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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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


Map of the Week – Coliseum Theatre

This map from the Local Studies Library reserve collection would seem to be the plan of a theatre or music hall drawn up prior to its enlargement. When I first saw it I recognised the location, between Duckett Lane and James Street, (which connect Godwin Street and John Street) but I could not see how a theatre could ever have been positioned there.  I could not then have named a single Bradford theatre besides the Alhambra and the Star Music Hall. The Star had an important role during the great Manningham Mills strike of 1890/91 when its lessee, a Mr Pullan, placed his premises at the disposal of the strike committee during the early days of the dispute. In Charles Dickens’s rather neglected novel Hard Times Mr Sleary, a circus manager, says: ‘People must be amused…they can’t be always a working, nor yet they can’t be always a learning’. So, how were they amused in Bradford? In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries itinerant entertainers visited public houses, and there were also visits from fairs and circuses. It appears that permanent theatre building had commenced by the 1840s.

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The theatre in this plan was placed near Westgate and in 1849 Henry Pullan is known to have built the Coliseum Theatre ‘off Westgate’. However I cannot be sure that this map is actually of the Coliseum Theatre. Pullan had previously managed the Bermondsey Saloon in Cannon Street, a noted place of entertainment. His Coliseum was unusual in that it was not directly linked to a public house. Twenty years later he moved to a new theatre called Pullan’s ‘New’ Music Hall, Brunswick Place (now Rawson Street, by the multi-storey car park). This had an amazing 3,000 seats; the modern Alhambra has less than half that number. Pullen’s new musical hall remained in existence in the years 1869-89 at the end of which time it burned down. The vacant site left after the fire eventually evolved into John Street open market. Thomas Pullen and his son seem later to have taken over as managers of the Prince’s theatre and Star Music Hall, which brings us back to the Manningham Mills strike.

Although this plan was not dated it does mention St George’s Hall (opened 1853) and the New Exchange assembly rooms (foundation stone laid 1864), so presumably it was drawn after 1865. It seems plausible that it represented an intention to enlarge the old Coliseum theatre around 1868 although in the end a wholly new building was constructed on a nearby site. The older theatre evidently survived, being later renamed as St James’s Hall and then The Protestant Working Men’s Hall. It was finally demolished in 1892. This is a plausible date for the construction of the Commercial Inn still standing in James Street. This certainly looks like a late Victorian building.

The Coliseum was not Bradford’s first theatre which is said to have been owned by an L.S. Thompson in a converted barn on Southgate (now Sackville Street) around 1810-25. This hosted travelling theatre troops. A few years later, in 1841, the New Theatre opened at the city end of Thornton Road using the upper room in an existing Oddfellows Hall which had been opened in 1839. The Oddfellows were a friendly society who had 39 branches in Bradford and surrounding areas. I understand that the New Theatre was intended to hold ‘superior performances’. In the same year the Liver Theatre, Duke Street, became Bradford’s first purpose built theatrical premises. In 1844 it was remodelled and re-opened as Theatre Royal, Duke Street. The fact that it was widely known as the ‘wooden box’ may say something about the standards of its construction but in illustrations it looks stable enough. In 1864 the Alexandra Theatre had opened in Manningham Lane but in 1869, when the original Theatre Royal finally found fell victim to a series of street improvements, the Alexandra took over its discarded name. The Theatre Royal’s moment of fame occurred in 1905 when the great actor Sir Henry Irving gave his final performance as Thomas Becket on its stage. Shortly afterwards he collapsed and died in Bradford’s Midland Hotel.

In 1876 the Prince’s Theatre was built above Star Music Hall in Victoria Square. The proprietor of this curious double establishment was entrepreneur William Morgan who started his career as a Bradford hand wool-comber and concluded it as mayor of Scarborough. I think its site is the garden that is now in front of the Media Museum. Both theatres were fire damaged and restored in 1878. The Star Music Hall was renamed as Palace Theatre in 1890s and finally demolished in the 1960s. In 1899 the Empire Theatre was built at the end of Great Horton Road. All three theatres were just across the road from the present Alhambra which was built in 1914 and is associated with the name of Bradford’s pantomime king, Francis Laidler. In 1930 the New Victoria was opened on an adjacent site but this was eventually converted to the iconic Odeon Cinema. Finally I should mention that in 1837 the Jowett Temperance Hall had been built and this was also converted into a cinema as early as 1910. This building was also destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in 1937 as the Bradford Playhouse, Chapel Street.

If you would like a more detailed, and very well written, introduction to the subject of our theatres there is a splendid website:

A long account of the theatres is given in William Scruton’s Pen & Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford. Scruton provides many details of the largely forgotten actors who performed in Bradford. More recently the development of the early theatre was described by David Russell in The Pursuit of Leisure (in Victorian Bradford, 1982).

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer


Map of the Week – Mining in Wilsden

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer