Treasure of the week no. 26: Hedgehogs, polecats and churchwardens.

This week we resume our popular ‘Treasure of the Week feature by our volunteer ‘Stackmole’. These treasures are from 19th Century Publications which give a varied insight into the Bradford of the 19th Century – history as it happened. We hope these articles will encourage people to study these items and to pursue this interest into other aspects of Bradford’s history.

Natural History Notes from the Bradford Churchwarden’s Accounts by Herbert E. Wroot. Offprint of pages 183-187 from The Naturalist, June 1895. Contains a transcript of the entries relating to payments for catching wild animals from 1668 to 1748.

JND 18/12 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

Tres 26 image

The Churchwardens were very much the local officials in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and were responsible for the administration of the law. Interesting are the payments made for catching vermin and wild animals. The entries in The Accounts of the Bradford Churchwardens date from 1668 to the end of 1748. From these, journalist and naturalist, Herbert Wroot, transcribed the entries that relate to wild animals. They give evidence that in and near Bradford there were:

  • Hedgehogs (or ‘Urchins’)
  • Wild Cats
  • Foxes
  • Otters
  • Badgers (or ‘Greys’)
  • Polecats (or Foumarts)
hedgehog from Eileen Aroon p 127

Image from ‘Eileen Aroon’ by Stables, Gordon, 1884 Flickr Commons

Most common of these were hedgehogs, the deaths of 180 being recorded. Superstition against this harmless creature was strong – they were supposed to seek the milk from the udders of cows as they lay on the ground. The existence of the wild cat in the district is especially interesting; the animal being long ago extinct in England. Four specimens are referred to – two were caught in 1676, one in 1678, and the last in 1680. The badger or ‘gray’ seems to have been scarce or rarely seen. The sole specimen referred to was killed in 1676 at Shipley. Although polecats are several times noted, there were no martins, weasels or stoats. Otters were not uncommon, five having been killed, the last mentioned in 1731.

No payment was made for any of the birds whose destruction was prescribed by the Acts; birds such as hawks, kites, the buzzard, magpie, jay, rave or kingfisher. Likewise, there is no record of smaller vermin such as rats, mice or moles. The rewards paid, one shilling each for foxes and greys, and two pence each for hedgehogs, otters, wild cats and polecats, were in conformity with the scale prescribed by the Government.

The struggles of the illiterate churchwardens with spelling of the words ‘urchin’ and ‘hedgehog’ are amusing. Two examples are:

1670, April 23   Paid to Thomas Roe for Catshing two heg hoges ..… 4d.

1679-9   Aloud to the Churchwarden of Shipley for 6 uerchanes & for a wild cat ….. 2s. 02d.


Image from ‘Eileen Aroon’ by Stables, Gordon, 1884 Flickr Commons

Neglected Bradford Industries: Copperas

Bradford is famous for spinning and weaving but textile production was only one of a group of important industries which ‘Worstedopolis’ supported. Since several  are now almost forgotten by contemporary citizens I should like to draw attention to those which seem unreasonably neglected, in a series of short articles.

  I would be delighted if any reader has ever heard of copperas, let alone that it had once been produced close to the city of Bradford.  Copperas is nothing whatever to do with the element copper, but is an old name for ‘green vitriol’ or iron II sulphate heptahydrate. Copperas was used in the manufacture of iron gall ink, leather tanning, and a very early process for the production of sulphuric acid. Copperas, like alum, was also important as a mordant in cloth dyeing processes. For centuries both these chemicals were papal monopolies. The monopoly was eventually broken and in the early post-medieval period the production of alum, on the North Yorkshire coast, and copperas, at several sites round the country, marked the origin of the domestic chemical industry. The industry flourished and the UK became the world’s biggest copperas producer.

At various times production works existed in several places, this being indicated by name evidence: Copperas Hill in Liverpool, Copperas Road in Colchester, Copperas Point in Chichester Harbour, Copperas House Terrace in Todmorden, and Copperas Bay on the Stour estuary in Essex. The technique adopted  was similar at the various sites. Some years ago I was surprised to learn from historian Jean Brown, of the Thornton Antiquarian Society, that Denhome had been a centre of this industry. From trade directory evidence it is clear that, between 1822-1854, copperas was being made at not only there but at Hunslet, Birstall, Huddersfield, Elland, Southowram and Todmoden as well as in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool. Nineteenth century historian William Cudworth, writing about Denholme, recorded that an extensive coal seam was then being worked by Messrs. Townend of Cullingworth and that in parts of this Hard Bed coal ‘quantities of iron pyrites were to be found’. Cudworth stated that the process of converting iron pyrites, or pyrite, into sulphuric acid was carried on along the line of the coal seam’s outcrop. He omitted to say that two copperas works, Field Head and Denholme Gate, were associated with a family called Horsfall.


08 Plan Image

Essentially the Copperas process was the slow oxidation of iron (II) sulphide, obtained as the mineral pyrite, using atmospheric oxygen and rain water to form iron (II) sulphate heptahydrate, that is copperas. Essential to the process was, of course, access to a plentiful supply of pyrite. Pyrite nodules (‘brass lumps’) are found in the Coal Measures in Cumbria and West Yorkshire. At Denholme the producers obtained the nodules and placed them in ‘beds’ lined with clay. They were then left to weather for up to six years. Towards the end of this time they began to produce a large quantity of liquor, a dilute solution of hydrated ferrous sulphate and sulphuric acid, which was pumped into a lead boiler positioned over a furnace. Quantities of additional scrap iron were added to increase the final yield. As the liquor was reduced by evaporation more liquor was added. When it was  sufficiently concentrated the liquor was tapped off into a cooling tank. As the solution cooled the copperas crystallised in the tank. Crystals were collected, heated to melting point, and poured into moulds; finally the resulting cakes were packed into barrels for transport.

Why did the industry survive in Denholme? The most important property of copperas for nineteenth century textile manufacturers in Bradford must have been that it ‘saddened’ and ‘fixed’ wool dyes. Because it prevented the colour from washing out or fading, copperas became an essential part of the black dyeing process, especially for woollen cloth in conjunction with log-wood imported from South America. We known that cheap coal and pyrite nodules could be obtained with minimum transport costs and I imagine that once the plant had been set up there were little additional capital costs.

The cheap manufacture of vitriol, in Bradford and elsewhere, by the lead chamber process inevitably killed off the copperas industry. Once you can make sulphuric acid cheaply and in bulk you can make copperas more quickly by reacting the dilute sulphuric acid with scrap iron fragments and evaporating the result. The discovery, by Sir William Henry Perkin in 1856, of aniline dyes which did not require mordants were to make copperas largely redundant in dyeing in any case. Elsewhere copperas works were adapted to produce other industrial chemicals but this did not happen at Denholme in its rather rural location. Nevertheless at one time this community was a small but significant centre of Britain’s chemical industry. By 1888, at the very latest, all production had ceased.

If this topic interests you do read the following paper which includes Jean Brown’s meticulous family history studies:

D.J.Barker & Jean K Brown, Bradford’s Forgotten Industry: Copperas Manufacture in Denholme, Bradford Antiquary, (2015) 3rd series, 19, 25-38.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer.

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


Book Review: Some Bits of Bradford: Local history talks given at Glyde House. By Janet C. Senior

Some Bits of Bradford: Local history talks given at Glyde House. By Janet C. Senior.

Published by Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society, 2018. 112 pp. ISBN: 978-1-9996419-0-0. £7.99.

Reserve a copy  from Bradford Libraries

We are pleased to welcome this attractive little book based on talks given by local historian Janet Senior. Retired teacher and volunteer archivist Janet has gathered quite a following for her monthly talks on local topics at Glyde House in Bradford, and now a wider public can enjoy a selection. Nine of the talks are featured here augmented by photographs from a variety of sources, new and old, and some drawings by Mary Tetlow.

Starting with the Legend of the Boar of Bradford we progress to the history of the Established Church in Bradford from the 7th to the 17th century, and on to Jonathan Glyde. The legend of the boar is well known, but, as with all these chapters, Janet’s knowledge and enthusiastic research into the archives and her skill at presenting complex subjects borne of her many years as a teacher, will provide much that is new to all. The topics will be sure to interest and enthuse newcomers, young and old. Thus the legend of the boar is set against the earlier, and later, history of Bradford; the history of the established church is made clear and interesting; while Jonathan Glyde (1808-1854) emerges as a profoundly influential figure in the development of Bradford and whose importance has hitherto been poorly recognized.

Charles Samuel Joseph Semon is another of those influential Bradfordians who have found a champion in Janet. Like Jonathan Glyde, he did much to improve the conditions of the populace, and in an aside, we learn that Janet was born in the Semon Nursing Home in Ilkley. Bradford and the Parks Movement is another slice of Bradford history brought to life as public-spirited civic leaders sought to improve the lot of the town’s population. Returning to religion, Janet gives an account of the 1851 Religious Census and what it revealed of worship in Bradford, in particular the decline of church attendance, the strength of non-conformity, and how social life was changing.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the long-standing debate over education, where the National Schools (Anglican based) and British Schools (Non-conformist supported) debated, a debate which local MP, W E Forster, endeavoured to end with his 1870 Education Act. A nice touch in this book is the author’s personal interest in these many subjects. Here, as a teacher, Janet wanted to know why the structure of the school system was so confused and hoped to find out by going back in time by trawling the archives. The Early Years of the Bradford School Board is the result. The chapter on Youth Offenders in Late Victorian Bradford will provide more surprising new knowledge for most of us. Another personal link gives us something very different, bringng us a positive ‘spin’ on the glory days of Bradford when, at its peak, there were no fewer than nineteen Foreign Consulates in Bradford, this internationally famous city of trade.

Each chapter has a brief personal introduction and ends with a glossary and references. Attractively produced, lucid, and full of interest, the BHAS is to be congratulated on this entry into book publishing. And thanks to Janet Senior for sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm. More please Janet!

Bob Duckett

Janet Senior book.jpg

Neglected Bradford Industries: Glass making

Bradford is famous for spinning and weaving but textile production was only one of a group of important industries which ‘Worstedopolis’ supported. Since several  are now almost forgotten by contemporary citizens I should like to draw attention to those which seem unreasonably neglected in a series of short articles.

In the nineteenth century Hunslet, Rothwell & Knottingley were noted West Yorkshire glass making centres. I was very surprised to find a reference to a much more local, and earlier, source of glass production in Francis Buckley’s book Old English Glass Houses, originally written in the 1920s. The best evidence he provided was an item taken from the Leeds Mercury of 1751:

To be lett: a very good glasshouse adjoining to Wibsey Moor, three miles from Halifax and two from Bradford with a very good farm-house and 22 acres of good land belonging to it. Also eight cottages for workmen to dwell in…….There is plenty of very good stone upon the place that grinds to a good sand, and is as proper as any that can be bought to make flint and crown glass with. Also very good coal within 300 yards of this glass-house at two pence per horse load.

At this time Wibsey formed part of North Bierley. Places, which by the nineteenth century were called Morley Carr, Wibsey Slack, Wibsey Low Moor or Odsal Moor, could then be described simply as Wibsey Moor or Wibsey Moorside. Low Moor itself didn’t exist as a location until after the famous iron works was established.

A glasshouse, which I suppose we would now call a glass-works, included a furnace for making glass from basic ingredients at high temperature. Glass is basically fused silica obtained from the mineral quartz, for which sand is a cheap and convenient source. Silica alone can make a glass but it melts at 1700°C which is difficult to reach. Since ancient times it has known that the addition of an alkali flux, such as natron (soda ash) or plant ashes, considerably lowers the temperature of fusion to a more attainable 1100°C. To give the glass stability lime or magnesia were also incorporated. Finally substantial portions of cullet, that is scrap glass, would also be included in the mix to help the other ingredients blend together. This was achieved in a fireclay ‘glass pot’. Firclay extraction is an industry I shall discuss on another occasion.

Crown glass was used to make windows; a crown was a flat disc of glass, produced by spinning a gather of glass on a blowing iron. From a crown small panes or quarries could be cut. Flint glass was used for bottles; it did not actually include flint as a raw material. The bottles would be hand blown into a wooden mould. Usually the two type of glass-making were kept separate by law, partly for taxation reasons but also because window glass was considered to be of greatly inferior quality. At various times glass furnaces were heated by wood or coal, although furnace design differed significantly depending on which fuel was employed. By the eighteenth century, in this part of Yorkshire, the availability of cheap coal was clearly an incentive for the potential purchaser of a glass-works.

07 A CatcliffeThe glass cone at Catcliffe, South Yorkshire.

Since we know that the Wibsey Moor glass works was constructed by 1751 we can be reasonably certain about its contents and appearance. In Britain the period 1730-1830 was the era of the brick glass cones which were built to enclose a central furnace, and the space in which firms of glass makers worked. The provision of internal working space is an important distinction from pottery kilns, which glass cones superficially resemble. In the UK only four cones now survive with the nearest being at Catcliffe in South Yorkshire, considered to be the finest example in Europe.

At Wibsey Moor (Low Moor) the builder of the glass-works was Edward Rookes Leeds (1715-1788) of Royds Hall, Lord of the Manor. James Parker in Rambles from Hipperholme to Tong states that in 1780 the works were demolished by another local land-owner Richard Richardson, together with some ‘freeholders’, as an infringement of their rights. Then, he says, it was re-erected on Leeds’s own land. Disagreements over the use of common land, or the exploitation of the minerals under it, between powerful local landowners was not uncommon before the Enclosure Acts. Parker’s account is credible but he is the only source for it. Considering the advertisement from the Leeds Mercury with which I started, 1750 is a more likely date than 1780 even if the rest of the account is true. Glass House’ remained as a place name in Low Moor although the cone itself was probably demolished in the late 1820s.

07 B Fox MapA detail of the Fox map of Low Moor showing a circular plan of the glass cone, with ancillary buildings. Other versions of this map exist in which this feature is not represented.

The ancillary buildings which seem to be represented in the plan would include storage space and an annealing furnace or lehr. A newly made glass object  needs to be cooled down to room temperature very slowly, so that stresses produced by solidification of the glass could be dissipated. This is about as far as a student of technological history can take the Wibsey Moor glass house, but I am extremely fortunate to have had the assistance of Mary Twentyman of the Low Moor Local History Group. She believes she will be able identify the original glass-maker who leased the works, and hopefully establish something about his life. The Bradford glass industry is truly forgotten and has probably received only three brief written mentions during the last 150 years. Its full story may soon be told.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer


Map of the week: Boldshay Hall Estate, Barkerend

Fig 031 A


It is always an exciting moment when an important two hundred year old map, which does not appear to represent a copy of one already in the publicly accessible collection, turns up among the Local Studies Library’s reserve material.  The title of this map indicates that it produced for Colonel Thomas George Fitzgerald, who was a large landowner in Bradford until his death in the mid-nineteenth century. Local Studies has plans of his holdings elsewhere in the city, but no other copy of this plan of Boldshay Hall as far as I can see. The West Yorkshire Archives also has many documents relating to the estate.

Physically the map is a tinted, rolled, estate plan but it is dusty, in poor condition, and needed some repair before it could be handled safely. It was found in a group that seem to have come from Bradford Council. The next map was a post-war plan of Bradford’s twinned city Mönchengladbach, more recent by about 140 years! The unnamed building you can see a little south east of Boldshay is Miry Shay (or Miryshay) an older seventeenth century house. This has long been demolished but in the early nineteenth century had been the property of JH (John Henry) Smyth MP (1780-1822) whose family had owned it, and the Bradford Soke Mill, for generations. Smyth had died before the map was surveyed, and hence is referred to as ‘late’. The West Yorkshire Archives have a good deal of information about the Smyth family too. By the time of the 1852 Ordnance Survey map there was a large colliery just south of Miry Shay called Bunkers Hill. The land ownership in this area is made clearer by a second, later, LSL map which also illustrates that the name Bunkers Hill was in fact applied to a series of collieries along Barkerend Road.  The ‘Col. Smyth’ in this map is John George Smyth (1815-1869) MP for York and Colonel of the 2nd West Yorkshire Militia who lived at Heath Hall, Wakefield. His land holdings north of Barkerend Road are now a substantial part of Bradford Moor Golf Club.


Fig 031 B

The original Boldshay Hall Estate plan is dated 1828 and was drawn by Joseph Smith, of whom I will say more later. Boldshay Hall itself was built circa 1740 and at this early period was associated with the name of Samuel Hemingway and his son Henry Hemingway, who were both lawyers. The estate itself is presumed to be far older. Remarkably the hall still exists on Byron Street, surrounded by Victorian housing, and is Grade II listed. The gardens, fields, and coal mines which once enclosed it have long ago vanished completely.

As you would expect some previous owners of this historic building are described by William Scruton in Pen & Pencil Buildings of Old Bradford, and of course by William Cudworth. The estate passed to the Lister family of Horton Hall since Samuel Lister’s sister, Elizabeth Lister, had married Henry Hemingway. Their daughter, and Samuel Lister’s niece, Mary Hemingway married a Dr James Crowther MD of Leeds. After the death of Samuel Lister, and his second wife, Dr and Mrs Crowther inherited all the Lister estates and in due course their own daughter Elizabeth Crowther (1788-1838) became the Mrs Fitzgerald of the map’s title. Colonel Fitzgerald is Thomas George Fitzgerald, of Turlough, Ireland (1778-1850) who in 1819 had taken Elizabeth Crowther as his second wife at St George’s Hanover Square. Fitzgerald’s first wife also had a strong Bradford connection. Ten years earlier, in 1809 at St Peter’s, he had married Delia (1780-1817), daughter of Joshua Field, of Heaton Hall, and sister of John Wilmer Field. Two daughters died young but they had one son who took over their Irish estates. I should really like to know how Colonel Fitzgerald kept meeting Bradford heiresses and winning their hearts.

Fig 031 D

The hall itself is the large building in the centre of the group. I assume the rest are stables, farm buildings and coach houses; note the presence of an ice house. The agent for the estate, and other Fitzgerald properties, was Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith must have surveyed this map. He was succeeded by his son George Belk Smith who had designed the Bradford – Eccleshill turnpike in 1826. There are pencil annotations which are hard to read but seem, at least in part, to be records of the years in which certain parcels of land were acquired for the estate. I would like to know how long the Fitzgeralds lived at Boldshay Hall. After the death of Colonel Fitzgerald the estate passed to his son Major Henry Thomas George Fitzgerald (1820-1890) who had been born and baptised in Bradford but probably didn’t live here; his address is usually given at Maperton House, Somerset, which the Fitzgeralds also owned. Baines directory of 1822 confirms that Colonel Fitzgerald was in residence at that date but by the time Fitzgerald died in 1850 the Leeds Mercury recorded that he was ‘formerly of Boldshay Hall’. The 1828 map itself includes a list of tenants with their holdings, but nobody is leasing the hall where presumably, six years after the directory was published, the family still lived. It would appear likely that Colonel and Mrs Fitzgerald moved to Maperton House in the late 1820s. Could the resultant need for records of their local land holdings have been the reason that the map was originally created?

Interestingly around this time Boldshay Gardens became a place of public resort. The fact that they were no longer open for this purpose was formally announced in the Leeds Mercury in 1839. As I have mentioned before I am not a family historian and I am slightly puzzled by exactly who lived at Boldshay Hall after the Fitzgeralds. One of the map’s listed tenants is James Cousen. A man of this name is a partner in Rawson, Cousen & Co who were coal masters. This company owned the various Bunkers Hill collieries by the 1830s. His son, another James, (of Cousen, Thackrey & Co, stone-merchants of the canal basin) was given the address of ‘Boldshay’ in the press announcement issued when he died in 1830.  Possibly Boldshay Hall was subdivided since a local merchant named John Mann (1808-1845) was also giving Boldshay as his address by 1834. According to the Bradford Observer the same man won a prize for his lettuce at the Bradford Grand Floral & Horticultural Society in 1841. John Mann died in 1845 at the early age of 37. Probably James Cousen and John Mann were related. One family historian gives James Cousen’s second wife the name of Elizabeth Mann.  James Cousen senior still lived at the hall when he died at the age of 83 in 1844. I have also seen James Cousen’s name linked with Miry Shay although the only contemporary resident of this house I am certain of from press announcements is a Joseph Dalby, farmer, who died there in 1834.

The 1841 census makes the situation slightly clearer. At Boldshay Hall live John Mann (30) and wife Anne (who was to survive him by fifty years), two children and four servants. Andrew Newell, a gardener, lives at Boldshay Gardens. Miry Shay is more complicated. James Cousen, coal merchant, and his wife Elizabeth are certainly resident, but so also are a collection of coal miners, agricultural labourers, worsted weavers. and assorted descendants of the Dalbys. Understandably I have a personal weakness for Barkerend so exploring this map has been a real pleasure even if I have not found all the answers.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

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!


Map of the week: A track into history

I’m not really a railway enthusiast so I must start with an apology to those readers who are, and say that I would welcome your guidance. I don’t find the early history of Bradford’s rail links an easy topic since the companies involved seem to change their names, and move the location of their stations, quite frequently. Naturally the creation of early railway lines generated maps and plans, many of which have survived. Even here I have a problem since tracks appear on maps which are notionally of an earlier date. Despite these difficulties I want to describe the early lines entering Bradford from the south because of  the interesting light they shed on the city’s industrial past.

Map of the Week 30 A

The first image is a detail from the 1852 Ordnance Survey map. It shows Bowling junction, although this is not named. Two, seemingly single, rail tracks, are mapped. The first is the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line which connected Halifax to Bradford, and its terminus Drake Street (later Exchange) Station which opened in 1850. The second line moving off to the right went from Bowling junction to Leeds, via Laisterdyke, and was opened a few years later in 1854. It was operated by the same company and, I presume, allowed trains to travel from Leeds to Halifax direct, by-passing Bradford completely. The track no longer exists but the line is visible on aerial photographs.

I am interested that at the junction a ‘limestone quarry’ is mapped. Limestone strata do not reach the surface in the city area but there was nonetheless an early lime-burning industry based on the extraction of boulders from glacial moraines in the Aire valley. Boulder pits were certainly established in Bingley by the early seventeenth century. It looks as if glacial erratic limestone boulders were found elsewhere, being exploited in the same way. In this case the digging of a railway cutting presumably exposed the valuable mineral. Plausibly these boulders were taken to the nearby Bowling Iron Company where crushed lime was used as a flux in iron smelting. Slightly further north is Spring Wood. The name has almost certainly nothing whatever to do with a water supply. ‘Spring’ was applied to a tree that had been cut off at ground level for coppicing. So Spring Wood was presumably an area of old coppice woodland. William Cudworth records that there was once also a Springwood Coal Pit, but the wood itself soon disappears from maps.

Map of the Week 30 B

The next plan is from the Local Studies Library reserve collection. If you imagine it turned 90º  clockwise it is clearly the same view as before. You can easily identify the two railway tracks and also the Bowling Dye works. The name of the company involved here is West Riding Union Railway. As I understand it this title was only employed for a brief period around 1845-47. This and other evidence suggests that this map is a few years earlier than that of the OS map we have examined. This map shows the Bowling Iron Company colliery tramway very clearly. This took coal to the Bowling Depot on Queens Street where I assume it was available to local merchants. The Bowling Dye Works and the Bowling New Dye House were both parts of the Ripley family enterprises (Edward Ripley & Co). What are obviously missing are the large reservoir and dye pits which are such a prominent feature in the OS map. When were these created? The Bradford Observer reports a large sale of land in this area, including that piece accommodating the Dye Works, in 1850. The vendor isn’t stated but might well be the Bowling Iron Company. Probably the dye works boss, the famous Sir Wm. Henry Ripley, purchased land at this time to allow for the expansion of his business and the assurance of adequate soft water supplies, which included a reservoir. Cudworth records a 100 acre purchase by the Ripley company and also states that a contractor called Samuel Pearson constructed reservoirs for Bowling Dye Works and Bowling Iron Works at a date ‘early in the fifties’. We shall hear more of Samuel Pearson shortly. Marked on this map are marked a variety of planned new streets. Were these streets ever constructed? Presumably not. After 1863-64 Ripleyville, consisting of 200 houses with schools, was constructed by Sir Henry but the alignment of these streets on the 1887 borough map looks quite different.

Map of the Week 30 C

This third map shows an area slightly further north. There have been additional train track developments. The Great Northern Railway had opened its service to Leeds from Adolphus Street station in 1854 but the rival Midland Railway service, via Shipley, ended at a station more convenient to the town centre depriving GNR of customers. In consequence, around 1867, a track loop was constructed connecting the GNR line to the L&Y track at Mill Lane junction and allowing passengers from Leeds access to Exchange Station. Nearby St Dunstan’s passenger transfer station was also opened. The loop is clearly visible on the map north of Ripleyville. In describing the work involved in taking the GNR railway line from the Exchange Station towards Leeds, Horace Hird (Bradford in History, 1968) again mentions the activities of Samuel Pearson & Son who took over responsibility for the material excavated from the necessary cutting. The cutting spoil created a ‘great mound’ and for 15 years 60 men were employed making drain pipes, chimney pots and bricks from this material. Their Broomfield brick works is clearly indicated on the map above the loop. The line seen curving away to the left edge of the map, opposite the brick works, services a series of coal drops which are still visible, in a ruinous state, off Mill Lane today.

