fee fau fum,

I smell the stink of democratic plum;

And though I love Reform disclosed,

And would by no means clog them;

Yet meeting with bare r – ps exposed

I cannot help but flog them.

(A Letter to the Reforming Gentlemen. 1817, p. 1. Tract no. 5)

Their arms, their arms,

Are the Radical charms,

With which they’ll lay about them;

Order, order,

Says R. D. our Recorder,

They’d better be quiet without them.

(Free Remarks upon the Conduct of the Whigs and Radical Reformers in Yorkshire; with some Slight Allusions to the Court Party, 1819, p.1. Tract no. 7.)

How Johnny Bull

Is made the Gull,

Of Men who love his money,

The wasps who thrive,

Within his hive,

And live upon his honey. (p.12)

(Remarks on the Strictures in the Leeds Mercury upon the Rev. M. Jackson’s Coronation Sermon, &C. &c. &c., 1821. p. 12. Tract no. 7)

A Lily sprung in foreign land,

And grew to be a flower,

It was transplanted to this strand,

But flourish’d not an hour.

(As above, p. 16)

“Alas! No rest to mortal man is given,

Till they are safe arriv’d in heaven.”

(A Speech Intended to have been spoken at a Second Meeting of the Clergy upon the Popish Question, 1821, p 41. Tract no. 13)

The man in the moon,

Has ordered a spoon,

To give all there maniacs their pottage;

No, no, let them go

To the region below,

For the pickle-pot must be their cottage.

(As above p. 51)

I am the Prince’s Dog at Kew,

Whose Dog are you?

(A letter to the Reforming Gentlemen, 1817, p. 14. Tract No. 5)

Granting that he had much wit,

He was rather shy of using it.

(As above, p.13.)

Hallo, hallo, away they go,

Unheeding wet or dry,

And horse and rider snort and blow,

And stars on all sides fly!

Hold  Parsons, hold, on Peggy’s rig,

For stormy is the wind,

Or like John Gilpin’s hat and wig,

You’ll soon be left behind.

(A Letter to one suspected to have been written by a Stranger, assisted by the Jacobin priests of the West Riding, 1801, p. 43. Tract No. 1)

Your reasoning, with wondering stare,

Quoth Tom, is mighty high, Sir;

But pray forgive if I declare,

I doubt it is a lie, Sir:

We ne’er shall get, I really think,

Lord H….w..d’s land to us, Sir,

I’d rather have a pot of drink,

Than hang up like a truss, Sir:

If you think thus, my honest clown’

We’ll take another sight on’t –

Just turn the picture upside down,

And you will see the right on’t.

(Lucubrations in Prose and Verse written during the Awful Revolution in 1829, p. 12. Tract no. 16)

Jerry’s Song to his Tippling Wife.

Upon her cheek so fair,

The lily and the rose,

Of flowers a pretty pair,

Did all their sweets disclose.

But time has cropt that rose,

The lily too doth fade,

Such are the cruel foes;

In wedlock to a maid.

And has time cropt that rose?

Ah, no! it grows it grows,

Upon her well-fed nose,

You yet may see my pretty little rose.

(As above, p.13)

And what of the Frogs, Billygoats, and The March of Reason of the heading to this blog? See:

Tract number 14: A Rapid Sketch of Some of the Evils of Returning to Cash Payments, and the only remedies for them. To which are added The Leeds Mercury turned into a Frog, the Billygoats in Leading-Strings, and The March of Reason. 1823.

A full listing of Atkinson’s tracts can be found in the folder ‘Federer, Dickons and Empsall tracts in the Local Studies Library’. Listed under  B 042 ATK


Treasure of the week no. 22. A terrible calamity in 1882

A Terrible Calamity in Bradford: being the entire story from beginning to end, of the Fall of Ripley’s Mill Chimney on Thursday, Dec. 28th, 1882, along with All the Particulars, List of Killed, Accounts of Startling and Extraordinary Escapes, etc. Published by Willie Reynolds.

JND 187/11 (Please quote this number when requesting this item.)


1882 was, the author claims, a disastrous and eventful year:

From its very commencement it was a year ever to be remembered by poor and rich alike, if such events as the useless Egyptian war, outrageous practices and barbarous murders in Ireland, destructive fires in all parts of England, colliery accidents, and calamities of all kinds by land and sea could make it so.

In Bradford the year ended in the collapse of the chimney at Ripley’s Mill in Spring Street off the Manchester Road, at a few minutes past eight on Thursday morning, killing 53 people and seriously injuring 50. The mill was used for spinning and top making and was occupied by several companies. The chimney was said to weigh over 4,000 tons and was 255 feet high. It had been built over twenty years earlier but was never regarded as being quite safe. A week before its fall, pieces of lime and stone had fallen from it. After slight repairs, the architect passed it as being safe. But high winds, incessant rain, frost and heavy falls of snow followed. The gigantic stack collapsed at a point a few feet above the ground.

This modest leaflet of sixteen pages gives an account of the collapse, details of prior warnings and graphic eye witness reports. A list of those killed is given with their ages and we note that many children were killed. The youngest were 8-year-old Susan Woodhead, 9-year-old Emma Pearson, and Edgar North, Arthur Smith and Lydia Lightowler, all 12.

The pamphlet is of interest, not just for the details of the tragedy, but for how it was published. No author is given but we assume it was the publisher. It was priced at One Penny and “The proceeds from the sale of this work is intended for the ‘relief’ fund for the sufferers by the accident.” It was to be “had by all News Agents and News Lads”. One imagines that Willie Reynolds took it upon himself to interview participants, research background, write up the story – and well-written it is – print (probably out of his own pocket), then do the rounds of local newsagents, recruit an army of news lads, then collect and distribute the income, all within a short space of time. That was no mean achievement. No Facebook, Twitter or Internet in 1882!


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’!


Treasure of the week no. 20 – Decayed tradesmen, fags of the family & stained glass windows

JND 194/14 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

jnd 194 14 001

BRADFORD TRADESMEN’S HOME. Lily Croft, Manningham21st Annual Report, with list of Donors and Subscribers.  Bradford: W. Byles and Sons, Printers. 24 pages plus 10 engravings, 1889.

Caring for the elderly has ever been with us. Before state pensions, the National Heath Service, and local authority Social Services, the problem concerned many of Bradford’s leading citizens. Many Benevolent Societies were established and the success of the Tradesmen’s Benevolent Society charted here, in building houses for pensioners, is an inspiring story.

‘The idea of a Home for decayed Tradesmen was suggested by the administration of the affairs of the Tradesmen’s Benevolent Institution. Very early in the history of that Charity it became painfully evident that the mere annuity was insufficient to relieve the necessities of the recipients. With the most frugal management it could barely supply the means of sustenance, so that, with respect to what is equally important for the aged and the careworn – a peaceful home – they must shift as best they could. The pensioners must either be lodgers in the poorest and most unhealthy localities, exposed to every disturbance likely to destroy that calm so necessary for man’s final preparation, or they must dwell with their married children, where there may be equal annoyance, and a sense of dependence – where the grandfather is often made the fag of the family, the grandmother the incessant nurse, – and where in bad times the first resource is to forestall the pensioner’s annuity.’

A proposal was made to erect thirty houses, to be tenanted, free of rent, rates, and taxes, by pensioners of the Tradesmen’s Benevolent Society and others, to be elected by the donors to the fund. A site for the building was purchased at Lilycroft, Manningham, plans of the houses were prepared and adopted,  and in due time the foundation stone was laid by Sir Titus Salt, who donated two thousand guineas. The thirty houses were all occupied by 1870 and during 1877 and 1878 another block of thirteen houses were erected. There was a lofty hall that could seat 300 persons, a hall that was beautifully enriched with memorials in stained glass of several departed friends of the Institution.


Treasure of the Week no. 19: Omnibuses, Gas Stoves, ‘Horses in Stock’ and a Tripery – What the Council did in 1889

JND 194/13 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

jnd 194 13 001

BOROUGH OF BRADFORD.   Reports of the Committees of the Council, Presented 26th, October, 1889.            Bradford: M. Field, Printer. 1889. 96 pages.

Council documents are a rich source of information. So much of what happens in a locality is due to the decisions and actions of the local authority. In 1889 Bradford covered a much smaller area than it does now – as witnessed in the second report noted below under the Finance and General Purposes Committee. Of great importance to us today was the decision to build reservoirs on the Nidd Valley, noted in the report of the Waterworks Committee. The topics listed below are only a small selection from a year’s work of the Council, much of which was routine. Committees, and some items from each, were:

Building Committee

49 new streets planned

Finance and General Purposes Committee

186 Omnibuses and 44 Tram Cars licensed

Parliamentary powers to be sought to extend Bradford to include Allerton, Heaton, Thornbury and Tyersal

Free Library and Art Museum Committee

New branch library opened in Barkerend

Gas and Electricity Supply Committee

Gas Stove Department report

Hackney Carriage and Cleansing Committee

94 notices served re smoke prevention

Markets and Fairs Committee

The ‘Tripery’ building has been successful

Parks Committee

Flowering plants and evergreens planted at Forster Square

Sanitary Committee

66,903 ashpits emptied

30 public urinals maintained

Street and Drainage Committee

Postal Telegraph wires have been laid underground in Great Horton Road

Street Improvement Committee

New and improved sight lines prescribed for Heaton Road

Tramways, Baths and Team Labour Committee

 The Cheapside and Otley Road Tramway opened

 27,470 people used the swimming, slipper and shower baths

 66 horses in stock

Waterworks Committee

New water filter approved for Thornton Moor Reservoir

Parliamentary approval to be sought to build reservoirs in the Nidd Valley



Treasure of the Week no. 18: Galas & Fents in Peel Park

JND 194/8 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

jnd 194 8 c 001

BOOTH’S FENT WAREHOUSESProgramme for the Annual West Riding Galas held in Peel Park, Bradford, Whisuntide, 1888.

