Treasure of the week no. 22. A terrible calamity in 1882

A Terrible Calamity in Bradford: being the entire story from beginning to end, of the Fall of Ripley’s Mill Chimney on Thursday, Dec. 28th, 1882, along with All the Particulars, List of Killed, Accounts of Startling and Extraordinary Escapes, etc. Published by Willie Reynolds.

JND 187/11 (Please quote this number when requesting this item.)


1882 was, the author claims, a disastrous and eventful year:

From its very commencement it was a year ever to be remembered by poor and rich alike, if such events as the useless Egyptian war, outrageous practices and barbarous murders in Ireland, destructive fires in all parts of England, colliery accidents, and calamities of all kinds by land and sea could make it so.

In Bradford the year ended in the collapse of the chimney at Ripley’s Mill in Spring Street off the Manchester Road, at a few minutes past eight on Thursday morning, killing 53 people and seriously injuring 50. The mill was used for spinning and top making and was occupied by several companies. The chimney was said to weigh over 4,000 tons and was 255 feet high. It had been built over twenty years earlier but was never regarded as being quite safe. A week before its fall, pieces of lime and stone had fallen from it. After slight repairs, the architect passed it as being safe. But high winds, incessant rain, frost and heavy falls of snow followed. The gigantic stack collapsed at a point a few feet above the ground.

This modest leaflet of sixteen pages gives an account of the collapse, details of prior warnings and graphic eye witness reports. A list of those killed is given with their ages and we note that many children were killed. The youngest were 8-year-old Susan Woodhead, 9-year-old Emma Pearson, and Edgar North, Arthur Smith and Lydia Lightowler, all 12.

The pamphlet is of interest, not just for the details of the tragedy, but for how it was published. No author is given but we assume it was the publisher. It was priced at One Penny and “The proceeds from the sale of this work is intended for the ‘relief’ fund for the sufferers by the accident.” It was to be “had by all News Agents and News Lads”. One imagines that Willie Reynolds took it upon himself to interview participants, research background, write up the story – and well-written it is – print (probably out of his own pocket), then do the rounds of local newsagents, recruit an army of news lads, then collect and distribute the income, all within a short space of time. That was no mean achievement. No Facebook, Twitter or Internet in 1882!


From the Mill to Monte Carlo: The Working-Class Englishman who Beat the Monaco Casino

Many thanks to Anne Fletcher for sharing the wonderful story of her great-great-great uncle Joseph Hobson Jagger in her fascinating talk in Bradford Local Studies library at Bradford Festival on Saturday.

Based on her newly published book, Anne told the story of a man who went from Bradford mill worker to Monte Carlo millionaire. Amongst the men ‘who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’, Joseph Hobson Jagger is unique. He is the only one known to have devised an infallible and completely legal system to defeat the odds at roulette and win a fortune. But he was not what might be expected. He wasn’t a gentleman or an aristocrat, he wasn’t a professional gambler, he was a Yorkshire textile worker who had laboured in the Victorian mills of Bradford since childhood.

Joseph Jagger was an exceptional man who travelled nearly a thousand miles to the exclusive world of the Riviera in a time when most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born. The trains that took him there were still new and dangerous, he did not speak French and had never left the north of England. His motivation was strong. Joseph, his wife and four children, the youngest of whom was only two, faced a situation so grave that their only escape seemed to be his desperate gamble on the roulette tables of Monte Carlo. Today Jagger’s legacy is felt in casinos worldwide and yet he is virtually unknown.

In  this true-life detective story, Anne uncovers how he was able to win a fortune, what happened to his millions and why Jagger should now be regarded as the real ‘man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’.

‘From the Mill to Monte Carlo’
By Anne Fletcher



‘From the Mill to Monte Carlo’. A talk by Anne Fletcher

Come and meet Anne Fletcher on Saturday 14th July at 12pm on the first floor of City Library, Bradford, and then come and join her for a free talk and chat at 2pm in Bradford Local Studies Library, Margaret McMillan Tower (side entrance).

This is the story of the man from Bradford who beat the casino. Anne Fletcher is his great-great-great niece and in this true-life detective story she uncovers how he was able to win a fortune, what happened to his millions and why Jagger should now be regarded as the real ‘man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’.

Free event, all welcome



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.

Map of the Week 009

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