Map of the Week: Field House Estate

The first two plans preserve a microcosm of industrial life of the mid-nineteenth century, in an area of Bradford not previously examined in this series. The Local Studies Library reserve map collection has two versions of the Field House Estate plan and I have provided a detail from each. They identify the estate as one of the many pieces of Bradford property belonging to the Rev. Godfrey Wright, who has featured more than once in these columns.

Map of the Week 026 A

A:Iron stone workings’ 1858-1860.

Map of the Week 026 B

B: Coal deposits exploited in several years between 1850-1860.

When were the plans originally drawn up? Plan B is actually dated 1847. I  assume both were created in advance of mining to record future areas of ironstone and coal extraction. Perhaps the operator, or Godfrey Wright’s agent, was responsible for them when the minerals were accessed in the decade after 1850. Two shadowy railway lines are clearly visible on both maps. The upper is marked Great Northern Railway Co. with ‘from Bradford’ on the left and ‘to Leeds’ on the right: the Adolphus Street to Leeds Central route then. The lower line is again G.N.R. and is marked ‘from Halifax’ in very poor script on the left, and again ‘to Leeds’ on the right. I am not a railway expert but I assume the second was the Bowling Junction-Laisterdyke line (opened 1854) which must have permitted Halifax-Leeds trains to bypass Bradford. Quite large portions of the line are still visible on modern aerial photographs but the rails themselves have been taken up. The two lines come together just off the plans to the right. From the date of the maps I think we can be certain that the railway information was a late addition, but in any case you can see the railway lines are drawn across the pre-existing field boundaries.

If any reader can immediately identify the correct placement of this area in modern Bradford I shall be very impressed.  It is easier if you mentally rotate the maps by 45 degrees to the left which brings north to the top centre. The road on the left of the plans, running from eleven to five, is Bowling Back Lane. In this section, when corrected oriented north to south, Leeds Road, the Bradford-Leeds railway line and Bowling Back Lane are running roughly parallel. It was probably not a very beautiful area. Cudworth describes Bowling Back Lane as: ‘pretty well cut up with railways and cinder heaps’. It is not easy to link plan features to those on the first OS map of the area which in theory would have been surveyed at about the same time, in the late 1840s. Field House and two associated gardens are represented by the cluster of rectangles in the lower centre of map B. There’s no doubt about the written name although the ‘F’ is difficult to distinguish from the long ‘s’ of house. Field House is much smaller on the OS map. Probably there was demolition when the railway line was created.

At the bottom of map B is a carriage road off Bowling Back Lane which is labelled ‘to Birks Hall’. This road is truncated on map A. Birks Hall had existed at least since the seventeenth century when it was occupied by a member of the Richardson family. Later it belonged to Benjamin Rawson, but newspapers contemporary with the maps seem to suggest that in the mid-nineteenth century it was in multiple occupancy. Notable residents were Letitia Steadman (widow of William DD, of Horton College) who died there in 1837. In 1845-46 William Murgatroyd, who was promoting railway routes, lived there. Nothing of Birks Hall appears on our two plans, nor the associated Golden Fleece Inn. The estate was sold in 1847 and ultimately became the site of a Bradford gasworks in 1877, which remained in use until the arrival of North Sea gas. Plan C was presumably surveyed just before this happened and is from a collection at  Bradford Industrial Museum. It is on a different orientation to the first two but you will see that the left edge of the more modern plan joins the right edge of plans 1 and 2 and a good deal of housing development has taken place here.

Map of the Week 026 C

C: Site of the intended Birkshall Gasworks

The older plans show a total of three tracks leaving Bowling Back Lane or the Birks Hall road and heading north. In the centre is an access way to Field House itself. If I am correct the ‘Old Wagon Road’ was a mineral tramway used by the Bowling Iron Company. In his unpublished account Derek Pickles calls it ‘Golden Lion’ and says: ‘this line was one of the earliest put down by the Company. It ran from the (Bowling Iron) Works, across Bowling Back Lane, along the line of what is now Hammerton Street to coal staithes at the rear of the Golden Lion Hotel in Leeds Road.’  It is clear from the OS map that arches had been created on the railway embankments to allow the tramway to pass beneath them. The third track, Pit Road, as a name which is fairly common in mining areas. This one ran to New Leeds, the name applied to the development immediately south of Leeds Road. Today Birkshall Street and Hammerton Street are in approximately the position of these three tracks.

To examine the two extraction industries shown it is easiest to start on the right of the first two maps with a diamond shaped area. This is evidently underground and is accessed by shafts and galleries. Across it runs a ‘gall’ or throw, that is a geological fault. An area of unworkable material is labelled as coal in one map and stone in the other. Stone must mean ‘ironstone’ although the more common sandstone was mined, as well as quarried, in some parts of Bradford. To the left of this diamond is a much larger, roughly triangular, area of exploitation crossed by a long ‘breach’. I have seen this word before in local mine maps and I assume it represents a larger fault. Plan A shows ironstone working and plan B a much larger area for coal mining. The combination of iron  ore and coal would suggest that the famous Black Bed coal seam was being accessed but a note elsewhere on Plan B helpfully identifies ‘blackbed workings’. Modern borehole reports, from reasonably near the site, suggest that the seam is 20-30m deep. The mined products were surely sent to the premises of the Bowling Iron Company just to the south.

The mining is shown to be extensive, but not unrestricted. In the pillar and stall technique miners left columns of coal to support the gallery roof. Miners could be even more cautious. In Map A a strip along Bowling Back Lane was shown unmined ‘for support for buildings’. The fact that this is being done must indicate that the mined seam is fairly shallow. It is difficult to suggest a date for the conclusion of mining in this area. For one thing I cannot identify the colliery’s name. The first OS map shows a Birks Hall Colliery south of the track to Birks Hall itself, but this is seemingly not part the Field House Estate. Field House does not appear to show any mining activity at all on the first OS map although the 1850 Bradford map shows some ‘old pits’. One explanation would be that the activity on this ground began soon after the OS surveyors had left. The Godfrey Wright died in 1862 and it is possible than the plans were completed because of this event. Wright would never have operated the mines personally, but who did? The Jones Mercantile Directory of the following year lists over 100 coal proprietors and merchants in Bradford which indicates the extent of the industry. In the 1851 census two families live at Field House. The head of one is Abraham Rodgers, 65,  coal dealer employing 30 men. Could he be the colliery operator? I have tried to find out more about him. If he also spelled his name Abm Rogers I can also locate him 10 years later in Wortley when he is a ‘coal miner and proprietor’. Sadly he doesn’t seem to feature in any of the Trade Directories I have consulted which is an unsatisfactory conclusion to the study of these fascinating plans.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library volunteer








Map of the week: Bowling Beck 2

I should now like to take the course of the Bowling Beck from the point it reached on the previous map onwards into the town centre. You can see that the beck runs through a fully urban area. The owners of some of these premises were among Bradford’s most famous names. Understanding the road plan and the building occupancy has caused me many problems. Some of the puzzles can be solved by using other library resources such as trade directories and the nineteenth century Bradford Observer; others have needed shoe leather. A provisional date for the map would be 1850. No railway tracks are drawn although it is possible that the tracks were already in existence and the map maker chose to ignore them.

An 1800 town plan shows this area as totally rural in character. Everything now visible was developed from green field sites in the third and fourth decade of the nineteenth century. None of the institutions mapped are listed in the Pigot’s 1834 trade directory but the library has a freehold sale plan, dated 1847, by which time the road plan was essentially complete. This sale plan shows the Union Foundry which was built by Quaker ironfounder Robert Crosland in the 1830s, and the Britannia Mill, erected in 1836. A good deal of land is owned by the partnership of William Greenwood and Benjamin Berry who made spinning frames at Prospect Mill, Bowling and Portland Mill. Another landowner was worsted spinner John Wood of Horton Hall, either alone or with his partner as Wood & Walker.  Wood played a vital role in establishing ten hour work days at textile factories. He removed to Hampshire in 1835 and his partner was a very different type of man.

Bowling Beck 2a Final

The Bowling Beck passes close to St James’s church school. I assume that the school was constructed in the years 1838-40 along with the church itself. The boys and the girls were evidently kept strictly separate. Flowing northwards the beck next crosses Queen Street and Duke Street, then enters a culvert. Note the Bowling Coal Depot; the first OS map of the area, surveyed in the late 1840s, suggest that this was supplied from the railway line rather than by mineral ways from local pits. A fragment of one line, supported on stone pillars, still remains near the Mill Lane signal box. It is not easy to reconcile the street names on the plan with those now on the ground. Queen’s Street was soon extended to form Caledonia Street which initially ended at the railway line. About 30 years after this map was drawn (around 1875) this street was taken over the tracks by means of a bridge which survives. Remarkably this change was suggested by an anonymous letter to the Bradford Observer. The rail tracks were originally taken by a short tunnel under Chandos Street, Bedford Street and Croft Street. These streets and the tunnel were swept away, also in the 1870s I would assume, and Croft Street was reconstructed as a bridge. Queens Cut and Cross Street are now renamed as Nelson Street. Portland Street retains its original name but has been truncated.

The Waterloo works (Hargreaves & Kennedy) was an example of the many Bradford foundries catering to the needs of house and factory. Among the iron goods produced might be drain covers, railings, cast iron support pillars, cooking ranges, pipes and textile machinery. Between Victoria Street and Portland Street the culverted beck runs under the Britannia Mills and weaving shed. Britannia Mills were operated by a very famous textile manufacturer, Christopher Waud, who spun yarn from mohair and alpaca. I must not give the impression that this whole area consisted wholly of major industries. According to the 1850 Ibbotson’s Directory of Bradford Andrew Bairstow was a hairdresser in Queens Cut close to Britannia Mill, and nearby in Portland Street Henry Farrand dealt in ‘fruit, eggs and herrings’. These ‘silver darlings’ was caught by the million in the North Sea and, cleaned and salted, formed an important food item for the poor.

The Bowling Beck clipped the site of the Portland Foundry and ran under Croft Street past a small ‘gas house’ close to the Union Foundry where Robert Crosland made hydraulic presses. The beck’s rather irregular course seems to include an open section. At the origin of the old Nelson Street the beck is certainly open. This may have lent interest to any patrons standing at the back of the Turk’s Head Inn. Actually ‘inn’ may have been a euphemism. The Turk’s Head appears in the Bradford Observer from time to time but it is always described as a ‘beer shop’. In 1840 its owner, John Smith, was denied a licence at the Brewster sessions but the Turk’s Head was open again by 1845 when it got Squire Auty, constable of Horton, into serious trouble. Auty had attended a supper there but, having noticed card playing, did nothing to stop it. If the Turk’s Head customers did stand by the beck its reported state would probably not have encouraged them to linger. The effluent from Bowling Dye Works was considered especially noisome even by Bradford standards. If the beer shop sold its own brew it is to be hoped that they had access to some less deadly source of water.

Bowling Beck 2b Final.JPG

The Bowling Beck passed another town centre worsted mill and then Chapel Lane. We lose the watercourse at this point on our map but it has to link up with the Bradford Beck, then open across the town centre. The 1800 town plan shows that Bowling Beck turned sharply east at this point and under Cuckoo Bridge over which passed Goodman’s End (now Bridge Street). It than took a short angled course finally to join the Bradford Beck itself. I hope I can convince you that you can pass a very pleasant afternoon in the LSL recalling bits of old Bradford to life. If you would like further information about the Bradford Beck, and its tributaries, the Friends of Bradford Becks are slowly bringing the hidden waterways back into public consciousness. I can recommend their website:


Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Map of the week: Bowling Beck 1

