Bradford today; tomorrow the world

Samuel Pearson was a Cleckheaton brick-maker who founded a contracting dynasty. His business seems to have started in Silver Street, off Tabbs Lane, Scholes in 1856. He is said to have also operated a brick-works on nearby Whitehall Road, although I have yet to see this mapped. Whatever the true story by the early 1860s Messrs. S Pearson & Son were established at the Broomfield Sanitary Tube & Brick Works, Mill Lane, near Bradford's St Dunstan's rail junction, for the manufacture of building bricks, sanitary tubes and terracotta goods. The brick yard was beyond the curve of the Bradford-Leeds railway line, and off Bowling Road.

I don't have an exact date for the origin of this concern. No Broomfield brick-works is marked on the 1852 OS map of the area. The Lund trade directory of 1856 gives 'Broomfields' as the address of William Poulter, another Bradford brick-maker who lived quite near in Edward Street. Perhaps he it was who first worked this site. Pearson & Son appear in trade directories by 1860-63. In describing the process for taking the GNR railway line from the Bradford Exchange Station towards Leeds in 1866 local historian Horace Hird (Bradford in History, 1968) mentions the activities of Pearson & Son who he says took over responsibility for the material excavated from a railway cutting which created a 'great mound'. For 15 years sixty men were employed making drain pipes, chimney pots and bricks from this spoil. Examination of the Heaton Local Board accounts for 1877 shows that Samuel Pearson & Son were supplying 15” ceramic pipes 'to be delivered at the Turf Tavern'.

Pearsons do seem to have made serious fire-bricks and as well as these other products. It is probable that household bricks were never a major product of the Broomfield Works. An advert of 1863 offers a list: vitrified stoneware, sanitary pipes, traps, junctions and chimney tops – but not common bricks. However I have found a common brick with a Pearson brick mark. Although damaged it suggests that the mark was [PEARSON & SON][BRADFORD]. I have another brick with a [P & S] brick mark, which is plausibly the same company's.

The works can be identified on the 1871 map of Bradford but was closed by 1885 when a ‘spoil bank’ was exhausted. The site is described as a 'disused brick-works' by the time of the 1895 OS map, and Pearson & Sons are not recorded in the 1898 trades directory. The brick-yard was certainly disused by the time of the 1893 ordnance survey. Its dates are plausibly 1863-1885. In the 1881 census Samuel Pearson is described as a retired brick-maker, born in Scholes, and living in Greenside, Cleckheaton. He died in 1884 at the Elms, Scholes worth £20,000.

By the time of his retirement Samuel Pearson’s company was already undertaking contracts in many major industrial cities. His son was George Pearson but the firm’s success was largely due to the energy of his grandson, Weetman Pearson (1856-1927), to whom Samuel transferred all his personal holdings. Weetman may have started as a brick manufacturer but the company he eventually ran evolved into the great firm of Samuel Pearson & Sons which considered brick, tile, and sanitary-ware making as only a very minor part of its various activities. The firm undertook many contracts for the British Government including Dover Harbour and the Blackwall Tunnel in London. Within a generation it became an international contractor and was particularly associated with Mexico and the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. Canals, railways and oil were among the company’s many interests. After being created a baronet Weetman Pearson became the first Viscount Cowdray in 1917. He died in 1927. The family seat became Cowdray House and park near Midhurst in West Sussex. The company he created still exists as Pearson plc but has widely diversified its interests into the media. The house and contents were put up for sale in 2011 by the fourth Lord Cowdray. A local saying is ‘clogs to clogs in three generations’ but not among the Cowdrays it seems.

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