As I look at the old maps in the Local Studies Library I frequently find myself thinking ‘change and decay in all around I see’. A reflection which was occasioned by this week’s plan showing a dignified gentleman’s residence which was about to be replaced by terraced housing. What we have is a sale plan for a house called Whetley Hill dated 1872. It was located to the east of the road of the same name, just above the Lower Globe Inn.
This house would have provided an excellent opportunity for gracious living. The owner had a lawn, and kitchen gardens for fresh vegetables. Some tender plants required heat and I assume the melons and cucumbers grown in frames would have featured at fine dinner parties. Grapes might well have been provided as a dessert on such occasions and it only proper to have both an early and late heated vinery, so that the dinner guests could enjoy as long a season as possible. Transport needs were taken care of by a stable and coach house, and for relaxation there was croquet or a game of cricket. All could not be sweetness and light of course. I assume that the ‘soil shed’ was not a repository for potting compost but a storage area for human waste awaiting the arrival of the night-soil men with their cart. The ‘rubbish place’ was a convenient site for dumping coal ashes and broken pottery or glass in the years before a regular collection was provided by the local authority. Some lucky residents presumably now have an archaeological treasure house in their back gardens.
When was the house constructed, and who lived there? Immediately there is a problem. There were two houses at the same point on opposite sides of the roadway now called Whetley Hill. They are present on both the 1849 and 1871 Bradford borough maps. In 1849 our house is drawn, but not named. The house opposite is ‘Wheatley Hill’ with an ‘a’. In the 1871 map our house has adopted the name of its neighbour, and is itself Wheatley Hill, while the house opposite has become Wheatley House. This was a very thoughtless disregard of the needs of future local historians, and I assume that the respective butlers sorted out the misaddressed mail!
Such a large residence was hardly likely to escape the notice of William Cudworth and he records that Thomas Hill Horsfall was the owner of Whetley Hill in 1839, within a list of Manningham freeholders. Neither house was exactly a rural enclave. There were several neighbouring quarries and in the mid-nineteenth century Wheatley House must have had a fine view of a brick works. Cudworth explains that the mapped house, Whetley Hill, was built in the late eighteenth century by bachelor Thomas Wilkinson who owned most of the land in the area, and much else besides. Surprisingly on his death the housekeeper Miss Sally Kitching inherited. Cudworth describes her as ‘a maiden lady of means and of some repute’. When she died herself in 1822 Thomas Hill Horsfall (1802-1855) acquired the house from her executors. While resident he kept a pack of foxhounds that hunted all around Bradford. He was consequently known as ‘Hunting’ Tom Horsfall. Eventually he sold the house to John Priestman (1805-1866), around 1838 I estimate. It is fortunate that Tom was visiting his brother John Horsfall of Bolton Royds at the time of the 1851 census. It was their ancestor John Garnett Horsfall who introduced steam power looms to Bradford and the consequent riot at his mill in North Wing in 1826 led to several deaths when special constables fired on the protestors. The new owner of Whetley Hill, John Priestman, was a very different man to Hunting Tom. He was a Quaker, devoted to peace, and an enemy to none but strong drink. He was initially a flour miller and then a successful stuff weaver (John Priestman & Co.). After he died at Whetley Hill in 1866 his wife and sons continued in residence for a few years longer.
I’d really like to know more about Sally Kitching and the circumstances of her inheritance. Cudworth does not give any indication of her age but he seems quite positive that she died in 1822. However I could get no independent confirmation of her death. Sally is a common diminutive of Sarah and there is a record that a ‘Sarah Kitching of Manningham’ was buried at Little Horton Lane Chapel (Independent) in 1827. Using Land Tax Redemption records it can be seen that in the mid-1780s Sarah Kitching owned one property in Manningham but the big land-owners were Sam Lister, Mr Hodgson and one Joseph Wilkinson. The crucial transition occurs in 1797-98. In 1797 Joseph Wilkinson owned five properties, the most valuable taxed at 13/9, and occupied another as a tenant of Mr Rawson (Lord of the Manor of Bradford & Manningham). In 1798 Miss Kitching retained her original property at the same tax value but acquired five more, again one with a tenancy from the Lord of the Manor. The name Joseph Wilkinson disappears and it can hardly be doubted that in 1798 Sarah Kitching inherited the property from Joseph Wilkinson, not Thomas as Cudworth states. It is no surprise to find that in April 1798 Joseph Wilkinson of Manningham, Gent, was buried at the parish church.
Cudworth gives the name of the last known resident as John Spink. By this time, he wrote, ‘the land below was covered by housing’. This great house is no more: ‘all our pomp of yesterday, is one with Nineveh and Tyre’.
Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer