The Land!  By  Joseph COCKIN.   Printed by Henry D. & C. Tapp, 1895.  32 pp.
JND 187/19 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

Throughout the nineteenth century, and earlier, there were many attempts by groups of people to live a communal life by the common ownership of land. The following ‘treasure’ records one such attempt that was made in Bradford.



The title page continues:

A Proposal
form a Company
Buy and to Hold Land
as a
Common Possession
for the
Benefit of the Shareholders
who shall
use and enjoy their respective portions
in severalty, and their descendents after them
for ever. When the State shall act on
the Principles on which
the Company is founded, the Company shall
hand over its work to the
State and then Dissolve


“At the present time there is much distress arising from want of employment and the unprofitableness of agriculture and commerce. Part of the evil comes from temporary and part from more permanent causes. These latter I propose to inquire into, and to point out one remedy.” Mr Cockin’s solution is complex but the character of his thoughts are indicated by some of the section headings:

  1. Proposal to Form Home Colonies.
  2. What form should the Movement take, and by what Machinery shall the Work be done.
  3. The Commoners’ Occupation of their respective Individual Land should be Hereditary.
  4. Trustees to watch proceedings on behalf of the Public.
  5. State Rents and Homage Money.
  6. The Character of the Pioneer Commonists and the Engagements which they should be required to enter into.
  7. Successive Purchasers of Land.
  8. Buildings.
  9. Help to People of Small Means.
  10. How to Provide Land Sufficiently for a Growing Population.
  11. Overseas Colonies.
  12. Missionary Colonies.

Today, the attempt seems impossibly idealistic and the faith in government naive, but the motive was common currency at the time. Indeed, some small-scale attempts were made: the author quotes Haxby, near York and some French experience. In Bradford, the growth of the allotment movement and the rise of the Independent Labour Party could be cited in this context.

“Correspondents wishing for answers must send stamps.” (Joseph Cockin, 20 Spring Gardens, Bradford)


Book Reviews – The Low Moor Explosion

The Low Moor Explosion, August 21st 1916. A Mystery Explained? By Ronald Blackwell. Augmented Reprint. Published by the Low Moor Local History Group, 2016. 144 pages. A4 format. Illustrated.

Yellow Poppies. The Dead and those who received honours as a result of the 1916 Low Moor Munitions Explosion. By Barbara Reardon and Mary Twentyman. Low Moor Local History Group, 2016. 110 pages. A4 format. Illustrated.

On August 21st 1916, a series of explosions took place at the Low Moor Munitions Works which resulted in the deaths of forty people, six of whom were corporation firemen. It was wartime, and picric acid was produced at the works. The acid was reduced to a powder and bagged ready for transportation to shell-filling works elsewhere. The cause of the initial fire appeared to be either that a drum containing the powdered acid was not adequately insulated on its exterior surface and inappropriate handling of the drum by a worker caused picrate deposits to combine with the metal leading to combustion; or, that the drums, which were being transferred to a packing shed, were not covered on top as safety requirements stated and a spark or descending hot clinker from an adjoining part of the works could have come in contact with the open drum and caused ignition. The fire thus started in the drum entered the building where the stored picric then caught fire, leading to explosions all over the site. Hot flying debris landed on adjacent corporation gas holders, leading to their wholesale destruction and that of adjoining buildings. The accident investigators commented that the works were holding far more picric acid than its licence permitted. The company, though, was under pressure to produce as much as possible for the war effort.

In 1987, Ronald Blackwell wrote a detailed and comprehensive account of the accident, but his book has long been out-of-print and hard to obtain. Since its publication more details have been uncovered with much research carried out on the people who were killed or who were involved. As a consequence the Low Moor Local History Group decided to commemorate the centenary of the explosion by re-printing the book and to add these further details. The book has now been reprinted in its entirety with the addition of Blackwell’s article in the Bradford Antiquary of 1987, which gave a simplified account of the disaster and a revised list of the dead. Also added is are two new names, other new information, and the transcription of the citation recommending a bravery award that had been submitted later. Ronald Blackwell supported this augmented re-publication.

Since the 1980s new sources have become available, most notably census data and the ability to search some newspapers digitally, so it was decided to research details of the people who were killed in the explosion and those who received national awards for their bravery. Their stories are told in a separate publication, Yellow Poppies. The title relates to the fact that the people working in the area were often referred to as ‘canaries’ due to the fact that their skin often acquired a yellow tinge from the sulphur content of the acid, and also, of course, the poppy being a symbol for the war – the reason why explosives were being manufactured at Low Moor in the first place. Typically, each of the forty victims has a double-page spread giving details of their part in the disaster, their background, and information about their surviving families, with photographs. Similar treatment is given to a number of the firemen, managers and telephonists who were involved in the disaster but survived.  Finally there is information about the national and local awards for bravery that were awarded. The book is profusely illustrated.

Both authors are experienced in family history research and this marvellous publication demonstrates how much information can be discovered using modern research methods, despite the difficulties caused by wartime news restrictions. More importantly, it brings back life these brave and innocent people, of which Low Moor can be proud.

Bob Duckett


The publications can be borrowed from the library service or purchased from the publishers c/o 13 St Abbs Fold, Odsal, Bradford, BD6 1EL. Email:


Map of the Week: Blake Hill Cottage, Idle

map-of-the-week-017aAt first sight this would appear to be a rather pedestrian sale plan but in fact it contains several points of interest. It clearly represents a freehold property at Blakehill which presumably was for sale. So, where is Blakehill located on a road that connects Bradford and Idle? On Idle Moor there was a large stone extraction site called Blake Hill Quarry which at one time was associated with a brick works. It was a little further north than Five Lane Ends and lay between modern Highfield Road and Bradford Road. In fact the whole locality was extensively quarried for Elland Flags, but in many cases the individual quarry names seem to be unrecorded or inaccessible. As you can see the surveyed land is situated on ‘Dunk Hill Road’. I cannot identify this thoroughfare by name but Dunk Hill as a place is included on Victorian OS maps of the area. Where exactly could this plot be? I am confident we are looking at Bradford Road, but the junction between two adjacent OS maps rather inconveniently passes between the two properties on the plan!

The second map is from the 1906 OS and shows a more general view. The short terrace is positioned next to the word ‘works’. It is possible that the cottage aligned on the road still exists opposite Enterprise Way, if you allow for an extension having been built. The short terrace must then have vanished under a YEB sub-station. If anyone with a greater knowledge of Idle could correct me I should be most grateful.


In trying to explain the plan further it seemed most sensible to start with the small house and garden belonging to ‘the late Mr Matthew Balme’, since his was a name I recognised. Matthew Balme (1813-1884) was the registrar of births & deaths for Bolton, Idle, and Eccleshill. Victorian historian William Cudworth mentions him as a ‘gentleman of some note’ devoted to ameliorating the lot of factory workers. As a young man he was an associate of John Wood and Richard Oastler, in such enterprises as the Ten Hour Bill (1847) which placed some restraint on the activities of dark satanic mills. For some years Balme was a master at John Wood’s factory school and he certainly attended Oastler’s funeral in 1861. In 1865 he had been elected clerk of the Bolton Local Board. Balme died in 1884 so the plan must evidently be a little later than this date. Using other resources available free in the Bradford LSL I looked for Balme’s entry in the 1881 census which proved helpful.

The census entries were located between Bradford Road and Albert Street, Idle. In the returns a ‘Blakehill Cottage’ is described as ‘recently built’. There Matthew Balme (67) lived with his daughter Mary (37) and Elizabeth Priestley (61), his widowed sister. Cudworth mentions that Balme lived first at Delph Hill Farm and then at Ivy Cottage. It is possible that Ivy Cottage was also known as Blakehill Cottage, but more probably Balme made a further and final move to a new house during the three years of life left to him. Matthew Balme died at Idle and is buried in St Wilfrid’s Church, Calverley where his tombstone is still easily visible. In monetary terms he was not a wealthy man, leaving less than £200. The fact that his friends inscribed on his monument ‘Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy‘ (Psalms 82:3) reveals how rich he was in other ways. His daughter Mary is buried with her father and remarkably we know a little more about her interests. Bradford Museums & Galleries curates an adjustable reading desk once the property of the Bradford Scientific Association. Mary Balme joined the association in 1906 and the desk was made with a legacy she left them when she died in 1931. You can read Heather Millard’s most interesting account of this object at:

Bradford Museums

The land outside most of the perimeter of the plan belongs to Messrs Nowell & Robson and in one place there appears to be a quarry edge. I attempted to locate this partnership in various trade directories. Nowell & Robson were clearly quarry owners and stone merchants; they also operated a coal mine in Raistrick. They had a London office at Westbourne Park Road, Bayswater from which they seemed to be providing paving slabs for London and working on the metropolitan sewer system. Possibly Robson provided the London contracting arm of the business. Certainly in the 1881 census, next to Blakehill Cottage, was Blakehill House, where Joseph Nowell (57), a stone merchant born in Dewsbury, lived with his wife and children. Assuming that there was only one house of this name it must have had a rather lurid reputation at the time of the census. At Blakehill House, Eccleshill in 1874 Joshua Armitage, ‘a lunatic’, was charged with the murder of John Howard, his attendant, who was seemingly strangled with a bath towel.

Because of his unique name I easily identified Jonathan Hargreaves Wilcock (1818-1890) who owns the remainder of the land outside the perimeter. He was a farmer of Owlet Hall, Idle (presumably the one now in Festival Avenue, Bolton). He was living there in 1881, being married to Hannah and having children Amelia & Harper. When he died in 1890 probate was granted for a substantial sum of more than £5000. As far as the plan landowners were concerned I was then left with James Hargreaves. There was of course a very famous man of this name who invented the Spinning Jenny. Well, it cannot be him, nor can it be the man Cudworth describes as James Hargreaves of Delph Hill: remember Delph Hill? This second man was a farm labourer who learned to weave after working hours. Having saved some money he leased Delph Hill Farm. He carried his first cloth pieces to Bradford market to sell. His sons William and Joseph later took Frizinghall Mill & Red Beck Mill for worsted weaving. But this James Hargreaves had died in 1816 so our man can neither be him, nor any son of that name.

The truth is that James Hargreaves was a common name. Since he is described as ‘late’ the man from the plan is likely to have died in the mid-1880s. I imagined him as a wealthy developer, rather than an occupant of one of the houses. Assuming that, as a man of property, he would have left a will I investigated probate records. The most plausible man was James Hargreaves (1834-83), ‘late of Eccleshill’, who died in Staverton, Wiltshire in 1883. His wife Elizabeth sought probate on a will leaving excess of £30,000; a huge sum for those days. The money was unsurprisingly earned as a cloth manufacturer. Another hint is that in 1883 one Henry Hargreaves, son of Elizabeth and James (manufacturer) was baptised at St Luke’s, Eccleshill. This was an adult baptism since Henry had been born in 1861. Possibly Henry had originally been baptised in another denomination and now wished to become an Anglican. James, with his wife Elizabeth Hargreaves and Jonas Hargreaves his brother, are in the 1871 census living at Lands Lane, Eccleshill. I can confirm this from the 1879-80 PO Directory. Why their son Henry is not with them in 1871, whether Jonathan Hargreaves Wilcock was related them, and how James came to die in Wiltshire, are questions I shall leave to better family historians than myself to resolve. At least I got you started, or at least this plan did.

Derek Barker 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 193/18 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

Memorial to the Members of School Boards and Managers of Voluntary Schools in the District Inspected by J.B.Haslam, Esq., Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools. 1880.  Published by the Bradford and District Teachers’ Association. Printed by Henry Gaskarth of Bradford. 11 pages.

This slim pamphlet is a complaint by local teachers about “the unusual severity of the annual examination, and the exceptionally high standard of Her Majesty’s Inspector for this district.” It outlines the reasons why local teachers feel the examinations are unfair on the students – because they are too hard – and compare unfavourably to other districts. The Bradford Inspector, Mr Haslam, is severely criticised.

The ‘memorial’ gives many examples of the actual examination, some of which are reprinted below. Apart from the severity of the questions, we can see how fortunate we are today to be using decimals for money than the old £ s. d. And calculators!

Standard II (ages 8 to 9)

  • How much is six hundred and eighty-nine times eighty thousand seven hundred and sixty-five?

Standard III (ages 9 to 10)

  • (For girls only) Divide four hundred and eighteen thousand seven hundred and three by five hundred and nine.

Standards IV to VI (ages 10 to 13)

  • What is an adverbial sentence and what is an adverbial clause?
  • Draw two diagrams, showing the position of the earth as it would appear from the sun on June 21st and September 21st.
  • What is the size of the earth, and how has this been ascertained?
  • What is a participle, and how is it used in the formation of tenses?

Standard V (ages 11 to 12)

  • How many tons, &c., should be carried 187 miles for the same sum for which 29 tons 14 hundredweight are carried 119 miles?
  • A fishmonger brought 26,700 herrings at 2s. 11d. a hundred; he sold them at five for 2d. What did he gain on every guinea he laid out?

Standard VI (ages 12-13)

  • Reduce £3 5s. 8d. to the fraction of £4 10s. 6d.

A list of members of the Committee of the Association is given. The Officers were:

William Wright of the Wesleyan School, Keighley (President)
Richard Lishman of Belle Vue Board School, Bradford (Vice-President)
Thomas Potter of Borough West School, Bradford (Treasurer)
William Thompson of Bowling Back Lane Board School, Bradford (Secretary)

An Appendix gives percentage passes for Board Schools in the district:

Halifax              93.7
Sheffield           86.4
Leeds                 85.2
Huddersfield   84.4
Dewsbury         81.0
Bingley             79.3
Keighley           77.3
Bradford           73.0

The National average was 81.8%. The passes for Denominational Schools were lower than for Board Schools: 79.4% for the whole country and 69% for Bradford.

An interesting observation made in this Memorial was that “While many other Inspectors allow this exercise [writing] to be done on slates in Standard II, Mr Haslam insists on the use of paper.” Has the day arrived when students today can quit paper for (computer) tablets?


Map of the week: The Bull’s Head Inn, Westgate

It is relatively unusual to be able to match plans with a surviving drawing. The first image is a map in the Local Studies Library reserve collection which plots a strip of land extending from Westgate, near the city centre, down to the old goit which once supplied the Soke Mill (or Queen’s Mill) with water. Very helpfully it unmistakably identifies a building called the Bull’s Head Inn.


In the second map from the same collection I have hatched the buildings concerned to place them in a more general view of this part of Bradford in the years 1870-80. The creation of new thoroughfares, and extensive building redevelopment, results in a very different street pattern today.


William Scruton, in his Pen & Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford included an illustration of the Bull’s Head itself. In this third image you may just be able to make out the design on the tavern sign. Neither drawing nor plans can be later than 1886 by which time the inn was no longer in existence, but it is likely that they are approximately contemporary. I know that there were other Bull’s Heads in Great Horton, Baildon, Thornton and Halifax and for this reason it is important compare images to check that everything matches up. The prominent features in the drawing are the projecting windows on either side of the door and the arched passageway which gave access to the rear of the property which was known as Bull’s Head Yard. These features are replicated in the plan, so there really can be little doubt that we are looking at a single building.


Scruton says that at one time in front of this inn was a ring for bull-baiting, which presumably provided its name. Close-by was the town pillory in which offenders were manacled while being subject to the abuse of passers-by who could hurl eggs or fruit at them. I have seen a watercolour print which places the pillory on a wooden stage just about where the figure is sitting. This form of punishment was outlawed in 1830 and bull-baiting was forbidden after 1835. The Victorian historian William Cudworth, in his own account of the inn, doesn’t mention ball-baiting but says that in front of it was a market with rows of butchers’ stalls; another possible source for the name then. Whatever the truth there is not much doubt that Scruton was thinking of the situation in the late eighteenth century. At that time the Bull’s Head was used by merchants, manufacturers and woolstaplers. The first Bradford Club was founded there, according to Cudworth, in 1760. By the early nineteenth century a Mrs Duckitt was the host. She was apparently famous for her rum punch, which isn’t a beverage that I have ever tried. An Act of Parliament in 1805 appointed commissioners for levying rates and improving Bradford roads and lighting. These commissioners, a sort of primitive town council, met at the Bull’s Head. In some ways it was our first Town Hall. Apparently 60 years before Scruton’s book was published, which would therefore be in the 1830s, the inn was also a rendezvous for town and country musicians.

Inns are usually easy to trace in other Local Studies  resources such as trade directories and newspapers. I only wish I had more time for a more detailed study. The 1818 and 1822 commercial directories place Jeremiah Illingworth in charge at the Bull’s Head. It seems then to have then doubled as an Excise Office. In 1829 Hannah Illingworth, perhaps Jeremiah’s widow, ran the establishment which was clearly a large one since on one occasion in 1834 no less that fifty friends of Airedale College dined there together. On the other hand there are reports of fights in the street outside, and in 1837 a licenced hawker, Henry Stephens by name, was fined the huge sum of £10 for trying to sell a watch and razors in the bar parlour. Later that same year Joseph Sugden, who was now in charge, was reported as providing another excellent dinner, this time for 56 members of the Ancient Order of Oddfellows. Acceptable early Victorian dinners always seem to be described as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ for some reason.

At the time of the 1850 Ibbetson directory Joseph Sugden was still the host. Manufacturers from outside Bradford would attend an inn on a regular basis so that they could be easily found if you wished to transact business. Among textile men at the Bull’s Head you could find John Anderton, manufacturer of Harden, and Samuel Dawson of Wakefield. Other visitors were Messrs Pilling, corn millers, and John Hirst, land agent, who attended on Thursdays. The LSL offers free access to the family history site Ancestry.UK and using this site it is not hard to find Joseph Sugden (47) in the 1851 Bradford census. He lives with his wife Sarah and two children, together with a charwoman, an ostler, and three servants. I assume he would also have non-resident staff. His immediate neighbours are: booksellers, druggists, drapers and plumbers.

Some of Sugden’s patrons must surely have come from the surrounding streets where wool-combing was a very common occupation. This trade was on the verge of being destroyed by the mechanical wool-combs developed in Bradford by Samuel Cunliffe Lister and Isaac Holden. The habits of those patrons is hinted at by the fact that in 1869 Thomas Burrows was arrested in Bull’s Head Yard in possession of two spittoons, thought to be the property of Thomas Waterhouse, then of the Inn. It remained a significant local building and in 1874 the Bradford Musical Union dined there, inviting the Mayor and local jeweller Manoah Rhodes as guests. I have followed entries for the inn in the Bradford Observer up to 1875, when it was being used for election candidates’ addresses.

The Bull’s Head is on the same alignment as Westgate, as indeed are all neighbouring premises. The rear yards however are aligned as an angle to the thoroughfare. This is also true in the much older 1800 map of Bradford. The yards and properties are running south-west following even earlier field boundaries. You may be able to see that the first map has been annotated in pencil. The annotations are not generally legible but they would appear to indicate the types of premises found in Bull’s Head Yard. The only proprietor I can be certain of is a Mrs Smiddles who ran a tripe shop, but there are also sheds and stables. I haven’t been very successful in tracking down any other businesses based there. In 1850 John Hebden, fishmonger, gave this address but the 1851 census shows he was actually living nearby in Reform Street which is clearly shown in the second map. Perhaps he had a shop in the yard combined with a house entered from the next street. In 1857 Tennand, Hall & Hill of Manchester, who were tanners and curriers, advertised that they visited Bull’s Head Yard weekly.

The Bull’s Head at 11 Westgate was still run by Joseph Sugden according to a 1866 trade directory. It is listed under the name J Halliday in the directory of 1879-80. In the directory of 1883 the inn is missing. The Lord of the Manor had the medieval right to a corn-milling monopoly at the Soke Mill, which had stood above Aldermanbury for centuries. Bradford Corporation bought out this right in 1870. In the mid 1870s clearance of much of the property in this area began, and modern Godwin Street was created. At the top of the first plan the elevation of various points is related to Sun Bridge Road. This would have been relevant during such a period of development. Does any of this area survive? I would imagine that everything was destroyed when Godwin Street was brought up to intersect with Westgate. Walking along Godwin Street and Sackville Street today, both in reality and using Google Earth, I cannot persuade myself that any of the mapped buildings are still present. But I should so very much like to be proved wrong.


Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Book Review – Alfred John Brown, Walker, Writer and Passionate Yorkshireman

Alfred John Brown: Walker, Writer and Passionate Yorkshireman,
by John A White (Author)

Readers of our blog may recall that in August 2015 we featured an exhibition in Burley library about local poet and writer Alfred John Brown. Now a new book about ‘AJB’ as he was affectionately known, has been published by John A. White.


The author, John Anthony White was born in 1945 in Bradford where he attended St. Bede’s RC Grammar School. He took retirement from an academic career in 2003 when he developed an interest in the Yorkshire topographical writers, discovered Alfred John Brown and spent several years investigating his life and works, which culminated in this biography. He now has a renewed interest in rambling, an activity he first enjoyed in his former scouting days, and has often toured around Yorkshire in his renovated VW camper van to follow in the footsteps of ‘AJB’.

Alfred John Brown, ‘Yorkshire’s Tramping Author’ was a Bradford businessman living in Burley who began writing while recovering from illness during the First World War. He is best known for his classic topographical books about walking in the Yorkshire Dales but he also wrote semi-autobiographical novels, personal stories and verse.

Bradford Local Studies library has a good collection of his books including ‘Tramping in Yorkshire’, ‘Striding through Yorkshire’, ‘Poems and Songs’ and ‘Broad Acres’ as well as ‘Four Boon Fellows’ about a 100 mile weekend walk one Easter weekend from Barnard Castle to Ilkley.

This biographical account tells the fascinating story of this prodigious walker, prolific writer and passionate Yorkshireman who became a cult figure with iconic status in his day. It portrays the details of the intriguing life events which influenced his literary works and describes the complex character of one of the most widely read authors about his beloved Yorkshire.

Below is an extract from the book:

‘Alfred regarded ‘God’s Own Country’ of Yorkshire as more of a kingdom than just a country, and was of the opinion that: ‘If you took all the best parts of every country in England, and put them together, you would have something resembling Yorkshire.’ He was the most robust of walkers and covered almost the entire length and breadth of his beloved country on foot.’

 Finally a few words from ‘AJB’ himself:

‘…always one must keep one’s eyes fixed sharply on some directing point on the horizon, and reach it, or risk being benighted in the high secret places. In these wild delectable places, the difficulty is not where to go, but where not to go, once you are in the high places. As like as not, you will find yourself torn asunder with doubts and conflicting desires; like me, you will want to walk north, south, east and west at the same moment, and in such crisis the best way out is to shut your eyes and let your legs decide.’  (Alfred John Brown, Twin Joys’)

Keighley and District Family History Society – Programme of Talks 2017

All talks are held in the Keighley Local Studies Library and begin at 7.30pm

Admission fees; Members £1; Non Members £2.50

Date Subject Speaker
January 9 The Great War on the Home Front Ian Dewhirst
February 6 The English Woollen Industry 1500 – 1750 Edgar Holroyd – Doveton
March 6 Annual General Meeting + Tips and problem Solving  
April 3 Murder in the Victorian family Martin Baggoley
May 8 Searching Surnames; Challenges Pitfalls & Downright Ridiculous Kirsty Gray
June 5 Transport in Keighley Graham Mitchell
August Summer Evening Meal  
September 4 The Golden Age of Postcards Graham Hall
October 2 The Murgatroyds of East Riddlesden Hall Patricia Atkinson
November 6 Off At A Tangent Mary Twentyman
December 4 The Ferrands of St Ives Bingley Susan Hart