Book Review – Heraldic Shields in the Banqueting Hall of Bradford City Hall.

Heraldic Shields in the Banqueting Hall of Bradford City Hall. Researched and written by Janet Senior; window photography by Steve Reeder. City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, 2016. 28 pages. £5.00. Available from City Hall Reception or from the author (janetsenior@googlemail.com)

Available from Bradford Libraries

Heraldic Shields

This slim booklet is a treasure; a full colour informative and beautifully produced treasure of local history. Heraldic shields may seem an esoteric subject for most of us, and the fact that so few people will ever get to see the ones featured here, high up in the exclusive City Hall Banqueting Hall, is a reason to ignore them. But the beautiful photography of Steve Reeder, and the informative prose of historian Janet Senior, make this an enjoyable browse.

This booklet, apart from a brief introduction, consists of 86 full-colour photographs of hand-painted glass windows in the form of heraldic shields, mostly the work of the stained glass relief artist Henry Gustave Hiller, which were painted at different periods in the early 20th century. Each shield represents the coat of arms of a prominent local personage or family, or in a few cases, a figure of early national importance. In the book, each image is accompanied by a brief note on the person or family concerned. Edmund Peckover, H W Ripley, Sir Henry Mitchell and Alderman W E B Priestley are examples of local persons of note; the Rawsons, the Peckovers and the Ferrands examples of prominent local families; while John of Gaunt, Phillippa of Hainault, and the Duke of Northumberland are examples of national figures. Janet explains that both John of Gaunt and Phillippa (wife of King Edward III) were both, for a while, owners of the Honor of Pontefract, of which Bradford was a part; while Bradford was part of the Percy ‘Fee’ in the 12th and 13th centuries (Percy being the family name of the Dukes of Northumberland). Less exotically, but maybe more usefully, we learn that Charles Harris, along with his uncle, Edmund Peckover, founded the Bradford Old Bank; that Roland Paley was an iron merchant who, with John Stranger, founded the Bowling Iron Works; and that the first Lord Cranbrook was the politician Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, son of John Hardy, one of the owners of Low Moor Iron Works.

Janet found no trace of why or how these particular people or families were selected and ‘It is not clear if the heraldic shields actually belong to all the families represented.’ It seems, however, that the artist got the wrong shield for the Prince of Wales (that of the Stuart Prince of Wales rather than of the Prince and Princess of Wales who visited Bradford in 1904)!

This is an attractive booklet of great interest. All profits will go to the Lord Mayor’s Fund.

Bob Duckett

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Map of the Week: Toads and Chapels

In the 170 years since Bradford became a borough, in 1847, its centre has changed almost beyond recognition. New buildings have been erected and old ones demolished. The Bradford Beck has progressively vanished underground into culverts.  New roads have been created (Sunbridge Road being a good example), while others have been repositioned, lengthened, or have disappeared entirely. Change has been a continuous process but it was accelerated in the 1960s when there was a wholesale city centre redevelopment associated with the name of SG Wardley, the City surveyor and engineer. I should like to recount something of this story by describing the events that befell a thoroughfare called Chapel Lane.

Map of the Week 028 A Final

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I thought I had made a good start with the this first plan, which is widely reproduced and purports to date from 1800. Here it is easy to see the acute angle made by the Turls (Tyrrel Street) and Chapel Lane/Toad Lane. Toad Lane is an odd name but it is not unique; there are, or were, Toad Lanes in Bingley, Newark and Rochdale. Possibly the name is a corruption of ‘t’owld’ lane: certainly in Bradford the lane is drawn, but not named, on a map as early as c1722. On the above plan building (3) is the Unitarian Chapel which was certainly in existence at this time. An existing town hall is numbered (35) on the map but there is a small puzzle here. The Act of Parliament that appointed commissioners for levying rates, and improving Bradford roads and lighting, was only passed in 1805 and no town hall was to be built for decades. I am very obliged to local historian Kieran Wilkinson who explained this apparent anomaly by telling me that the map of 1800 is not contemporary but was a creation of the late nineteenth century, and marked places both where important local buildings were in 1800, and would be in the future. Let us instead look at a detail from a map that is believed to be contemporary, that of 1802, which is available in the Local Studies Library.