The next two maps from the Local Studies Library reserve collection will feature the Bowling Beck. This first map covers quite a wide area of south Bradford and must date from the mid-nineteenth century. It provides little internal evidence of its original purpose but I think unquestionably the main interest of its creator must have been in the watercourses. I’m ashamed to say that until I started studying this topic I used to talk vaguely about ‘tributaries of the Bradford Beck’, but all such branches once had individual names. The Bradford Beck proper flows into the city to the south of Thornton Road. Out of sight in culverts it turns almost 90 degrees and flows out towards Shipley, roughly parallel to the canal, to meet the River Aire. Its main tributary, the West Brook (formed from the junction of Horton Beck and Shear Beck) is still visible flowing in front of the Phoenix Building at the University, and joins the Bradford Beck near the site of the old Beehive Worsted Mills, Thornton Road (A. Flather & Sons). Neither beck is mapped here. What you can see are the Law (or Low) Beck, to the left, the last section of which has been straightened and possibly culverted. It joins the Bowling Beck, to the right, above Bowling Old Mill at a point marked ‘a’. Goits, dams and sluices are also mapped.

Bowling Beck

Subsequently someone has identified points along the Law Beck with letters of the alphabet. Between L & M, near Chapel Green, a user has hand-written ‘pit quarry’. The original map-maker was not at all interested in the extraction industries. In reality the whole area would have been covered by both working and disused collieries and quarries, as the first OS map of the area illustrates. The lower part of the map would also have been crossed and recrossed by mineral ways supplying Bowling Iron Works with iron ore and coking coal.

Determining the map’s exact date is quite difficult. The overall arrangement of buildings closely resembles the 1849 borough map. It is odd that St James’s Church (constructed 1838) is not drawn. A straight but interrupted line marks the course of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway into Drake Street (Exchange) Station after 1850, although the station itself is not mapped. The curved track from Bowling Junction to Laisterdyke is represented by a continuous line. This track, constructed in 1854, enabled Halifax to Leeds trains to avoid delays caused by entering and reversing out of Bradford. I assume that, since none of the stations or junctions are named, the lines were added after the map was drawn or perhaps when it was copied from an older original. I cannot say why the Adolphus Street station to Leeds line, also opened in 1854, was not included.

It is interesting to note that although south Bradford is largely rural both Bowling Dye Works and Bowling New Dye Works are present. Soft Yorkshire water was found to be very satisfactory for dyeing. Bowling Dye Works had been built at Spring Wood in 1822 but the business had been founded much earlier by the grandfather of a Bradford immortal, Sir Henry William Ripley (1813-1881). An aerial photo of the works, taken by CH Wood, is available on the Bradford Museums and Galleries website. What is missing on this map is its huge reservoir and several dye pits which are clearly present on the 1849 borough map. I’m not sure exactly when the New Dye Works was constructed but it was certainly in existence by 1849. Between the two works you can see Bowling Lodge, built for Sir Henry William Ripely in 1836. But, as a builder, Ripley is most famous for his creation of a model village, Ripleyville, beginning after 1866 and continuing until his death. This included terraced housing and almshouses. Strictly speaking Ripleyville was Bradford’s only industrial village since Saltaire was constructed in the then independent township of Shipley. Everything was demolished and redeveloped in the 1970s.

Rather confusingly in the ‘V’ formed by the two railway lines is drawn what appears to be a large artificial lake and sluice. This is simply an enlargement of the same feature drawn, at a much smaller scale, to the left. The watercourse ends at a Mill Dam overlooked by Ivy House and Bowling Old Mill. A body of water existed in Bowling Mill Field as early as 1839 because a little boy was reported drowned in it.  It stood in a field called Mill Holme. The corn mill itself was certainly present a century earlier than this map when the miller was one Reuben Holmes. The mill may have had a much earlier foundation still, associated with the Manor of Bowling. Cudworth records that a walk along Bowling Beck was notable for rabbits and partridges.

To draw the water supply to Bowling corn mill twice must indicates its importance to the maker of this map. Could this have arisen from a notorious legal case around this time? Henry Ripley had some highly controversial plans concerning south Bradford’s water supply which he had come to dominate in the area below Bowling Dye Works.

You can read about this dispute, and much else besides, on Bob Walker’s excellent Ripleyville site:

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer