Census 2021 – history in the making

Another first is about to happen in March with the digital-first census in 2021 but when was the first census, why was it taken and what use has it served and will serve in the future?

The census is a head count of everyone in the country on a given day. A census has been taken in England and Wales, and separately for Scotland, every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941, due to WW2.

In 1801 to 1831, the government basically wanted to know the number of people in each area, their sex and age groups. The government was not bothered about personal details, just statistics. Sometimes the enumerator took down more details but this is a rare occurrence. This changed in 1841, when the names of people in each household were included together with information about each person.  Thereafter more information was added each decade.

How the census was taken in the past?

In the week preceding census night, the appointed enumerator delivered the forms to all households in an Enumeration District (approximately 500 people). Censuses did not strictly follow county boundaries. The first page of each District states the route taken. Everyone who slept in the house that night had to be included, even if it wasn’t their permanent home. No person absent was included so salesmen, for example, were included in the census where they lodged on their journey. Census dates are important and vary but they were taken on a Sunday as the night when most people would be at home. Earlier in the year is preferred, since 1851, because many people helped with harvesting in the summer and daylight was always needed for enumerators to carry out their rounds. Forms were filled in for anyone who was unable to read and/or write and there are often many spelling mistakes and some names spelled differently.

On the Monday the forms were collected. The information was then transferred to the Enumerator’s books. The General Record Office compiled the statistics. The date for our 2021 census is Sunday 21 March. For more information, please follow these links:



The Release of the 1921 Census

There is a 100 year closure for freedom of information and data protection reasons for the full household census returns so that the last census to be released was the 1911 in 2012. In 2022 the 1921 census will be released on Findmypast to which Bradford Libraries already have a subscription. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/news/contract-awarded-to-publish-the-1921-census-online/

However, a Register was taken in 1939 and this provides some householder information. It is not a full census. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/1939-register/  

To obtain free access to historical censuses and the 1939 Register, Bradford Libraries have provided free use of Ancestry from your own home during lockdown. Please follow these instructions:

To access Ancestry Library you will need a Bradford Libraries membership card.

Go to https://www.bradford.gov.uk/libraries247  and join the library and/or 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.

How useful is the information collected?

Census returns can be used for social and economic historical research for the Victorian period. As they also give place of birth, they can be used for the study of migration, for trades and occupations, and of course for household and family structures. They are a must for family history and house history researchers and can be used in the study of town and village growth and development.

Why we should take part most especially in 2021.

As a thorough analysis of population the census helps determine social needs and future development. Census information helps plan and fund services in your own area including healthcare, education and transport. It is also used by charities for funding arrangements and businesses for market research and start-up and so impacts on job opportunities. After Covid,  the 2021 census will have particular importance.

To learn more about the census in 2021 please follow these links:

In Bradford: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/browse-all-news/press-releases/working-together-to-deliver-a-successful-census-2021/

 Nationally:   https://census.gov.uk/about-the-census/

Initiative for Bradford Secondary School Students to contribute


Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies Library

International Women’s Day – March 8th 2021: The Indomitable Molly Jones.

From time to time people who I remember from my earliest days working at Keighley Library will suddenly pop into my head, usually for no particular reason, sometimes stirred by memories from a newspaper article or picture that I have been looking at. Not long ago I was thinking about a man called Reg Jones. Reg was a good man and we would often pass the time of day on his frequent visits to Keighley Library. This got me thinking again about that old adage ‘behind every good man there’s a great woman’ and in Reg’s case no truer word was spoken.

When I was invited to write this blog (my first one ever incidentally) there was one lady who’s name immediately sprang to mind. On International Women’s Day 2021 with the NHS very much to the fore, this lady’s life is well worth celebrating. In my eyes she is an unsung hero of whom Keighley owes a huge debt. I never met Molly Jones, but growing up in Keighley in the 70s and 80s I heard her name mentioned constantly. Looking back at Molly’s life and her remarkable achievements, it is only now that I have come to realise what a true pioneer she was in every sense of the word. Keighley should be extremely proud to claim Molly Jones as one of its own, she paved the way for health services that exist in this town to this day.

