Map of the Week: Low Moor

In 1828 or 1829 surveyor Joseph Fox drew a map recording the property of the Low Moor Iron Company. The West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) have a copy of his map, generously donated by Geoff and Mary Twentyman. The donors suggest that it was kept on display at the ironworks, and it has certainly been annotated at a later date. The original map is too fragile to be handled, a common problem with old material, but images of excellent quality are available on CD-ROM. The Local Studies Library reserve map collection also has a plan, labelled North Bierley, which closely resembles the Fox map. It has deteriorated quite badly but the detail included as this week’s chosen example perfectly clear.

The same landowners are mentioned in both maps, although the script in which their names are written differs. The plan of the Low Moor Ironworks is identical in the two maps, as are most buildings included. In the top left corner of the image are a collection of roughly circular features. These represent coal or ironstone mines. It is hard to imagine now that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Bradford was densely covered by mines, abandoned mine-shafts and piles of colliery waste. The Low Moor and Bowling Iron Companies smelted iron ore, obtained locally from the roof of the Black Bed coal seam, using coke made from the deeper Better Bed seam. The production of cast iron and ‘best Yorkshire wrought iron’ was extremely profitable for more than a century.

In the approximate centre of the map is the place name ‘Glass House’. This represents the site once occupied by Bradford’s only known glass-making furnace. The builder of the glass-works, known to be in existence by 1748, was Edward Rookes Leeds (1715-1788) of Royds Hall, Lord of the Manor of Wibsey.  In that era the space needed for a furnace and its attendant glass-workers was enclosed by a brick cone, and there were large underground flues. An excellent surviving example of such a cone can still be seen at Catcliffe, South Yorkshire. The Fox map in the WY Archives places a large circle at this site which could easily represent a glass cone in plan, but the map illustrated here has no such feature. Have the two map versions ‘caught’ the brick cone in the process of being demolished?

The fate of the glass works is being actively researched at present. It is possible that the works was not in active production for many years, but ‘Glass House’ long remained as a place name in Low Moor. Fox drew other maps; the LSL reserve collection contains a beautiful example showing Harden Moor, with the roads connecting Keighley and Bingley, drawn in 1830.

Derek Barker, Library Volunteer

Low Moor

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