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

 

Neglected Bradford Industries: Vitriol (sulphuric acid) making

I expect everyone will remember dilute sulphuric acid from school chemistry, or the contents of car batteries. In the Middle Ages alchemists made the concentrated acid, vitriol, by heating crystals of hydrated iron II sulphate (green vitriol). This is a topic I will return to when I describe copperas manufacture at Denholme in a future article. In the eighteenth century vitriol was needed for manufacturing chemicals like nitric and hydrochloric acids, and in an early industrial process for making washing soda. Hydrochloric acid was the starting point for chlorine production and the gas made was in turn used in a textile bleaching process. The synthesis of important fertilisers in the nineteenth century, like ammonium sulphate and super-phosphate, required large amounts of sulphuric acid. Some of the documents relating to a Bradford works mention ‘manures’ by which name, I assume,  the artificial fertilisers were once known.

In 1746 John Roebuck (Birmingham) had adapted a process of burning sulphur with saltpetre to form sulphur trioxide, within acid-resistant chambers made of lead. Sulphur trioxide was then dissolved in water to form the vitriol. Lead was chosen for the chambers since it was the cheapest acid-resistant metal available. These large, strong and cheap receptacles produced 35-40% acid. The chemists Gay-Lussac and Glover replaced the chambers with towers, obtaining a more concentrated product. The manufacture of some dyes, and nitrocellulose, required an even more concentrated acid which could still be produced by the dry distillation of hydrated iron II sulphate.

North Brook Vitriol Works was situated between Wharf Street and Canal Road.  Vitriol and aquafortis (nitric acid) were first made there by Benjamin Rawson (1758-1844). He is believed to have been in operation by 1792 which makes the works one of Britain’s first chemical plants. In this and much else Bradford was ahead of the game. Shortly afterwards Rawson purchased the Lordship of the Manor of Bradford, a role in which he and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, will be familiar to local historians. In 1838, before Rawson’s death, the works were bought by Samuel Broadbent. He lived in Northbrook House and his garden led to the canal. Additional chemicals were now sold: spirits of salts (hydrochloric acid) and ammonia.

06 Image

Mid-nineteenth century plan showing the relationship between Northbrook House, the Vitriol Works and the Canal

Northbrook House was later used as offices and one of Samuel’s daughters married George Henry Leather, a worsted spinner. Leather took over when Samuel died and after 1844 the whole plant was known as Leather’s Chemical Works, a name which was familiar to Bradfordians within living memory. Leather also sold chloride of lime as a disinfectant, which may have been needed since the smell of the works, the canal, and nearby tipped human waste, was described in the Bradford Observer as ‘abominable’. Chloride of lime (calcium hypochlorite) was made, by exposing slaked lime to gaseous chlorine in brick built chambers. One of the most interesting documents I read in the West Yorkshire Archives when researching this subject was a memorandum of 1887 to Leather’s Chemical Works from the famous fertilizer company, Jas. Fison & Sons of Thetford. An enquiry from Leather’s revealed that Fisons were using a platinum still, presumably to concentrate and purify their sulphuric acid. The still cost £5,600 and was bought from Johnson Matthey & Co of Hatton Gardens, London. This company was brought to public notice recently by the failure of its banking subsidiary, JMB, in 1984. The parent company is heavily involved in precious metals, and chemicals, today.

Samuel’s grandson Henry Burnet took over when George Leather died in 1897. By this time a new means of making the acid, the Contact Process, was becoming widely employed. I’ve found no evidence that this was adopted in Bradford. Possibly keeping the existing plant required little capital expenditure and the decision to stick with older technology was essentially a financial one. I understand that the site was still a chemical works as late as 1970. Then it was initially sold to Occidental Petroleum but Bradford Council purchased the site a year or two later and demolished the works.

There is one small puzzle. In his book The History & Topography of Bradford John James describes a bizarre incident. About 50 years before he wrote a group of gentlemen founded a Bradford Philosophical Society. One of the members, a chemist, after many experiments discovered a way of rendering oils ‘pure and transparent’ by application of a strong acid. One of the other philosophers thought he would try cleaning the working parts of the watches and clocks of the town with the same acid. As a result all the clockwork corroded. If James was being exact the date of the trials would have been 1791. The reaction between sulphuric acid and vegetable oils is quite complex but no one could call the result transparent. The acid would attack all eighteenth century known metals except lead and gold. It does seem probable that experiments were being made with the newly available cheap vitriol but please, please, do not try these at home.

If you want to explore vitriol making further I would suggest:

AE Musson (ed), Science, technology and growth in the eighteenth century, 1971.

Documents and photographs of Leather’s Chemical Company are held by West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford): 30D90.

 

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Neglected Bradford Industries: Brick-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.

Together bricks, tiles and terracotta form the ‘ceramic building materials’. This technology was introduced into Britain twice; firstly by the Romans and secondly from the Low Countries in the Middle Ages. The ruined Augustinian priory of St Botolph, Colchester (1100-1150) is a Norman building built of flint rubble and recycled Roman brick. Brick use was insignificant until the fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries when magnificent work appeared at Tattersall Castle, Lincs (1440-1450), Framlingham Castle, Suffolk (soon after 1476), and Hampton Court (1515). The first West Yorkshire brick building is believed to be Temple Newsam House, Leeds (1640-60s). The earliest Bradford brick-maker I have been told about features in the Eccleshill parish records of 1714. Later, in 1718, John Stanhope of Eccleshill wanted to build a new hall and so reached an agreement with John Brown of Nottingham who promised to ‘dig and throw sufficient clay to make 100,000 good stock bricks’. The bricks were large by modern standards, being 10 inches long, 5 inches broad, and 2.5 inches thick when burned.

Hand-moulded bricks were formed by a maker throwing a clay and water mix, of the correct plasticity, into a wooden mould. A skilled maker with a lad could produce a thousand or more bricks daily. Newly moulded green bricks were dried slowly in a hack, or shelter, and could then be successfully fired in a free-standing heap or clamp. Constructing a true kiln needed more expenditure but the firing was more controllable, resulting in a better product and fewer waste bricks. Hand-made bricks survived the spread of the latter mechanical brick presses since their manufacture required little capital. Such bricks are still available today for conservation projects.

05 Image A

Brick-kiln close, Frizinghall. Field names with brick related elements, or buildings known as Red Hall or House, are common indicators of early brick production and use.

Local historian Tony Woods has studied the Rosse Archive records now in Ireland. He can demonstrate that Heaton coal pits were supplying a brick kiln as long ago as 1776. The field name recorded on the above map from the Local Studies Library collection confirms that there was one such kiln quite close to Heaton village, but there may have been others.  A study of early Bradford maps suggests that brick fields preceded established brick works. Evidence from elsewhere suggests that the alluvial clay in such fields was leased by owners to itinerant brick-makers who dug it and prepared it for firing into hand-moulded unmarked, or plain, bricks. There is evidence that there were such undertakings at: Fagley Lane, Bowling Back Lane, Low Moor, Frizinghall, Manningham, Leeds Road, Manchester Road, Bolton, Undercliffe, Shipley, Eccleshill and Wilsden.

05 Image B

Machine pressed bricks on display at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley. Note the [BB&T Co Lim] marked brick at the bottom left.

By the mid-nineteenth century engineers were experimenting with ways of forming bricks mechanically. Common household bricks produced by machine pressing started to appear after 1860, and by the last decades of the century mechanical presses came to dominate production. There were small hand-operated brick presses and large steam powered machines of various patterns. Their use avoided the need to employ skilled brick-makers at a time when the demand for bricks was rapidly increasing. The new machines also produced a uniform product much loved by Victorian architects. In the Bradford area mudstones from the Coal Measures were quarried or mined, and then ground up, to supply the brick presses. The coal seams themselves provided the fuel for firing the bricks. Machine pressed bricks frequently have a depression, or frog, for receiving mortar and may be marked with the manufacturer’s name or initials. Such marks could be stamped into the brick but alternatively brass or iron plates were inserted into the brick moulds. The heads of screws that held these plates in place may also be visible in the fired brick. The interest of those of us involved with bricks was often first captured by finding a marked brick and speculating about its origin.

05 Image C

A detail from the drawing accompanying William Cudworth’s Worstedopolis. In the centre is the Hoffman kiln at Daniel Riddiough’s Airedale Road brick works.

New patterns of kiln were adopted. Circular Beehive kilns were popular for single firings. Circular or oval Hoffman kilns were kept continuously alight. Kiln gases, on their way to the chimney, were used to dry green bricks. Hoffman kilns were very economical of fuel but needed a skilled workforce. The Bradford 1856 directory records several local manufacturers: James Fairbank, an important coal merchant and brick maker, was established at the Brick Lane colliery and was ‘sinking for coal’ near the bottom of Whetley Lane. Edward Gittins had arrived from Leicester and was advertising his new patent-brick works at the junction of Wakefield Road and New Hey Road. George Stelling Hogg had come from Leeds and had established the first of his three brick making enterprises in Shipley. George Heaton had leased land from the Earl of Rosse to dig coal and make bricks at the Shipley end of Heaton Woods. As late as the 1881 census  I can only identify 204 people in the Bradford area who gave a brick related occupation to the enumerators. This number is dwarfed by coal and ironstone miners, quarrymen, and textile workers.

Research suggests that at one time or another Bradford, Shipley, Bingley and Keighley had more than 60 brick production centres, not of course all working simultaneously, together with additional imports from Halifax, Leeds and Wakefield. At first bricks were used close to the site of manufacture to minimise transport costs. Consequently the few wholly brick houses in Bradford older than a century are likely to be constructed of locally made material. Most readers will be familiar with Bradford’s stone buildings and will naturally ask the question ‘where have all the bricks gone?’  Flues from domestic fires were normally constructed of them, and many Victorian stone buildings will have an inner skin of cheaper brick with stone facings on the visible areas. When you consider the use of bricks employed for Lancashire pattern factory chimneys, or for railway bridge or tunnel linings, the number of producers does not seem excessive. In the long run the railway spelled the end for local suppliers in favour of larger, cheaper, brick producers in Peterborough or Staffordshire.

05 Image D

Trade directories are a useful source of information about the brick industry. Advertisements were common.

A popular local house-brick was produced by the Bradford Brick & Tile Company and its most common mark is [BB&T Co Lim].  This company was incorporated in January 1868. The first directors were Halifax businessmen, with the exception of Israel Thornton of East Parade, Bradford (a contractor with his fingers in many pies). At various times it operated a number of kilns: Wapping Road, Whetley Lane and Beldon Rd, Great Horton. By 1901 the Bradford Brick and Tile Company address was simply Knowsley Street, Leeds Road which seems to have been its final enterprise.

If you want to explore brick-making further I would suggest:

D J Barker, Bradford Brick-making: the mud, the men and the mysteries, Bradford Antiquary, (2010) 3rd series 14, 66-77.

The West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) have more information on the Bradford Brick & Tile Company (10D76/3/113 Box 5). The Local Studies Library collection of trade directories are also an important source of information.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

 

Neglected Bradford Industries: Stone Quarrying

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.

It is the extent, rather than the existence, of Bradford’s stone quarrying industry that has tended to pass out of memory. Bradford sits on a series of Carboniferous period sedimentary rocks called the Lower Coal Measures. This series contains strata of commercially valuable fine grained sandstone such as the well-known Elland Flags. Beneath the Coal Measures is the Millstone Grit series which also provided building stone. Saltaire, for example, is constructed of gritstone. There is no essential difference between these two series of rocks, no unconformity as geologists would put it, and their junction is defined by a particular fossil species. Millstone Grit outcrops to the west and north of the city, forming the scenery of Shipley Glen and Ilkley Moor. The Aire Valley glacier once carved its way deeply into the Millstone Grit making it possible for this rock also to be exploited quite near Bradford. Sandstones and gritstones are largely composed of cemented grains of the hard mineral quartz. Ultimately these grains were derived from weathering igneous rocks and transported here, and deposited, by a vast river delta more than 300 million years ago.

Although stone was principally a construction material it did have other uses, dressed gritstone was once employed for the millstones in corn mills for example. Midgeley Wood at Baildon Green is said to show evidence of this industry, and I should be grateful if any reader could confirm this. Stone could also be crushed for gravel and sand. Any stone occurring in thick beds, which can be cut freely in any direction, is called freestone. Once hewn for facing it is known as ashlar. Gritstone and ragstone are sandstones with coarse, angular, grains that cut with a ragged fracture. Flagstones are thin bedded sandstones ideal for flooring and roofing. When this material is used on a roof it is often referred to as ‘stone slate’ although it is not true slate which is a metamorphic rock. There are plenty of true slate roofs in Bradford of course but slate came by rail, after the mid-nineteenth century, from Wales or, to a lesser extent, the Lake District. The colour of sandstone reflects its iron content. Local stone was often grey when first quarried but it oxidises, on exposure to air, producing a beautiful honey colour. Old quarries are a significant landscape feature in many parts of the Bradford area, and are commonly seen in tithe maps and the first OS maps. Many were subsequently used for land fill, recreational space, or development.

04 Image A

Quarries on Idle Moor in a detail from the first OS map of the area
(surveyed in late 1840s)

In the Middle Ages stone building was confined to high status structures: castles, churches, bridges, and great houses. The only medieval stone buildings now standing in Bradford would seem to be the tower of Bolling Hall and the Cathedral. There must have been a medieval stone quarry in Bradford since the recent Sunbridge Wells development exposed several prison cells, the rear walls of which are portions of a quarry face. Medieval vernacular architecture was in timber, thatch, wattle and daub. The construction of a large timber-framed house required carpentry of a very high order so I cannot think of timber construction as a second best to masonry. After the medieval period there was a ‘great rebuilding’ in brick and stone which in northern Britain occurred quite late, from the mid-seventeenth to early eighteenth century. Was this simply fashion, or an appreciation of the damage fire could do to a wooden urban area? As with many innovations the wealthy were the first to adopt the change. Paper Hall in Bradford is an early example in the city, and East Riddlesden Hall is a seventeenth century millstone grit construction. By the time of the 1800 Bradford map no quarries are marked and the industry has evidently moved to the surrounding high ground.

Since Bradford is famous for its stone buildings it is reasonable to ask how such large quantities were obtained. In some areas, York being an excellent example, cut stone could be recycled from Roman buildings or dissolved abbeys (after the 1540s), but not here. Before the creation of quarries there must have been large quantities of surface stone available which had been originally transported by glacial ice. In an area I know well, Northcliffe Wood in Shipley, large glacial erratic millstone grit boulders are still on the surface, and there are also several large, shallow, surface depressions interpreted as sites from which suitable stone was simply levered up. Stone that was not of sufficient quality for masonry could still be used in drystone walls of which there were vast numbers. It appears that the old quarrymen believed that the presence of a fossil weakened the stone. Rocks containing fossils were not used for ashlar but tended to end up with the wall stone. On some common land, or wastes, local people may have had the right to remove (but not necessarily sell) such surface stone deposits. True quarrying is thought to have begun locally in the seventeenth century and continued until the twentieth. Small quarries would have had a single face for stone extraction; later and larger enterprises had a staggered series of faces, known as ‘bench working’.

04 Image B

A stone quarry illustrated in a detail of the drawing of Bradford which accompanied William Cudworth’s ‘Worstedopolis’ (top right)

The image shows a nineteenth century quarry. Its edge, and the simple derricks used for lifting stone, are easily visible. In the centre is a brick works, a subject to which we will soon return. Many West Yorkshire stones have locality or descriptive names. Bradford quarries accessed Rough Rock (Baildon & Shipley), Stanningley Rock (Northcliffe), Gaisby Rock (Bolton Woods & Spinkwell), and Elland Flags (Thornton, Heaton, Chellow, and Idle). Quarries or delphs could also be dug for special projects like the creation of canals or reservoir dams. There is a small quarry next to the canal at Hirst Wood, Shipley that presumably had this function. At first stone was used near to the site of extraction to minimise transport costs, so most stone houses older than about 150 years will be constructed of very local material. As transport improved there were  significant exports. Elland Flags were once widely used for paving slabs in London. Wakefield and Manchester Town Halls were constructed of stone from Spinkwell Quarry, which the architects believed would resist air pollution well. How extensive was the industry? In 1875 William Cudworth knew of 36 stone quarries in Allerton alone, and a further 17 on Rosse land in Shipley and Heaton. Heaton still has its Quarry Hill, Quarry Street and, until recently, The Delvers public house.

 

04 Image C

Stone-working tools from the permanent collection of
Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley

Quarry work was skilled and dangerous. Dimension stone was split away from the quarry edge with hammers, chisels and wedges. It would be roughly dressed on the quarry floor. With luck the quarry operator would equip his site with cranes or a tramway to carry the stone on to an adjacent working area. If not strong men would carry stone up a ramp on their backs, supported by two workmates, health and safety regulations being a relatively new development. Newly quarried sandstone is soft and, even before the introduction of steam power, could be cut with saws using sand as an abrasive and water as a coolant. Unusually in this area very valuable stone deposits were sometimes mined as well as quarried.

04 Image D

Plan of a stone extraction site in Allerton showing working and ‘old’ shafts

If you want to explore local industries further the gallery devoted to these at Cliffe Castle Museum is an excellent place to begin. For further reading about quarrying 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.

David Johnson, Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines: an illustrated history, Amberley Publishing, 2016. Bradford is mentioned several times in this comprehensive, engaging, and beautifully illustrated book.

A most informative atlas of West & South Yorkshire Building Stones can be downloaded from the site of the British Geological Survey:

https://www.bgs.ac.uk/downloads/start.cfm?id=2509

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

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: Limestone & lime-burning

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.

Limestone was a most valuable commodity. It could be cut into ashlar for building construction. It could be burned in kilns to produce quick lime which was then slaked with water. In either of these forms it could be spread on the land to ‘sweeten’ acid soils, making them more fertile. Slaked lime was also the essential ingredient of lime mortar, render and whitewash. To charge a blast furnace crushed limestone was added to coke and iron ore because it assisted in the separation of the slag waste. Some hard fossil-containing limestones which took a good polish, like Purbeck stone, were regarded as ‘marbles’ and used for decorative purposes. It is common today to employ limestone aggregate for path and road construction, but this is a relatively recent development.

Limestone consists largely of a single mineral called calcite (calcium carbonate). Immensely thick limestone strata are common near Skipton and in the Dales.  Geologists recognise many sub-types of limestone classified by age, appearance, and fossil content. Since most of the stone reaching the Bradford area was burned we need not be too concerned these complexities.

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Lime quarry at Stainforth, North Yorkshire.

Although limestone strata do not reach the surface in the Bradford area there was nonetheless an early lime-burning industry based on the extraction of boulders from glacial moraines in the Aire and Wharfe valleys. Boulder pits were well established in Bingley by the early sevemteenth century, and three groups of pits are still marked on the first OS map of the area (1852). In 1931 the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society published a series of West Yorkshire Deeds which are still available in the Local Studies Library. An indenture of 1604 between Alexander Woodde of East Morton and Abraham Bynnes, with others, mentions the ‘digging of greetstones’. In 1620 Thomas Dobson of Bingley leased four closes of land to his father Michael ‘with authority to dig there for lymestones and to burn, sell and dispose of them’. Glacial erratic limestone found elsewhere was almost certainly exploited in the same way. In the nineteenth century, on at least one occasion, the digging of a railway cutting seems to have exposed similarly valuable boulders.

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Lime stone quarry near Bowling Junction, and close to a mineral way to Bowling Iron Works. In this position it must represent the working of a moraine deposit (detail from 1852 OS map).

With the construction of the of the Shipley to Skipton sections of Leeds-Liverpool Canal (1773-74) plentiful supplies of limestone became available from the Skipton quarries.  The cheap movement of limestone and coal were among the original ambitions of the canal promoters. Once you had supplies of limestone you required some means of burning it. Local scholar Maggie Fleming, is currently collecting information about canal-side lime kilns, and early lime-burning from erratic boulders, particularly at Micklethwaite and Bingley. Between 1774-83 the Bradford Lime Kiln Co. had eight kilns in Bradford at a site between Broadstones and Spinkwell Lock.  There was evidently an extensive canal-side lime-burning industry since the first OS map also records kilns at, among other places: Silsden, Riddlesden, Micklethwaite, Crossflatts, Bingley (Toad Lane), Dowley Gap, and Shipley.

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A map of 1863 recording lime kilns near the centre of Bradford.

There were a number of lime kiln designs including some very advanced Hoffman continuous kilns like the one preserved at Stainforth, N.Yorks. Simple stone built field kilns were once common in this area. They were charged with broken stone and coal from above, with quicklime and ashes being raked out from below. The field name ‘lime-kiln close’ or ‘kiln close’ may reflect this older lime-burning industry. There are two fields in Heaton with these names, now located in Heaton Woods. Local historian Tony Woods has studied Rosse archive records from Ireland and can demonstrate that Heaton coal pits were supplying a lime-kiln, somewhere near, with fuel as long ago as 1776.

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Field kiln near Grassington

If you would like to do more reading on this topic may I suggest:

J.V. Stephens et al. Geology of the country between Bradford and Skipton, HMSO, 1953, 149-151, 149. This is essential reading for geological background to any local extractive industry.

David Johnson, Limestone Industries of the Yorkshire Dales, Amberley, 2010. It is inconceivable that anyone could ask a question about limestone that this book cannot answer.

Gerald & Sheila Young, Micklethwaite: the History of a Moorland Village. The early section of this book describes has an interesting account of the exploitation of local mineral resources.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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

Neglected Bradford Industries: Iron-smelting

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.

The production of copperas (iron sulphate) and glass in the Bradford area have been completely forgotten. Brick-making has escaped serious study until quite recently. It is the extent, rather than the existence, of quarrying, coal-mining and iron-smelting that has tended to pass out of memory. I shall try to provide a brief introduction to these industries and to some smaller concerns: pottery, fireclay production, lime burning and vitriol manufacture. My survey cannot be exhaustive since I know very little about soap boiling, clay pipe production, nail making or leather tanning. I hope any reader with knowledge of these activities will feel free to contribute. Although my main interest is in the history of technology I am not unaware that the successes I shall describe came at considerable human cost. In the period selected the rural poor were driven by a need for work into factories and crowded, unsanitary, housing. Some employers, like Titus Salt, were humane men but others were exploitative. Foundries, mines and vitriol works were dangerous places where often little thought was given to worker safety. Those who paid the price of progress seldom reaped its benefits.

Bradford had many advantages as an industrial centre. Building stone was relatively easy to acquire, and since the late eighteenth century there had been a vigorous brick industry. Cheap local coal was available, and could be coked to supply blast furnaces which made pig iron from locally dug ironstone. There had long been water-powered corn and textile mills but it was the introduction of steam engine power that really transformed any process that was capable of mechanisation. Cloth production was a principle beneficiary of this technology which in turn promoted the development of textile engineering in Bradford and Keighley. The town was originally a communications backwater. It was hard to move raw materials, or manufactured products, cheaply and speedily. Horse transport had been used for centuries and a network of pack-horse routes had developed throughout West Yorkshire. The construction of turnpike roads in the years 1734-1825 produced a substantial improvement in the situation. With the opening of sections of the Leeds to Liverpool canal in the 1770s, with its spur into Bradford, transport of bulk goods, especially coal and limestone, became far cheaper. Railway links were established by the 1850s.

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A 30.5 ton Rolling Mill flywheel presented by Alan Elsworth and preserved for display near the site of Low Moor Ironworks.

A century ago no community would be without its blacksmith but Bradford could boast a complete package of iron based technologies: ironstone mining, iron-smelting, and foundries. Historical sources, and deposits of slag, suggest that a medieval, bloomery furnace based, iron-smelting had occurred at Eldwick, Harden, Baildon, and Eccleshill, with charcoal being the fuel employed. Until their dissolution around 1539 northern Cistercian abbeys were heavily involved in iron-making but there is some documentary evidence of late Tudor smelting at Esholt and Hirst Wood, Shipley.  The origin of modern industry was the discovery in 1709, by Quaker ironmaster Abraham Darby of Coalbrookdale, that iron could be successfully smelted using coked coal. This advance took about 50 years to be widely accepted. Darby’s grandson was the creator of the famous iron bridge.

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An iron pig produced by Abraham Darby in 1756, on display at Coalbrookdale Museum.

Bradford did not have the capacity to produce vast quantities of charcoal for blast furnace fuel but Darby’s discovery resulted in south Bradford’s Black Bed coal seam being mined for its rich roof deposits of ironstone. It was discovered that the deeper Better Bed coal seam was low in sulphur and phosphorus and so produced coke highly suitable for iron-smelting. The  industry was capital intensive but blast furnaces were set up at Birkenshaw (1782), Bowling (1788), Low Moor (1791) and Bierley (1810). Their products were cast iron and the ‘best wrought iron’, produced by Cort’s ‘puddling’ process. Cannon and shot were manufactured during the Napoleonic Wars. At a later date the companies did not adopt the Bessemer process to convert cast iron into steel for which Sheffield became celebrated. The furnaces are long gone but the ‘dross’ waste and some of the iron products remains. I vividly remember encountering some Low Moor cannon at Alnwick Castle. As local deposits were exhausted mineral carrying tramways transported vast amounts of coal and ironstone for miles towards the furnaces. In the 1960s a scholar called Derek Pickles studied the mineral ways supplying Bowling Iron Works. His detailed and fascinating work is curated by Bradford Industrial Museum but I know virtually nothing about him. Can anybody help me?

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A plan from Derek Pickles’s study showing mineral ways around Bowling Iron Works (top centre). The triangles mark collieries.

 

If you want to undertake further background reading the Local Studies Library has copies of three useful texts:

  • RCN Thornes, West Yorkshire: A Noble Scene of Industry, WYCC (1981)
  • Gary Firth, Bradford in the Industrial Revolution, Ryburn Publishing (1990)
  • C Richardson, A Geography of Bradford, University of Bradford (1976)

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Map of the Week – Holdsworth Street Mill

The Local Studies Library houses hundreds of maps and plans in its reserve collection. My role as a volunteer is to provide the library staff with a report on the nature and condition of this material within an acceptable time frame, perhaps a few years. Consequently I can spend a few minutes at most with each map, although I use articles like this to display items which really deserve more detailed study. This plan is neither named nor dated. We have to ask four questions: what was it, where was it, when was it, and whose was it? Other Local Studies Library resources help to provide some answers to these questions.

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Click on map to open in a new window

Clearly we have the integrated premises of a worsted manufacturer with a spinning mill and weaving shed, both provided with independent steam power. The cottages included would not have housed more than a tiny fraction of the workforce. Perhaps they were occupied by men whose permanent presence on-site was desirable, such as ostlers or night watchmen. A substantial warehouse is included, but there is no dye house. As was common practice woven pieces must have been sent to commission dyers. A counting house was essentially a works office. I was puzzled by the sizing room but it seems that warps were treated, or sized, to make them stronger.

Where was this mill sited? Canal Road and Valley Road are two long sides of a scalene triangle that meet near the city centre immediately west of the canal. Holdsworth Street was the shorter third side that completed the triangle. It still exists, approached from the small roundabout from which you drive to Forster Square Station, but demolition and road development has left no visible trace of these buildings. Holdsworth Street and the spinning mill are present on the first OS map of the area (1851). The weaving shown here is not in the arrangement recorded in the 1851 OS nor the Bradford tithe map. Is our map older, or more recent? A nearby land owner is evidently the Bradford Gas & Light Company which was founded in the 1820s. The area involved remained the site of the Bradford Gas works for many decades to come.

Notice that the mill is adjacent to the William Rouse estate. I have briefly researched the Rouse family. William Rouse snr. (1765-1843) was a worsted spinner and weaver. His company (Wm. Rouse & Son) appears in the 1822 Gazetteer of the West Riding located at ‘Canal Side’. In subsequent trade directories it is placed nearby at: Mill Street, Canal Road, North Brook Street and, in 1872, Holdsworth Street. I am not sure if the same mill was being referred to on each occasion since in the Factory Commission report (1833) data was collected from three Rouse Mills, the oldest at Canal Side being built in 1815. The company’s closest brush with history must have been in 1820-22 when Titus Salt spent two years with them ‘learning the trade’ under the direction of John Hammond (see Jack Reynolds, The Great Paternalist, 1983, p.46). Rouse must have produced worsted stuff in the years before wool-combing was mechanised. With his son John (1794-1838) he employed hundreds of hand-combers who worked for him producing the wool ‘tops’ needed for the worsted process. By the time of William’s death the writing was on the wall for the poorly paid hand-combers whose trade was effectively destroyed by mechanical combs in the 1850s. The business clearly continued despite its founder’s death and the changing technology.

The 1853 White’s Leeds & the Clothing District Directory mentions a William Rouse, spinner & manufacturer, of West Lodge, Great Horton Road. William Rouse jnr. (1809-1868) had evidently succeeded his father. In the 1851 census Rouse reported employing 400 combers, 100 boys, and 150 girls. He may not have been too hard an employer since, on a Saturday in September 1849, the Bradford Observer records a works trip to Clapham by special train. Some employees saw the famous caves and others played cricket. All enjoyed a good dinner, and were home by 10 pm. William Rouse jnr. did everything expected of a successful textile man: church warden 1847, town counsellor 1848, magistrate 1852, and Poor Law overseer in 1860. By 1861 he was living in Burley House, Burley with his wife, children and six servants. He died there in 1868.

By the time of the 1879 PO Bradford Directory Wm. Rouse & Sons are placed at North Brook Street Mills. North Brook Street joins Canal Road just north of our map.  North Brook Mills are mentioned in the book Yorkshire Textile Mills 1779-1930 (RCHME) but unfortunately they had already been demolished when the mill survey was undertaken in the early 1990s. The mill in the plan is present in the 25 inch OS map of 1891. It seems to be linked to the named North Brook Street Mill but the mill building was then a warehouse, and the weaving shed was divided up between a repository and an engineering shop.

Wm. Rouse & Sons is included in The Century’s Progress, an 1893 work of self-publicity produced for Yorkshire industries. This states that the company was run by John, Frank and Herbert Rouse, grandsons of William Rouse snr. It is said to have operated ‘a vast home and export trade’ and to have had 40,000 spindles and 900 workers. The entry describes the company occupying the ‘Old Mills’ and the ‘New Mills’ acquired half a century earlier, that is in the 1840s. It states that the New Mills were in North Brook Street. I imagine that at some stage the company had created the premises illustrated in the plan but I am not sure if it was ‘Old’ or ‘New’. Can anyone help me?

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer