Brontë Images: 116 Years of Brontë Studies


To facilitate exploration of local history and the Brontë family, the Keighley Local Studies Library now has a catalogue file of all images that have appeared in its bound editions of the Brontë Society’s Transactions and Journals from 1898 through to 2014. This means that it is possible to find, for example, a facsimile of a letter written by Patrick Brontë, or a pen sketch of the Black Bull pub by Arthur North, given the name of the author or item.

This collection comprises over 1000 Brontë related images, including familiar ones that may be found on exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, as well as others of interest such as photographs of extended family members, charts of family genealogy, pictures of places that may have featured in their novels, andgeographical locations that hold the Brontë name (e.g. Brontë, Texas).

There are also pictures of Brontë Society members, who have appeared over the years,
including Butler Wood, the Society’s first editor and Bradford’s Chief Librarian 1887-1925, international members as far away as China, and visiting dignitaries to the Parsonage Museum, such as James Roosevelt, son of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, whose family was connected to the Butterfields in Keighley.

Bronte Images BLOG copy

The Keighley Local Studies Library of Bradford Council is opened Monday-Saturday and is located at the Keighley Library, an historic Andrew Carnegie Library on North Street,
Keighley BD21 3SX.

Phone: 01535 618215

Mary E. Adamson
Library Volunteer and Brontë Society Member

Treasure of the week no. 23: Billygoats, frogs, & pickle-pot : ‘The Old Inquirer’ and the ‘March of Reason’.

The Old Inquirer [The Rev. Wm. Atkinson] A volume of tracts.

B 042 ATK (Please quote this number if requesting this item.)

In my trawl through the basement of Local Studies Library I came across a volume of tracts by ‘The Old Inquirer’. The use of pseudonyms was quite common in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, especially for authors writing on controversial topics or opposing the views of other writers. The Old Inquirer did both. His spat with ’Trim’, the Headmaster of Bradford Grammar School in the years from 1787 to 1791 was very public, bad tempered, and yet clever – both Trim and the Old Inquirer were well educated and highly literate. The prose (and sometimes verse) is fun to read even if we don’t fully understand what it was they were arguing about! The Old Inquirer was a prolific writer: the volume I came across had 16 separately paginated tracts containing some 70 individual letters, essays and other items. He even had his own printing press!

To provide extracts from these writings would be far too ‘heavy’ for these ‘Treasures’. Instead I have extracted some of the verse he used to illustrate his opinionsand  which can be enjoyed just for themselves. They are indicative of the rumbustious satire of The Old Inquirer.

‘The Old Inquirer was the Reverend William Atkinson, M. A. , ‘Lecturer’ or ‘Afternoon Man’ at the Parish Church in Bradford (now the Cathedral) from 1784 till his death aged 89 in 1846, a period of 62 years. The ‘Afternoon Man’ was so-called because he was only required to be in attendance on Sunday afternoons. According to newspaper cuttings in the Local Studies Library, Atkinson was a man of herculean build and of singular strength of mind as well as body. He used to walk from his home in Thorpe Arch on Saturdays and walk back to his home on Mondays, staying over in Bradford for his Sunday lectures. So what did he do for those 62 years? Well, among other things, he wrote letters, essays and poems.

Rev William Atkinson MA

‘Rev William Atkinson’ from ‘Bradford Fifty Years ago, 1807’ by William Scruton

Parish Church and Vicarage 1810

‘Parish Church and Vicarage in the year 1810’ from ‘Pen and Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford’ by William Cudworth

The range of subjects he wrote on was wide: the exportation of wool;  tithes; political reform; dissenters from the Church of England; the Pope; press bias; agriculture; even banking. Anyone interested in understanding our history from 200 years ago would do well to read these tracts. Here, though, we just relish his gift for verse and satire, and be amused at the wit, boldness, and candour of the ‘Old Inquirer’. And maybe wish he was around today!

…  Fee fau fum,

I smell the stink of democratic plum;

And though I love Reform disclosed,

And would by no means clog them;

Yet meeting with bare r – ps exposed

I cannot help but flog them.

(A Letter to the Reforming Gentlemen. 1817, p. 1. Tract no. 5)

Their arms, their arms,

Are the Radical charms,

With which they’ll lay about them;

Order, order,

Says R. D. our Recorder,

They’d better be quiet without them.

(Free Remarks upon the Conduct of the Whigs and Radical Reformers in Yorkshire; with some Slight Allusions to the Court Party, 1819, p.1. Tract no. 7.)

How Johnny Bull

Is made the Gull,

Of Men who love his money,

The wasps who thrive,

Within his hive,

And live upon his honey. (p.12)

(Remarks on the Strictures in the Leeds Mercury upon the Rev. M. Jackson’s Coronation Sermon, &C. &c. &c., 1821. p. 12. Tract no. 7)

A Lily sprung in foreign land,

And grew to be a flower,

It was transplanted to this strand,

But flourish’d not an hour.

(As above, p. 16)

“Alas! No rest to mortal man is given,

Till they are safe arriv’d in heaven.”

(A Speech Intended to have been spoken at a Second Meeting of the Clergy upon the Popish Question, 1821, p 41. Tract no. 13)

The man in the moon,

Has ordered a spoon,

To give all there maniacs their pottage;

No, no, let them go

To the region below,

For the pickle-pot must be their cottage.

(As above p. 51)

I am the Prince’s Dog at Kew,

Whose Dog are you?

(A letter to the Reforming Gentlemen, 1817, p. 14. Tract No. 5)

Granting that he had much wit,

He was rather shy of using it.

(As above, p.13.)

Hallo, hallo, away they go,

Unheeding wet or dry,

And horse and rider snort and blow,

And stars on all sides fly!

Hold  Parsons, hold, on Peggy’s rig,

For stormy is the wind,

Or like John Gilpin’s hat and wig,

You’ll soon be left behind.

(A Letter to one suspected to have been written by a Stranger, assisted by the Jacobin priests of the West Riding, 1801, p. 43. Tract No. 1)

Your reasoning, with wondering stare,

Quoth Tom, is mighty high, Sir;

But pray forgive if I declare,

I doubt it is a lie, Sir:

We ne’er shall get, I really think,

Lord H….w..d’s land to us, Sir,

I’d rather have a pot of drink,

Than hang up like a truss, Sir:

If you think thus, my honest clown’

We’ll take another sight on’t –

Just turn the picture upside down,

And you will see the right on’t.

(Lucubrations in Prose and Verse written during the Awful Revolution in 1829, p. 12. Tract no. 16)

Jerry’s Song to his Tippling Wife.

Upon her cheek so fair,

The lily and the rose,

Of flowers a pretty pair,

Did all their sweets disclose.

But time has cropt that rose,

The lily too doth fade,

Such are the cruel foes;

In wedlock to a maid.

And has time cropt that rose?

Ah, no! it grows it grows,

Upon her well-fed nose,

You yet may see my pretty little rose.

(As above, p.13)

And what of the Frogs, Billygoats, and The March of Reason of the heading to this blog? See:

Tract number 14: A Rapid Sketch of Some of the Evils of Returning to Cash Payments, and the only remedies for them. To which are added The Leeds Mercury turned into a Frog, the Billygoats in Leading-Strings, and The March of Reason. 1823.

A full listing of Atkinson’s tracts can be found in the folder ‘Federer, Dickons and Empsall tracts in the Local Studies Library’. Listed under  B 042 ATK


Keighley’s Musical Heritage at its finest!

A sunshine summer day in the city could not be better celebrated than with upbeat rock ‘n’ roll bands,  superb singers, and a locally famous comedic host – Keighley Library had it all. The atmosphere was buzzing with a capacity crowd of over 200 pop fans, over 800 visitors to the library on the day (Saturday 9th June) and £213 raised for the charity St Martin’s House by the brave staff manning the very busy refreshment area.

The afternoon kicked off with an introduction to the 1950s like no other by local historian and former Reference Librarian of Keighley Library, Mr Ian Dewhirst MBE. He spoke of how rock ‘n’ roll music seemed to have passed him by in a flurry of 2 years of National Service and helping in his dad’s shop. He said, “The only song I liked was Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly, but he died and that was that!” After hearing the Doveston Brothers, however, Ian acknowledged that he must have absorbed more of this burgeoning pop culture because he did indeed recognise many of the songs. Ian’s continued funny and informative account of the fifties and sixties did not lack spice as he spoke of having to help in a newsagent’s with a top shelf collection. He mentioned no names but said that he was surprised at the identity of some of the local customers.  Not surprisingly, all this racey activity led to a request for information about sex from Ian, the teenager, when he and his dad were riding tandem through the countryside. His dad didn’t fall off the bike but apparently went very quiet and after a couple more miles said simply, “Both the man and the woman have to agree, Son,” which brought the house down.

The Doveston Brothers was just one of two of Keighley’s finest bands of this era. They had formerly played twice at the London Palladium and though they had not played for 45 years, their winning professionalism shone through with a brilliant set of 60s covers. Brian Eldee’s voice is still superb and the audience was treated to Everly Brothers’ favourites as well as more rock ‘n’ roll songs. As a special treat for Janet Mawson, who organised this event, Brian sang John Denver’s, Leaving on a Jet Plane. Later, it was hard to get her feet back on the ground to chat to people about her revamped exhibition on the 1960s but she had to manage it.  With even more unique photographs, music reports and personal anecdotes from local band members, Janet was in great demand all day to answer questions and introduce people.

The Doveston Brothers were beyond popular and set the bar super high for the next band, fast becoming seasoned Keighley library stars – The Presidents, but as we know from last year’s event, they could not possibly disappoint. Their playing was fab with the expected nifty guitar work and Bruce’s acclaimed harmonica.  Linda Russell’s voice soared into pop and ballad perfection to match Brian Eldee’s earlier performance. Both the bands added interest and humour between songs with conversation and funny anecdotes to further enrich the value of this fantastic first class, free entertainment.

Local children were not missed out in this poptastic extravaganza and Saturday Rhymetime became Jamba Samba with little ones, ears fully protected, enjoying Samba drumming with an expert in the art. “Happy” does not describe the expression on some of the children’s faces as they got to make an exceptional musical noise in one of the quieter places in the centre of Keighley. Complements about the event are still coming in.

It’s an underestimation to say that everyone had a great time on Saturday 9th June, many people have filled in the Visitors’ books to the effect that it was another event that brought back many happy memories and was a wonderful musical and social occasion for the local community, especially for many in the audience whose youthful years were represented in the music and the exhibition.  I am sure Ian Dewhirst would agree, that this is local social history at its finest because it is momentarily giving real life to the books, photographs and archives in our keeping. As we have already found out, this in turn enhances their usage and local interest in the subject. It’s certainly something that Keighley Local Studies is very proud to deliver on.

Now, that’s not all folks because the  locally acclaimed and revamped 60’s exhibition will run until September when a brand new display will be launched, assembled by hard working volunteer, Malcolm Hanson with Music of the 70s. A local historian, writer and former local band member of this decade himself, he has inside knowledge of the local music scene but is still collecting memorabilia from bands and fans.  Malcolm can be contacted for this at the following:

Email: or call Malcolm on 01756 798730

This exhibition will be accompanied with more live music, this time from the 1970s to celebrate Heritage Day on Saturday 15th September 2018.

The next Keighley Musical Heritage event in Keighley Local Studies Library is: “Small Town Saturday Night”, A talk by Trevor Simpson on Saturday 14th July 2.00 pm. Trevor Simpson is the author of two books telling the story of a love affair with the local music scene in a northern town.  It is a story of rock ‘n’ roll at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s told with humour and shared memories. The talk will be accompanied with photographs and memorabilia from those decades. Don’t miss it!

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

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Visit to the Brotherton Galleries, Leeds University Library

On Monday, 21 May, a small group of FOBALs (Friends of Bradford Archives and Local Studies) and library staff were very fortunate indeed and saw the Brotherton Library at Leeds University and the archives of the Special Collections.  Wow! The library is a Grade II listed Beaux-Arts building, opened in 1936. The reading room was apparently modelled on the British Museum reading-room, in the round, but “just that little bit bigger”, our tour guide said with a twinkle in her eye. It has some Art Deco fittings including a large central light that is impressively lowered when the large surrounding windows fail to supply sufficient illumination, it’s almost Orwellian.  The actual collections are equally admirable, containing rare medieval gems, such as an illuminated medieval rolled manuscript on the history of the world in Anglo-French. Local materials include Brontë manuscripts and surprisingly, Bradford and Keighley mill records as well Independent Labour Party minutes from Bradford in 1893. Our excellent guide, Laura Wilson, Galleries, Learning and Assistant Engagement Manager (GLEAM) for the Special Collections at the Brotherton was appointed to enhance public access and promote the collections to the wider public and has already seen a great improvement in visitor figures since 2016.

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Images from Opening Souvenir Booklet,  6th  1936, from the Brigg collection (BK10), Keighley Local Studies Library.

The Library owes its outstanding library of books and manuscripts to Lord Brotherton of Wakefield (1856-1930) and subsequently his family. Edward Allen Brotherton was actually born in Manchester. He left school at 15, worked in a hardware store and also a chemical laboratory and in the evening studied chemistry at Owens College, Manchester. He obtained a post in a chemical works in Wakefield and, by 1878, had become a partner in the firm of Dyson Bros. and Brotherton,  manufacturers of ammonium sulphate and based in Wakefield.  By 1902, it had become the largest private chemical company in the country as Brotherton & Co.  Edward Brotherton was mayor of Wakefield (1902-3) and Leeds (1913-14) and sat as MP for Wakefield as a coalition Unionist, from 1902 -1910, 1918-1922. He made a number of large donations to the University of Leeds, including the funding for a new library for which he laid the foundation stone in 1930, and at which, he announced the donation of his book and manuscript collection. Brotherton’s bibliographic interests began in 1922 through his niece by marriage, Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, Yorkshire poet (1887-1967). The present collection continues to be supported by his family and consists of some 35,000 books, 400 manuscripts, 4000 deeds and 30,000 letters and it continues to grow.

The Special Collections department has undergone a major refurbishment with top of the range, interactive and illuminating display cases to showcase this wonderful collection outside the constraints of the archive search room. There is a Treasures gallery to display, for example, Shakespeare’s First Folio or the miniature story books of the Brontës and a second gallery space with 2 exhibition changes each year, exploring a range of collection themes. This also represents a  renewed commitment to the original aims of Lord Brotherton to give everyone equal access to the beauty and knowledge to be found in the study of local and national heritage collections. The collection’s greatest strength is in English literature from the 17th century to the present but there are also mediaeval manuscript books of hours, early books in maths and science, papers of the transvestite adventurer the Chevalier d’Eon and of the regicide Henry Marten, as well as the Liddle collection of first-hand accounts of WW1 and WW2 experiences and a West Riding textiles and business collection, the Quaker archive collection and Feminist Archive North. The Brotherton also holds a Russian archive collection of papers of Russian émigrés to the West, since the 1917 Revolution, and papers of British people living and working in Russia before the Revolution. The current exhibitions looks at the culture of Romany Gypsies: Rights and Romance: Representing Gypsy Lives, items on the Great War and Cooks and their Books. There is also a case displaying samples of the library’s collection of manuscripts of Branwell Brontë that includes letters, pen and ink drawings and Angrian manuscripts.

Amongst the local materials that were brought out especially for our visit was a WW1 hospital register from Becket Park war hospital that contained photographs, names of patients, their injuries and even a column in their own hand on what they would like to do to the Kaiser which made for interesting reading – amongst some rather gory suggestions, one soldier wrote that he should simply be handed over to the women of England! Interestingly, the collection of textile records includes those of Bradford and Keighley mills, we were shown records of Bankcroft Mill, Oxenhope detailing conditions at the mill. The online catalogue for special collections of the Brotherton Library is searchable and you can get a fair idea of holdings by looking under location of individual mill or business, though the catalogue is still not yet fully comprehensive. Access to archives for study is by a period of notice and appointment, with careful handling on receipt in the search room.

Last of all we had a quick look in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery in the same building that holds regular displays from the University Art collection and is also free to access, including works by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer and Jacob Epstein.

Although we were naturally impressed by the quality of the archives and their display and presentation to the public, we were also confident that our records held throughout Bradford libraries’ and museums’ collections and, from our particular point of view,  Keighley Local Studies Library archives, were in many ways their equal in terms of important local heritage. Keighley Library alone has its own collection of local textile mill records and local author manuscripts, including published works by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe. It also has a very fine WW1 collection, the locally renowned mill owning and philanthropist Brigg family records, an early 20th century poster collection, the Lord and Lady Snowden library and the important Brontë Library. In the future it is hoped that though space for more elaborate displays is at a premium, Keighley Library will be able to provide digital access to its records to reach an even wider audience.

The visit to the Brotherton Library was a memorable one, very informative and really enjoyable and for all of us I think, one that will be repeated in the future outside work.  Our thanks must go to our colleagues who generously covered that afternoon for us, to FOBALS (Friends of Bradford Archives and Local Studies) who organised this visit and to the staff at the Brotherton, especially Laura Wilson for her lively tour and expertise.

For further details, please check out the following: for the Oxford English Dictionary entry for Lord Brotherton, including photograph  and for Dorothy Una Ratcliffe


Lord Asa Briggs of Lewes , born and schooled in Keighley: 07 May 1921 – 15 March 2016

Lord Briggs Prize Award Ceremony 19811mb

Image taken from the book ‘Oakbank History Trail’ © Maurice G. Smith

Keighley Boys’ Grammar School produced not one, but two, great historians in the early part of the twentieth century. Both were to have an impact on the study and philosophy of history and were to become amongst the most prominent historians of their day, their names were Asa Briggs and Herbert Butterfield (1900-1979). This blog concentrates on Lord Asa Briggs who sadly died last year and in whose honour the Historical Association have kindly donated a collection of books to Keighley Library, where the young Asa Briggs loved to study.

Keighley Library view c19291mb.jpg

Asa Briggs, historian and public servant, was born in Keighley 7th May 1921. He was the son of William Walter Briggs, a skilled engineer and a good pianist. His mother, Jane, was the daughter of a greengrocer, who, prior to the depression, had been part of a small farming family in Yorkshire.

Asa initially attended Eastwood council school, followed by the school, said to have had the most influence on his development and future studies, the Keighley Boys’ Grammar School, adjacent to the old Mechanics’ Institute in North Street and opposite this library.  He used this Carnegie public library, regularly. This is where he first learned to browse. Here too, amongst the newspapers in the reading room, and the large collection of books from the Philip Snowden collection that specialised in social economic and political interests,  Briggs says that he studied the politics that he would later introduce to his own version of social history, (Special Relationships, Frontline Books , 2012, p.9).

Keighley Library Reading Room

Boys studying in reading room 1mb

Briggs enjoyed his school days at Keighley, especially his English and drama lessons with Kenneth Preston, of whom he speaks as the ablest of teachers. He seems to have made the most of his time there, becoming a school prefect and a member of a variety of societies including the Literary and Debating Society, the Stamp Society and the “Thirty- Three” Society. Despite a general love of history, Briggs in fact wanted to become a writer and, during this time at school, wrote poetry and various society reports for The Keighlian, the school magazine. However, another revered mentor at the school, the headmaster Neville Hind, did not favour the further study of English and encouraged students to pursue other subjects and to also try for his old Cambridge College, Sidney Sussex. Briggs was to adhere to this advice, so following in the footsteps of Herbert Butterfield from Oxenhope. By this time Herbert Butterfield was also lecturing at Cambridge. In 1944, Butterfield was elected Professor of Modern History, later Regius Professor and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University from 1959-1961. He was knighted in 1968. On arrival at Cambridge, Brigg attended his lectures which influenced the young historian, (Special Relationships, Frontline Books, 2012 p.5).

In 1937, with war imminent, Briggs was accepted as a scholar by Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge at the very young age of 16. In Special Relationships, the tutor, James Passant, is quoted as saying, “You’re only a baby, Briggs – but since we are sure there is going to be a war, we would like you to complete your degree before you are called up for military service,”( p.68).

Briggs went on to achieve first class honours in History Tripos Parts 1 and 2. He also graduated from the London School of Economics before his call-up to the Army. He was posted to Bletchley Park as a cryptographer under Frank Adcock. He worked mainly on signals traffic from the Mediterranean using Alan Turing’s proto-computers (Bombes). These allowed them to read enemy signals. He also helped to dupe the Germans into thinking D-Day would not be carried out in Normandy. A full account of his life at Bletchley is given in the acclaimed book Secret Days Code-breaking in Bletchley Park (Frontline Books, 2011), available for loan in Bradford Libraries.

He left Bletchley for Oxford in 1944 where he became Fellow of Worcester College and his academic career began in earnest. His main areas of interest were the social and cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries and the history of broadcasting in Britain. The following list is taken from the University of Sussex site:

  • 1944-1955 Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford
  • 1950-1955 University Reader in Recent Social and Economic History, Oxford
  • 1953-1955 Faculty Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford
  • 1953-1954 Member of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, New Jersey, United States
  • 1954-1967 Deputy President, President of the Workers’ Education Association
  • 1955-1961 Professor of Modern History, co-Head of the History Dept., Leeds University
  • 1961-1967 Professor of History, Dean of the School of Social Studies, Pro-Vice- Chancellor, University of Sussex
  • 1967-1976 Vice-Chancellor, University of Sussex
  • 1976-1991 Provost of Worcester College, Oxford
  • 1978-1994 Chancellor of the Open University
  • 1988 A founder, first chair of the Commonwealth of Learning

Asa Briggs was also active in a very large number of societies:

  • President of  Haworth’s  own  Brontë Society and also of the following:
  • Social History Society
  • William Morris Society
  • Victorian Society
  • Ephemera Society
  • British Association for Local History
  • Association of Research Associations

He also served on a variety of committees:

  • member of the University Grants Committee
  • governor of the British Film Institute,
  • a trustee of the Glyndebourne Arts Trust, the International Broadcasting Institute, the Heritage Education Group  and the Civic Trust
  • chairman of the Standing Conference for the Study of Local History, the European Institute of Education, the governors and trustees of the Brighton Pavilion, and the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches.

Briggs also undertook several public appointments: most notably chairing a committee on the future of nursing, which in 1972 recommended improvements in nurses’ pay and conditions and an overhaul of nurses’ training that were later accepted by the Conservative government.

To quote Tam Dalyell in the Independent, Wednesday, 16th  March 2016,

“…his output in the written word, and in broadcasts and lectures, was awesome. It is doubtful whether Briggs ever spent a truly idle moment in his life.”

In fact, following his 90th birthday, he completed 3 books including Loose Ends and Extras in 2014.

Asa Briggs always kept in touch with Keighley and regarded himself as a “Lawkholme Laner”, (Keighley News 1930s Special, 16 February 1996). He was brought up in Emily Street, just off Lawkholme Lane.

Emily St Keighley1mb

In 1962,  he became the first vice-president of the newly formed Friends of Cliffe Castle. He attended Old Keighlian reunions, and followed the developments of his old school. Keighley Boys’ Grammar School had been renamed Keighley School in 1964, when it became a County school, and it became known as Oakbank Grammar School in 1967. In 1982, Asa Briggs wrote the Foreward of the prize- winning, The Oakbank History Trail, published to commemorate the official opening of the new Oakbank school buildings. He had already attended the prize-giving ceremony in 1981 in London, as Chairman of the Heritage Education Group hosting the ceremony.

In 2015, Keighley Library was contacted regarding Lord Briggs’ time at Keighley Boys’ Grammar school and regarding the first poem that he ever had published, which was in the school magazine, the Keighlian’s December issue 1936, part of our own archive collection. The Complete Poems of Asa  Briggs, was subsequently published in 2016 and it was a real privilege for Keighley Library staff to play even a minor role in this last published work of one of Keighley’s greatest sons.

Lord Briggs died at Lewes 15th March 2016, leaving his wife, also an historian, whom he married in 1955, (then Susan Banwell), four children and 14 grandchildren, to whom this last book is dedicated.

Gina Birdsall, November 2017


Books about Professor Asa Briggs donated to Keighley Local Studies Library

A presentation of books about the late Professor Briggs has been made to Keighley Local Studies Library by the Historical Association.

The books were presented by Professor Tony Badger, President of the Historical Association, to Maggie Pedley, Head of Libraries, Museums and Galleries on Wednesday 29 November.

Also present at the event were Dr Trevor James, Editor of ‘The Historian’ journal and historian, Philip Johnston.

Asa Briggs was one of Keighley’s foremost citizens. He became a well-known and remarkable historian who inspired others through his research, teaching and writing.

At Keighley Library, the young Asa developed his skills to become such an influential social historian.

In his book ‘Special Relationships’ he traces his love of history back to his days in Keighley. He said of Keighley Library ‘It was there that I first studied the politics that I was to introduce into my own version of social history.’

​It is fitting that these books will be added to the archives and made available for the benefit of future researchers and historians.

There is a display of books and local information about Asa Briggs in the Local Studies library on the first floor that will remain up over the next 3 weeks.


Map of the Week: Bolton Woods

These two sections from a Bradford Local Studies Library map are part of a sale plan of the Bolton Hall Estate dating from 1882. Among other things it advertises the availability of building land and stone quarries. The right side of image 1 joins the left of image 2. The map as a whole marks a transitional stage between rural and industrialised phases in the district. Some woodland remains but quarries are in action, roads are being laid out, and houses have been built. Frizinghall mill is drawn although this and its reservoir no longer exist. The Bradford canal spur has also gone now, although the canal bridges remain. The railway line already existed in 1882 and it would appear that the extension of Canal Road to Shipley is being suggested.

Map of the Week 020 AMap of the Week 020 B

I have to admit that I am not sure of the precise boundaries of Bolton Woods. It is to your right as you travel up Canal Road from Bradford to Shipley although the very high ground is occupied by the much more ancient townships of Bolton, Idle, and Wrose. The designation ‘Bolton Woods’  appears on the 1851 OS map but is probably naming the woodland only. I think we can be certain that Bolton Woods was neither an old community, nor a planned one: it ‘just growed’. William Cudworth treats the area as part of Bolton township and two more recent authors have developed his account:

        A History of Bolton in Bradford-Dale: RC Allan (ed), 1927, p.107.

        The Story of Bolton Woods and St Laurence’s Church : Mary Lister, 1980.

Both these books are available in the Local Studies Library although the second is kept in the stacks and will have to be fetched by a member of staff. Mary Lister (1922-85) was a noted local historian who was ex-President of the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society, and taught at Hanson School. As a further source of information I am indebted to Tony Woods for the unpublished findings of his study into the district’s coal mining.

There is general agreement then that the history of Bolton Woods is quite recent. Before 200 years ago the district was simply noted for fields and a magnificent woodland. There were no roads, only trails through the trees. Peat could be cut there for fuel and the was some question of whether the inhabitants of Bolton had the right of turbary on land lying about Bolton Old Hall. In 1624 Bolton Manor became the property of Thomas Walker. The Old Manor House was soon demolished and Bolton Old Hall erected a short distance away. The Stanhopes of Eccleshill bought the Bolton Hall Estate from Thomas Walker in 1648. Bolton Woods was one of the many districts of Bradford where coal extraction may well have had medieval roots. In 1699 Cudworth describes various freeholders entering into an agreement to extract coal. Coal features again in a 1746 lease: near Hollins Close John Whitaker leased land for £6-10s with a condition of the lease being an undertaking to remove the coal-pit hill when it was dispensed with. By 1750 land around Bolton Grange Field was apparently much broken up by attempting to get coals through trenches or ‘Day-holes’.

An Enclosure Act operated at Bolton Woods in 1819, and in 1825 Bolton Road was constructed.  By 1840 Walter Scott-Stanhope had inherited the estate and then sold it to his cousin Richard Watson of Springwood, Manchester. Watson’s Scottish bailiff equipped the farm and, according to Cudworth, by his efforts made it one of the best in the district. At first he grew wheat but later suggested that building stone might be more profitably extracted. The first modern quarry in Bolton Woods was opened by John Holmes and Thomas Dawson in 1853. In the later nineteenth century more organised extraction of the Hard & Soft Bed coal seams was undertaken in Bolton Woods. Shafts and ‘old shafts’ are present on early OS maps but no named collieries are indicated. In the late 1850s there seem to have been two companies: Handforth & Co, and Messrs Brogden & Co. Their enterprise was  known as Bolton Wood Colliery which had been leased by Richard Watson. It was under Navy Croft, Far Ellar Carr, Mid Ellar Carr, Nr Ellar Carr, Rough Ing, and part of the Woods.

You can identify these fields on the lovely sketch map Mary Lister drew for her publication. It shows the same area as the sale plan but is 25 years earlier and has a slight different orientation. Essentially it shows the land on which the village was later developed. The field name ‘Delf Close’ suggests that stone extraction pre-dated the nineteenth century; delph being a local name for quarry.

Map of the Week 020 C

Messrs Brogden was perhaps a partnership of miners extracting coal but their enterprise was dissolved by mutual consent (Bradford Observer, 18 June 1859). The majority of the men involved could not write but the literate James Brogden had been underground steward at Bunker Hill Colliery on Barkerend Road. A well-known Bradford brick-maker, Edward Gittins, is also involved at Bolton Brick Works in 1861 although I don’t know in what capacity. E. Handforth & Co. are listed as fire-brick and sanitary tube makers two years later in a single trade directory (1863). Elsewhere Handforth is listed as a ‘colliery owner and fire-brick manufacturer’. It is probable that the company bought up Bolton Wood Colliery and added a Firebrick works. In 1865 E. Handforth & Co were advertising in the Leeds Mercury for a firebrick moulder at Frizinghall, near Shipley. They seem to have sold up in 1867. The only product I can attest is a firebrick marked [..FORTH & CO BOLTON WOOD]. The extraction of coal was not always easy. Mr Woodhead of Eccleshill Potteries operated a mine in a field facing Home Farm in Hodgson Fold. It was worked by a horse-gin but failed due to flooding. In her book Lister mentions that a Bolton ‘Clay and Firebrick Works’, existed on the Shipley side of the Woods in a piece of land known as ‘Rough Ing’. When it closed it was replaced by Bolton Woods Shed (Woolcombers) which you can see on the first plan.

The ground now covered by village part of Bolton Woods was a part of the Bolton Old Hall estate purchased from Alfred Barton by three men called Holmes, Pullen & Constable as a building speculation for £11,000. John Pullen subsequently sold off Bolton Woods in small lots. Wilkinson Shann built first row of houses in Shann St. During this period the quarries were progressively developed and attracted workers to the area. The light yellow stone was purchased by Leeds for paving slabs and was used for buildings such as Manchester Town Hall and the Bradford Eye & Ear Hospital. In 1870 the construction of the defecation works at Frizinghall created additional employment opportunities and at the same time JT Riddiough opened a saw mill. In 1871  a highly influential man, Harry Stockdale, came to Bolton Woods from Long Preston. He was a builder and brick-maker and with George Lang he constructed Bolton Hall Road. In 1874 he was elected a councillor and was influential in the building of Bolton Woods first school. In a Yorkshire Directory for 1875 one entry for Shipley reads:  ‘Harry Stockdale, Bolton Woods Brick & Tile Works’. In the same year Mr H Stockdale was prosecuted for smoke nuisance from his brick kiln. Did he buy the premises of Handforth & Co? Strangely on 17 August 1878, the Leeds Mercury recorded that he appeared in court summoned by Bradford Corporation for the sum of £63.10s: this being the unpaid cost of sanitary works at his properties at Livingstone Road. Apparently he flew into a temper in the court, but was reprimanded and ordered to pay. Something unpleasant had clearly happened to a celebrated Bolton Woods resident. He died early in 1881. In the years before 1914 brick-making took place near the present children’s playground. There were also two rather rarer forms of industrial activity: a factory making glass marbles for Codd bottles and the Guana Fertilizer Works. The last coal-mining in Bolton Woods was in 1923 when Slater Bros worked a large day-hole in the hillside to north-west of Hodgson Fold. Apparently they had access to a 3 feet thick seam of poor quality coal but their colliery was soon abandoned. In 1956 Bolton Woods farm was finally sold for housing.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer


In the basement of Bradford’s Local Studies Library are collections of nineteenth century pamphlets (and some of earlier date). Ranging from sermons and programmes of royal visits, to reports, articles, obituaries and regulations, they are a treasure-trove of local history. What follows is an account of one of these treasures. To consult any of these items please ask the staff. Card catalogues of these collections are located in the Local Studies Library.

JND 245/4 + 5 (Please quote this number if requesting these booklets)

C.F. and W.F. A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor among the dwellings, cairns & circles of the Ancient Britons in the spring of 1868. Part II Counterhill & Castleberg.
20 pages. (Wakefield: W.T.Lamb, Printer and Publisher.)

C.F. and W.F. A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor among the rocks, idols & altars of the Ancient Druids in the spring of 1869. Part III. 26 pages. (Wakefield: H.Kelly, Printer and Publisher.)

What delightful titles have these two pamphlets! Sadly the first of these three ‘parts’ is missing, though since only one hundred copies were printed this is no surprise. This, their age, and the fragile nature of the paper they were printed on, must make any remaining copies pretty scarce.

Our first pamphlet opens: “Who, after rambling among British dwellings, cairns and circles on that part of Rumbold’s Moor which extends from Burley Wood Head to Ilkley, could hear reports of Roman Camps on Counterhill and Castleberg, and not wish to visit them?” As indicated by the titles, these slim volumes give an account of early relics of past peoples, though an account of Addingham fills much of the first volume. A newspaper cutting inserted into the second volume here makes the point that the authors “drew attention to the sculptured rocks … recently discovered on Ilkley Moor.”

And who were C.F. and W.F.? A newspaper cutting inserted into the second volume here gives the authors as Charles Forest and William Grainge.


Charles Forest

Some of the early historians, or ‘antiquarians’ as they were often called, have a bad reputation for making unsubstantiated assertions and promoting theories in the face of contradicting evidence, but not C.F. and W.F., according to the newspaper account, an obituary of Forest. It makes the point that he was careful in his research, and the text of these pamphlets bears this out, for the authors were often critical of other antiquarians.

There are a number of line drawings. These pamphlets are an early account of these remarkable relics on the moors. Though do take care if using them, else these scarce ‘relics’ will crumble to dust, unlike the relics they describe!


Heritage Open Day, Keighley Local Studies Library

On 10th September as part of the Heritage Open Days Festival, Keighley Local Studies Library will be host to a variety of local societies and groups and will be exhibiting some of the treasures from their archives and collections.

This is a great opportunity not only to see some of the hidden gems of the Keighley archives, but also to meet local groups, see displays and exhibitions on the history of the local area, and to get help with your family tree and research.

It is also an chance to bring along your own stories, memorabilia and pictures to help celebrate the rich and diverse history and heritage of the Keighley District.

Amongst the groups exhibiting will be Keighley and District Local and Family History Societies, The Airedale Writers Circle, Silsden Local History Society, Oxenhope historians and local authors.  

The event will feature the exhibition from Men of Worth about the men of Keighley and District in the Battle of the Somme and Keighley’s Military Hospital along with a showing of the film ‘The Battle of The Somme’.

This is a free ‘drop in’ event and will run from 10.30am until 4.00pm. All are welcome.


The Future of UK Sikhs – A Talk

On Saturday 19th March, Dr Ramindar Singh MBE gave a well-attended lecture in the Bradford Local Studies Library to mark the publication of his latest book, ‘The Future of UK Sikhs: A Bradford City Story’.



In the lecture Dr Singh presented his vision of the middle of 21st century Bradford Sikh community as a microcosm of the UK Sikhs, the focus of his book.

Following the talk Dr Singh led a discussion forum about the development of the Sikh organisations in the city, the current challenges they face and the ways to make them appropriate for the future of the community in the city. The interesting and thought provoking talk sparked much discussion and debate which continued long after the talk had finished.



Dr Singh has published books and a long list of articles on topics as diverse as economics, multicultural education, consumer affairs, race relations and local history.

His earlier publications, also available in the Local Studies Library include:

  • Punjab to Bradford: The Life Stories of Punjabi Immigrants to Bradford, 2013
  • A Journey by Choice: An Autobiography, 2011
  • Sikhs & Sikhism in Britain: Fifty Years On: The Bradford Perspective, 2000
  • Immigrants to Citizens: The Sikh Community in Bradford, 1992

There will be a further opportunity to hear the lecture at the Kala Sangam centre on 14th May 2016.