Molly, christened Mary, was born on a farm in Cockerham and attended Lancaster Girls Grammar School. Her father was not keen on her choice of a career in nursing, so at first Molly took a clerical job with the school health service. However her desire was such that Molly decided to leave her well paid secretarial job behind and enrolled to train as a state registered nurse and midwife on her 21st birthday. By 1942 she was working as a nurse in London and recalled that her pay was £30 a year which increased at the rate of £5 annually until it reached £75. She then transferred to St. Pancras where her work involved supporting new mothers by visiting them when the midwives ended their duties fourteen days after giving birth. As a trainee Molly had to sit with three women who died as a result of back street abortions and this horrendous experience would drive her on to campaign vigorously for abortions to be made legal.

Molly’s next move was to Keighley where she was a health visitor in 1948 on the day the NHS was born describing it as ‘a normal working day’. She was very impressed by the new council estates that were springing up all over the town. Health visitors in their navy uniforms were instantly recognisable and were often called in by mothers who saw them on their way to visit new borns. In that same year Molly married Reg Jones and settled in to her home at Utley going onto have four children of her own. It was soon after her marriage to Reg that Molly retired from paid work, however her involvement in health matters was as committed as ever.

Molly, who had taken mothers under her care in London to a family planning clinic, was by now well positioned to give advice on the subject in Keighley. She told them about a Marie Stopes Clinic in Leeds despite being warned by her superiors not to do so. A pioneer in the field of contraception, Molly was also keen to help women who did not want more children. In 1952 she worked as a volunteer at an evening clinic in Shipley set up by the Family Planning Association. It proved so popular that women started to arrive way before it opened just to make sure that they were seen. Molly would laugh as she recalled ‘they used to make a night out of it with a fish and chip supper on the way home!’

As a health visitor half a century ago Molly also set up a baby and anti-natal clinic at Westgate. She recalled giving out National Dried Milk alongside brand named baby milk, orange juice, virol and cod liver oil. She firmly believed that parenting was the most important thing for any child and that the government should not be encouraging mothers to go out to work.

Molly set about learning relaxation techniques so that women might not need pain killers when giving birth and spearheaded relaxation classes. She was keen to highlight the over-prescribing of tranquilizers and set up several support groups.
Fast-forwarding to the year 2000, Molly called on health chiefs in Airedale National Health trust to provide Macmillan nurses in order to support patients from the moment they are diagnosed with cancer. She believed that it offered a more focused and specialised service compared to district nurses.

I know that a lot of Molly’s achievements will have never been recorded so I will not be aware of them but in later years she became involved in the care of older people and founded SHAPE (a pioneering Senior Health Awareness Project) on Temple Street. She was a staunch supporter of Keighley’s Voluntary Sector through membership of several management and working groups, including Keighley Council for Voluntary Services (KCVS). Heavily involved in many other groups, such as Airedale Community Health Council (KCVS), the Women’s Health Group and a support group for Parkinson’s disease.

Her accolades include winning a Yorkshire Women of Achievement Award and Keighley Community Personality of the Year in 1989.

Molly eventually benefited from some of the services she had supported during her lifetime, such as the Parkinson’s group. She was still attending a keep fit class at the Salvation Army well into her 80s.

On Molly’s death in 2015 at the age of 98, Val Mills, the long-time leader of Keighley Voluntary Services, paid tribute in the ‘Keighley News’ to Molly’s long and active time as a dynamic and determined community health campaigner and volunteer. She said “Molly was an ardent and very vocal campaigner on public health issues, particularly for women. She was often well ahead of the game in new public health issues and growing concerns. She gave many hundreds of hours of volunteer time during 40 plus years.”

Molly’s daughter, Chris Baillie, said “some of my earliest memories are connected with mum’s tireless work for the health of the people of Keighley. She was a campaigner who always fought to right any injustices she saw. My mother’s memory let her down in the last few years, but the spirit carried on.”
Molly’s son, Mike jones was a canoeist who at 19 descended the Grand Canyon and led an expedition down the Blue Nile, later writing a book about his exploits. He drowned in 1978 in Pakistan trying to save his best friend. A film was made about his life.

Molly’s grandson, Tim Baillie, won a gold medal for pair’s canoe slalom at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Molly’s life was well lived and thinking back to Reg in the library back in the day, I think he was a very lucky man indeed to have Molly in his life. I’ll leave the last word to Molly Jones (not many people can say this) summing up her lifetime in health care she said simply “I’ve enjoyed every minute of my work.”

Janet Mawson.
Keighley Local Studies Library.

Captain Sir Tom Moore

We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore earlier this month.  A truly remarkable man, whose determination and show of ‘true Yorkshire grit’ during an incredibly difficult year, proved a beacon of hope to us all during lockdown. Raising over £32 million for the NHS he was an inspiration to us all.

A ‘Son of Keighley’, Sir Tom was presented with the Freedom of the Borough last summer on a visit back to his hometown, where a plaque was unveiled in his honour. Here is a look back at Captain Sir Toms’ Keighley origins.

Tom was Born on the 30th of April 1920, to Wilson ‘Wilfred’ Moore, a Mason, and Isabella Hird, a Headmistress.    

Tom’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Moore, came to Keighley in the 1870s after his marriage to Hannah Whitaker. Originating from a farming family in the Yorkshire Dales, seeing no prospect in farming, Tom set out to become a Stone Mason. Having trained in Bradford, Thomas took up building work in Keighley and an early job of his was the building of the impressive wall which surrounds the Cliffe Castle estate. Tom became quite successful and contributed to building many prominent buildings in and around the town. These include, Keighley Town Hall, shops down Cavendish Street, as well as the family home ‘Club Nook, at Riddlesden. Most notably Keighley’s War Memorial, The Cenotaph, situated in Town Hall Square was also Thomas’s firm’s work.

Keighley War Memorial unveiling 1924 (Keighley Photographic Society vol)
W. N. Hird The family shop

Tom’s grandfather on his mothers’ side, John Hird, worked as a barber in the family hairdressing and barbers on Church Street.
During his early childhood Toms’ family lived at 14 Cark Road, a small but modern terrace near to the Town Centre. However on the death of his grandfather Thomas, Wilfred inherited the family home and moved to ‘Club Nook’. Situated in Riddlesden on the edge of Rombald’s moor, it was an idyllic spot for a young Tom, who enjoyed the outdoors and spent much time up on the moors with his pet dog.

Club Nook – the family home

An active and bright lad, Tom entered ‘Keighley Grammar School’ in 1933.

Keighley Boy’s Grammar School. (Keighley Boys Grammar School Archive BK 211)

Although he did not consider himself academic, Tom did well at school and was a member of the debating club of which, Sir Asa Briggs, notable Historian, was also a member.

Tom’s love of machines was spurred by Tom’s Uncle Billy, a motorbike trials rider in his spare time. As a child Tom would watch his uncle take part in races and help him work on his bikes. Tom got his first motorbike at the age of 12, a Royal Enfield, which he proudly restored to working condition himself with no help. This love of motorsports stuck with him and Tom himself took part in motorcycle racing in adulthood. One of Tom’s old bikes from the 1950’s, a Scott Flying Squirrel, was even found at the Bradford Industrial Museum.

Photography was another family pursuit enjoyed not just by Tom’s father Wilfred, but Tom himself, both were Members of the Keighley Photographic Association.

Page from Keighley Photographic Association membership book 1935-1945 (BK83)

Wilfred once had aspirations to become a professional photographer but a complete loss of his hearing unfortunately put an end to any idea of a career.  An excellent photographer, he contributed to the Keighley Photographic Association, with many fine images of Keighley and the surrounding area, some of which appeared in the Keighley News at the time.

Having gained a good education Tom left school at 15 matriculating in, French, English, History, Maths, Chemistry and Physics. He took up an apprenticeship with the Keighley Water Engineer for three years, then at 18 he started a course at Bradford Technical College to study Engineering.  When War came in 1939, Tom a young man of 19 was still studying, but war service was mandatory for all men aged 18-49, so Tom’s War Service started just after he had turned 20, when he was conscripted and joined the 8th Battalion of the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment.  Tom was soon selected for officer training. Having achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant Tom was posted to India. As part of his service he ran a training programme for army motorcyclists. In 1945 now promoted to temporary Captain, Tom returned to England to become a Tank training instructor.         

Post war Tom returned to Keighley to work as a sales manager for a roofing materials company in Yorkshire. A successful career in business ensued and he went on to become general manager of Cawoods Concrete Products Ltd, manufacturing concrete pipes, Cambridgeshire. 

Tom married Pamela in 1968 and the couple went on to have two children, Lucy and Hannah. Sadly Tom lost his wife to Dementia in 2006. So in 2008 Tom went to live with his daughter Hannah and her family in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, where he lived until his death.

His visit back to his hometown in August last year for the unveiling of his plaque was met with much excitement and delight. Here are some of the picture of Captain Sir Tom’s visit. 

The Autobiography, ‘ Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day: My Autobiography by  Captain Tom Moore’ is available with proceeds going to supporting  the  ‘Captain Tom Foundation’  set up in his name.

Copies are also available free to borrow at Bradford Libraries https://www.bradford.gov.uk/libraries and also via ebook on Borrow Box, the free online ebook and audiobook available through your library membership.      

Keighley Local Studies Library was asked if we could help provide details of photographs for the documentary on Sir Tom’s life, showing the Keighley of Tom’s childhood. The documentary about his life ‘The Life & Times of Captain Sir Tom’ is still available through the ITV hub. https://www.itv.com/hub/the-life-times-of-captain-sir-tom/10a0447a0001

Written by Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies, with thanks to Eddie Kelly, Gina Birdsall, Rachel Shearer, Amy Moore for providing photographs.

A walk with Sidney Jackson #8

Never take dry-stone walls for granted, although any walker in this area will see plenty of them. A great many miscellaneous materials will be built into the walls, often as small repairs. Since my own main interests are in industrial archaeology and geology I am on watch for bricks, iron-making slag, fragments of carved stone, fossils and glacial erratic boulders. I have never been lucky enough to see a ‘rack stone’, three of which are included in SJ’s drawing here.

In the March 1965 edition of the Archaeology Group Bulletin he explains that they obtain their name because their notched shape resembles the rack in a rack-and-pinion arrangement.

Such stones seem to have been reasonably common even if I have never encountered one. They can be built into cottages and boundary walls. The ones pictured were considered to have originally been fragments of a single stone over 6 feet long. SJ states that they were original part of a grain drying kiln but doesn’t explain exactly how they functioned. As I understand it the corn grains were dried on a heavy wool cloth suspended by poles over a low fire. The poles seemingly sat on groves cut into stones placed near the fire, and I assume the rack stones were upright Were there multiple levels of drying? I have seen Iron Age and Roman corn driers but these seemed to employ a stone drying floor, so I will not claim to understand exactly how the rack stones functioned. Can anyone help?

At first sight Bradford seems an unpromising place to grow wheat and barley, with oats being a more plausible grain crop. But in Heaton alone I know of three malting kiln sites and the survival of the place name ‘Whetley’ suggests that wheat was also grown. Corn driers must once have been quite common since the cool, damp, climate in northern upland Britain must have made outdoor drying of wheat prior to storage difficult. But as a child in sunny Sussex, nearly 70 years ago, I well remember ‘stooks’ assembled in the cornfields where the drying took place.

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 (davidpendleton1@gmail.com).

Further Information about the Society can be found on the society’s website: www.bradfordhistorical.org.uk

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 https://capitadiscovery.co.uk/bradford/items?query=the++Hockneys

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.

https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/10898020.charles-dickens-entertained-st-georges-hall-audience-with-his-festive-tale/ https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/letter-about-a-performance-of-the-chimes-from-charles-dickens-to-his-wife-catherine-28-december-1854

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: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/libraries

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:  https://photos.bradfordmuseums.org/


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:

https://new.millsarchive.org/about-us/  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: https://www.bradfordtimeline.co.uk/arch.htm  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 https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jonathan1505/the-sugdens-of-leek/  All these mills can be examined in more detail individually on the English Heritage Listed Buildings web site: https://historicengland.org.uk/sitesearch

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: https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/in-your-area/yorkshire/saving-monumental-bradford-mill/

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:



https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/Flying-High-full-report-and-appendices.pdf  (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. https://www.keighleynews.co.uk/news/16158221.teenage-musicians-top-thanks-big-local/

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: https://www.migrationmuseum.org/tag/bradford-heritage-recording-unit/

See also Bradford Museums Photo Archives:  https://photos.bradfordmuseums.org/


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:

https://new.millsarchive.org/about-us/  traditional and modern mills’ repository of records and photographs

https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Main_Page  online illustrated guide to Britain’s industrial history