Galas and Melas have been held in Peel Park for many years, but what went on in these festivals has changed greatly. In 1888 the Gala lasted two days and in the Library’s pamphlet collection we have the 16-page programme of events  sponsored by Booth’s Fent Warehouses. Fents were basically animal skins and Booth’s, whose main shops were in Well Street, Bradford and Albion Street, Leeds, made sure that people who purchased the programme for one penny could not escape knowing about their products. There were full page adverts for Booth’s Umbrellas, Booth’s Scotch Tweed, Booth’s Cheviots, Booth’s Doeskins, Booth’s Meltons, Booth’s Beaver, Booth’s Italians, Booth’s Silesias, and much else. Products long forgotten.

So much for fents. What went on at Peel Park in the spring of 1888? A lot! Amusements included:

Coco, Little Coco & Gertie Volta  – ‘The Ape at Home’

Harry Lyons & Nellie Danvers – Shooting Act

Brothers Ormonde – Acrobats and Vaulters

Sheriff – Performing Elephant

Henri Benham – Equilibrist and Mountain of Chairs

Sgt. Simms & Troup – Zouave Drill

Newham & Downes – Black Clowns

Cruikshank Family – Jugglers and Balances

Maldavan & Pedro – The Red Men

The Marzelos – Horizontal Bat, Double Clowns

Prof. Atherton – Dogs and Monkeys

Julius Keller – The German Waiter

Mademoiselle Eske & Volier – Gymnasts

Mademoiselle Senide – The Lovely Queen of the Desert, in her Den with Lion, Bear, and Panther

Zalva & Alvar – On the High Wires

There were fireworks by Professor Wells, whose displays included The Wheel of Ixion and the Revolving Fountain. There was Professor Smith with his Famous Punch & Judy Show Performing at Intervals; There was a full music programme – Six military bands, including the  2nd West York Artillery and local orchestras such as the Postmen’s Band, the Manningham Band, and the Bradford Borough Band played a wide repertoire of music.

About eight o’ clock each night, weather permitting, inventor Eric Stuart Bruce, was to personally supervise the ascent of ‘The Electrical War Balloon! For Flashing Signals at Night, As Supplied to the English and Belgian Governments’.

And, of course, there were Refreshment Tents, Stalls, Swings, Bowling Tents, Shooting Galleries, Dancing, &c., on the Fair Ground.

Imagination is required to understand what some of these activities were about. Performing animals, black clowns, and Punch & Judy would now be frowned on, but I can’t help wishing I was there, at Peel Park, in 1888, watching Zalva & Alvar on the high wires, and the Fireworks, listening to the Bands, visiting the Refreshment Tents, and waiting impatiently for the ascent of the flashing signals from The Electrical War Balloon!


Treasure of the Week no. 17: Morning Dress at Bradford College: A Scientific Conversazione

JND233/5 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

BRADFORD SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATION.  Annual Conversazione held in the Technical College on March 7th & 8th, 1901. Programme and Handbook of Exhibits, Demonstrations, etc.  Bradford: H. Gaskarth, Printer. 25 pages.

From this Programme and Handbook, printed on thick paper with a (faded) maroon cover with gold lettering, we gain an insight into Bradford Technical College (now just ‘Bradford College’) putting on a show for the public. And some show it was too! Here, at the turn of the century, we sense a vibrant and confident Bradford.

On the Thursday evening there was a ‘conversazione’, a cultural celebration. The Opening Address was given by the President of the Bradford Scientific Association, Mr E. Naylor, there were songs and a violin solo, and two Lecturettes, one on Glacial Geology (with lantern slides) and the other on Colour Photography (illustrated by a photochromescopic lantern). On the following evening there were four songs (‘I was dreaming’, ‘The Sailor’s Grave’, ‘The River of Years’, and ‘Songs of Araby’) and two Lecturettes, one on Faraday’s Electro-Magnetic Discoveries, and the other on Aresenical Poisoning.

Throughout the two days there were Demonstrations, which included:

  •             Machines for testing the strength of concrete
  •             Collotype Printing,


  •             Action of dyes on flowers
  •             Preparation of glucose from starch using sulphuric acid
  •             The recovery of ammonia from Ammonical Liquor, and
  •             The Manufacture of Copperas (used in the purification of Bradford sewage)


There was a Children’s Corner where there were Experiments with Gyroscope and Soap Bubbles, and other eye-catching activities. Among the many Microscope shows were the magnifications of insects’ eyes, frog skin and the foot of a spider.

Permanent Exhibits were displayed in the subjects of Astronomy, Botony, Chemistry, Engineering, Ethnology, Geology, Photography, Physiology, Textiles, Zoology.

The Conversaziones were held in the evenings and the programme notes that ‘Morning Dress was to be worn’. Morning Dress is not something seen at Bradford College these days! Nor photochromescopic lanterns for that matter! But as an insight into the development of science in Bradford at the beginning of the twentieth century, this programme is hugely impressive.


Treasure of the Week No. 16: ‘Rhodes’s Lump Butter is Always Unique’

JND 233/1 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

RHODES & SONS.   Bradford: Past & Present. A Sketch of the Progress of the Town from the Earliest Period.   Bradford: J. F. Rhodes & Sons, 54 Kirkgate, 1890. 98 pages.

jnd223 1 c 001

This is a remarkable book. So also was 98 pages for 1d.! It is a publication marketed by a grocery shop which is a full and well-illustrated history of Bradford. The text and illustrations are excellent, with engravings of old street scenes and line drawings of local celebrities of the time. Of particular interest today is the information about the products advertised by the publishers, J. F. Rhodes & Sons, Grocers. Every page has a strap line featuring one of the shop’s grocery products, of which the following are a few:

  • Rhodes’s Lump Butter is always unique
  • Rhodes’s 2s. Teas, is the Tea Drinker’s Favourite
  • Rhodes’s are Agents for Armour Ox Tongues
  • Rhodes’s Coffee is roasted daily
  • Rhodes’s White Cheshire Cheese

There are several full-page adverts for such products as Reckitt’s Starch, Brown & Polson’s Corn Flour, and Kilvert’s Pure Lard.    The engravings are a little faded, but full of historical interest, with horse-drawn and steam trams, a balloon ascent and a boy in the hand-stocks in Kirkgate! Illustrated are:

  • The Old Cockpit
  • The Old Market Place
  • The New Midland Station
  • Forster Square
  • The Old Manor Hall
  • Old Wool Pack Inn
  • Old Broadstones
  • Old paper Hall
  • Old Piece Hall & Talbot Hotel
  • The Sun Hotel
  • Bowling Green Hotel
  • First Balloon Ascent in Bradford
  • The Alexander Theatre
  • Old Theatre Royal, Duke Street
  • Bradford Mechanics’ Institute
  • Bull’s Head and Pillars



Treasure of the week no. 15: Tinners and bonnet-makers: The working classes of 1851

JND 197/23 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

BAKER, Robert.  The Present Condition of the Working Classes. Considered in two lectures delivered before members of the Bradford Church Institute. Bradford: H. O. Mawson, C. Stansfield, J. Dale, H. B. Byles, and other Booksellers.  1851. 62 pages.


I recommend this substantial booklet to anyone interested in mid-nineteenth-century Bradford. The print is small and the prose dense, but it is factual (with statistical tables), wide-ranging, objective, detailed, and contemporary with the scene it describes: a sort of textbook of the times. Chapter headings are:

  • The Working Classes as a Body Considered
  • Their Hours Work – Legal and Conventional
  • Their Intellectual State
  • Their Social State
  • Their Morality
  • Strikes

But who were the working class? The author excluded ‘Domestic Servants, Labourers, and those who work in Manufacture and Mines’, but the list of those included in one of the statistical tables gives a useful picture of the ‘Labour Trades’ of old Bradford:

  • Bakers
  • Brewers
  • Butchers
  • Brick-makers
  • Bricklayers
  • Joiners
  • Masons
  • Painters
  • Sawyers
  • Plasterers
  • Blacksmiths
  • Cabinet-makers
  • Engineers
  • Iron manufacturers
  • Nail makers
  • Glass maker
  • Potters
  • Tinners
  • Wheelwrights
  • Shipbuilders
  • Coach makers
  • Curriers
  • Boot & Shoe makers
  • Tailors
  • Carters
  • Hawkers
  • Milliners & dress-makers
  • Sempsters & stresses
  • Stay-makers
  • Straw-plaiters
  • Strawboard-makers
  • Bonnet-makers

An aside it is frequently unknown how the library acquired its pamphlets, but not this one. It is stamped: British Museum Duplicate Transferred.