Map of the Week: Little Germany

The district known as Little Germany  is close to Bradford Cathedral. It is unquestionably one of the glories of the city being famous for a unique collection of magnificent, stone-built, Victorian textile warehouses. In many cases their original occupiers were German merchants, which provided the  name. In 1977 John S Roberts produced an invaluable short pamphlet entitled Little Germany which was my personal introduction to the history of the area. More recently Susan Duxbury-Neuman published Little Germany: a History of Bradford’s Germans (Amberley, 2015) which is full of information about the warehouses, and the merchants that owned them, with much else besides. Despite the existence of these excellent accounts I wondered if anything in the Bradford Local Studies Library reserve map collection could provide a useful additional ‘taster’.

On the 1800 map of Bradford the future Little Germany was a green field site. Fortunately two roads of that period, Church Bank and Vicar Lane (earlier Dead Lane) have retained their names, which makes the placement of the location on more modern maps relatively easy. Leeds Road, which originally formed part of the Leeds-Halifax turnpike, was created in the late 1820s or early 1830s. The Library has several plans showing portions of adjacent land. Some of these are in excellent condition but one has been subject to considerable deterioration.

The first plan here is essentially of the lower part of Little Germany. It shows the first Bradford Mechanics Institute which was founded in 1832 being aligned on Leeds Road. The plan is annotated on the back as ‘Colliers Close’. I have found no other record of this name but it is perfectly credible since coal was mined all over the city, and Roberts reports that building on some of the Little Germany sites was difficult because of old mine workings.


A huge help in dating this first plan is that Bradford is referred to as a Borough, a status achieved in 1847. On the other hand the first OS map of the area, which was issued in 1851 and surveyed in the late 1840s, shows no sign of any new street development. If we said that the plan was from 1848-49 I do not suppose we should be far wrong. It is interesting to note that the area was the location of two blacksmiths and a joiner’s workshop. So in 50 eventful years the green fields of 1800 had been mined for coal, transected by a major road, and become the site of several small businesses and the first Mechanics Institute. Leeds Road on the plan, confusingly, is not the major route of that name but a short branch which was soon renamed Well Street. The name Lee Street was also soon changed, to Currer Street. There is a pencil annotation describing it as ‘Abram Street’, presumably another name that was considered. Field Street seems to have been so called originally and has retained its name. The owner of the land west of Vicar Lane, both north and south of Leeds Road, was Rev. Godfrey Wright (1780-1862). A detailed account of his life was included in the description of my previous map.

The second map is essentially the same but provides more information about the purchasers.


The names recorded do not seem to be the same as those who were associated with the famous Little Germany warehouses 10-20 years later. I’m not certain if the parcels of land were sold on or whether the original purchasers simply leased the warehouses. In any case individual buildings will have had many owners and occupiers since their construction. Augustus Silvestro (AS) Sichel were a Manchester textile firm. Augustus’s son, Sylvester Emil Sichel, later lived at Shipley Grange. As early as 1856 Sichel Bros were trading in Well Street. I’m not sure what their relationship was with Victor Sichel, manager of Reiss Brothers yarn and stuff merchants in Currer Street. Victor was the father of the Bradford artist Ernest Sichel (1862-1941). Both families originated in Frankfort am Main, Germany but were they directly related? Thomas Mills was a Bradford furniture merchant and upholsterer. Thomas Fison was in the partnership of Fison & Lister, wool merchants at Well Street. Nicholas Hermann Heydemann (1817-89) was both a cloth merchant and the German Consul. He is buried at Undercliffe cemetery. In 1859 on his land at 4 Currer Street the premises of Nathan Reichenheim, yarn merchants, was constructed. This is probably the oldest of the surviving buildings. In 1874 on GB Smith’s site at the junction of Field Street and Vicar Lane was built Law Russell’s magnificent Victorian warehouse. This was constructed by Bradford contractor Archibald Neill. Both these buildings were designed by the famous Bradford partnership of Lockwood & Mawson.

The third plan is severely damaged. The section reproduced indicates that the main interest of the surveyor was surface water drainage from Burnett St, Cator St, and the upper part of Currer Street.

Map of the Week 19C.jpg

The original land-owner is not recorded but these lands to the east of Vicar Lane were part of the Vicarage Trust. I do not know if the vicar at this period, John Burnett, benefited personally from land sales but he presumably gave his name to the street. Another series of purchasers are recorded. Leopold Reiss has already been mentioned as one half of Reiss Brothers. As far as I can tell William Bollans and James Wilman were both publicans in other parts of Bradford. Eli Milnes (1830-1899) was the leading warehouse architect. He designed several of the warehouses and the fact that one carries his EM monogram suggests that he was also involved in speculative construction. Not all the land-owners are traceable. Jacob Philipp & Co. seems to have puzzled Duxbury-Neuman and certainly defeated me.  Roberts explained that most of the building occurred in the period 1860-67. The Borough Map of 1871 shows the whole area completely filled with buildings. I imagine that by 1875 the appearance of Little Germany was very much as it is today although one or two later premises were still to be constructed. Most still survive and if you are not familiar with Little Germany do please experience its delights for yourselves.


Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer


JND 193/23 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

Opening of the Old Mechanics’ Institute Branch No. 18. The Bradford Coffee Tavern Company (Programme and Advertiser No. 108), c. 1885. 4 pages.


This news-letter of the Bradford Coffee Tavern Company reminds us that coffee houses are nothing new. Costa, Caffè Nero and Starbucks are just a continuation of a long tradition going back to the eighteenth century when coffee houses became the places to meet people and do business. Whether the Bradford Coffee Tavern Company can claim the first coffee house in Bradford will require research, though 18 Branches and 108 news-letters indicates several years in the business.

Branch 18 was located in part of the old Mechanics’ Institute building at the corner of Well Street and the Leeds Road. “In several respects it is a most desirable situation for a Coffee Tavern, being in the heart of the neighbourhood frequented by warehousemen and others most likely to become good customers of the Establishment.” The accommodation comprised two rooms, one in the basement “being intended for the supply of refreshment, suitable for warehousemen and others; and to some extent it will doubtless supersede the less comfortable resort hard by, known as the Warehouseman’s Exchange”. The two rooms would seat at table about ninety customers. “The fittings are to some extent superior to those ordinarily provided, those in the basement being of polished mahogany and whitewood, and in the best room of Spanish mahogany and bird’s eye maple, relieved with plate-glass mirrors, &c.”

In introducing the speaker, the President, Dr Maffey, referred to the rapid progress which the company had made, with another branch due to open the following week. In his opening address the Vicar of Bradford, the Rev. Dr Bardsley, saw the success of the company as a success for the temperance movement. He thought the coffee, the tea, and the cocoa offered by such establishments “would prove not only to be more economical, but more serviceable, especially to working men, than the commodities in the way of beer, brandy, and so on.” The vote of thanks was proposed by Mr Henry Mitchell, which was followed by the Company’s  Chairman who reported a turnover of £25,000 a year, which represented three million transactions over the counter every year.

The newsletter also advertised entertainments at Coffee Tavern No. 6 (Wakefield Road) including ’Ventriloquist Entertainment (with life-size figures)’ and also at Branch No. 5 (Thornton Road) of songs (including ‘Eggs for your Breakfast’ and ‘Have you seen my Michael?’) and an ‘American Knockabout’!

This ‘treasure’ from the Library’s store provides a fascinating and unexpected insight into a late Victorian coffee-drinking society, warehousemen included, and popular entertainment.


Book Review – Strange Tales in Bradford Dale

Strange Tales in Bradford Dale, by Irene Lofthouse. Gizmo Publications (, 2015. 124 pp.   ISBN: 978-1-900827-54-6   £7.99 (Strange Tales Book 2) Available in many of Bradford’s Libraries.  You can check the catalogue here


 What a delightful read is this book! It is clearly fiction, but so well grounded in Bradford history that I finished my read both pleasantly amused and historically richer. I learnt that a ‘cottar’ is a peasant farmer or a tenant renting land from a landlord, and that a ‘piecer’ is someone who pieces broken threads together. I also learnt that Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, was the manager of actor Henry Irving who died at the Midland Hotel in 1905 leaving, some say, a ghost, and that a brownie, once asked its name, turns into a boggart and will plague you for ever!

This book, Number 2 in the Strange Tales Books series* consists of seven Bradford-based stories for 7-12 year olds. Here we find an alternative account of the killing of the Bradford Boar; child labourers in a mill befriended by a brownie; a nightmare ride in a haunted carriage; the city hall statues frolicking in City Park after midnight; a local tribe defeated by Romans from Olicana (but carrying on the head cult); a theatre rehearsal terrorized by ghosts; and twilight terrors in a Victorian cemetery.

Irene Lofthouse writes well: her style is well-suited to pre-teens and her stories are well told. More impressive for readers of this journal though, is that the stories are clearly Bradford-focused. Here we find Roger de Manningham and John Northrop, Spinkwell and Cliff Wood, a large cemetery with Egyptian portals, and City Park. In her endnotes the author admits being inspired by the Bradford Playhouse, Undercliffe Cemetery, the Bradford Beck and a real-life mounting block. Other end-matter includes Fun Activities such as protecting yourself against a boggart; drawing pictures of a stone head and a phantom carriage; a Wordsearch; a Did You Know? (six items); some websites; and a Glossary of special words such as Green Man, Scour, Tenterfield and Sphinx.  I particularly liked the author’s matching of language and personal names to the period covered by the stories. The Boar-scared children are Ranulf, Aleycia, Elfric, etc., good medieval names; the mill kids are Tom, Sarah, Zach and Edie, while today’s kids scared in the cemetery are Sienna, Fatima and Luca. Some of the quoted speech is in dialect, thus: “You do look nithered. Come t’fire an’ warm thissen.” (My 9 yr old grandson is fascinated by dialect!). And while today’s kids use their mobile phones and i-pods as torches in Undercliffe’s Egyptian vault, the youngsters in Cliff Wood use knives and a bow-and-arrow! Context and background are impressive.

How to get youngsters interested in history is ever a problem. Maybe Irene Lofthouse has the answer – though I would have liked to have seen more illustrations.      Bob Duckett

 *Book 1 was Strange Tales in the Dales (2015) and Book 3, Strange Tales in Caldervale (2016).

Review reprinted from the Bradford Antiquary, 2016, courtesy of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.

Talks at Keighley Local Studies Library


Next week there will be two more in the series of regular talks hosted by Keighley Local Studies Library.

On Monday 6th February, courtesy of Keighley & District Family History Society, Edgar Holroyd-Doveton will speak about The English Woollen Industry 1500 – 1750.

This talk looks at the structure, operation and development of the English Woollen Industry in the Early Modern period. Almost everyone who has family history connections in Yorkshire and in many other parts of England will have had ancestors involved in the wool trade. What were the different types of occupations involved? What did they do and how did they live? What importance was the spread and development of the industry for migration and movements of families? These and other questions will be addressed which will be of interest to the family historian.

On Wednesday 8th February, courtesy of Keighley and District Local History Society, some of the lesser known aspects of local railway history will form the subject of a talk by Graham Mitchell.

The subject of his presentation will be: “Why Stanbury Never Got a Station & Other Local Railway Politics.”

Both talks will start at 7.30pm. Please use the side entrance on Albert Street  from 7.00pm. There will be a small entry fee at both events.



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 193/14 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

 T’Yorksher Hogs’ Grand Dooment at T’Alexandra Hotel, Bradford, Yorkshire, 21st May, 1879. 4 pages. Text by Frederick F. BAKER.  Bradford: Wm Byles and Son, 1879.


This unusual item is a glossy printed menu (T’stuff to go at) in dialect verse by the Manager of the Alexandra Hotel. There were five courses (tuck ahts) plus ‘finishin’-up Oddments’. Quite what the dooment (feast, merry making) was in aid of, or whose souvenir menu we have here, are both unknown, but I’m glad the stylish menu has been preserved. Forgive me for not quoting the menu in full, but my computer spell-check would drive me mad, and the script is in a Gothic typeface, which would drive any scanner mad! In any case, the menu is in the Library for anyone to see. It is worth a view. Here are a couple of ‘tasters’!

O’ t’famed Alexandra i’Bradford’s big tahn,
Whear they turn fleecy whool into fine frock an’gahn,
I’ Bradford i’Yorksher, that cahnty so big
Whear thear’s plenty o’ rahm ta eyt an’ to swig.

4th Tuck Aht

Then, withaht onny flam,
Thear’s a Baron o’ Lamb,
An’, by t’way a’ nice baits
Some brand New Pottates;
An’ some Beans three France,
As streyt as a lance;
An’ withaht onny chucklin’s,
Some Aylesbury Ducklin’s;
An’, sweet to be seen,
Some Peys ‘at are Green;
An’ for summat to drink,
‘At’ll mak ye all wink,
Some Burgundy grand
O’t’Chambertin brand,
Ta sip an’ ta smack,
Whol yer jokes ye crack.

The Alexandra Hotel was demolished a few years ago, but I’m glad its Manager, Frederick F. Baker, a dialect poet of merit, lives on in the Library’s basement!


Holocaust Memorial Day

Friday 27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day.

To mark the occasion, a display has been mounted in Ilkley Library featuring the hostel ‘Loxleigh’ that was established in 1939 on the corner of Mount Pleasant and Cowpasture Road.

During the tense pre-war period the British Parliament had agreed to admit an unspecified number of children from Hitler’s Germany who were in danger of being sent to concentration camps. Agonising decisions were made by parents to send their children alone on the ‘Kindertransport’

In Ilkley, a committee for the Care of Refugees was established and the hostel was opened, made possible by the efforts of the local Quaker community and earlier immigrants from Europe, many of whom had been successful in business in the West Riding.

The display features the stories of some of those who passed through the hostel including Sigi Wassermann and Edgar Klugman who came on the kindertransport and the story of Arnold Vanderhorst who came in 1945. Arnold had survived the war by hiding in woods near Arnhem. After the war, malnourished, Arnold was sent to the hostel in Ilkley to recuperate and then to join a new foster family in Ilkley.

On Friday, January 27th at 11.00 at City Hall, Bradford there is the annual Holocaust Memorial Day event, all are welcome.

On Monday January 30th at 11.00 in Ilkley there will be a short walk and talk from the Ilkley Library to the Kindertransport hostel in Cow Pasture Road by Nigel Grizzard.

Here we reproduce an extract from ‘Ilkley at War’ by Caroline Brown

Refugees in World War Two

The first boys coming to the hostel in Ilkley arrived on 6th March 1939, all of Jewish ancestry. These boys were aged between fourteen and sixteen and attended schools in Ilkley. Some of those placed in Ilkley came with the last children’s transport from Germany at the end of August 1939. One of the boys later described to a reporter of The Ilkley Gazette his joy at meeting a brother in England after he had lost all hope. It had been the last train to leave Germany with passengers bound for England. Another boy described waving goodbye to his parents and then a rush to get to the ship.

 ‘A very nice station master wired to Ostende for us in order to hold up the ship a few minutes…we arrived at Ostende and ran across the quay; the passengers on board were waving to us – and porters threw our luggage on board. Saved!’

Once on board ship he recalled:

‘It is fearfully wet and stormy. There are so many emigrants; it is all so sad – so many people who have lost their fatherland. We rejoice when we see the lights of Dover but we are so exhausted.’

 He describes the hostel at Ilkley:

‘I found myself in a very nice little room, with green curtains and a little cupboard and bed…everyone was very kind but I felt terribly lonely and I was tired to death by the unfamiliar work.’

 Members of the Ilkley Quaker Community later recalled the difficulty they had in locating these children in the gloom of Leeds Holbeck Station in the blackout.

In August 1939, a writer and teacher from Vienna, themselves refugees, became permanent wardens. In the months and years that followed, many other refugees, younger and older, passed through the hostel fleeing from persecution in Europe, sometimes sleeping eight to a bedroom.


The six boys who arrived at the Hostel in Mount Pleasant, Cowpasture Rd, Ilkley from Dovercourt on 6th March 1939 as refugees from Vienna under the care of the Ilkley Committee for Refugees. Their ages are 14 – 16. Mr H Ferry, Warden of the Hostel is on the right.

Many of the boys learned occupations such as agriculture, joinery and mechanics and entered employment in various parts of the country; others were preparing for emigration and did not remain long. Some joined the forces and others were able to join relatives in Britain and overseas..