Samuel Pearson was a Cleckheaton brick-maker who founded a contracting dynasty. His contracting business started in Silver Street, off Tabbs Lane, Scholes, in 1856. By 1860-63 Messrs. S. Pearson & Son were established at the Broomfield Works, Mill Lane (near St Dunstan’s) for the manufacture of building bricks, sanitary tubes and terracotta goods. The works can be identified on the 1871 map of Bradford but closed shortly before the 1887 map was published, the ‘spoil bank’ being exhausted. The site is described as a ‘disused brick-works’ by the time of the 1895 OS map. Within a generation Pearson’s had became an international contractor and was particularly associated with Mexico during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. Canals, railways and oil were among the company’s many interests. After being created a baronet Samuel Pearson’s grandson, Weetman Pearson, became the first Viscount Cowdray in 1917. The family seat became Cowdray House and park, near Midhurst in West Sussex.


For the final plan I return to the LSL Reserve Collection. Essentially it shows the same area as the last. The plan is undated but the railway companies have their pre-nationalisation names, so it is earlier than 1948. Wakefield Road is referred to as the A650 and local historian Maggie Fleming suggests that this nomenclature makes the plan later than 1920. St Dunstan’s Station is still present, and in fact had another thirty years of life before closing in 1952. The site of Broomfield brick works is blank, and is today a car park. The purpose of this plan seems to have been to show the course of a new road joining Bolling Road to Upper Castle Street. This is another thoroughfare that was never constructed.



Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer





SITUATED around three miles north of Bradford, Greengates  is unfairly known by many as no more than the busy Bradford to Harrogate and Leeds to Keighley crossroads.  Its boundaries, however, spread beyond this busy junction. The actual parish boundaries show that Greengates includes parts of the Thorpe Edge and Ravenscliffe estates and Apperley Bridge.


Map of Greengates, 1908


Greengates is not an ancient village with its roots going back to Saxon times. It is simply a village of the Victorian era, built with the grey Yorkshire stone of early Victorian prosperity.  In fact little of Greengates nowadays is more than 60 years old.

The village, like many others in Bradford, has now been swallowed up by the city.  However, some of the prettier and more interesting qualities of the place still exist.  Take, for example, the row of cottages in Stockhill Fold.  They were built for weavers and some date from as early as 1786.  They were renovated in 1979.  The builders and architects ensured that many of the original features were retained.   In fact, Methodist pioneer John Wesley is reputed to have stayed in one of the cottages. They are all now listed buildings.

Stockill Fold

Weavers Cottages in Stockhill Fold, 2002


Another of the village’s most famous landmarks is its war memorial, situated at the busy crossroads. The imposing angel statue was erected in memory of the men of Greengates who died in World War One.

War Mem

War Memorial, 2002


Some older people may still remember with affection Greengates’ mills, or the acres and acres of green fields that surrounded the village before the arrival of the large housing estates in the area. Some people may also remember some of the district’s characters.  There was the hermit who lived on the moors of Thorpe Edge,  before the estate was built there.  He was known as ‘Pit Dick’, living in one of the old mines that used to be dotted all over the moor. His real name was Richard Bolton. Local lads used to tease him and pinch his possessions.  The girls, though, were scared stiff of him.

Then there was Greengates’s own ‘Wee Willie Winkie’, Joshie Cockey.  He was employed as a ‘knocker up’, by the local mill owners.  Some may remember the time when he knocked everyone up an hour early.  When he realised his mistake he had to to go back on his rounds letting folk know that they could have another hour in bed.

Greengates was a real centre for Methodism in Bradford. The first group met there in 1781, the year Wesley was supposed to have stayed in Stockhill Fold. Methodism prospered and meetings were held in a building in Haigh Hall Road. This building eventually became Greengates Library as well as a burling and mending workshop.

Today Greengates can certainly be a bottleneck.   The busy junction at its centre, known as New Line, is now under more pressure with the arrival of supermarkets and retail parks.  Next time you’re doing your weekly shop in Sainsbury’s, or travelling between Shipley and Leeds or  Bradford and Harrogate, spare a thought for what used to be a small, quiet village, with superb views over  the Aire Valley.

New Line

New Line, Greengates, in more peaceful times

Taken from The Illustrated History of Bradford’s Suburbs, 2002