Spanish Civil War children sought refuge in Keighley and Bradford in 1937.

There is still chance to see the display by which will be in Keighley Local Studies until 14th November.

In Keighley Local Studies Library Simon Martinez and John Birkbeck recently told the story of the Basque children who came to Keighley to escape the Spanish Civil War in a well-attended talk.

In September 1937, nearly 100 children arrived at the Morton Banks Colony which was the largest in Yorkshire. Previously Morton Banks had been a sanatorium and between 1916 to 1918 it had been a war hospital.


Morton Banks gates today (Image: ©Simon Martinez)

The home at Morton Banks closed when it was requisitioned for the Second World War in 1939. By then, many children had gone to France or back to Spain. Others stayed in Britain in colonies that remained until after the war, or were adopted by British people.

The talk sparked many interesting discussions and stories from descendants of the Basque refugees as well as of the people from the local community who rallied to the cause and provided sanctuary for the children.

The Basque Children of 37 Association would like to hear from anyone who might have further information. See more details at:



Missing Priest

Bradford Local Studies Library recently assisted researchers in a radio programme which was aired on Radio 4 recently.

Bradford’s Polish Roman Catholic Community became nationally famous in the summer of 1953 when its parish priest, Father Henryk Borynski, disappeared.

One afternoon in July 1953 Father Borynski took a telephone call. His housekeeper heard him say ‘OK, I’ll go’. He put on his hat and his coat and left. He was never seen again.

Many Poles fled to the UK during World War II and settled in Bradford. With the onset of the Cold War they became exiles, unable to return to Poland. Father Borynski was an outspoken critic of the Soviet system and many believed that he could have been a victim of communist agents operating in England.

Six years after Father Borynski walked out of his presbytery in Little Horton Lane the Church assumed him to be dead and a requiem mass was held at St Joseph’s Church where the Poles then worshipped.

The story of this unsolved mystery is investigated by Steve Punt in the programme in which he follows leads and opens Secret Service files, to find out what might have happened to Father Borynski.

There is still chance to listen to this programme: ‘Punt PI’ Series 10 ‘Missing Priest’ at the link below:

Neglected Bradford Industries: Stone Quarrying

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.

It is the extent, rather than the existence, of Bradford’s stone quarrying industry that has tended to pass out of memory. Bradford sits on a series of Carboniferous period sedimentary rocks called the Lower Coal Measures. This series contains strata of commercially valuable fine grained sandstone such as the well-known Elland Flags. Beneath the Coal Measures is the Millstone Grit series which also provided building stone. Saltaire, for example, is constructed of gritstone. There is no essential difference between these two series of rocks, no unconformity as geologists would put it, and their junction is defined by a particular fossil species. Millstone Grit outcrops to the west and north of the city, forming the scenery of Shipley Glen and Ilkley Moor. The Aire Valley glacier once carved its way deeply into the Millstone Grit making it possible for this rock also to be exploited quite near Bradford. Sandstones and gritstones are largely composed of cemented grains of the hard mineral quartz. Ultimately these grains were derived from weathering igneous rocks and transported here, and deposited, by a vast river delta more than 300 million years ago.

Although stone was principally a construction material it did have other uses, dressed gritstone was once employed for the millstones in corn mills for example. Midgeley Wood at Baildon Green is said to show evidence of this industry, and I should be grateful if any reader could confirm this. Stone could also be crushed for gravel and sand. Any stone occurring in thick beds, which can be cut freely in any direction, is called freestone. Once hewn for facing it is known as ashlar. Gritstone and ragstone are sandstones with coarse, angular, grains that cut with a ragged fracture. Flagstones are thin bedded sandstones ideal for flooring and roofing. When this material is used on a roof it is often referred to as ‘stone slate’ although it is not true slate which is a metamorphic rock. There are plenty of true slate roofs in Bradford of course but slate came by rail, after the mid-nineteenth century, from Wales or, to a lesser extent, the Lake District. The colour of sandstone reflects its iron content. Local stone was often grey when first quarried but it oxidises, on exposure to air, producing a beautiful honey colour. Old quarries are a significant landscape feature in many parts of the Bradford area, and are commonly seen in tithe maps and the first OS maps. Many were subsequently used for land fill, recreational space, or development.

04 Image A

Quarries on Idle Moor in a detail from the first OS map of the area
(surveyed in late 1840s)

In the Middle Ages stone building was confined to high status structures: castles, churches, bridges, and great houses. The only medieval stone buildings now standing in Bradford would seem to be the tower of Bolling Hall and the Cathedral. There must have been a medieval stone quarry in Bradford since the recent Sunbridge Wells development exposed several prison cells, the rear walls of which are portions of a quarry face. Medieval vernacular architecture was in timber, thatch, wattle and daub. The construction of a large timber-framed house required carpentry of a very high order so I cannot think of timber construction as a second best to masonry. After the medieval period there was a ‘great rebuilding’ in brick and stone which in northern Britain occurred quite late, from the mid-seventeenth to early eighteenth century. Was this simply fashion, or an appreciation of the damage fire could do to a wooden urban area? As with many innovations the wealthy were the first to adopt the change. Paper Hall in Bradford is an early example in the city, and East Riddlesden Hall is a seventeenth century millstone grit construction. By the time of the 1800 Bradford map no quarries are marked and the industry has evidently moved to the surrounding high ground.

Since Bradford is famous for its stone buildings it is reasonable to ask how such large quantities were obtained. In some areas, York being an excellent example, cut stone could be recycled from Roman buildings or dissolved abbeys (after the 1540s), but not here. Before the creation of quarries there must have been large quantities of surface stone available which had been originally transported by glacial ice. In an area I know well, Northcliffe Wood in Shipley, large glacial erratic millstone grit boulders are still on the surface, and there are also several large, shallow, surface depressions interpreted as sites from which suitable stone was simply levered up. Stone that was not of sufficient quality for masonry could still be used in drystone walls of which there were vast numbers. It appears that the old quarrymen believed that the presence of a fossil weakened the stone. Rocks containing fossils were not used for ashlar but tended to end up with the wall stone. On some common land, or wastes, local people may have had the right to remove (but not necessarily sell) such surface stone deposits. True quarrying is thought to have begun locally in the seventeenth century and continued until the twentieth. Small quarries would have had a single face for stone extraction; later and larger enterprises had a staggered series of faces, known as ‘bench working’.

04 Image B

A stone quarry illustrated in a detail of the drawing of Bradford which accompanied William Cudworth’s ‘Worstedopolis’ (top right)

The image shows a nineteenth century quarry. Its edge, and the simple derricks used for lifting stone, are easily visible. In the centre is a brick works, a subject to which we will soon return. Many West Yorkshire stones have locality or descriptive names. Bradford quarries accessed Rough Rock (Baildon & Shipley), Stanningley Rock (Northcliffe), Gaisby Rock (Bolton Woods & Spinkwell), and Elland Flags (Thornton, Heaton, Chellow, and Idle). Quarries or delphs could also be dug for special projects like the creation of canals or reservoir dams. There is a small quarry next to the canal at Hirst Wood, Shipley that presumably had this function. At first stone was used near to the site of extraction to minimise transport costs, so most stone houses older than about 150 years will be constructed of very local material. As transport improved there were  significant exports. Elland Flags were once widely used for paving slabs in London. Wakefield and Manchester Town Halls were constructed of stone from Spinkwell Quarry, which the architects believed would resist air pollution well. How extensive was the industry? In 1875 William Cudworth knew of 36 stone quarries in Allerton alone, and a further 17 on Rosse land in Shipley and Heaton. Heaton still has its Quarry Hill, Quarry Street and, until recently, The Delvers public house.


04 Image C

Stone-working tools from the permanent collection of
Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley

Quarry work was skilled and dangerous. Dimension stone was split away from the quarry edge with hammers, chisels and wedges. It would be roughly dressed on the quarry floor. With luck the quarry operator would equip his site with cranes or a tramway to carry the stone on to an adjacent working area. If not strong men would carry stone up a ramp on their backs, supported by two workmates, health and safety regulations being a relatively new development. Newly quarried sandstone is soft and, even before the introduction of steam power, could be cut with saws using sand as an abrasive and water as a coolant. Unusually in this area very valuable stone deposits were sometimes mined as well as quarried.

04 Image D

Plan of a stone extraction site in Allerton showing working and ‘old’ shafts

If you want to explore local industries further the gallery devoted to these at Cliffe Castle Museum is an excellent place to begin. For further reading about quarrying I would suggest:

J.V. Stephens et al., Geology of the country between Bradford and Skipton, HMSO, 1953. This is essential reading for geological background to any extractive industry.

David Johnson, Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines: an illustrated history, Amberley Publishing, 2016. Bradford is mentioned several times in this comprehensive, engaging, and beautifully illustrated book.