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I do not think that there is much doubt that the second plan was the origin of the first, but there are some difficulties here too. Firstly Toad Lane is not mentioned. Kieran tells me that the shortening of Toad Lane, to that unnamed portion that leaves Chapel Lane at a right angle to join Bowling Green, happened in August 1804. The town’s board of commissioners changed both it and the names of a number of other roads in the town (Bank Street, Bridge Street, Market Street and Well Street being introduced as names then). Secondly although there is a Chapel Lane there is no obvious chapel. In his Pen & Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford William Scruton gives a full account of this building, originally constructed in 1717. Much of its material came from Howley Hall, Batley and the land on which it stood was donated by the Sharp family of Horton Hall. The names was originally the Toad Lane Presbyterian Chapel. The old chapel lasted about 150 years and for much of this time was located ‘amid green fields’. The chapel was replaced by a larger more modern structure in 1869, and finally demolished a century later. The most notable figure to be connected with the institution was Rev. Joseph Dawson who is closely associated with the exploitation of the mineral wealth of Low Moor. One possible explanation of the difference between the two maps is that the 1800 marks the position of the 1869 rebuild whereas in 1802 the chapel formed part of the block drawn immediately south of the first section of Chapel Lane. Unfortunately this simple explanation cannot be correct. A chapel, but with no denomination provided, is mapped here c1722, which is in accordance with Scruton’s statement, and the following detail from a map of 1825, surveyed by L Atkinson, clearly illustrates the same building. Here the building numbered (8) is identified on the map rubric as the Unitarian Chapel.

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I have already mention the Bradford commissioners. This early embryo town council are said to have originally met at the Bull’s Head Inn, Westgate. At the first meeting according to historian Horace Hird, Lord Mayor (1951-52), the commissioners drew up that list of Bradford roads. The same commissioners moved to the ‘Station House’ in Swaine Street after it was erected in 1838. They did not change landlord since the Bull’s Head and the Station House were both built on land leased from Rev. Godfrey Wright who regularly features in this articles.  The final building I want to mention is the Bowling Green Hotel, which completes what I shall call ‘the central triangle’. This hotel was located at the end of Bridge Street. Cudworth mentions that in the 1830s its owner was a Mrs Susannah Ward, widow of Joseph Ward. William Scruton pushes the Bowling Green’s existence still further back into the seventeenth century. He regarded it as ‘the best inn of the town’. It was used by the Royal Mail and the open space in front of the inn, which presumably was once a bowling green, came to be employed for political meetings. The road names remain unchanged until the mid-nineteenth century, which is represented by the next map from the Local Studies Library reserve collection.

Map of the Week 028 D Final

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It is perfectly clear that there has been extensive construction in the central triangle.  The Bradford Observer (1844) observed that the premises of DH Smith at the corner of Toad Lane were ‘striking and elegant’. Elsewhere a ‘Smith’s Tavern and Beer-house’ is noted which I assume was the same building. Other developments were evidently far from elegant. In 1847 the Poor Law Commissioners considered Chapel Lane a possible site for a ‘vagrants yard’, and in 1855 a ton and a half of ‘vile bones’ were removed from the premises of John Boyd. The Lund’s 1856 Directory of Bradford lists John Boyd as a ‘rag dealer’. The same source gives Rev. JH Ryland as the non-resident minister at the chapel. There is also an architects’ partnership (Stott & Illingworth) and a painter (John Edwards), but otherwise the Chapel Lane residents are all tradesmen: plumbers, hair dressers, bootmakers, saddlers, pawnbrokers and so forth. Was the ‘Old Foundry’ (Cliff’s Foundry) drawn on the second map still functioning in the town centre? According to Hird it was.

The new unnamed cut-through joining Chapel Lane and Tyrrel Street  is Bower Gate. Toad Lane makes an acute angle with Norfolk Street. Kieran Wilkinson tells me that Toad Lane was ‘stopped up’ in 1869 to assist with the subsequent Town Hall development. The Bradford Daily Telegraph of 10 September 1873 recalled that Toad Lane was a ‘narrow passage… immediately behind Garth’s warehouse’. According to the Bradford Observer of 17 March 1869, the width of Toad Lane was only three and a half yards. The next development, which I have already hinted at, represented a huge change. Bradford Borough Council decided that a purpose built Town Hall was required to support the rapidly growing urban area. A number of sites were considered but Chapel Lane or the Bowling Green were the front runners. Finally a competition was launched to design a hall to be built on the Chapel Lane site. The winning design was opened by the Mayor, Matthew Thompson, in 1873. The architects were the famous partnership of Lockwood & Mawson who had already designed the Wool Exchange (1867). The contractor was John Ives of Shipley. In his book Bradford in History Horace Hird described the whole process and provided illustrations of the runners-up. It seems that all the considered designs were for Gothic buildings including a tower. The stone for the winning design came from Cliff Wood quarries but at present I do not have sources for the glass, metal work and ornamental marbles, nor the million bricks incorporated into the structure. The Unitarian Chapel and Chapel Lane itself were left alone during this development, but Bradford became a city in 1897 and the increase in council business required an extension to the Town Hall, opened in 1909. This provided more committee rooms and a banqueting hall. The designer was Richard Norman Shaw. As you can see from the map below only a stub of Chapel Lane remained after the completion of this extension, and the chapel is now south of Town Hall Square. A further extension was constructed in 1914 but this does not seem to have affected the plan of the building which is essentially the same in the 1930 OS map with Chapel Lane now opening off Norfolk Street. The nearby Alhambra Theatre was to be built at the same time.

Map of the Week 028 E Final

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Understandably these events drastically reduced the number of occupants of Chapel Lane. Even before the extension was built the PO 1898 Directory indicates that, besides the city’s conditioning house, health office and water testing department, there were just five textile related premises, and a produce merchant. Chapel Lane and the Unitarian chapel survived until the reorganisations of the late 1960s when wholesale clearances took place. These must have been required to create the space that became Centenary Square, the Magistrates Court and Coroner’s Office building, the Norfolk Gardens and the Hall Ings extension. The court building, which was opened in 1972, retains ‘The Tyrls’ as its address. What remained of Chapel Lane ultimately gave way for Norfolk Gardens. However Kieran feels that it is arguable that some of Chapel Lane remains within the Town Hall as there is an outside area between the original Town Hall and the extension which was part of this lane.

 

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

 

Treasure of the Week no. 19: Omnibuses, Gas Stoves, ‘Horses in Stock’ and a Tripery – What the Council did in 1889

JND 194/13 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

jnd 194 13 001

BOROUGH OF BRADFORD.   Reports of the Committees of the Council, Presented 26th, October, 1889.            Bradford: M. Field, Printer. 1889. 96 pages.

Council documents are a rich source of information. So much of what happens in a locality is due to the decisions and actions of the local authority. In 1889 Bradford covered a much smaller area than it does now – as witnessed in the second report noted below under the Finance and General Purposes Committee. Of great importance to us today was the decision to build reservoirs on the Nidd Valley, noted in the report of the Waterworks Committee. The topics listed below are only a small selection from a year’s work of the Council, much of which was routine. Committees, and some items from each, were:

Building Committee

49 new streets planned

Finance and General Purposes Committee

186 Omnibuses and 44 Tram Cars licensed

Parliamentary powers to be sought to extend Bradford to include Allerton, Heaton, Thornbury and Tyersal

Free Library and Art Museum Committee

New branch library opened in Barkerend

Gas and Electricity Supply Committee

Gas Stove Department report

Hackney Carriage and Cleansing Committee

94 notices served re smoke prevention

Markets and Fairs Committee

The ‘Tripery’ building has been successful

Parks Committee

Flowering plants and evergreens planted at Forster Square

Sanitary Committee

66,903 ashpits emptied

30 public urinals maintained

Street and Drainage Committee

Postal Telegraph wires have been laid underground in Great Horton Road

Street Improvement Committee

New and improved sight lines prescribed for Heaton Road

Tramways, Baths and Team Labour Committee

 The Cheapside and Otley Road Tramway opened

 27,470 people used the swimming, slipper and shower baths

 66 horses in stock

Waterworks Committee

New water filter approved for Thornton Moor Reservoir

Parliamentary approval to be sought to build reservoirs in the Nidd Valley

 

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Neglected Bradford Industries: Vitriol (sulphuric acid) making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Neglected Bradford Industries: Brick-making

Bradford is famous for spinning and weaving but textile production was only one of a group of important industries which ‘Worstedopolis’ supported. Since several  are now almost forgotten by contemporary citizens I should like to draw attention to those which seem unreasonably neglected, in a series of short articles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

 

‘Using Vaccination Records’ – a talk by Sylvia Valentine with Keighley & District Family History Society

Keighley Local Studies Library, January 8th,  7.00pm for 7.30pm start.
(Please use side entrance.)

In August 1876, seven members of the Keighley Board of Guardians were arrested and imprisoned in the Debtors’ Prison at York. Their crime was not cooking the books but determinedly opposing what they saw as an attack on the civil liberties of the individual by the Government. The attack was the attempted enforcement in their town of the Vaccination Acts of 1867 and 1871 which made all Guardians responsible for enforcing the vaccination of the children within their Union.  The case of the Queen versus the Guardians of the Keighley Union came up at the High Court of Justice in London in November. The story is almost local legend and is the subject of regular study because of the national, as well as local debate and because of the popular support anti-vaccination attracted.

In Keighley there were near riotous scenes as well as the publication of broadsheets of verse and even carte-de-visite portraits.

The following records are taken from the Keighley Photographic Society, held at Keighley Library and the broadsheet is part of the library pamphlet collection.

Sylvia Valentine has made the most detailed and revealing study to date and has given talks across the country and is booked for talks in Canada in 2018.

Much of her original research was carried out using the resources of Keighley Local Studies Library and its fantastic archive.

Treasure of the Week no. 18: Galas & Fents in Peel Park

JND 194/8 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

jnd 194 8 c 001

BOOTH’S FENT WAREHOUSESProgramme for the Annual West Riding Galas held in Peel Park, Bradford, Whisuntide, 1888.

Galas and Melas have been held in Peel Park for many years, but what went on in these festivals has changed greatly. In 1888 the Gala lasted two days and in the Library’s pamphlet collection we have the 16-page programme of events  sponsored by Booth’s Fent Warehouses. Fents were basically animal skins and Booth’s, whose main shops were in Well Street, Bradford and Albion Street, Leeds, made sure that people who purchased the programme for one penny could not escape knowing about their products. There were full page adverts for Booth’s Umbrellas, Booth’s Scotch Tweed, Booth’s Cheviots, Booth’s Doeskins, Booth’s Meltons, Booth’s Beaver, Booth’s Italians, Booth’s Silesias, and much else. Products long forgotten.

So much for fents. What went on at Peel Park in the spring of 1888? A lot! Amusements included:

Coco, Little Coco & Gertie Volta  – ‘The Ape at Home’

Harry Lyons & Nellie Danvers – Shooting Act

Brothers Ormonde – Acrobats and Vaulters

Sheriff – Performing Elephant

Henri Benham – Equilibrist and Mountain of Chairs

Sgt. Simms & Troup – Zouave Drill

Newham & Downes – Black Clowns

Cruikshank Family – Jugglers and Balances

Maldavan & Pedro – The Red Men

The Marzelos – Horizontal Bat, Double Clowns

Prof. Atherton – Dogs and Monkeys

Julius Keller – The German Waiter

Mademoiselle Eske & Volier – Gymnasts

Mademoiselle Senide – The Lovely Queen of the Desert, in her Den with Lion, Bear, and Panther

Zalva & Alvar – On the High Wires

There were fireworks by Professor Wells, whose displays included The Wheel of Ixion and the Revolving Fountain. There was Professor Smith with his Famous Punch & Judy Show Performing at Intervals; There was a full music programme – Six military bands, including the  2nd West York Artillery and local orchestras such as the Postmen’s Band, the Manningham Band, and the Bradford Borough Band played a wide repertoire of music.

About eight o’ clock each night, weather permitting, inventor Eric Stuart Bruce, was to personally supervise the ascent of ‘The Electrical War Balloon! For Flashing Signals at Night, As Supplied to the English and Belgian Governments’.

And, of course, there were Refreshment Tents, Stalls, Swings, Bowling Tents, Shooting Galleries, Dancing, &c., on the Fair Ground.

Imagination is required to understand what some of these activities were about. Performing animals, black clowns, and Punch & Judy would now be frowned on, but I can’t help wishing I was there, at Peel Park, in 1888, watching Zalva & Alvar on the high wires, and the Fireworks, listening to the Bands, visiting the Refreshment Tents, and waiting impatiently for the ascent of the flashing signals from The Electrical War Balloon!

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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.

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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

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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: http://www.sussex.ac.uk

  • 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.

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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

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