“Our Criminal Ancestors”

Do you have a criminal ancestor?

Police constable or prison officer in the family?

Victims or witnesses of crime?

Find out more about the history of crime and criminal records…

Meet leading experts and uncover the secrets of finding, interpreting and using criminal records at this FREE introductory workshop.

Wednesday 18th April – 11am– 1.15pm

Bradford Local Studies Library
Old Central Library, Princes Way, Bradford

Please contact the library to book: 01274 433688 or local.studies@bradford .gov.uk

This event has been organised by the Bradford Police Museum and supported by Bradford Local Studies Library

 

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Lord Asa Briggs of Lewes , born and schooled in Keighley: 07 May 1921 – 15 March 2016

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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

Asa-Briggs_-books-for-loan

Bradford Libraries Family History courses in October 2017

People can trace their roots and find out more about their ancestors on courses starting soon at Bradford libraries

Family History Courses will be starting soon at Bradford Local Studies Library, Keighley Local Studies Library and Ilkley Library.
Researching family history can be a rewarding and exciting experience and these courses can help to guide people to the unique resources they need to investigate the past and provide a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills.
They will use library resources such as Ancestry websites and are suitable for beginners or those who have already started on their Family Tree and need a helping hand from our friendly expert tutor.
The courses cost £18 for a three-week course of two hours each session. Some concessions apply for people on certain benefits including Job Seekers Allowance. Enrolment is at the first session.
The courses will start in Keighley Local Studies 10am – 12 noon on Tuesday 17 October, Ilkley 2-4pm on Tuesday 17 October and Bradford Local Studies 10am-12noon on Wednesday 18 October.

For more details contact:
Keighley Local Studies Library,
North Street,
Keighley,
BD21 3SX
01535 618215

Map of the Week: Eccleshill – coal, iron, and waving wheat.

The ancient township of Eccleshill is well represented in the Local Studies Library reserve map collection, although many of the maps are in poor condition. The following images are details which I have enhanced to make them more visible. It is hard to believe today but the whole of Eccleshill was once mined for coal, with mining features commonly being seen on nineteenth century maps of the district. The seams that could be accessed included the Hard and Soft Beds (sometimes called the Upper and Lower Beds) which were widely exploited all over the north Bradford area. Above these in the geological sequence was the important vein of sandstone called the Elland Flags, which was extensively quarried. The well-known George Vint, with his various partners, owned quarries in nearby Idle extracting this valuable rock. Modern geology maps suggest that the centre of Eccleshill was high enough to include the Better Bed coal and fire-clay seams, positioned above the Elland Flags. The Better Bed was also extensively mined as coking coal in south Bradford for the iron-smelting industry at Bowling and Low Moor. William Cudworth, in his account of Eccleshill, mentions the Better Bed, and also an associated fire-clay and brick making industry based at Manor Potteries in Eccleshill.

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Click on map to enlarge

The first map shows the township field names with buildings and the names of their occupiers. At the bottom right is Eccleshill Hall built in 1713 and the home of the Stanhope (later Stott-Stanhope) family. As far as I know Lt.-Col. George Stott-Stanhope was the last family member to actually live there. He was a large landowner whose name frequently appears in local maps. He died in 1874 and the hall was demolished in 1878. Slightly to the left you should be able to make out the name J.A. Jowett. This was James Atkinson-Jowett (1817-1886) of the Clockhouse Estate, Manningham. The Clockhouse name survives as one of the Bradford Boys’ Grammar School buildings. James Atkinson-Jowett was the son of Nathan Atkinson-Jowett. Both men changed their surname from plain Atkinson in the 1860s in order to claim the large Jowett property inheritance. The field names are not likely to be easily visible but include: Windmill Field and Tenter Croft. A tenter croft, or ground, was an area used for drying newly woven woollens after fulling. The wet cloth was attached to frames called tenters by means of, naturally, tenter-hooks. Town Street, today called Victoria Road, divides at Bank Top into Norman Lane and Eccleshill Bank, named the ‘Old Turnpike Road’ in early maps. This division is very helpful in orientation, with portions of Eccleshill Bank being included in all the maps included here.

The second, rather clearer, map enables us to examine the northern part of Eccleshill. It is obvious that a planned street grid has been superimposed on an older map but I do not think that all those roads were actually constructed. On the right side of the map a railway line has appeared. The Eccleshill & Idle Railway was incorporated in 1866 and was assimilated into the GNR Laisterdyke to Shipley line. Eccleshill Station was closed to passengers in 1931. A land-owner whose name appears approximately in the centre of the map is described as the ‘late John Mitchell’. Eccleshill historian Ken Kenzie told me that John or Jonathan Mitchell was a coal merchant who once lived at Eccleshill Bank. He was clearly a big man in Eccleshill mining and, among others, ran Park Pits which were sold off in 1860 when he was in his 70s. On the map above his surname you may be able to make out the location of ‘Eccleshill Worsted Mill Company’ and above this, and to the left, ‘Engine Pit’. The enterprises of John Mitchell are well represented in the Local Studies map collection.

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Click on map to enlarge

The third image is taken from a plan dated 1847 and described as ‘coals leased to Mr John Mitchell, surveyed by Ingle & Smith’. Once again you can see Eccleshill Bank and the fine line grid above it represents underground mine galleries. I presume these were entered from the Engine Pit shaft. Elsewhere the map reveals extensive coal mining to the south-west of the township.

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Click on map to enlarge

The final map is the oldest and most damaged. In one area I can identify George Baron as a landowner. George Baron, of Drewton in the Wolds, was an earlier possessor of the Clockhouse Estate than the Atkinson-Jowetts. He inherited the estate from Sarah, last of the original Jowett family, and died in 1854. The West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) has a huge collection of Jowett family documents (10D76/3/190). In box 6 of these is a lease dated 1842: ‘George Baron to John Mitchell, Eccleshill’. This document is a 28 year lease of Upper Bed and Lower Bed coals in the area of Greengates, Eccleshill. The price seems to be £60 per acre. This is somewhat north of the area discussed so far, but Greengates and Apperley Bridge were traditionally considered to be part of Eccleshill.

 

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Click on map to enlarge

The short horizontal trackway at the top of the last map is called Green Lane. It joins a bridleway which is now Carr Bottom Lane. We have moved west since the curved roadway at the top left, marked Otley, is the far end of Eccleshill Bank where it joins the Dudley Hill & Killinghall turnpike. A number of coal shafts are present on the first OS map of the area (which is of approximately the same date) together with a limekiln at the end of the short track leading to Wheat Close. I’m not sure if these are drawn here or not since the script is so hard to read. What fascinates me about this map are the field names themselves. At the bottom right you may be able to make out Wheat Close and, below this, Cinder Hills. Today it is hard to imagine ripe wheat being harvested in Eccleshill although we have already mentioned Windmill Field which suggests subsequent grain processing. Cinder Hills is a name normally associated with heaps of iron-making slag. Pre-Industrial iron making has been suggested in other townships which now form part of Bradford: Harden, Baildon and Bierley for example. Faull & Moorhouse (West Yorkshire Survey to AD 1500) speculated that Eccleshill should join this list on the basis of two areas called ‘Cinderhills’ in old township maps.

 

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

National Dementia Awareness Week: Memory Boxes

14th-20th May is National Dementia Awareness Week as the Alzheimer’s Society asks people to unite against dementia, to raise awareness and to offer help and understanding.

Memories, first hand recollections and experiences of people are extremely important and valuable to us all and thoughtful and engaging use of reminiscence when used well can be especially effective for those with dementia.

With this in mind we have refreshed and updated the Memory Boxes available to borrow from the Local Studies library.

The packs contain a selection of multi-sensory objects, pictures and memorabilia plus a beautifully illustrated book which reflects the topic.

We all like an occasional trip down Memory Lane and reminiscence can be great fun for everyone involved, as well as being an important activity that affirms our sense of identity.  These Memory Boxes can stimulate arts, history and memory groups. They can be used in a variety of settings including social and community groups, day centres and residential homes.

Our boxes include a book in the series of ‘Pictures to Share’ books designed for people with dementia. These books can help and encourage communication and discussion when shared with carers, provide a calming activity for the person to do alone, and promote a feeling of worth and well-being.

memory books

Pictures to Share books are based on a variety of general themes. They include a wide selection of powerful, colourful and attractive images and texts.

For more details please see our leaflet here:

Memory boxes for reminiscence

Bradford Libraries would like to thank the ‘The Memory Bank’ forum for creating the original concept and sourcing artefacts which form the basis of these collections.

A Bradford Childhood 1944-1955 – Part 3

Our move from Thornbury to Eccleshill inevitably involved enrolment at a new school:

Wellington Road Junior School was about a mile away from where we lived, and I walked there and back, lunchtimes included, every school day until I was eleven.
It was stone built with slate roofs and mullioned windows, some of them gothic in shape and set high in the walls. There was a bell tower near the head teacher’s office and this had an inscription in the stone that indicated it was an original Board School built in 1880.

I had several teachers in the earlier part of my stay there, but for my last two years leading up to the 11 plus I was very much under the permanent influence of Miss Davis, probably the most senior teacher in the school other than the head. She was highly respected, strict, methodical, skilled and sensible.

She was probably in her fifties when I knew her. She was of average height, quite slim, had a longish face and wore her greying hair swept into a bun at the back of her head. Like my mother, she put on a little make up and powder. Everything about her was sensible and controlled. She wore long, sensible woollen or worsted skirts, often some kind of herringbone or plaid, and a smart woollen twin set or blouse and cardigan and low-heeled shoes. She occasionally chose to wear some simple jewellery: a brooch, or a modest string of pearls, but no rings.

She read to us a lot in the afternoons. She would let us engage in simple handicrafts while she read, the boys often crocheting long chains of wool via the holes in old cotton bobbins. One afternoon she involuntarily revealed the softer side of herself when reading a sad passage from ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’:

We were all listening and knitting or crocheting when we suddenly realised the narrative had stopped. When we looked up we saw that Miss Davis was attempting to say the words, but no sound was coming out, and that tears were streaming down her face. Eventually she stopped attempting to read and began to sob, her shoulders heaving and her face beginning to contort. Two girls stood up and walked down the stepped aisle and made awkward attempts to comfort her. The rest of us looked on in stunned silence.

She recovered and eventually carried on reading, but the incident always stayed in my mind and often in later years made me think about the power of art and the mysteries of the human soul.

My father was determined I should go to grammar school but some of the coaching he organised for me at home didn’t always bring happy results:

One evening I became so upset and frustrated, I threw the pen down on my exercise book and swore, saying I would never do any more, ever. The action produced an explosion of ink from the pen resulting in a huge blue-black arc on the wallpaper of the adjacent wall complete with drips and runs flowing downwards from the ceiling to the skirting board. There was silence apart from my mother’s tears, and then she attacked my father verbally and I was forgotten in the midst of their bickering.

By the time of the examination itself I had IQ tests coming out of my ears and I had more or less forgotten it was even going to happen:

There was no warning given before the day that we were to begin our 11+ examinations. I remember walking, as usual, along the Harrogate Road to school on a blustery spring morning happily fascinated by straining trees, glinting puddles and ragged crows flung about in the sky, unaware something serious was about to happen. Only when required to file through long rows of quiet, sombre desks that had appeared overnight in the main hall outside our classroom did I realise that the long anticipated day had arrived. Miss Davis took the register and had a few discreet words about it being the first day of the dreaded 11+, how we should not be flustered by the event and should approach the whole thing with confidence. We entered the hall, took our places where our names were written on a card on a desk, together with a number, and then, when prompted, began to read the instructions, fill in our individual details, and answer the questions.

Taking the 11 plus was the last significant thing I did in Bradford. After that, we moved across the Pennines to Cheshire and my Yorkshire citizenship was ended. Except that it wasn’t, of course, because it never leaves you no matter where you go or how old you become. Yorkshire remains my spiritual home even though I am no longer a resident. My childhood experience in Bradford was enormously important to me and I suppose that is why I felt impelled to write about it. I was just turned seventy when I started to write and I didn’t want to lose the memory and, more importantly, I wanted to share it with my children and anybody else who might be interested to read it.

If you take the whole piece out to read, I hope you enjoy it and that it might either remind you of your own early life or give a reasonably accurate account of life as it was lived by a little boy in Bradford immediately after the Second World War.

Bob Nichol

Bob Nichol

 

New Scanner

West Yorkshire Archives (Bradford) now have a brand new Covergold Bookeye 4 scanner. The Society has paid £6,000 to help in the purchase of this equipment which will help both visiting researchers and the archivists.

scanner

It is an A3 scanner that will not only scan books and documents using the traditional flat base,  but can scan books and documents that would not be allowed near a traditional scanner or photocopier as they cannot be laid flat. The scanner bed can be changed to be a V shape that will hold the book in place without damaging the spine. The scanner then produces an image that looks flat. Pure magic! Images can then be printed and/or saved on a USB stick. Don’t forget to take your own USB stick with you.

The scanner can be used by anyone visiting the Archives, but Bradford Family History Society Members will get a discount on the price of the paper copies or camera license (if using a USB stick). To get the discount just contact the Chairman with your name and membership number (chairman@bradfordfhs.org.uk).

Non-members can always join the Society please see our website at www.bradfordfhs.org.uk and go to the Membership page.

 

 

Neglected Bradford Industries: Iron-smelting

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.

The production of copperas (iron sulphate) and glass in the Bradford area have been completely forgotten. Brick-making has escaped serious study until quite recently. It is the extent, rather than the existence, of quarrying, coal-mining and iron-smelting that has tended to pass out of memory. I shall try to provide a brief introduction to these industries and to some smaller concerns: pottery, fireclay production, lime burning and vitriol manufacture. My survey cannot be exhaustive since I know very little about soap boiling, clay pipe production, nail making or leather tanning. I hope any reader with knowledge of these activities will feel free to contribute. Although my main interest is in the history of technology I am not unaware that the successes I shall describe came at considerable human cost. In the period selected the rural poor were driven by a need for work into factories and crowded, unsanitary, housing. Some employers, like Titus Salt, were humane men but others were exploitative. Foundries, mines and vitriol works were dangerous places where often little thought was given to worker safety. Those who paid the price of progress seldom reaped its benefits.

Bradford had many advantages as an industrial centre. Building stone was relatively easy to acquire, and since the late eighteenth century there had been a vigorous brick industry. Cheap local coal was available, and could be coked to supply blast furnaces which made pig iron from locally dug ironstone. There had long been water-powered corn and textile mills but it was the introduction of steam engine power that really transformed any process that was capable of mechanisation. Cloth production was a principle beneficiary of this technology which in turn promoted the development of textile engineering in Bradford and Keighley. The town was originally a communications backwater. It was hard to move raw materials, or manufactured products, cheaply and speedily. Horse transport had been used for centuries and a network of pack-horse routes had developed throughout West Yorkshire. The construction of turnpike roads in the years 1734-1825 produced a substantial improvement in the situation. With the opening of sections of the Leeds to Liverpool canal in the 1770s, with its spur into Bradford, transport of bulk goods, especially coal and limestone, became far cheaper. Railway links were established by the 1850s.

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A 30.5 ton Rolling Mill flywheel presented by Alan Elsworth and preserved for display near the site of Low Moor Ironworks.

A century ago no community would be without its blacksmith but Bradford could boast a complete package of iron based technologies: ironstone mining, iron-smelting, and foundries. Historical sources, and deposits of slag, suggest that a medieval, bloomery furnace based, iron-smelting had occurred at Eldwick, Harden, Baildon, and Eccleshill, with charcoal being the fuel employed. Until their dissolution around 1539 northern Cistercian abbeys were heavily involved in iron-making but there is some documentary evidence of late Tudor smelting at Esholt and Hirst Wood, Shipley.  The origin of modern industry was the discovery in 1709, by Quaker ironmaster Abraham Darby of Coalbrookdale, that iron could be successfully smelted using coked coal. This advance took about 50 years to be widely accepted. Darby’s grandson was the creator of the famous iron bridge.

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An iron pig produced by Abraham Darby in 1756, on display at Coalbrookdale Museum.

Bradford did not have the capacity to produce vast quantities of charcoal for blast furnace fuel but Darby’s discovery resulted in south Bradford’s Black Bed coal seam being mined for its rich roof deposits of ironstone. It was discovered that the deeper Better Bed coal seam was low in sulphur and phosphorus and so produced coke highly suitable for iron-smelting. The  industry was capital intensive but blast furnaces were set up at Birkenshaw (1782), Bowling (1788), Low Moor (1791) and Bierley (1810). Their products were cast iron and the ‘best wrought iron’, produced by Cort’s ‘puddling’ process. Cannon and shot were manufactured during the Napoleonic Wars. At a later date the companies did not adopt the Bessemer process to convert cast iron into steel for which Sheffield became celebrated. The furnaces are long gone but the ‘dross’ waste and some of the iron products remains. I vividly remember encountering some Low Moor cannon at Alnwick Castle. As local deposits were exhausted mineral carrying tramways transported vast amounts of coal and ironstone for miles towards the furnaces. In the 1960s a scholar called Derek Pickles studied the mineral ways supplying Bowling Iron Works. His detailed and fascinating work is curated by Bradford Industrial Museum but I know virtually nothing about him. Can anybody help me?

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A plan from Derek Pickles’s study showing mineral ways around Bowling Iron Works (top centre). The triangles mark collieries.

 

If you want to undertake further background reading the Local Studies Library has copies of three useful texts:

  • RCN Thornes, West Yorkshire: A Noble Scene of Industry, WYCC (1981)
  • Gary Firth, Bradford in the Industrial Revolution, Ryburn Publishing (1990)
  • C Richardson, A Geography of Bradford, University of Bradford (1976)

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

A Bradford Childhood Part 2 – 1944-1955

As a family we were what would be called these days “upwardly mobile” and our move from Thornbury to Eccleshill was a modest first step up the social scale:

 When I was about eight, we moved to our new home in a sunnier, less tightly packed part of Bradford where we were more likely to play in each other’s gardens than on the local wasteland and back streets as we did at our previous address. It soon became apparent, however, that there were several forbidden places of excitement close by and I began to explore them eagerly with my new friends.

One of my early adventures involved being in a group of boys that climbed up a nearby fire escape running down the side of a local mill:

We set foot on this first metal rung and began to climb. The first few steps were easy but, as you could see straight down to the ground through the open mesh of the steps and, as the railings were also quite open and apparently fragile, the climb became more challenging with every step upwards as the ground below grew increasingly distant. We got about two thirds of the way up and were just beginning to appreciate the view over the nearby roofs and chimneys when we noticed the whole structure began to wobble. We stopped and discussed the issue, but decided to carry on and see if we could make out the roof of the Ring O’ Bells pub from the top. Then we heard a voice from way below:

‘Oi! What do you think you’re doing? Get down here now!’

Our lives became less parochial after my father bought a car:

It was about this time we started to travel out to the Dales and other parts of Yorkshire almost every weekend in our second hand black Morris Eight saloon. It was very small, but it had real leather seats and a curtain to pull down over the rear window. Mum and dad sat at the front and Pauline and I sat in the back.

I think the windscreen wipers may have been hand operated and it had to be started with a crank handle. It had black painted wire wheels and chrome plated round hubcaps with a large ‘M’ pressed into them. We all absolutely loved it. The registration plate announced we were DNW613, but we, like so many other aspiring lower middle class families of the time, gave her our own name. We decided, for reasons that now completely escape me, to call her ‘Flossie’. It was my father’s pride and joy and we were all required to put on our best clothes to take a trip in her. My mother would wear her grey suit and my father his grey flannels and the green Harris Tweed jacket with leather buttons and elbow pads that he kept for weekends. The car had two doors, narrow running boards and a spare wheel attached at the back over the small boot. My father often smoked his pipe when driving, which, combined with the smell of waxy shoe polish from my shoes, made me feel quite sick. He had special leather driving gloves with string backs and he almost always wore his flat cap. There was no radio and no heating.

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Our journeys and holidays at that time still provide me with many of my better memories:

I still miss the grass, the moors, the large skies, the limestone, the becks and brown rivers, the hills, the cry of the curlew, the bleat of the lambs, the waterfalls, the wild places, and the villages of the Dales. When I was a child I saw in Grassington a farrier shoe a carthorse and, in Reeth, a wheelwright put together an entire cartwheel, hub, spokes, metal tyre and all. I saw farmers cutting wheat with simple farm machinery and making stooks from the sheaves in the fields.

If it rained all day, we drank coffee in the car from my mother’s flask and nibbled ginger biscuits; if it was warm and sunny my sister and I would scramble up the sides of the nearest hill and look down on the tiny figures of our parents sitting by the car in their little picnic chairs, reading the paper or drinking tea. We collected stones, twigs, sheep’s wool, broken birds’ eggs, and cast-off feathers. We picked bilberries by my father’s hatful and took them home for my mother to bake in a pie. It was all very simple, very innocent, and we loved it.

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I expect all of us of a certain age remember the year of the coronation:

We had been in our new house perhaps a year when preparations for the queen’s coronation began. It was a more innocent age and everybody seemed keen to participate in the occasion as well as be an onlooker. I can’t remember much deviation from our normal lessons at school, but at home there was quite a lot of excitement and activity. All the residents did something to decorate their house. In our case, where others in the street were satisfied with bunting, my father erected in the centre of the front garden a white flagpole planted firmly in the lawn and supported by guy ropes attached to huge metal tent pegs. It reached beyond the top of the roof. For the week before the coronation, he ran the union flag up the pole every morning before leaving for work and took it down again in the early evening. At each event anybody in close proximity was expected to line up to attention on the path by the side of it (there were usually half a dozen kids, or so, and a sprinkling of adults) and salute whilst singing the national anthem at the same time. I think we may have had a special ceremony during the day when the news of the conquest of Mount Everest came through immediately before the big day on 2nd June 1953. There was not the faintest hint of irony in any of this.

When the Queen came to Bradford some time after her coronation, dozens of us went to see her as she was driven down Pullen Avenue to the roundabout by The Ring O’Bells and on into the Harrogate Road and beyond.

Ring o Bells Harrogate Rd, Eccleshill

The Queen’s car slowed to less than walking pace as it came close. There was a soft light within the car that caught the glimmer of her youth, the richness of her dress and the brightness of her jewels. She looked utterly beautiful; she was like a film star; glamorous and self-confident, important and revered. She passed slowly, smiling and waving, then, towards the tail end of the crowd, the chauffer kicked onto the accelerator and she was silently swept away at speed into the vastness of the Yorkshire night.

Last time I wrote about a few memories I didn’t put in my memoir and I said I’d try to think of a few more.

Does anybody remember when Leeds, Bradford Airport was simply called Yeadon Aerodrome? I remember watching De Havilland Dragon Rapides take off and land from there many times.

Perhaps you were there at the air display my family and I attended when a jet flew very low along the whole length of the runway at the same time as breaking the sound barrier, crowds of spectators being only yards away either side of it!! How’s that for Health and Safety!! I can still recreate the resulting BANG inside my head!! The jet later climbed almost vertically into the sky and disappeared into the clouds. This makes me think it was probably a prototype English Electric Lightning, but I can’t be sure.

Another memory is of walking one summer evening with my father and looking over the top of a high wall into the premises of the Jowett Motor Car Works.

Jowett Motor Manufacturer.jpg

I think they may already have been experiencing difficulties because my father said something about it and I could also see for myself nothing but rows and rows of (presumably) unsold Javelins and Jupiters filling the whole of the car park outside their factory.

Do you remember the Jowett Javelin, often referred to as the doctor’s car as it was steady and reliable and slightly upmarket? I saw quite a few out and about in Bradford when I lived there.

Jowett Javelin advertisement c1950

Next time I’ll tell you about my junior school and the teacher who prepared me for the 11+.

 

Bob Nichol

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Map of the Week: A View from the Bridge

The Queens Road bridge, which carries the traffic from Manningham over Canal Road towards Bolton, Eccleshill and Idle, was in place when the 1889 OS map of the area was surveyed. The Local Studies Library reserve collection has a map from 1880 which seems to have been part of the preparatory planning for this structure. Early users, descending from Manningham, would have seen on their right the railway line and Valley Road coming from Bradford, very much as now. To their left, approximately where a stone reclamation site is now located, was Manningham Station. This pre-dated the bridge and was, in the years 1868-1965, the first stop out of Bradford on the Midland Railway (later LMS) line. Manningham and Frizinghall stations were closed, well within living memory, by Dr Beeching. Subsequently Frizinghall station has been reopened.

The three maps included in this article, though all undated, are clearly from the mid-twentieth century.  Their relatively late origin has one great advantage inasmuch as their interpretation can be supported with photography.

The first map shows the situation on the city side of the bridge. To display the annotations correctly it has to be displayed with the city centre to the left of the map which doesn’t feel right to me. Valley Road should be running across the top of the plan but is not drawn. The canal is evidently ‘disused’ which places our plan quite certainly after 1922. The arrangement of the buildings resembles the 1930s OS maps quite closely, so that is a probable date.

Map of the Week 021 A

The curved building that is aligned on Station Road, unnamed in this map, is a wool-combing mill. The blue waterway is the Bradford Beck and the idea behind the map, which is not explained, may have been to show how the beck could be culverted and taken under Canal Road at a time when a new sewer was being constructed. The six circles, and the ancillary buildings between them, represent the Bradford Gas Works. You can see this arrangement clearly in an image on the Britain From Above website:

Valley Road Gas Works

Strangely the 1936 OS map does not name the Gas Works but does indicate that it was served by a network of railway lines which presumably distributed coal, arriving on trucks from the Midland Railway, to the coke ovens.

The second plan shows the same area but is orientated more naturally.

Map of the Week 021 B

The map is undated but in the list below the railway is identified as London Midland & Scottish so it clearly pre-dates nationalisation in 1948.  It is stamped ‘SG Wardley, City surveyor & engineer’.  I believe Wardley was in post around 1946-1960s.  Readers who have known Bradford longer than me will have their own views about whether the major city plan that he espoused produced bloom or blight. The great advantage of the second map is that land occupiers are clearly identified:

1 London Midland & Scottish Railway Company

2 Bradford Corporation

3 Bradford Corporation Street Drainage & Works

4 Bradford Woolcombers Mutual Association Ltd

5 Beck Properties Ltd

6 J F Raspin Ltd

7 The Bradford Corporation, Gas Committee

8 Wm. Whitaker & Co Ltd

9 R Clough & Co Ltd

10 The Bradford Corporation, Electricity Committee

Contemporary trade directories reveal that Raspin’s and Clough’s were both firms of commission wool-combers. The well-known Wm. Whitaker & Co Ltd were brewers until the 1920s but by the 1950s were bottlers and wine & spirit merchants. Unfortunately my limited research cannot place them securely in this position nor explain why they needed such a small patch of land. Can anybody help? Between Raspin’s mill and the Gas Works were three long-vanished roads: Hopwood St, Valley St and Valley Row. Small portions of the Bradford Beck are shown and the relationship of Canal Road with Valley Road is much clearer than in the first map. Towards the end of the 1930s gas production was abandoned at the Valley Road works which became exclusively a distribution centre. Production continued at Birks Hall works, Laisterdyke, eventually the largest in Yorkshire.

The final building on this map is the Valley Road Electricity Generating Station. I understand that its chimney was taller than the famous example at Manningham Mills. Its wooden-construction cooling towers were known as Davenport Towers. The works consumed millions of gallons of water, and hundreds of tons of coal, weekly. It had been built in 1896 and extended in 1939 and again in 1947.

In the Local Studies collection we have a plan of the whole Power Station of which the third map is a detail. The map is annotated ‘Electricity works, Canal Road’. The British Electricity Authority (Yorkshire Division) is recorded as the operator. I believe that this body was only in existence between 1948-55. The station was finally demolished in the mid-1970s.

Map of the Week 021 C

 

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library volunteer.