A most informative atlas of West & South Yorkshire Building Stones can be downloaded from the site of the British Geological Survey:

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

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,
BD21 3SX
01535 618215

Map of the Week: Field House Estate

The first two plans preserve a microcosm of industrial life of the mid-nineteenth century, in an area of Bradford not previously examined in this series. The Local Studies Library reserve map collection has two versions of the Field House Estate plan and I have provided a detail from each. They identify the estate as one of the many pieces of Bradford property belonging to the Rev. Godfrey Wright, who has featured more than once in these columns.

Map of the Week 026 A

A:Iron stone workings’ 1858-1860.

Map of the Week 026 B

B: Coal deposits exploited in several years between 1850-1860.

When were the plans originally drawn up? Plan B is actually dated 1847. I  assume both were created in advance of mining to record future areas of ironstone and coal extraction. Perhaps the operator, or Godfrey Wright’s agent, was responsible for them when the minerals were accessed in the decade after 1850. Two shadowy railway lines are clearly visible on both maps. The upper is marked Great Northern Railway Co. with ‘from Bradford’ on the left and ‘to Leeds’ on the right: the Adolphus Street to Leeds Central route then. The lower line is again G.N.R. and is marked ‘from Halifax’ in very poor script on the left, and again ‘to Leeds’ on the right. I am not a railway expert but I assume the second was the Bowling Junction-Laisterdyke line (opened 1854) which must have permitted Halifax-Leeds trains to bypass Bradford. Quite large portions of the line are still visible on modern aerial photographs but the rails themselves have been taken up. The two lines come together just off the plans to the right. From the date of the maps I think we can be certain that the railway information was a late addition, but in any case you can see the railway lines are drawn across the pre-existing field boundaries.

If any reader can immediately identify the correct placement of this area in modern Bradford I shall be very impressed.  It is easier if you mentally rotate the maps by 45 degrees to the left which brings north to the top centre. The road on the left of the plans, running from eleven to five, is Bowling Back Lane. In this section, when corrected oriented north to south, Leeds Road, the Bradford-Leeds railway line and Bowling Back Lane are running roughly parallel. It was probably not a very beautiful area. Cudworth describes Bowling Back Lane as: ‘pretty well cut up with railways and cinder heaps’. It is not easy to link plan features to those on the first OS map of the area which in theory would have been surveyed at about the same time, in the late 1840s. Field House and two associated gardens are represented by the cluster of rectangles in the lower centre of map B. There’s no doubt about the written name although the ‘F’ is difficult to distinguish from the long ‘s’ of house. Field House is much smaller on the OS map. Probably there was demolition when the railway line was created.

At the bottom of map B is a carriage road off Bowling Back Lane which is labelled ‘to Birks Hall’. This road is truncated on map A. Birks Hall had existed at least since the seventeenth century when it was occupied by a member of the Richardson family. Later it belonged to Benjamin Rawson, but newspapers contemporary with the maps seem to suggest that in the mid-nineteenth century it was in multiple occupancy. Notable residents were Letitia Steadman (widow of William DD, of Horton College) who died there in 1837. In 1845-46 William Murgatroyd, who was promoting railway routes, lived there. Nothing of Birks Hall appears on our two plans, nor the associated Golden Fleece Inn. The estate was sold in 1847 and ultimately became the site of a Bradford gasworks in 1877, which remained in use until the arrival of North Sea gas. Plan C was presumably surveyed just before this happened and is from a collection at  Bradford Industrial Museum. It is on a different orientation to the first two but you will see that the left edge of the more modern plan joins the right edge of plans 1 and 2 and a good deal of housing development has taken place here.

Map of the Week 026 C

C: Site of the intended Birkshall Gasworks

The older plans show a total of three tracks leaving Bowling Back Lane or the Birks Hall road and heading north. In the centre is an access way to Field House itself. If I am correct the ‘Old Wagon Road’ was a mineral tramway used by the Bowling Iron Company. In his unpublished account Derek Pickles calls it ‘Golden Lion’ and says: ‘this line was one of the earliest put down by the Company. It ran from the (Bowling Iron) Works, across Bowling Back Lane, along the line of what is now Hammerton Street to coal staithes at the rear of the Golden Lion Hotel in Leeds Road.’  It is clear from the OS map that arches had been created on the railway embankments to allow the tramway to pass beneath them. The third track, Pit Road, as a name which is fairly common in mining areas. This one ran to New Leeds, the name applied to the development immediately south of Leeds Road. Today Birkshall Street and Hammerton Street are in approximately the position of these three tracks.

To examine the two extraction industries shown it is easiest to start on the right of the first two maps with a diamond shaped area. This is evidently underground and is accessed by shafts and galleries. Across it runs a ‘gall’ or throw, that is a geological fault. An area of unworkable material is labelled as coal in one map and stone in the other. Stone must mean ‘ironstone’ although the more common sandstone was mined, as well as quarried, in some parts of Bradford. To the left of this diamond is a much larger, roughly triangular, area of exploitation crossed by a long ‘breach’. I have seen this word before in local mine maps and I assume it represents a larger fault. Plan A shows ironstone working and plan B a much larger area for coal mining. The combination of iron  ore and coal would suggest that the famous Black Bed coal seam was being accessed but a note elsewhere on Plan B helpfully identifies ‘blackbed workings’. Modern borehole reports, from reasonably near the site, suggest that the seam is 20-30m deep. The mined products were surely sent to the premises of the Bowling Iron Company just to the south.

The mining is shown to be extensive, but not unrestricted. In the pillar and stall technique miners left columns of coal to support the gallery roof. Miners could be even more cautious. In Map A a strip along Bowling Back Lane was shown unmined ‘for support for buildings’. The fact that this is being done must indicate that the mined seam is fairly shallow. It is difficult to suggest a date for the conclusion of mining in this area. For one thing I cannot identify the colliery’s name. The first OS map shows a Birks Hall Colliery south of the track to Birks Hall itself, but this is seemingly not part the Field House Estate. Field House does not appear to show any mining activity at all on the first OS map although the 1850 Bradford map shows some ‘old pits’. One explanation would be that the activity on this ground began soon after the OS surveyors had left. The Godfrey Wright died in 1862 and it is possible than the plans were completed because of this event. Wright would never have operated the mines personally, but who did? The Jones Mercantile Directory of the following year lists over 100 coal proprietors and merchants in Bradford which indicates the extent of the industry. In the 1851 census two families live at Field House. The head of one is Abraham Rodgers, 65,  coal dealer employing 30 men. Could he be the colliery operator? I have tried to find out more about him. If he also spelled his name Abm Rogers I can also locate him 10 years later in Wortley when he is a ‘coal miner and proprietor’. Sadly he doesn’t seem to feature in any of the Trade Directories I have consulted which is an unsatisfactory conclusion to the study of these fascinating plans.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library volunteer








Basque Child Refugees from Northern Spain welcomed in Keighley and Bradford, 1937-1939

To mark the 80th Anniversary of the arrival of child refugees a talk and an exhibition will be held in Keighley Local Studies library on Saturday 28th October at 2.00pm by Simon Martinez and John Birkbeck..

On the 13 September 1937, the Morton Banks Sanatorium in East Riddlesden and the Dr Barnardo children’s home on Manningham Lane, Bradford were turned over to voluntary groups to house children from Northern Spain.

These children had been evacuated at the height of the Spanish Civil War to avoid bombing and hunger following the bombing of Guernica forever immortalised by the painting by Pablo Picasso.

Keighley welcomed 100 of these child refugees and the adults who accompanied them.

They were very happy in Keighley. One later recalled ‘it was a town of twenty to twenty five thousand people, not pretty, not ugly, without a coastline but with swimming pools, a big park, and three cinemas (later there was one more, The Ritz) The Picture House, The Regent, and The Cosey Corner, and a lake which in winter froze over.’

This is a rare opportunity to hear two experts on this often forgotten piece of history speak together. John Martinez is the son of one of the refugee children Ruperta Martinez, (see picture) and he is a leading figure in the Basque Children organisation.

Ruperta Martinez

John Birkbeck’s grandfather was a significant figure in the lives of the Basque children who came to Keighley in 1937 and he has gathered a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of local refugees.

The event is free and all are welcome.


Keighley Library Music and Heritage Day – A Report

Bradford Libraries

The day was a big success with the stands from Keighley and District Local History Society, and Family History Society, Men of Worth and Keighley Schools’ Heritage and Airedale Writers Circle proving as popular as ever and garnering new interest.

There were over 700 people through the door over the course of the day. Keighley library staff organised an American style diner with costumes by Anne Watkins.

Throughout the day there was a focus on Keighley’s musical heritage. All the bands were excellent and Little Notes proved especially popular at Rhymetime with parents and children alike.

Gary Cavanagh’s talk about Keighley’s musical heritage in the 1960s and 1970s went down a treat with some original band members in the audience speaking up and everyone enjoyed the CDs he played of original recordings of Keighley bands and singers.

The Presidents had a fantastic reception and were very popular indeed with many…

View original post 213 more words

Treasure of the Week No. 16: ‘Rhodes’s Lump Butter is Always Unique’

JND 233/1 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

RHODES & SONS.   Bradford: Past & Present. A Sketch of the Progress of the Town from the Earliest Period.   Bradford: J. F. Rhodes & Sons, 54 Kirkgate, 1890. 98 pages.

jnd223 1 c 001

This is a remarkable book. So also was 98 pages for 1d.! It is a publication marketed by a grocery shop which is a full and well-illustrated history of Bradford. The text and illustrations are excellent, with engravings of old street scenes and line drawings of local celebrities of the time. Of particular interest today is the information about the products advertised by the publishers, J. F. Rhodes & Sons, Grocers. Every page has a strap line featuring one of the shop’s grocery products, of which the following are a few:

  • Rhodes’s Lump Butter is always unique
  • Rhodes’s 2s. Teas, is the Tea Drinker’s Favourite
  • Rhodes’s are Agents for Armour Ox Tongues
  • Rhodes’s Coffee is roasted daily
  • Rhodes’s White Cheshire Cheese

There are several full-page adverts for such products as Reckitt’s Starch, Brown & Polson’s Corn Flour, and Kilvert’s Pure Lard.    The engravings are a little faded, but full of historical interest, with horse-drawn and steam trams, a balloon ascent and a boy in the hand-stocks in Kirkgate! Illustrated are:

  • The Old Cockpit
  • The Old Market Place
  • The New Midland Station
  • Forster Square
  • The Old Manor Hall
  • Old Wool Pack Inn
  • Old Broadstones
  • Old paper Hall
  • Old Piece Hall & Talbot Hotel
  • The Sun Hotel
  • Bowling Green Hotel
  • First Balloon Ascent in Bradford
  • The Alexander Theatre
  • Old Theatre Royal, Duke Street
  • Bradford Mechanics’ Institute
  • Bull’s Head and Pillars



Book Review: Punjab to Bradford: Life Stories of Punjabi Immigrants in Bradford

Punjab to Bradford: Life Stories of Punjabi Immigrants in Bradford. By Ramindar Singh and Kashmir Singh Rajput. Privately published (, 2013
204 pp.  ISBN: 978-0-907734-71-10.  £10.00.

Available at Bradford Libraries

Dr Ramindar Singh MBE

This book presents the lives of 44 Punjabi migrants who came to Bradford in the 1950s and made the city their home. With only a few pounds to their name they came here with great hopes and some with good academic qualifications. They were obliged at first, however, to take up unskilled work on the buses, in mills and foundries, finding their qualifications were not recognized in Bradford. They suffered much discrimination too, until opportunities arise where they could use their knowledge and skills more appropriately.  Local colleges, particularly Bradford Technical College, played a significant role in making this transition possible. It was good to find, too, that most of their children became well-qualified and successful in their occupations. As seen with other migrant groups, early arrivals often gave room in their homes to new arrivals, in spite of difficulties it caused. This of course had a substantial effect in promoting community cohesion. The reunion of families when wives came to join their husbands and find work themselves outside the home, must have contributed significantly towards social mobility of their families.

This book gives personal accounts of how the early Punjabi immigrants in the 1950’s coped with their frustrations, humiliations and discrimination.  After an editorial introduction explaining how the book was compiled, there follows an account of the Punjab and reasons of why migration occurred, and its process.  An account is then given of the development of the development of the Punjabi community in Bradford.  The main part of the book contains the stories of individuals who left their homes and families in the Punjab during the 1950s through 1970s to seek their fortunes in vilayat (England).  At the conclusion of these accounts there is a chapter entitled: Reflections of life through Mehfil (informal gatherings). Topics covered here are: Community spirit and mutual support; Understanding local people; Learning new work norms; Duality of conduct; Life in a male dormitory; Entertainment; Women’s position and experience; and Utopian Vilayat vanished.  Finally there is a useful Glossary of Punjabi words and phrases.

In their Conclusion, the compilers note how the Bradford that the 1950 pioneer migrants experienced is no more, and that their children and grandchildren experience a very different world. Reminiscences such as those here are important in keeping the heritage alive. Something, of course, which is true of all cultures, whether migrant (from overseas or other parts of Great Britain ) or even non-migrants. This book is a valuable contribution to Bradford’s social history.

Dr Singh is a former Bradford College lecturer, JP, and deputy chairman of the Commission of Racial Equality. He is author of The Struggle for Racial Justice: From Community Relations to Community Cohesion in the Story of Bradford 1950-2002. K.S.Rajput was a senior education officer with Bradford Council. Bob Duckett

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


Neglected Bradford Industries: Limestone & lime-burning

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.

Limestone was a most valuable commodity. It could be cut into ashlar for building construction. It could be burned in kilns to produce quick lime which was then slaked with water. In either of these forms it could be spread on the land to ‘sweeten’ acid soils, making them more fertile. Slaked lime was also the essential ingredient of lime mortar, render and whitewash. To charge a blast furnace crushed limestone was added to coke and iron ore because it assisted in the separation of the slag waste. Some hard fossil-containing limestones which took a good polish, like Purbeck stone, were regarded as ‘marbles’ and used for decorative purposes. It is common today to employ limestone aggregate for path and road construction, but this is a relatively recent development.

Limestone consists largely of a single mineral called calcite (calcium carbonate). Immensely thick limestone strata are common near Skipton and in the Dales.  Geologists recognise many sub-types of limestone classified by age, appearance, and fossil content. Since most of the stone reaching the Bradford area was burned we need not be too concerned these complexities.

Image A

Lime quarry at Stainforth, North Yorkshire.

Although limestone strata do not reach the surface in the Bradford area there was nonetheless an early lime-burning industry based on the extraction of boulders from glacial moraines in the Aire and Wharfe valleys. Boulder pits were well established in Bingley by the early sevemteenth century, and three groups of pits are still marked on the first OS map of the area (1852). In 1931 the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society published a series of West Yorkshire Deeds which are still available in the Local Studies Library. An indenture of 1604 between Alexander Woodde of East Morton and Abraham Bynnes, with others, mentions the ‘digging of greetstones’. In 1620 Thomas Dobson of Bingley leased four closes of land to his father Michael ‘with authority to dig there for lymestones and to burn, sell and dispose of them’. Glacial erratic limestone found elsewhere was almost certainly exploited in the same way. In the nineteenth century, on at least one occasion, the digging of a railway cutting seems to have exposed similarly valuable boulders.

Image B

Lime stone quarry near Bowling Junction, and close to a mineral way to Bowling Iron Works. In this position it must represent the working of a moraine deposit (detail from 1852 OS map).

With the construction of the of the Shipley to Skipton sections of Leeds-Liverpool Canal (1773-74) plentiful supplies of limestone became available from the Skipton quarries.  The cheap movement of limestone and coal were among the original ambitions of the canal promoters. Once you had supplies of limestone you required some means of burning it. Local scholar Maggie Fleming, is currently collecting information about canal-side lime kilns, and early lime-burning from erratic boulders, particularly at Micklethwaite and Bingley. Between 1774-83 the Bradford Lime Kiln Co. had eight kilns in Bradford at a site between Broadstones and Spinkwell Lock.  There was evidently an extensive canal-side lime-burning industry since the first OS map also records kilns at, among other places: Silsden, Riddlesden, Micklethwaite, Crossflatts, Bingley (Toad Lane), Dowley Gap, and Shipley.

image C

A map of 1863 recording lime kilns near the centre of Bradford.

There were a number of lime kiln designs including some very advanced Hoffman continuous kilns like the one preserved at Stainforth, N.Yorks. Simple stone built field kilns were once common in this area. They were charged with broken stone and coal from above, with quicklime and ashes being raked out from below. The field name ‘lime-kiln close’ or ‘kiln close’ may reflect this older lime-burning industry. There are two fields in Heaton with these names, now located in Heaton Woods. Local historian Tony Woods has studied Rosse archive records from Ireland and can demonstrate that Heaton coal pits were supplying a lime-kiln, somewhere near, with fuel as long ago as 1776.

Image D

Field kiln near Grassington

If you would like to do more reading on this topic may I suggest:

J.V. Stephens et al. Geology of the country between Bradford and Skipton, HMSO, 1953, 149-151, 149. This is essential reading for geological background to any local extractive industry.

David Johnson, Limestone Industries of the Yorkshire Dales, Amberley, 2010. It is inconceivable that anyone could ask a question about limestone that this book cannot answer.

Gerald & Sheila Young, Micklethwaite: the History of a Moorland Village. The early section of this book describes has an interesting account of the exploitation of local mineral resources.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer