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








Neglected Bradford industries: Coal mining

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.

Bradford lies on the northern edge of the great Yorkshire & Nottinghamshire coal field. The solid rocks under the city, called the ‘Coal Measures’, were laid down on top of the Millstone Grit in the Carboniferous geological period around 320 million years ago. In the Carboniferous ‘Bradford’ was near the equator and must have witnessed episodes of luxuriant tropical fern and horsetail growth, together with muddy coastal lagoons, vast debris deposits from a river delta, and occasional incursions of the sea. A little like the Florida Everglades today perhaps. The rocks created in this way resemble a pile of sponge cakes cut in half and consisting of layers of grey mudstone, sandstones, coal and fireclay. All these minerals once had a commercial value. The remains of many living creatures survive in mudstones or sandstones.  Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley has an important collection of such fossils.

If you examine any portion of the first Ordnance Survey map of Bradford, surveyed in the late 1840s, you will see collieries, coal pits and ‘old pits’ scattered everywhere. Coal production was clearly a huge industry and in the 1860s Bradford produced as much of the mineral as Barnsley. In addition to a domestic supply coal was needed for coke manufacture, town gas production, and to power many hundreds of the Borough’s steam engines. It would have fuelled industries such as brick-making and lime-burning which will be examined in future articles. Coal was brought into the town centre and sold from staithes, this being a place adjacent to a highway from which merchants could collect a supply for subsequent delivery to their customers.

02 Image A

This 200 year old map of east Bradford shows the position of two coal staithes. The date is probably around 1825 since Leeds Road is labelled as ‘New Road’.

In this map one staithe is clearly marked J.S. & Co. This must represent John Sturges (or Sturgess) & Co., which was the company that operated Bowling Iron Works. The ‘new rail road’ drawn is in fact a mineral carrying tramway bringing coal in trucks to the Eastbrook staithe, by rope haulage. There is second coal staithe (or stay) at the junction of Well Street and Hall Ings. This is evidently operated by J.J. & Co. who I cannot yet identify. There were staithes adjacent to the canal basin and the bulk transport of coal was very much in the minds of the first canal promoters.

In north Bradford the coal mined was largely from the Hard Bed, Soft Bed and 36-Yard seams which are the deepest in the Coal Measures. As you move up the Aire Valley from Bingley towards Keighley there were a further set of collieries based on even deeper seams of coal in the underlying Millstone Grit series of rocks. Coal mining in north Bradford may have been very extensive, but the coal seams were thin and relatively unproductive.  At the better capitalised late 18th and 19th century south Bradford pits mineral tramways took at least 50% of the coal mined to supply fuel for the profitable blast furnaces at Bowling and Low Moor. Here thicker seams, higher in the Coal Measures series, were exploited. Ironstone and coal were removed from the Black Bed and, underneath this, the Better Bed provided coal low in sulphur and phosphorus, ideal for coke fuelled iron smelting. Most old mine workings are now concealed by urban development but even today walks in Heaton or Northcliffe Woods, or on Baildon Moor, will reveal unmistakable evidence of a mining landscape.

02 Image B

One of the many capped colliery shafts on Baildon Moor.

It is likely that the Romans exploited coal in Britain and there were certainly medieval collieries in northern England. I know of good historical evidence for mining in Baildon, Heaton, Shipley, Frizinghall, and Eccleshill in the early 17th century but the Bradford industry is almost certain to have been older, and more widespread. As an example of the evidence there are a series of West Yorkshire Deeds, published in 1931 by the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society,  and available in the Local Studies Library. One deed reveals that in 1684 Ellen Robinson conveyed her ‘Coles, mynes, seames and quarries of cole’ near a place called Mooreside. Would this be the Moorside, Eccleshill where the Industrial Museum is now situated? Remarkably the rent required of William Rawson, yeoman of Bowling, is ‘one red rose yearly’. Was a ‘rose rent’ effectively a way of giving the beneficiary, a relative perhaps, all the income from a parcel of land while not transferring its title of ownership? The colour of the rose is rather surprising if the parties involved were both from Yorkshire.

The earliest mining described by Bradford historian William Cudworth was a little later in 1699 when about twenty freeholders of Bolton entered into a mutual agreement for ‘getting’ coal in that township. The rights to the coal were generally vested in the landowner but a Lord of the Manor retained rights to coal under common land or ‘wastes’. The most frequent way of reaching coal seams was by means of shafts sunk from the surface. Once a shaft was in place the miners created galleries from which the coal was actually removed, with pillars of mineral being left to support the gallery roof. This technique is often called ‘pillar and stall’ mining with the stall (or bord) being the place in which the miners worked at a coal face. Because of these unmined pillars the ‘take’ of coal from a seam may have been as little as 60%. Traditionally coal was not mined under churches, nor the mine-owner’s house!

02 Image C

A beautiful colliery plan from the  reserve map collection showing  pillar & stall mining below Old Allen Common, Wilsden.

As well a shaft to access the galleries a second ventilation shaft was often sunk. When a colliery was working active men were needed as ‘getters’ to hew the coal. If the seams were thin this must have been undertaken in a lying or kneeling position illuminated only by flickering candlelight. Hewed coal was then conveyed in wicker baskets, called corves, by ‘hurriers’ to the shaft bottom from which it could be wound up to the surface by ‘gins’ of various types. Where the topography was favourable seams could also be approached by driving in roughly horizontal tunnels, called inclines, drifts, or ‘day-holes’. Local mining by both methods is well recorded. For Wilsden, for example, there are maps held by both West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) and the LSL. The Archives have a plan (WYB346 1222 B16) of Old Allen Common in Wilsden including all its collieries. This was ‘made for the purpose of ascertaining the best method of leasing the coal’ by Joseph Fox, surveyor, in 1829. It shows the area where Edward Ferrand, as Lord of the Manor, had mineral rights over common land.

The name ‘bell pit’ is commonly encountered in accounts of early mining. In this method a short shaft was sunk down to a seam and its base was then expanded as the mineral was removed, creating a bell-like profile. When unsafe, because of potential roof collapse, the bell was abandoned and a new shaft sunk nearby. Each bell was filled in turn by waste dug out of its successor. I feel that if shafts were connected underground, or were drained by a passage to the exterior (called an adit or sough), or had some means of providing fresh air for its miners, it seems misleading to call such arrangements ‘bell pits’. ‘Shallow shaft mining’ is perhaps to be preferred which covers all these possibilities.

If you want to explore local coal mining further I would suggest:

J.V. Stephens et al., Geology of the country between Bradford and Skipton, HMSO, 1953. This is essential reading for geological background to any extractive industry.

Richardson, A Geography of Bradford, University of Bradford (1976). This work provides a gentle introduction to mining as it also does to Bradford’s development.

M.C. Gill, Keighley Coal, NMRS, 2004. A most detailed study by an eminent mining authority.

D.J. Barker & T. Woods, Cash from the Coal Measures: the Extractive Industries of Nineteenth Century Shipley.  Bradford Antiquary, (2013) 3rd series, 17, 17-36.


Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer





Map of the Week: Eccleshill – coal, iron, and waving wheat.

The ancient township of Eccleshill is well represented in the Local Studies Library reserve map collection, although many of the maps are in poor condition. The following images are details which I have enhanced to make them more visible. It is hard to believe today but the whole of Eccleshill was once mined for coal, with mining features commonly being seen on nineteenth century maps of the district. The seams that could be accessed included the Hard and Soft Beds (sometimes called the Upper and Lower Beds) which were widely exploited all over the north Bradford area. Above these in the geological sequence was the important vein of sandstone called the Elland Flags, which was extensively quarried. The well-known George Vint, with his various partners, owned quarries in nearby Idle extracting this valuable rock. Modern geology maps suggest that the centre of Eccleshill was high enough to include the Better Bed coal and fire-clay seams, positioned above the Elland Flags. The Better Bed was also extensively mined as coking coal in south Bradford for the iron-smelting industry at Bowling and Low Moor. William Cudworth, in his account of Eccleshill, mentions the Better Bed, and also an associated fire-clay and brick making industry based at Manor Potteries in Eccleshill.


Click on map to enlarge

The first map shows the township field names with buildings and the names of their occupiers. At the bottom right is Eccleshill Hall built in 1713 and the home of the Stanhope (later Stott-Stanhope) family. As far as I know Lt.-Col. George Stott-Stanhope was the last family member to actually live there. He was a large landowner whose name frequently appears in local maps. He died in 1874 and the hall was demolished in 1878. Slightly to the left you should be able to make out the name J.A. Jowett. This was James Atkinson-Jowett (1817-1886) of the Clockhouse Estate, Manningham. The Clockhouse name survives as one of the Bradford Boys’ Grammar School buildings. James Atkinson-Jowett was the son of Nathan Atkinson-Jowett. Both men changed their surname from plain Atkinson in the 1860s in order to claim the large Jowett property inheritance. The field names are not likely to be easily visible but include: Windmill Field and Tenter Croft. A tenter croft, or ground, was an area used for drying newly woven woollens after fulling. The wet cloth was attached to frames called tenters by means of, naturally, tenter-hooks. Town Street, today called Victoria Road, divides at Bank Top into Norman Lane and Eccleshill Bank, named the ‘Old Turnpike Road’ in early maps. This division is very helpful in orientation, with portions of Eccleshill Bank being included in all the maps included here.

The second, rather clearer, map enables us to examine the northern part of Eccleshill. It is obvious that a planned street grid has been superimposed on an older map but I do not think that all those roads were actually constructed. On the right side of the map a railway line has appeared. The Eccleshill & Idle Railway was incorporated in 1866 and was assimilated into the GNR Laisterdyke to Shipley line. Eccleshill Station was closed to passengers in 1931. A land-owner whose name appears approximately in the centre of the map is described as the ‘late John Mitchell’. Eccleshill historian Ken Kenzie told me that John or Jonathan Mitchell was a coal merchant who once lived at Eccleshill Bank. He was clearly a big man in Eccleshill mining and, among others, ran Park Pits which were sold off in 1860 when he was in his 70s. On the map above his surname you may be able to make out the location of ‘Eccleshill Worsted Mill Company’ and above this, and to the left, ‘Engine Pit’. The enterprises of John Mitchell are well represented in the Local Studies map collection.


Click on map to enlarge

The third image is taken from a plan dated 1847 and described as ‘coals leased to Mr John Mitchell, surveyed by Ingle & Smith’. Once again you can see Eccleshill Bank and the fine line grid above it represents underground mine galleries. I presume these were entered from the Engine Pit shaft. Elsewhere the map reveals extensive coal mining to the south-west of the township.


Click on map to enlarge

The final map is the oldest and most damaged. In one area I can identify George Baron as a landowner. George Baron, of Drewton in the Wolds, was an earlier possessor of the Clockhouse Estate than the Atkinson-Jowetts. He inherited the estate from Sarah, last of the original Jowett family, and died in 1854. The West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) has a huge collection of Jowett family documents (10D76/3/190). In box 6 of these is a lease dated 1842: ‘George Baron to John Mitchell, Eccleshill’. This document is a 28 year lease of Upper Bed and Lower Bed coals in the area of Greengates, Eccleshill. The price seems to be £60 per acre. This is somewhat north of the area discussed so far, but Greengates and Apperley Bridge were traditionally considered to be part of Eccleshill.



Click on map to enlarge

The short horizontal trackway at the top of the last map is called Green Lane. It joins a bridleway which is now Carr Bottom Lane. We have moved west since the curved roadway at the top left, marked Otley, is the far end of Eccleshill Bank where it joins the Dudley Hill & Killinghall turnpike. A number of coal shafts are present on the first OS map of the area (which is of approximately the same date) together with a limekiln at the end of the short track leading to Wheat Close. I’m not sure if these are drawn here or not since the script is so hard to read. What fascinates me about this map are the field names themselves. At the bottom right you may be able to make out Wheat Close and, below this, Cinder Hills. Today it is hard to imagine ripe wheat being harvested in Eccleshill although we have already mentioned Windmill Field which suggests subsequent grain processing. Cinder Hills is a name normally associated with heaps of iron-making slag. Pre-Industrial iron making has been suggested in other townships which now form part of Bradford: Harden, Baildon and Bierley for example. Faull & Moorhouse (West Yorkshire Survey to AD 1500) speculated that Eccleshill should join this list on the basis of two areas called ‘Cinderhills’ in old township maps.


Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Map of the Week – Mining in Wilsden

Extractive industries once contributed substantially to the wealth of West Yorkshire. Local coal mining may well have had medieval roots and there is good evidence for the industry in early seventeenth century Bradford. At that time, in addition to domestic use, coal was employed as a fuel for lime burning and black-smithing. The value of the mineral was transformed by Abraham Darby’s discovery at Coalbrookdale that it could be coked to produce a replacement for charcoal in iron-smelting. This occurred at the beginning of the eighteenth century, although it took several decades for the technology to be widely adopted. In south Bradford iron-smelting developed at Bowling and Low Moor using coked  coal from the Better Bed seam, and ironstone from the Black Bed seam roof. Around the same time the need to fuel rapidly increasing numbers of steam engines also greatly increased the demand for black diamonds.

Few, if any, districts of the city are unmarked by some evidence of old mining activity. Coal exploitation had long been undertaken in the townships of north Bradford including: Heaton & Frizinghall, Shipley & Northcliffe, Baildon, Idle & Eccleshill, Thornton & Clayton, Denholme, and Wilsden. In these communities the first two seams in the Coal Measures series of rocks were accessed, those being the Soft Bed and Hard Bed. Mining in Wilsden is well recorded by maps held by both West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) and the LSL. The Archives has a plan (WYB346 1222 B16) of Old Allen Common in Wilsden including its collieries. This shows the area where Edward Ferrand Esq, as Lord of the Manor, had mineral rights over common land. This was ‘made for the purpose of ascertaining the best method of leasing the coal’ by Joseph Fox, surveyor, in 1829. Fox has already featured in this series. The collieries named were operated by Padgett & Whalley, and Messrs. Horsfall.

The Local Studies Library has two Wilsden colliery plans. The first shows Norr Hill. This was a drift mine at which the deeper Soft Bed was accessed down an inclined plane. The coal was removed through galleries but large pillars of the mineral were left to support the roof. The ‘take’ was perhaps 60%. If you are sharp-eyed you may be able to make out the words ‘geal (or goul) 4½ yards down to south’. This must be a local mining dialect term indicating that a geological fault interupted the seam.

Wilsden 007a

The other illustrated mines at Old Allen Common and Pudding Hill were the more common shaft mines. The Soft Bed was accessed by the Jack Pit and Jer Pit. Tom Pit accessed the shallower Hard Bed. Again there is a system of galleries and evidence of faulting. One gallery heads towards Padgett’s Colliery. Many areas are ‘old’ or worked out.

Wilsden 007b

Mines like these would need to be drained and ventilated. Drainage was often achieved by digging a long underground channel or ‘sough’ to take water to a lower level surface watercourse. As well a shaft to access the galleries a second ‘air’ or ventilation shaft was often sunk. In operation active men were needed as ‘getters’ to hew the coal. As the seams were thin this must have been undertaken in a lying or kneeling position illuminated only by flickering candlelight. Hewed coal was then conveyed in wicker baskets, called corves, by ‘hurriers’ to the shaft bottom. If they were physically capable children and women could fulfil this function, although women working underground were seemingly becoming rare in the Bradford area by the early nineteenth century. The full corves of coal could be extracted by a hand-windless or, if the shaft were deep, a horse gin, and then removed by carts or packhorses to the nearest roadway. To men labouring as miners in the early nineteenth century the industry must have seemed timeless. Could they ever have imagined that in 2015, with the closure of Kellingley Colliery, the deep-mining of coal in Britain would be brought to an end?

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer