Map of the Week: Bolton Woods

These two sections from a Bradford Local Studies Library map are part of a sale plan of the Bolton Hall Estate dating from 1882. Among other things it advertises the availability of building land and stone quarries. The right side of image 1 joins the left of image 2. The map as a whole marks a transitional stage between rural and industrialised phases in the district. Some woodland remains but quarries are in action, roads are being laid out, and houses have been built. Frizinghall mill is drawn although this and its reservoir no longer exist. The Bradford canal spur has also gone now, although the canal bridges remain. The railway line already existed in 1882 and it would appear that the extension of Canal Road to Shipley is being suggested.

Map of the Week 020 AMap of the Week 020 B

I have to admit that I am not sure of the precise boundaries of Bolton Woods. It is to your right as you travel up Canal Road from Bradford to Shipley although the very high ground is occupied by the much more ancient townships of Bolton, Idle, and Wrose. The designation ‘Bolton Woods’  appears on the 1851 OS map but is probably naming the woodland only. I think we can be certain that Bolton Woods was neither an old community, nor a planned one: it ‘just growed’. William Cudworth treats the area as part of Bolton township and two more recent authors have developed his account:

        A History of Bolton in Bradford-Dale: RC Allan (ed), 1927, p.107.

        The Story of Bolton Woods and St Laurence’s Church : Mary Lister, 1980.

Both these books are available in the Local Studies Library although the second is kept in the stacks and will have to be fetched by a member of staff. Mary Lister (1922-85) was a noted local historian who was ex-President of the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society, and taught at Hanson School. As a further source of information I am indebted to Tony Woods for the unpublished findings of his study into the district’s coal mining.

There is general agreement then that the history of Bolton Woods is quite recent. Before 200 years ago the district was simply noted for fields and a magnificent woodland. There were no roads, only trails through the trees. Peat could be cut there for fuel and the was some question of whether the inhabitants of Bolton had the right of turbary on land lying about Bolton Old Hall. In 1624 Bolton Manor became the property of Thomas Walker. The Old Manor House was soon demolished and Bolton Old Hall erected a short distance away. The Stanhopes of Eccleshill bought the Bolton Hall Estate from Thomas Walker in 1648. Bolton Woods was one of the many districts of Bradford where coal extraction may well have had medieval roots. In 1699 Cudworth describes various freeholders entering into an agreement to extract coal. Coal features again in a 1746 lease: near Hollins Close John Whitaker leased land for £6-10s with a condition of the lease being an undertaking to remove the coal-pit hill when it was dispensed with. By 1750 land around Bolton Grange Field was apparently much broken up by attempting to get coals through trenches or ‘Day-holes’.

An Enclosure Act operated at Bolton Woods in 1819, and in 1825 Bolton Road was constructed.  By 1840 Walter Scott-Stanhope had inherited the estate and then sold it to his cousin Richard Watson of Springwood, Manchester. Watson’s Scottish bailiff equipped the farm and, according to Cudworth, by his efforts made it one of the best in the district. At first he grew wheat but later suggested that building stone might be more profitably extracted. The first modern quarry in Bolton Woods was opened by John Holmes and Thomas Dawson in 1853. In the later nineteenth century more organised extraction of the Hard & Soft Bed coal seams was undertaken in Bolton Woods. Shafts and ‘old shafts’ are present on early OS maps but no named collieries are indicated. In the late 1850s there seem to have been two companies: Handforth & Co, and Messrs Brogden & Co. Their enterprise was  known as Bolton Wood Colliery which had been leased by Richard Watson. It was under Navy Croft, Far Ellar Carr, Mid Ellar Carr, Nr Ellar Carr, Rough Ing, and part of the Woods.

You can identify these fields on the lovely sketch map Mary Lister drew for her publication. It shows the same area as the sale plan but is 25 years earlier and has a slight different orientation. Essentially it shows the land on which the village was later developed. The field name ‘Delf Close’ suggests that stone extraction pre-dated the nineteenth century; delph being a local name for quarry.

Map of the Week 020 C

Messrs Brogden was perhaps a partnership of miners extracting coal but their enterprise was dissolved by mutual consent (Bradford Observer, 18 June 1859). The majority of the men involved could not write but the literate James Brogden had been underground steward at Bunker Hill Colliery on Barkerend Road. A well-known Bradford brick-maker, Edward Gittins, is also involved at Bolton Brick Works in 1861 although I don’t know in what capacity. E. Handforth & Co. are listed as fire-brick and sanitary tube makers two years later in a single trade directory (1863). Elsewhere Handforth is listed as a ‘colliery owner and fire-brick manufacturer’. It is probable that the company bought up Bolton Wood Colliery and added a Firebrick works. In 1865 E. Handforth & Co were advertising in the Leeds Mercury for a firebrick moulder at Frizinghall, near Shipley. They seem to have sold up in 1867. The only product I can attest is a firebrick marked [..FORTH & CO BOLTON WOOD]. The extraction of coal was not always easy. Mr Woodhead of Eccleshill Potteries operated a mine in a field facing Home Farm in Hodgson Fold. It was worked by a horse-gin but failed due to flooding. In her book Lister mentions that a Bolton ‘Clay and Firebrick Works’, existed on the Shipley side of the Woods in a piece of land known as ‘Rough Ing’. When it closed it was replaced by Bolton Woods Shed (Woolcombers) which you can see on the first plan.

The ground now covered by village part of Bolton Woods was a part of the Bolton Old Hall estate purchased from Alfred Barton by three men called Holmes, Pullen & Constable as a building speculation for £11,000. John Pullen subsequently sold off Bolton Woods in small lots. Wilkinson Shann built first row of houses in Shann St. During this period the quarries were progressively developed and attracted workers to the area. The light yellow stone was purchased by Leeds for paving slabs and was used for buildings such as Manchester Town Hall and the Bradford Eye & Ear Hospital. In 1870 the construction of the defecation works at Frizinghall created additional employment opportunities and at the same time JT Riddiough opened a saw mill. In 1871  a highly influential man, Harry Stockdale, came to Bolton Woods from Long Preston. He was a builder and brick-maker and with George Lang he constructed Bolton Hall Road. In 1874 he was elected a councillor and was influential in the building of Bolton Woods first school. In a Yorkshire Directory for 1875 one entry for Shipley reads:  ‘Harry Stockdale, Bolton Woods Brick & Tile Works’. In the same year Mr H Stockdale was prosecuted for smoke nuisance from his brick kiln. Did he buy the premises of Handforth & Co? Strangely on 17 August 1878, the Leeds Mercury recorded that he appeared in court summoned by Bradford Corporation for the sum of £63.10s: this being the unpaid cost of sanitary works at his properties at Livingstone Road. Apparently he flew into a temper in the court, but was reprimanded and ordered to pay. Something unpleasant had clearly happened to a celebrated Bolton Woods resident. He died early in 1881. In the years before 1914 brick-making took place near the present children’s playground. There were also two rather rarer forms of industrial activity: a factory making glass marbles for Codd bottles and the Guana Fertilizer Works. The last coal-mining in Bolton Woods was in 1923 when Slater Bros worked a large day-hole in the hillside to north-west of Hodgson Fold. Apparently they had access to a 3 feet thick seam of poor quality coal but their colliery was soon abandoned. In 1956 Bolton Woods farm was finally sold for housing.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer




JND 193/25 and 27 (Please quote these numbers if requesting these items)

[Uncle Oliver on the Parson’s Income. 1878]

[Uncle Oliver in a Fix]

 An Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ by A Searcher.  Bradford: Wm Byles & Sons, Printers, 1882.  16 pages. Reprinted from the Bradford Observer of 27 Dec. 1881.

 ‘A Searcher’ Lost in a Liberation Fog: the Official Report of ‘A Searcher’s Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ dissected by H.B. Mis-statements and Fallacies Exposed. Partly reprinted and revised from the Bradford Observer.  With Sequal: ‘Uncle Oliver’s‘ Act of Parliament Abandoned, by ‘A Searcher’ as ‘An Absurd Man of Straw’. Bradford: Chronicle and Mail, 1882. 34 pages.

A feature of Victorian literature is the number of disputes that were carried on in printed leaflets or ‘tracts’. In the days without phones and e-mails, the printed word was, apart from face-to-face contact, the main means of communication. Often these disputes were carried out anonymously or using false names (pseudonyms). The value of printing these exchanges was that far more people could be reached than in meetings, and that the arguments could be read and studied at leisure. The volumes of bound pamphlets, such as we have in the Local Studies Library, feature some of these disputes. Pamphlet volume JND 193 has a sequence of these, and while the subject – the income of the clergy – may not excite many people, the nature of the heated exchange may. We seem to be missing the first two exchanges, the titles of which are noted at the head of this blog, but ‘Stackmole’ is on the lookout! The sequence of tracts is a touch confusing, and seemingly the person who prepared these tracts for binding was also confused, since he duplicated the first one here, placing it after the second tract! So here is a challenge!

Tract number 25,  An Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ by A Searcher, concerns the publication of an earlier tract entitled Uncle Oliver on the Parson’s Income. This was published in 1878 by the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control. This tract gave offence to the Rev. John Lightfoot and the Committee of the Bradford Church Defence Institute, who reprinted articles in answer to that publication in a tract with the title Uncle Oliver in a Fix. This had originally appeared in the Bradford Daily Chronicle and Mail. The pamphlet here, the third published, examines that pamphlet, the text of which was first published in the Bradford Observer a few days earlier. Pencil marks on the first page tell us that the ‘Searcher’ was Elias Thomas (Hon. Sec. of the Local Committee of the Liberation Society) and that the author of the Uncle Oliver tract was Henry Boardman, the ‘H.B.’ of the following tract.

Tres 10

This is Tract 27, ‘A Searcher’ Lost in a Liberation Fog: the Official Report of ‘A Searcher’s Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ dissected by H.B. Mis-statements and Fallacies Exposed. It was partly reprinted and revised from the Bradford Observer.

Not content with two leaflets, H.B. adds a sequel: ‘Uncle Oliver’s’ Act of Parliament Abandoned, by ‘A Searcher’ as ‘An Absurd Man of Straw’.

The first tract was reprinted in the Bradford Observer while the second was printed by the Bradford Chronicle and Mail, rival newspapers. This dispute clearly reached a lot of people. But what was it all about? And why were people so interested? Whatever the content and context of this spat between ‘Uncle Oliver’ and ‘An Absurd Man of Straw’, I found it amusing.

“He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” (Proverbs, xviii, v.17) This Biblical text was used by the writer of our first pamphlet, but it seems like the neighbour, himself, got searched!



International Women’s Day

Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day and today we feature two ‘Women of Conviction’ active in local historical reforms: Frances Smith and Margaret McMillan.

Frances Smith was the first woman to winboth a municipal council election in Keighley and sit on the town’s Industrial Co-operative Society in the 1940’s and 50’s. One of her roles was chair of the council’s maternity and child welfare committee..

Margaret McMillan worked in deprived areas of Bradford in the 1890’s and agitated for reforms to improve the health of young children.

Frances Smith

Frances Maddocks was born at Hope St, Pennington, Leigh, Lancashire on the 1st August 1891. One of five children her father Edwin was a coal miner and her mother a silk winder. Her father premature death at the age of 44 from TB had a lasting effect on Frances. The family had to become resourceful. Aged only 9 Frances and her siblings sold fruit to the queues of people outside the local theatre and her mother took in boarders. Frances first job was as a Silk weaver and it was through seeking work in this industry that she moved to Keighley some time before the First World War.

In 1915 she married local man Harry Smith an iron Moulder and they went on to have one son Edwin in 1916. It is no longer possible to find out what stirred Frances’s involvement into the Co-operative moment or Local Politics but by 1943 she was actively involved in the movement and became the 1st woman to be elected to the board of directors of the Keighley Co-operative Society Ltd.

But Frances involvement in local issues did not stop there. By 1945 she had been working for the labour party for some years. Frances had forged a friendship with Ivor Thomas who in July 1945 took up his seat as Labour MP for Keighley on the labour parties winning of the general election. With his support, Frances was invited to stand as candidate for the 1945 municipal election. In November 1945 Frances won her seat with the biggest majority of the day. She signed the declaration book on 2nd of November 1945, and made history again by becoming the first woman to win a contested municipal election.

Frances wins the North east Ward Seat Municipal Election

For more information on Frances Smith see the full article ‘A Woman of Conviction: Councillor Mrs Frances Smith, First Lady of Keighley by Frances Gilbert and Angela Speight, published in Bradford Antiquary (2012) Volume 16 available at Bradford and Keighley Local Studies Library.

Margaret McMillan

Working in deprived districts of Bradford and Deptford, Margaret McMillan agitated for reforms to improve the health of young children, wrote several books on nursery education and pioneered a play-centred approach.She was born in New York in 1860. Her parents, were from Inverness but had emigrated to the United States in 1840. When she was four, an epidemic of Scarlet fever killed her father and sister. Mrs. McMillan returned to Scotland with her daughters Margaret and Rachel, where both attended the Inverness High School. Margaret went on to study Psychology and Physiology, followed by Languages and Music in Germany.

By 1888 both sisters had become active in local politics.In 1889, Rachel and Margaret helped the workers during the London Dock Strike. In 1892 they moved to Bradford. There they joined the Fabian Society, the Labour Church, the Social Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party.

With Bradford’s school medical officer, Dr. James Kerr, Margaret carried out the first medical inspection of elementary school children in Britain. They published a report and began a campaign for local authorities to install bathrooms, improve ventilation and supply free school meals for children, after seeing the success of Bradford Cinderella Club providing a warm meal to underprivileged children.

Their experiences in Bradford were to shape their later work in Deptford.

For further reading about Margaret and Rachel McMillan we have a good selection of books in Local Studies, please see the list below:

Select reading list of Margaret McMillan books in Bradford Local Studies Library

 Margaret Macmillan: portrait of a pioneer by Bradburn, Elizabeth. Routledge (1989), 9780415012546

All children are mine: inaugural Margaret McMillan lecture by Greenwood, Arthur London U.P (1952)

Margaret McMillan in Bradford, with reminiscences: fourth Margaret McMillan lecture by Lord, Miriam. London U.P (1957)

Our children: Margaret McMillan and the open air nursery school by Lord, Miriam. Lund Humphries

Margaret Mcmillan the childrens champion by Lowndes. Museum P (1960)

Margaret Mcmillan:founder of the open air nursery school by Margaret McMillan Memorial Fund

Camp school by McMillan, Margaret. George Allen & Unwin (1917)

Margaret McMillan: ‘I learn, to succour the helpless’ by Moriarty, Viv. Nottingham Educational Heritage (1998) 9781900219136

The young child and the life of today: third Margaret McMillan lecture by Niblett, William Roy. London U.P (1956)

Margaret McMillan, 1860-1931: reminiscences by Rachel McMillan College Association

Social and political change in England: Margaret McMillan and the battle for the slum child by Rees, Rosemary. Longman Resources Unit (1986) 9780582173637

Childhood, culture and class in Britain: Margaret McMillan, 1860-1931 by Steedman, Carolyn. Virago (1990) 9781853811234

Margaret McMillan: prophet and pioneer: second Margaret McMillan lecture by Stevinson, Emma.





Book Review – We who served … Stories of Addingham and the Great War, 1914-1918.

We who served … Stories of Addingham and the Great War, 1914-1918. By Catherine Snape.

Addingham Civic Society (email:, 2015. x + 310 pp. ISBN: 978-1508859536. £10.00.


“From Addingham, a close-knit village of millworkers and farmers, with a population of less than 2,000, over 400 men marched off to fight in the 1914-1918 war.

The war brought many changes and much hardship. Families rallied to help each other in the hope that their menfolk would return. More than 80 did not, but the true unsung heroes are those who did, and the families who supported them through those long dark years and helped to rebuild their community.

The book tells about these families, their remarkable stories of stoicism, hope and sacrifice, and about their men who went to war.”

This text from the book’s cover indicates the nature of this attractively-produced book.

Chapter One establishes the pre-war context, covering Addingham’s changing society, its businesses and shops, children at work, industrial unrest, and the outbreak of war. Chapter Two features each of the years 1914 to 1919 with text taken from local newspapers. Chapter Three looks at the Home Front, featuring attitudes to Germans, postal services, the fear of invasion, the garrison town of Skipton, the White Feather Movement, women in the workforce, women’s magazines, volunteering, local war hospitals, DORA (Defence Of the Realm Act), conscription and war memorials. Chapter Four – Taking the King’s Shilling – looks at joining the army, its requirements and service conditions, daily life in the army, postal and medical services, and prisoners of war. Chapter Five – For King and Country – covers the service given by Addingham families, medals, where the servicemen lived and what news was received from the Front.

An impressive 140 pages (almost half the book) gives copious details of all the Addingham men who served, with supplementary lists by the categories: Regulars and Reservists, Territorials, Places men served, Naval personnel, Lord Derby recruits, and the ultimate sacrifice. An impressive range of sources has been used, including illustrations, many from the Addingham Digital Archive

This book came about in response to publicity surrounding the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War:

One objective was to research the names on the Addingham war memorial in the Main Street, but when it became apparent that there were names of village servicemen who were not on the memorials, it was decided to extend the research to the lives, times and service of all men who served their country in the armed forces.

This book joins others that have been compiled in memory of those who fought and died in the 1914-18 war, and those who lived through it, three of which – those on Bradford, Low Moor and Ilkley – were reviewed in the 2015 issue of The Bradford Antiquary.

Bob Duckett

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

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.