Christopher Waud (1806-66)

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Recently a correspondant asked if I could find out any more about a Bradford textile manufacturer, Christopher Waud of Britannia Mills. Although always associated with the Bradford trade Waud seems to have been born and baptised at Leeds in 1806. His father was Robert Waud who, family historians agree, died in 1828.

I have been told that Robert was also involved in the textile trade although the only man of this name in the 1822 Baine’s Directory of West Yorkshire was a brush manufacturer of Bank Street, Bradford. By 1830 his concern, Robert Waud & Son, had moved to 1 Darley Street where as well as brush making they dealt in cheese, butter and bacon. Both he and a Christopher Waud of York feature in a York voters register of 1820. This Christopher implausibly combined the trades of oyster dealer and hair dresser! I don’t think either man relates closely to our textile prince although their surname is uncommon. I’ll leave it to others to pursue any link.

The concern that evolved into Christopher Waud & Co. seemingly owes its origins to a partnership entered into by Christopher, his younger brother Edward Waud (1813-60), and a man called Richard Shaw. Both Waud brothers were young men at the time so Richard Shaw was presumably the senior partner. When the arrangement eventually broke up Shaw was described in the London Gazette as ‘manufacturer of Norwich’. How did the three men meet? There were certainly links between Bradford and Norfolk, the town of Worsted was in that county, and Norwich was long the weaving centre known for the best quality worsted stuffs. Shaw is a common surname but a man named Richard Shaw was one of the many contemporary manufacturers of Norwich shawls. Frankly I have very limited information about this period of Waud’s life. He became a freemason in 1830, and the age of his eldest child suggests that he married his wife Ann Motley around 1834. In the same year he was first mentioned in the local paper, the Bradford Observer, in connection with his political interests.

Christopher Waud & Co. are in existence as worsted spinners in Mill Street by the time of the 1832 Pigot’s Directory. Mill Street was near the Bradford terminus of the Leeds-Liverpool canal spur. In 1836 Christopher & Edward Ward erected Britannia Mills near Manchester Road. At that time Britannia was Bradford’s largest textile mill and boasted a 100 hp beam engine as its power source. The contractors were John & Miles Moulson who were later to be involved with the model industrial village at Saltaire, and Drummonds Mill. Christopher was evidently a coming man. The following year he was elected as a Bradford Poor Law guardian. As I have mentioned the initial three man partnership was dissolved, the year being 1837. Richard Shaw withdrew and the Wauds continued alone. Since Richard Shaw completed a will and died the following year it is probable that his age or illness was responsible for his decision.

In 1839 Waud spoke in favour of the 11 hours working day (9 hours even on Saturdays!) for ‘persons above the age of 11’. A working day of such duration seems almost incomprehensible to modern ears but the introduction of a 10 hour working day, in the Factory Act of 1847, was widely resisted by Bradford textile manufacturers. This was despite the fact that one of themselves, John Wood, had originally promoted such reforms in association with Richard Oastler. Clearly Waud was capable of more forward thinking. In 1843 the Bradford Observer reported that he had produced a fabric, silk warp with silk & alpaca weft, which he had made into waist-coats. The design consisted of bound ears of wheat together with the word ‘Free’. He gave such waist-coats to the major proponents for the repeal of the corn laws: Charles Pelham Villiers, Richard Cobden, Milner Gibson (MP for Manchester) and William Busfeild Ferrand (MP for Knaresborough). Sir Robert Peel himself doesn’t seem to have received a gift, but Bradford’s first public park was eventually named after him. The Factory Acts and Corn Laws were immensely divisive pieces of legislation: the EU referendum of their time.

In 1844 Waud was on the provisional committee of the West Yorkshire Railway Co. along with many other prominent Leeds & Bradford businessmen. By the 1840s Waud Brothers & Co were well established at 6 Brook St & Britannia Mills as worsted stuff manufacturers. The brothers took other associates although I am not sure under what circumstances. The London Gazette reports that in 1847 a partnership with William Barraclough was dissolved. An 1853 patent application for ‘improving wool preparation’ also named a William Busfield. This last named was one of their overlookers, not a misspelling of the MP for Knaresborough who I have already mentioned.

I first encountered Waud’s name because he was involved, as an expert witness, in one of the many episodes of litigation surrounding the patents for wool-combing machines. Mechanical wool-combing was the last part of the worsted process to be satisfactorily mechanised and manufacture of the combs was hugely profitable. This is Waud’s description of the situation in the early nineteenth century: ‘30 years ago all combing was done by hand… the hand combers had come out on strike in 1825…Noble’s first combing machine was patented in 1836. We bought a machine in 1838 supplied by Rawson & Donisthorpe who offered machines on trial. We used four or five and Donisthorpe came to Bradford, and resided there for some months, to introduce them. We now use nine. They have Noble’s eccentric motion and are described as ‘Noble’s Combing Machines’ and they cost £110-120.’

I should perhaps explain that combing makes the wool fibres parallel and separates long wool ‘tops’, which are used for worsted spinning, from the shorter ‘noils’ which are not. Despite their appalling conditions of work Bradford hand-combers had participated in a famous strike in 1825, lasting six months, over a perceived threat to mechanise their trade. Rawson & Donnisthorpe were Leicester manufacturers who bought out the wool-combing patent of James Noble, whom they probably employed. Edmund Donisthorpe eventually moved permanently to Bradford and entered into a rather unsatisfactory partnership with Samuel Cunliffe Lister of Manningham Mills, but that is quite another story.

The later activities of the Waud brothers can be to some extent reconstructed from the Ibbotson Bradford Directory of 1850 and the census records. Edward lives in Portland Street and Christopher at Spring Place, Manningham Lane. The brothers are in partnership at Britannia Mills as stuff manufacturers, but simultaneously Christopher Waud & Co. are mohair, alpaca and worsted spinners of the same address. Census returns for 1851 & 1861 identify Waud living at 24 North Parade, Bradford. In 1851 he is confusingly called ‘Wand’, his wife is alive, and his son George Motley Waud (17) is already a worsted spinner. They have three house-maids. A decade later his wife has died but his return gives the valuable information that he employed 520 hands at his mill. He continued to live modestly with only a resident cook and a maid.

The Victorian historian William Cudworth, whose name occurs frequently in these pages, stated that Waud had been alderman of the Borough since its inception in 1847 (it had to wait another 50 years to become a city). He is described as having a retiring disposition and was succeeded, and politically eclipsed, by his son George Motley Waud (1835-1907), alderman and later Mayor of Bradford in 1876-77. Christopher Waud died in February 1866, having lost his brother Edward six years before. In a surprisingly brief obituary (Bradford Observer 22 February) Waud’s retiring habits were noted as was his introduction of mohair spinning. His knowledge of the local trade was praised, justly since in the last decade of his life he was one of the sources of information used by John James in his History of the Worsted Manufacture in England. Probate was granted with ‘effects under £120,000’. Since the Victorian definition of a ‘man of substance’ seems to have been assets of £100,000 Christopher Waud certainly made it. Waud is not as well recorded as textile titans like Isaac Holden, Titus Salt or Samuel Cunliffe Lister, but he and his son were very important figures in the industrial and political life of the city. They do deserve to be better remembered.


4 thoughts on “Christopher Waud (1806-66)

  1. Hello. I am Christopher Waud’s great, great granddaughter and am wondering what information you have on him and his family. The article talks about when his father Robert died, I had a different date. I’ve been looking for information on who Christopher’s wife was and haven’t been able to find any information other than her first name was Anne. So any information you have would be wonderful.

    Thank you, Daryl Seager


    1. Thanks for your comment Daryl. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m an industrial historian not a family historian. My blog on Christopher contained the sum total of what I could find out. I tried to make it as accurate as possible but I’m more reliable on the textile trade than his family members. Good luck with your researches.


  2. I have enjoyed reading about the Wauds of Britannia Mills
    I am also a descendant of Christopher Waud.
    If Daryl would like to contact me in reference to the above, please e mail me below


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