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The Bradford Poisonings

2013-07-12 Eyam, Derbys.

I have few claims to any notoriety but being one of the last dermatologists to prescribe Fowler’s solution (1% potassium arsenite) medicinally might be one. I was very young and the instructions were from someone very senior. Explaining what I was doing to the patient’s relatives required a certain amount of verbal creativity. I have recently been enjoying a most scholarly guide to the poisons used in the novels of Agatha Christie (A Is For Arsenic, Kathryn Markup: Bloomsbury Sigma 2015) which naturally put this into my mind. Since the author is nothing if not comprehensive she also included the notorious Bradford poisonings. She doesn’t mention a source for her information but this could easily be The Bradford Poisonings of 1858 by George Sheeran (Ryburn 1992). George Sheeran is a local academic and lecturer whose publications normally involve architectural history. His work is always meticulously researched and can be thoroughly recommended.

To understand the sad events of 1858 you need to know that the adulteration of food with cheaper materials was once a common practice. There is this story about Jimmy, apprenticed to a religious grocer:

‘Jimmy have you sanded the sugar.’


‘And have you watered the milk.’


‘Then come upstairs to prayers.’

The practice could have fatal consequences and the regular mixing of a substance known as ‘daft’ into batches of cheap sweets was the indirect cause of a fatal outbreak of arsenic poisoning in mid-nineteenth century Bradford.

In words it is difficult to do justice to central Bradford in 1858: a smoky, foetid, hell-hole comes somewhere near it. Happy the textile workers who, seven years before, had moved with Titus Salt to his new model industrial settlement on the banks of the river at Saltaire. At this time Joseph Neal was a sweet manufacturer in Stone Street near Salem Chapel, Manor Row. One of his most popular lines were peppermint lozenges. At the best of times these couldn’t be exactly described as wholesome sweetmeats since mixed in with the sugar and water was some form of ground up lime called ‘daft’. Lime must have been cheap, gritty and tasteless, but not dangerous. Having been given a big order for the lozenges Neal sent his lodger off to Shipley to buy ‘daft’ from a druggist, Charles Hodgson. All would have been well had Hodgson been present in person, but he was unwell and his apprentice, William Goddard was left in charge. When asked for ‘daft’ he forgot all that he had been told and accidentally sold another white powder from a cask in the attic, arsenious trioxide.

Most catastrophes require a series of misadventures to bring them about. In this case the first two were Hodgson’s illness and Goddard’s faulty memory. The third was the absence of clear labels on the two casks. The fourth involved James Appleton, the employee who actually made the sweets. He noticed that the ‘daft’ was smoother and finer than usual, but drew no conclusions from his observations. The fifth opportunity to prevent the disaster was the sickness Appleton and his boss Joseph Neal experienced after handling the newly made sweets. Forty pounds of lozenges were allowed to dry and harden and were then sold to William Hardacre (‘Humbug Billy’) who had a stall at Green Market (later the site of Rawson Market). The sixth opportunity was that Billy didn’t like the colour of his purchase, getting them cheap, and became ill himself after trying one. This universal lack of comprehension finally resulted in disaster. Humbug Billy’s assistant started selling the lozenges off in 2oz quantities.

We now meet our three heroes. Dr John Henry Bell was called to see some mortally ill children in Jowett Street the following day, Sunday. Dr Bell suspected arsenic poisoning and took samples to our second hero, analyst Felix Rimmington. Rimmington confirmed the clinical diagnosis and the police were informed. Collectively the Bradford police were the ‘third hero’. A PC Campbell visit Humbug Billy at his house in North Wing and seized more than 35lb of lozenges. Remaining portions were found at the manufacturer’s shop and were also seized: the manufacturer Neal being strangely absent. Following the trail, by 8.00pm the mistake at the Shipley druggist’s was uncovered. The Chief Constable, a man of instant action, immediately sent officers round the beer-houses, informed street criers, and ordered bills to be stuck up round the borough on Monday. These actions must surely have saved many lives.

Exact facts and figures are difficult to acquire but about 200 people were affected, of whom about 20 died. Many were very ill in neighbouring parishes but the fatalities were confined to Bradford itself. Public opinion was, very naturally, that someone must be to blame. Most of those implicated were purely following their masters’ orders and only the owner of the druggist’s shop, Charles Hodgson, was ever accused of manslaughter. But when at York assizes it was demonstrated that he had cautioned his assistant about the two casks the judge ruled he had no case to answer. The helpful consequence of these events was that they promoted parliament to pass the Adulteration of Food & Drink Bill in 1859.

Toads and Chapels

City 1800

In the 170 years since Bradford became a borough in 1847 its centre has changed, almost beyond recognition. New buildings have been erected and old ones demolished. The Bradford Beck has disappeared underground into a culvert. New thoroughfares have been created, Sunbridge Road being a good example, and others have been re-positioned, lengthened, or have disappeared entirely. Change has been a continuous process but it was clearly accelerated in the 1960s as a result of wholesale town planning. I should like to recount something of this story by describing the events that befell a thoroughfare originally called Toad Lane. This is an odd name but it is not unique; there are, or were, Toad Lanes in Bingley, Newark and Rochdale. Possibly the name is a corruption of t’old lane. I anticipate that even local readers will ask ‘where’s that?’ when they read of this designation, so I shall start with a detail of the Bradford town map of 1800.

In this map it is easy to see the acute angle made by the Turls (Tyrrel Street) and Toad Lane. This takes its origin at a point where Little Horton Lane and Manchester Road enter the town. It would appear that Toad Lane was already being referred to as ‘Chapel Lane’ at that early date. Building (3) is a Unitarian Chapel, which had previously been the Toad Lane Presbyterian Chapel. As far as I can establish it was originally built as early as 1717, being replaced by a larger more modern structure in 1869, and finally demolished a century later. The name Toad Lane soon became restricted to the road leaving at right-angles above the ‘L’ in Lane. At the other end of the lane Goodman’s End has long been subsumed into Wakefield Road. An existing town hall is numbered (35) in this map but there is a small puzzle here. The map is from 1800 but the Act of Parliament that appointed commissioners for levying rates, and improving Bradford roads and lighting, was only passed in 1805. Also these commissioners, a sort of primitive town council, are said to have met first at the Bull’s Head Inn, Westgate.  At the first meeting, according to historian Horace Hird, the commissioners drew up a list of major Bradford roads, which included Chapel Lane. The same commissioners may have met in the Chapel Lane building until the ‘Station House’ in Swaine Street was erected in 1838, and become the location of their deliberations. The Station House was also used for a fire engine and was built on land leased from Rev. Godfrey Wright, who regularly features in these articles.

Building (20) is the Bowling Green Hotel which completes what I shall call ‘the central triangle’. This was located at the end of Bridge Street. Cudworth mentions that in the 1830s the hotel owner was a Mrs Susannah Ward, widow of Joseph Ward. William Scruton, in Pen & Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford, pushes its existence still further back into the seventeenth century. He regarded the Bowling Green as ‘the best inn of the town’. It was used by the Royal Mail and the open space in front of the inn, which presumably was once a bowling green, came to be employed for political meetings.

The road names persisted unchanged until the mid-nineteenth century which is represented by the next map. It is perfectly clear that there has been extensive rebuilding in the central triangle. The Bradford Observer (1844) observed that the premises of DH Smith at the corner of Toad Lane were ‘striking and elegant’. Elsewhere a ‘Smith’s Tavern and Beerhouse’ is noted, which I assume was the same building. Other premises were clearly far from elegant. In 1847 the Poor Law Commissioners considered it a possible site for a ‘vagrants yard’, and in 1855 a ton and a half of ‘vile bones’ were removed from the premises of John Boyd. The Lunds 1856 Directory of Bradford lists John Boyd as a ‘rag dealer’ but describes the location of his business by the alternative name as Chapel Lane. The same source gives Rev. JH Ryland as the non-resident minister at the chapel. There is also an architects’ partnership (Stott & Illingworth) and a painter (John Edwards) but otherwise the residents are all tradesmen: plumbers, hair dressers, boot-makers, saddlers, pawnbrokers and so forth. I’m not sure if the ‘Old Foundry’ (Cliff’s Foundry) included in the map was still functioning in the town centre, according to Hird it was. The name Toad Lane still exists making an acute angle with Norfolk Street.

Map 3

The next development represented a huge change. Bradford borough council decided that a purpose built town hall was required to supported the rapidly growing urban area. A number of sites were considered but Chapel Lane or the Bowling Green were the front runners. Finally a competition was launched to design a hall to be built on the Chapel Lane site. The winning design was opened by the Mayor, Matthew Thompson, in 1873. The architects were the famous Bradford partnership of Lockwood & Mawson who had already designed the Wool Exchange (1867). The contractor was John Ives of Shipley. In his book Bradford in History Hird describes the whole process and provides illustrations of the runners-up. It seems that all the considered designs were for Gothic buildings including a tower. The stone for the winner came from Cliff Wood quarries but at present I do not have sources for the structure’s glass, metal work and ornamental marbles, nor the million bricks incorporated into it.  The Unitarian Chapel and Chapel Lane itself were left after this construction as can be seen from the next plan from 1906.

City 1906

Bradford became a city in 1897. The increase in council business required an extension to the building, opened in 1909. This provided more committee rooms and a banqueting hall. The designer was Richard Norman Shaw. As you can see from the map above a stub of Chapel Lane remained, and the chapel itself is now south-east of Town Hall Square. 


The photograph shows the extension seen from Nelson Street. The clock tower is shrouded for a recently completed renovation. A further extension was constructed in 1914 but this does not seem to have affected the plan of the building which is essentially the same in the 1930 OS map with Chapel Lane now opening off Norfolk Street. The nearby Alhambra Theatre must have been built at about the same time. The Unitarian chapel was finally demolished in 1969. I assume that Chapel Lane also survived until the reorganisations of the late 1960s when wholesale clearances took place associated with the name of SG Wardley, the City surveyor and engineer. This must have been required to create the space that became Centenary Square, the Magistrates Court and Coroner’s Office building, Norfolk Gardens and the Hall Ings extension. The court building, which was opened in 1972, retains ‘The Tyrls’ as its address: the third spelling used since 1800!

Roman Days in Bradford

Fig 2a Trajan Denar Obverse

This coin shows the emperor Trajan whose adopted son Hadrian constructed the famous Wall. Britain contributed a province, or provinces, to the Roman Empire from the time of the emperor Claudius’s invasion in 43 until a notional date of 410. The influence of Rome, if not its government, may have been apparent in Britain for at least a century before the invasion, and there is archaeological evidence that the eastern empire maintained trading links, with west Britain at least, for years after the fall of the western empire in 476. Roman coins, both hoards and casual losses, have been recorded from the neighbourhood of Bradford since the eighteenth century. However, with the exception of the auxiliary fort at Ilkley, there is little evidence of local engagement with Roman culture. The recent additions of the Silsden Iron Age coin hoard and the Riddlesden hoard of Roman denarii to the display collection at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley has made me wonder to what extent are local coin data accessible or relevant to local historians who are not numismatists or Roman specialists?

Neither the city of Bradford nor county of West Yorkshire resemble, in area or type, any polity that existed in the Roman Iron Age (RIA). Both were then within the territory of a tribe, or tribal confederation, which the Romans called the Brigantes. Its principal centre was at Stanwick, far to the north, but the Roman authorities created a new capital for them at Aldborough. The historian Tacitus suggested, quite plausibly, that the confederation contained pro-Roman and anti-Roman elements. In his account Queen Cartimandua is associated with support for Rome and she had to be assisted by Roman troops on two occasions even before Tacitus’s father in-law Agricola began the occupation of Brigantian territory of the Brigantes in campaigns of 77-78. It seems certain that Yorkshire in the Iron Age and RIA showed marked regional variation. Halkon has argued very persuasively that East Yorkshire was a recognisably distinct entity in both periods. Some years after West Yorkshire came into being a detailed archaeological survey was published describing the new county up to 1500. The RIA section includes a map of Roman coin find spots and the probable courses of roads but little else relating to the Bradford district. A valuable recent paper commenting on the contributions of modern, developer funded, commercial archaeology to our knowledge of Roman West Yorkshire notes only a single site near to Bradford and virtually nothing in the South Pennines. In the east of the county several major road schemes have been preceded by detailed archaeological assessment. Almost all the sites are on low lying land east of a line connecting Leeds and Sheffield, and consist of dense areas of rural, non-villa, settlement. I suppose there is really no reason to suppose that this pattern did not continue into the western part of the county but evidence is lacking.

There are Roman fort sites in the west such as Adel, Ilkley and Slack, where road or river links generated important military centres. But, to the best of my knowledge, in the whole of West Yorkshire there is not a single civil town and only one certain villa site, at Dalton Parlours, Collingham. Virtually all that is known of the Bradford Metropolitan District in the RIA is that it was crossed by secondary roads and included the auxiliary fort, presumably with a civilian extra-mural settlement, at Ilkley. I think it is a reasonable supposition that the purchasing power of the army, and civilian road use, would have exposed Iron Age Bradfordians to changes of dress, ornamentation and diet. But the area would seem to qualify as ‘an upland military zone where the indigenous population continued their old way of life in remote and isolated settlements’. Did those concerned deliberately reject Roman culture or were their numbers too few, and their situation too remote and isolated, to promote the experience?

Iron Age and RIA settlements and fields were normally bounded by ditches and banks. Farmers in upland areas like Bradford are perhaps more likely to have raised stock than to have cultivated cereals, but barley was grown here in historic times and in the Roman period spelt wheat was planted which is cold tolerant. Gritstone querns, grain grinding stones, are indestructible and are found all over Yorkshire where they effectively form a proxy for cereal cultivation. Land being manured in a Roman fashion should be identifiable by spreads of RIA potsherds. The farming practices of the Iron Age seem to have continued unaltered for a long period but unexplained changes, or land abandonment, occur in the late third or early fourth centuries.

While Britain was an imperial possession millions of coins will have been in circulation, principally providing pay or stipendium for an army of many thousands. Although in rural Iron Age society a barter economy probably continued after the conquest, it is certain that soldiers, officials and ‘Romanised’ Britons would have employed coins for gifts, religious donations, and to exchange for goods and services. Towards the end of the Roman period inflation meant that coinage payments to soldiers became almost inconsequential, compared to precious metal donatives given by new emperors and the annona militaris which consisted of payment in kind. This fact must have influenced the number of coins circulating. This coin portrays Julia Domna. She was the wife of Septimius Severus, one of two emperors to die in York.

Fig. 3 Julia Domna

Gold and silver coins, then as now, had an intrinsic value as bullion. The army and civil service was paid in precious metals, and these were subsequently collected as part of official taxation. A low-value, base metal, coinage was needed for everyday use but such coins naturally circulated for only so long as people had confidence in their ultimate capacity to exchange these worthless items for gold. Roman archaeology is rich and varied but coins occupy a unique place among its artefacts. Portraits, lettering, and the overall resemblance to modern money, seems to bring the Roman world very close to ours. Even detailed records of single coin finds provide very little information unless one is lucky enough to discover an issue that was previously unknown. The classic recent example was the discovery in Oxfordshire of a coin issued by a hitherto unrecorded emperor, Domitianus II. Unlike modern examples Roman coins are not stamped with a year of issue, but the emperor’s name, and the various titles awarded to him, usually permit dating within a year or two.

Coin hoards should be separated from casual losses since hoards were evidently not mislaid but buried deliberately. It was once assumed that coin collections were concealed in times of trouble, but many seem to date from relatively peaceable periods. A sacrifice to chthonic gods is possible or perhaps, in the absence of banks, some may simply represent a reasonably safe way of protecting surplus cash without the knowledge of Roman taxation officials. Evidently hoards must have entered the ground after the date of the latest coin. It is known that coin hoards in Britain are common (more than 1600 discovered) when compared with other Roman provinces. In the past hoards were frequently discovered by ploughing or quarrying but as a means of discovery both activities have now been superseded by metal detecting. There is acceptable evidence for ten hoards from the Bradford area, including one very recent example. The most famous collection of this type is the Bingley or Elam Hoard. This was found at Morton Bank, between Keighley and Bingley, during ploughing in March 1775. The silver coins had been placed in a copper or metal bound chest and represented 100 lb weight. The hoard is now lost but apparently included almost every emperor from Nero in 54 to Pupienus in 238; accompanying the coins was a silver image, six inches long. This hoard has been considered as representing accumulated wealth on its way to a place of safety in a time of trouble, but this is interpretative speculation.

Fig.4 Riddlesden Hoard

The recent Riddlesden hoard (illustrated) consists of 110 silver denarii, the first scatter of nine were found by metal detecting in 2014. The finds were promptly reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and excavations by the members of the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service were undertaken. No archaeological features were found but more coins were recovered. The hoard might possibly be remnants of the Bingley Hoard reported from the same general area; the Riddlesden Hoard has a very similar composition. It consist solely of denarii, ranging from the reign of Vespasian (77/8) to the first half of the reign of Maximinus I Thrax (235/6). This later date is within a decade of the time when denarii ceased to be struck. The Riddlesden hoard is on display at Cliffe Castle museum as is an Iron Age coin hoard almost certainly buried early in the Roman period. This, the Silsden Hoard, consists of 27 gold coins together with a ring of Roman provenance. Most of the coins were issued by Cunobelin the ruler of the tribes named the Trinovantes and Catuvellani. His main centre of power was in Colchester, over 200 miles away. The Brigantes themselves are not thought to have struck coins.

Single coin finds are generally of low value copper alloy. In nearly 400 years of Roman occupation a great many losses of this type will have occurred, as happens in the present day. These should not be randomly placed but would be expected to aggregate in positions where coin carrying individuals were themselves common: along the course of Roman roads for example, or markets, religious sites, or at bridges and fords where the offering of small coins to tutelary deities might be anticipated. Coins that were casually lost may not be a representative selection of those available. Silver, and especially gold, issues were of great value and well worth a prolonged hunt if mislaid. Small denominations, the equivalents of today’s 1p or 2p coins, may have hardly been worth the effort of picking up if dropped. In Roman times the coinage of an unsuccessful pretender would almost certainly be de-monetised, indeed it may have been treasonable even to attempt to spend it. It might be more correct to say that such issues were discarded rather than lost. Coins found in secure sites at excavations, for example a building foundation trench, will not have moved and so provide excellent dating evidence. Coins of the British based pretenders Carausius (286-93) and Allectus (293-96), found in 1994 during an excavation of a section of Roman foundations at Pevensey Castle, strongly suggest this shore fort was constructed as a defence against other Romans. I found it quite difficult to draw up a reliable list of single coin finds in the Bradford area. My estimate is that there are about 115 and of these the find spots of 60 are known accurately enough for the coins to be mapped. These numbers are tiny in comparison with the number of finds from a coin rich location. No less than 55,000 coins were found at Richborough alone, although this is an exceptional site. The first coins lost in the Bradford area were issued by the emperor Nero. This is perfectly reasonable; the north of England was conquered by the late 70s and the earliest coins of Nero were minted after 64. They last coin find is a copper alloy coin of Arcadius, eastern emperor in 395-408, found in Manningham. It is an example of the Salus Reipublicae issue which marks the end of low value coins found in Britain.

Not one of Bradford’s coins is an excavation find and there is no possibility of using surface finds for dating purposes. What use can be made of the coins we have? Not much I am afraid. The total number of Bradford coins is really too small for valid conclusions to be drawn although there seems nothing exceptional about them. None of these coins was issued by a previously unknown ruler, or provided any new insights into the titles and campaigns of emperors, nor the hair-styles of empresses. Their presence is good evidence that some people in, or travelling through, the area were operating a money economy, and not depending on barter. Coin data are accessible but are of diminishing relevance to local historians with only an average knowledge of, and interest in, the Roman period. In fact there have even been major changes in the type of Roman history that concern enthusiasts. The contemporary feeling is that we should be concentrating on archaeological landscapes, not sites. Modern techniques like geophysics and aircraft mounted lasers (LiDAR scanning) provide a very powerful means of examining those landscapes. Studying a large area because it is selected for modern development is likely to produce a more realistic appreciation of rural life than investigating elite sites like villas. Finally the popularity of metal-detecting has provided the Portable Antiquities Scheme with hundreds of thousands of data points which can be computer processed, and mapped. What influence did Roman prestige goods have on Iron Age society in the pre-invasion period? How heterogeneous was RIA society in Britain and why? How did the economy function? Why was the army in Britain so large and, finally, by what processes did Roman Britain become Anglo-Saxon England?

The Labour Manifesto & ‘the good old days’

048 Spinning Mill Interior

Not the least interesting aspect of the 2017 General Election is that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party chose to release their election Manifesto, ‘For the many not the few’, at the University of Bradford. In his introductory remarks the Labour leader said that he was ‘pleased to be here in Bradford University where that great Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was the first Chancellor.’ The link with the former PM is perfectly true, and Bradford has three Labour MPs today, but the relationship between the city and the labour movement long preceded Harold Wilson.

In the 1890s Manningham Mills was one of Bradford’s largest employers with 5000 ‘hands’. It specialised in spun silk and silk-based textiles like velvets and plushes. The great Manningham Mills strike began on December 9th 1890 when the company posted notices warning of pay reductions for weavers and others working in the Plush Department, reductions that would take effect on Christmas Eve. The official explanation for this course of action was that a new American tariff reduced profits, and that in any case the weavers were paid higher wages than those employed at other mills. The degree to which these statements were true dominated the ensuing debate in the press. On the strikers’ side the militancy of the employees made the action difficult for the Strike Committee (led by WH ‘Harry’ Drew) to control. Other non-essential workers came out in sympathy with the weavers, but this action placed demands on the Committee’s strike fund that ultimately broke it. The winter was a hard one and the privations endured by the strikers’ families were terrible. After nineteen weeks the strike collapsed but not before Bradford had witnessed: mass meetings, troops on the streets, threats of widespread eviction, and starvation.

Many of the questions raised by the Manningham Mills Strike are still pertinent today. The salaries of managers and the dividends of the shareholders seem to have been the main consideration of Samuel Cunliffe Lister, the mill owner, never the wages and conditions of the weavers. The labour force was largely non-unionised and the effects of the strike were, to some extent, nullified by the company’s capacity to move work to their mills at Addingham and Nuneaton without hindrance. The fact that the strike continued as long as it did resulted from the donations collected from ordinary working people in Bradford and the surrounding areas. The Yorkshire Miners were particularly generous in this respect. But ultimately Lister had more ‘brass’, as the Strike Committee said, and was prepared to spend it, to the tune of £1000 per month, to ensure that the ‘hands’ were defeated.

Harry Drew (1854-1933) had been born in Exeter but moved to the Bradford area in 1871. He was self-educated and became a weaver in 1886. He was an active organiser for the West Riding Power Looms Weavers’ Association (later the Textile Workers Association). Along with Allen Gee and Ben Turner he provided leadership for the Manningham Mills strikers. His success as a union organiser is exemplified by the refusal of SC Lister to accept him as a part of any future workers’ deputation. After the failure of the strike he was active in the formation of the Bradford Labour Union which evolved into the Independent Labour Party, of which he was an early vice-Chairman to Keir Hardie.

The Independent Labour Party was founded in January 1893 in this city. It was strong in West Yorkshire and Bradford in particular. It was affiliated to ‘the Labour Party’ in the years 1906-1932. The initial leader of the ILP was Keir Hardie who can be seen as representing the ‘religious Parliamentary right’ of the Labour movement. He was supported by George Lansbury & Ben Tillett. In the early years the ILP was separate from: the electoral committee of TUC (formed 1886), the Fabians, and the Social Democratic Federation, which had been formed in 1881. The SDF was supported financially by HM Hyndman, and consisted of orthodox Marxists. Eventually The Labour Representation Committee contained members of all these groups which was formed in 1900 to advance the cause of labour in Parliament. This body evolved into the Labour Party in 1906. The refusal of the ILP to involve itself in the Great War, and the formation of a National Government by the Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald in 1931, were two significant turning points in the troubled relationship of the ILP and the Labour Party.

In early years the ILP contained two very important figures. James Keir Hardie MP (1856-1915) had been born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in August 1856, is the best known of the founding ILP members. Keir worked from the age of seven years and at ten took the first of a series of jobs in mining, initially working as a trapper opening and closing the air doors in the mine. He eventually acted as the miners’ spokesman, a role which saw him blacklisted from working in mines. He became a career union organiser, running miners strikes in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire in the late 1870s and 1880s. As Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party from it’s formation in 1888, Hardie was involved in national politics and became MP for West Ham South in 1892. He fought for working class causes and votes for women until he lost the seat in 1895. By this time he had become a founding member of the ILP, and in 1900 formed the Labour Representation Committee and was elected MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare. In the 1906 General Election, when 29 Labour candidates including Hardie won seats, the Labour Representation Committee became the Labour Party, and Keir Hardie was its Chairman for the next two years. In a link with the current Labour leader Hardie was deeply opposed to war. As the First World War approached Hardie attempted to organise an international General Strike to prevent it, but the endeavour proved unpopular. Socialists were as divided on the support for the Great War as modern Labour supporters are on their support for Brexit

Fred Jowett (1864-1944) had been born in Bradford in January 1864, and worked from the age of eight in the same textile mill as his father. He rose to the position of overlooker, studied Weaving and Design at Bradford Technical College and became manager of William Leach’s Worsted Mill. Jowett was a Christian Socialist, supporting the Manningham Mills strikers (he knew Harry Drew well), joining the Bradford branch of the ILP, and becoming the first socialist member of the Bradford Council at the age of 28. As a councillor he initiated free school meals, council housing, and other reforms later widely introduced. He was so valued that ILP members paid him an allowance which enabled him to leave his mill job and focus on politics, resulting in three terms as MP for Bradford (West 1906-1918, East 1922-1924 & 1929-1931). Jowett was associated with Dr Eurich in legislation to reduce Woolsorters’ Disease (anthrax). He became Commissioner of Works in the first Labour Government when he famously accepted the design of the red telephone box, and added the wording to the Edith Cavell statue. It is said that Fred Jowett first suggested the name ‘Labour Party’ for the organisation whose latest Manifesto was launched this week in his home city.

The Limitations of Maps

Blog plan

Early maps of Heaton, my own part of Bradford, are not very common. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a great deal of the land in the township was owned by the Field family. On the death of John Wilmer Field (1837) this estate was not sold, but passed, by virtue of the marriage of his daughter Mary, to the future Earl of Rosse. The present Earl still maintains an archive at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire where many Heaton documents are curated. The 3rd Earl of Rosse died in 1867 whereupon his Countess resumed the direction of her Heaton property until her own death in 1885. For a decade portions of her land had been offered for sale with villa development in mind. Estate sale plans, of which this is an example, were produced because in 1911 the 5th Earl sold off all his remaining estates in Heaton and Shipley. A complete series of these plans is available in the Bradford Local Studies Library and they provide a detailed picture of Heaton a century ago, exactly 30 years after its incorporation into the Borough of Bradford. I cannot deny that I feel more comfortable with the maps than I do with the social history of the individuals who lived and worked in the surveyed areas, so my value as a recorder is to that extent limited. On this occasion I have tried to move from plans to people.

At the bottom right of the map is The Turf Tavern, briefly known recently as The Park. There is a datestone above the door carved with the year 1894, but this must indicate a rebuilding since the original structure was much older. Historian William Cudworth suggests that the tavern, and the nearby Branch Hotel (formerly the Coach & Horses), were both erected when the Bradford to Bingley turnpike (now Keighley Road) was opened in 1825. He records that the builders of The Turf were William Clarke, a Heaton butcher, and his brother Joseph, a stonemason. Another brother, John Clarke, developed many delphs or quarries around Heaton village, although all evidence of those has long since vanished.

Opposite the tavern is the Royal Arch, bizarrely known locally as the ‘Norman Arch’, although it is Victorian Gothic in style. This much photographed entrance to Lister Park was erected in 1883 to celebrate the visit to Bradford of the Prince Wales, the future King Edward VII, the previous year. He stayed near Saltaire at Milner Field, the newly built mansion of Titus Salt junior, which was the last word in Victorian luxury. Who could have foreseen that within five years Salt would be dead at the age of 44, and that now his amazing house would be a heap of rubble? Ironically a selection of the gifts given to the same Prince on a tour of India in 1876 are currently on loan from the Royal Collection to Cartwright Hall Gallery shown below. Being fabricated largely from gold, enamel and precious stones they are totally unchanged, although the world they represented is shattered beyond recovery. You can see them for yourself until June 2017 and they are really not to be missed.

Lister Park 029

Cartwright Hall itself was opened in 1904 by a another Prince of Wales, later George V, whose visit was celebrated by some magnificent iron gates. Inside the Royal Arch there has been, since 1896, a huge statue of Titus Salt senior, mill-owner and philanthropist, carved in Carrera marble and seated within a Gothic canopy. This is odd since he and Samuel Cunliffe Lister, who had sold the park to Bradford Council, were generally commercial rivals and on bad terms. Salt’s statue had been moved from its original location where it proved to be an obstruction to traffic. A short carriage-road off Emm Lane led to the United College. Originally known as Airedale College, and designed by architects Lockwood & Mawson, it was dedicated to the training of Congregationalist ministers. An earlier college had been in existence at Undercliffe near the cemetery since 1831. The new premises in Heaton were opened in 1877 but the name was changed to United College in 1888, following the closure of a similar institution at Rotherham. The building is now part of the University of Bradford. Another part of the Emm Lane University Campus is a house named Heaton Mount which was built in 1863 by Robert Kell and is at the top centre of the map. The next road, whose full name is missing, is Park Drive. This was constructed on Rosse land which was used for villa development. Even if you didn’t possess your own car or carriage a short walk would take you to the tram or to Frizinghall Station with rapid transit to Bradford and business. The names of four house-owners recorded are: William Watson, the executors of Moritz von Hallé, James Watson, and W J Morley.

William Watson was the managing director of Manningham Mills (Lister’s Mill). This was first a worsted mill and then the largest silk mill in Europe. Its owner, Samuel Cunliffe Lister, was possibly the most gifted and certainly the most controversial of the Bradford textile magnates. Watson’s name is associated with the production of spun silk yarn. His wife was Annie Hainsworth who was a very able women in her own right and worked in the fields of poetry and music. The couple married at Burley in October 1876. They seem to have purchased Heaton Rise, 4 Park Drive in 1900 or 1901. The house had originally been built for a Mr Harris of the Bradford Bank and the Watsons lived there for about 10 years. By 1911 however their address was ‘Beech House’, Addingham. William & Annie Watson had two children. Elsie and WH Watson who I assume lived in the house after his parents. William Hainsworth Watson (1880-1965) married Grace Scott Watson (1875-1964). She was the daughter of James Watson a famous Bradford water engineer who, as you can see, was their near neighbour. The two Watson families were not otherwise related as far as I know. In the photograph of four generations of Watsons, part of the Bradford Industrial Museum collection, Wiilam is seated with the baby and ‘WH’ is standing behind.

Four Watson generations

WJ Morley was an architect of Darley St Bradford. Along with a new generation of Bradford architects: Herbert Isset, James Savile and James Ledingham, he actually designed these houses which I believe were constructed in the late 1870s. If this topic interests you should certainly look at the City’s Heaton Estates Conservation Area Assessment (2005) which contains much useful information:

I cannot find out a great deal about Moritz von Hallé. Some information is included in Susan Duxbury-Neumann’s excellent book Little Germany: a history of Bradford’s Germans, and Nick Hooper has assembled more at:

Moritz was one of Bradford’s large German Jewish community and seems to have been a shipping merchant in partnership with Sir Charles James Jessel and Ludwig Nathan Hardy (trading as LN Hardy). He was naturalised in 1870 and married Frances Moss, the couple having five children. After his death in 1910, the year before the sale plan one son, Laurence, took over the business at Gallon House, 1 Burnett St, Little Germany. In 1916 the youngest son, Jack Jacob aged only 23, was killed in action on the Somme along with so many other brave Bradford men. They were the darkest days in the City’s history. It is hard to look at the 1911 plan with the same eyes knowing, as we do, what was to come.

Frosterley Marble: calcite in fancy dress.

There can be little doubt that Durham Cathedral is the greatest, as well as the best loved, Norman building in Britain. The construction of the major part of the present cathedral began at the end of the 11th century. It shows the characteristic Norman (Romanesque) features of round arches, small windows with semi-circular heads, massively thick walls, and round masonry piers. The elevations show a triple arrangement: nave & aisles, triforium and clerestory. Norman cathedrals were designed to end with a semicircular apse but at the east end of Durham is now the beautiful Chapel of the Nine Altars which was a 13th century addition. It was built in the Early English Gothic style and the additional altars may have have been for the convenience of the large numbers of pilgrims visiting the city and wishing to attend mass, or a large number of priests who needed to celebrate mass. The cathedral authorities are not keen to allow photography so I have done my best with a postcard looking up the nave to the Decorated Gothic west window.

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The Early English Gothic style was introduced around AD 1200 and is unique to the UK. Its features are: sharp pointed arches, thinner and stronger walls, stone vaulted roofs, and walls supported with buttresses. Apses were no longer fashionable and Early English cathedrals may end squarely, or with a Lady Chapel. A final feature of this style is the use of elegant thin columns constructed of a decorative limestone. In the south of England this is commonly Purbeck stone but at Durham, and elsewhere in the north, such columns are frequently made of black Frosterley marble. This is not a true marble, which is a metamorphic rock, but a dark-grey, fossil-containing, limestone which takes a fine polish. It was mined at Rogerley Quarry at Frosterley, near Durham where outcrops of the rock are still visible in a local stream bed.


After many centuries active quarrying has now ceased but many ordinary limestone quarries can also be found in the district. This image of the polished stone is from the Bishop’s Castle at Bishop Aukland.


Frosterley marble may famously hve been used in medieval columns at Durham but it can also be seen as flooring at Ripon Cathedral, Norwich Cathedral, York Minster, and elsewhere. The fossils are mostly of a large solitary coral called Dibunophyllum bipartitum. It is said that there may also be shell fragments, brachiopods, crinoids, bryozoans, foraminifera and tree or leaf fragments, but I have not seen anything else but corals in the samples I have examined. The southern equivalent is Purbeck ‘marble’ which was the product of a former industry on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset. Purbeck marble was a muddy limestone containing fossils of the freshwater snail Viviparus. Seams could be found and exploited between layers of marine mudstones. Frosterley stone is always dark grey or black but the variable iron content of Purbeck stone produced red, brown and green varieties. The stone is found in many southern cathedrals including Lincoln, Norwich & Salisbury.

Purbeck Marble

You will not be surprised to learn that the above account is a great over-simplification. There are, in fact, a great many English fossil-containing limestones which take a polish and are called ‘marble’. I have noted half a dozen from Derbyshire alone, many of which originated on the Chatsworth Estates of the Duke of Devonshire. Perhaps the best known is ‘Cockleshell’ marble, examples of which can be seen at Bolsover Castle. What has me puzzled at present are the crinoidal decorative limestones. When I visited Auckland Castle in Durham I wanted to photograph its Frosterley marble columns. When examining the results later I saw that I had taken pictures of flooring made of alternating black and pale limestone of an entirely different type. These contained large numbers of shattered fragments of fossil crinoids, or sea lilies.


To identify the origin of the stone it would be very helpful to know their date, a fact which I cannot now supply. This type of stone, occurring in black and grey forms, was quarried around Dent, Sedbergh and Garsdale in Cumbria. It is generally believed the discovery that these limestones could be polished for ornamental use was made around 1760-1770. The period of greatest use was in the mid-19th century. They are found in churches local to the quarries but were also also used by the Midland Railway Company and exported to Darlington & Newcastle. If I understand correctly Egglestone Marble from Teesdale, and Nidderdale Marble, both resembled Frosterley marble but again contained crinoid fossils instead of corals. But the trade in these stones was basically a medieval one. Egglestone Marble could be quarried in large lumps and understandably is found in the north-east of England. Nidderdale Marble is a Yoredale Series limestone which I gather was used at Fountains Abbey.

Totally black floor tiles, with no veins or fossils, may be St Anne’s marble from Belgium. The quarry was at Dinant in Wallonia. The peak of this trade was post-medieval, around the 17th century. Many churches were conserved and altered in the 19th century. I think that the black fossil-containing limestone then used on chequered ecclesiastical floors is probably Kilkenny Black marble from Ireland. I don’t know exactly what fossil it contains but it is different from all the above examples. Again I believe that the Kilkenny quarries were definitely a post-medieval operation, perhaps 17th -19th century. These samples of Kilkenny marble and Derbyshire Cockleshell marble are from the excellent collection at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley.

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The Vital Spark & the Harsh Master


Jenny Hill was an successful mid-nineteenth century music-hall star. ‘The Vital Spark’ was the common soubriquet by which she was known, but I have also found her described as ‘the fascinating’ and ‘the queen of serio-comedy’. Although largely forgotten today she was immensely popular with the contemporary public who evidently regarded her with a great deal of affection. I am not in any way a scholar of the music-hall and its artistes, but there was a significant Bradford connection to her career which may illustrate the way in which young children might be abused in Victorian Britain. There are several problems in establishing the true facts of the ‘Vital Spark’s’ career. At various times in her life she was known by different names. She was seemingly born Elizabeth, or Elizabeth Jane, Thompson. After her marriage she was called Jane Woodley. Jane Hill or Jenny Hill were her stage names. I shall use Jenny for her. It seems quite likely that some of the stories told about her early career were embellished or invented. Her entry in the DNB written by Laurence Senelick gives her dates as 1848-1896. Richard Anthony Baker also deals with her career in his British Music Hall: An Illustrated History (2014) but the two authors do not agree in all points of detail, nor do they always provide references for all their information. The final problem is that I can confirm very few of her life’s events from the usual family history resources, and some that I can confirm seem rather puzzling. I would certainly welcome assistance from a more competent family historian.

It is said that Jenny was born in Paddington. Her father, Michael Thompson (1812/13–1881), was reported to be a watcher at a cab stand although I am not sure precisely what this involves. For what it is worth an Elizabeth Jane Thompson’s birth was registered in the St Pancras district in 1850, but I cannot guarantee it was the right woman. There is some debate about the nature of Jenny’s earliest appearance on the stage. One claim was that she first appeared in a pantomime called Goody Goose at the Marylebone Theatre in 1858. There are other candidates for the honour, but I don’t suppose it really matters very much. Of more importance was that Jenny married John Wilson Woodley, an acrobat who performed under the name Jean Pasta, on 28 May 1866. If this date is correct Jenny had already appeared on the Leeds stage prior to her marriage. The Leeds Mercury advertised her first appearance on March 18 1865 at Princess’s Concert Hall. Jenny’s first official performance in Bradford was delayed by nearly another decade. Adverts in the Bradford Observer state that Pullen’s New Music Hall offered patrons ‘the Queen of Serio-Comedy’ on May 19 1873. Jenny Hill appeared at the Alhambra on March 16 1874 and when she appeared again at the same theatre in October 1874 she was styled, the ‘greatest vocalist and dancer in Great Britain’. This cannot be the present Alhambra which was built in 1914. She was also seen at St Georges Hall but I cannot trace any further appearances locally after the mid-1870s. The Leeds Mercury takes further notice of her in March 1881 playing Aladdin at the Grand Theatre, this included a benefit performance. She was back in a Leeds pantomime two years later in 1883.

Jenny and John Woodley’s elder daughter, Lettie Matilda Woodley (b.1867), was known as Peggy Pryde and was a successful performer in her own right both before and after her emigration to Australia with her second husband in 1911. Another daughter, Jenny Woodley, was also intended for a stage career. It is quite commonly stated that Jenny was deserted by her husband at a relatively early stage, but I can find them living together at the time of the 1881 census. This is one of the few documents that I can trace as it happens. The enumerator records the family names as: J Woodley 38, J Woodley 31 (both performers music halls), Letty Woodley 13, & Jenny Woodley 4. They have a border and a visitor, and can afford a single domestic servant. They live at 9 Olney St, Lambeth.

From 1868 to about 1893 Jenny was a star of the London and north-country music halls. At the peak of her career she could apparently earn £30 per night from each hall, and might have contracts with several halls at the same time. She could sing, dance, and engage in repartee with the audience. It appears that she published 300 songs. When she was wealthy, after 1881 presumably, Jenny Hill bought a farm in Streatham called the Hermitage where she entertained and was known for charitable works. The Hermitage was noted for extensive gardens and sunny meadows, which sounds a little different from the Streatham I know today. After Woodley’s death on 8 January 1890, Jenny married Edward Turnbull, a music-hall manager. In the 1890s Jenny appeared in the USA and South Africa but evidently her heath was soon giving cause for concern.

The cause of Jenny’s death is recorded as consumption, pulmonary TB that is, which is perfectly credible. She was admitted to the Brompton Hospital at one time which was famous for the treatment of this disease. She returned to London in May 1894, but moved to Bournemouth for her health. Apparently needlework was her main hobby in those days. A stage newspaper called The Era recorded that in June 1895 Jenny was planning some private teaching. Early in 1896 her daughter Peggy Pryde (Mrs G S Hamilton) invited 100 people to meet her younger sister and ‘the Vital Spark’ at Gresham Hall, Brixton. Jenny had to stay in an invalid chair and this I am sure was the arrangement when her daughter provided a last outing in the form of a June picnic at Hampton Court where ‘special arrangements’ were made for Jenny’s comfort. Jenny Hill died at Peggy Pryde’s home in Brixton, London, on 28 June 1896 and was buried in Nunhead cemetery. Crowds of admirers attended her coffin to the cemetery. Her age at the time of her death is stated to be 46 years, which suggests that she was born in 1850 rather than 1848. At present I can confirm the date and place of her death, and the fact that her death was registered under the name Jenny Hill.

The Bradford connection arises from Jenny Hill’s father who seemingly decided that it would be desirable for his daughter to learn the trade of a ‘serio-comic’ and accordingly apprenticed her to a Bradford publican. This story, and the phrase ‘Bradford publican’, seems to have had its origin in an interview Jenny gave to The Era in 1893. She showed her indenture of apprenticeship to the journalist so the story could hardly be an invention. At the age of 12 years, say around 1862, Jenny was promised to the publican for 12 months. She and a companion had to get up with the lark in order to scrub floors, polish pewter and beer bottles until the performance for the early afternoon drinkers began at noon. Often they had no breakfast. After the evening performance was over the artistes had to stay up all the time a patron might buy them a glass of wine. She was even expected to make and bottle ginger beer. The authorities would surely take an extremely dim view of such harsh treatment today? Eventually her ‘amiable employer’ began to loan her to other halls. Why did her father send Jenny so far away since there must have been many premises in London which taught the same skills?

Naturally I wondered which was the Bradford pub concerned? Richard Anthony Baker, in his British Music Hall: An Illustrated History states that it was called the Turk’s Head but doesn’t explain how he came by this information. In 1865 the Bradford Observer contains a small advertisement to the effect that the remaining 12 years of lease on the Turk’s Head, ‘a well-known and well-accustomed tavern and music hall’ was being auctioned by Mr J Buckley-Sharp. The holder of the lease is not mentioned but the tavern is located at the top of Southgate. Today Southgate is a turn off Sunbridge Road downhill towards Thornton Road. About 10 years ago historian Mike Priestly also mentioned Jenny in an article he wrote for the Bradford T & A. He recorded her performances at Pullan’s Theatre in Brunswick Place. He mentioned that she had been seen in singing rooms before that, appearing at the London Hotel at the top of what is now Sackville Street but was then, before Sunbridge Road was made, ‘part of Southgate which ran between Westgate and Sunbridge Road’. The geography of Bradford has changed greatly since 1860 but I assume the same establishment is being described. In 1860 a ‘Mr Farmery of the Turk’s Head, Southgate’ applied for a wine licence. Looking at the 1856 Lund’s Directory of Bradford I can confirm that Richard Farmery, beer-seller, lived at 10 Southgate so presumably he was the remorseless holder of Jenny’s indenture.

Mike Priestley believes that Jenny acquired her stage nickname of ‘The Vital Spark’ from Jack Nunn, a director of Bradford City FC and a member of a theatrical family. He recorded Jenny’s last visit to Bradford being around 1895 when she came to stay with her daughter, Peggy Pryde, who was appearing as principal boy in Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal on Manningham Lane. Even successful entertainers in Victorian Britain could have lives which were hard, short and soon forgotten.


The Story of a Brick


I still regret that when I graduated in archaeology I couldn’t find a way of continuing to study Iron Age and Roman Iron Age material from Britain. But investigating the industrial history and archaeology of Bradford has many compensations. It does offer an opportunity, for someone unattached to an academic unit, to do original research. I can also examine areas which are unlikely to receive professional attention in the foreseeable future. At present I am mainly interested in shallow shaft coal mining and old Bradford maps. In both areas I am supported by a small group of like-minded individuals who, despite being busy with researches of their own, always seem to find time to lessen my ignorance. It’s really pleasant to work independently within a supportive group like that.

The local brick industry was my first introduction to Bradford industrial history. The multitude of marks on late Victorian, and early twentieth century, bricks fascinate a number of us for the insights they provide into manufacturers and production sites. If there are problems with identifying a rare brick there are several nearby brick enthusiasts to whom one may turn for help. Most of my brick collection is in the form of digital images but I like to have a few of the rarer examples of actual bricks to use in talks and lectures. Recently, Phillip, a very knowledgeable local enthusiast, was kind enough to inform me that a brick marked [H & B] was available on a long disused railway line. This line opened in 1875 and connected Shipley with Thackley, Idle, and Laisterdyke. It once formed a small part of the Great Northern Railway but has been closed to passengers since the 1930s. Being neither very observant, nor especially mobile, my first visit to the trackbed was unhelpful. I was consequently delighted when another notable collector, ‘Old Frechevillian’, phoned me to say he was interested in photographing the brick and had agreed with Phillip to leave the small object of desire in a more prominent position. This he did and now I have it. You might at this point wish to look at his own amazing collection of brick images on:

So, what can we establish about the [H & B] brick. It’s a very large, and heavy, machine-pressed brick with no sign that it has ever been laid in mortar. There is always some uncertainty with bricks marked with initials rather than names but assuming it was manufactured in Bradford, as seems likely, the manufacturers were amost certainly the known brick-making partnership of Hopkinson & Bates. If so it is the only example of their work that I have ever seen although it should be remembered that many bricks were fired straight from the machines and were never marked. The first record of Hopkinson & Bates, Wood Road, Bowling Old Lane is in the White’s Trade Directory of 1870. The unknown individual who compiled a brick production file at Bradford Industrial Museum gave this partnership an existence in the years 1872-1875 and initially I believed I could confirm these dates from a variety of trade directories. The issue is evidently more complex than this since the London Gazette records that the partnership between Edwin Hopkinson and Haigh Bates was dissolved as early as September 1872 ‘by mutual consent’. The works are described as ‘Spring Wood Brick Works, at Bowling’. So the use of the partnership title in the Slater’s directory of 1875 must be a mistake.

The White’s directory of 1875 (available on microfilm at the Local Studies Library) does not mention the partnership but records a F(sic) Hopkinson & Co, Southfield Lane. I’m sure the initial letter is wrong and that E Hopkinson continued brick-making alone. His new premises were probably the ‘Aycliffe Road brickworks’ which Hopkinson had owned in 1871 with William Holdsworth as manager. Clearly the business was not a success and in 1875 the Bradford Observer records on August 11 that it was liquidated by agreement. A week later William Holdsworth (still as manager I assume) is offering the works for sale. He seems to have ended up owning it, until about 1885. William Holdsworth is a common name in the north of England. In the 1881 census I can find several dozen in the Bradford area alone, but no brick-makers and only this one man who is a contractor, in Bowling as it happens. I believe him to be the most plausible source of the [WH] bricks found in Bradford, and I assume that all the references to a man of this name in Bradford Trades Directories are to this single individual who was later a well-known contractor.

What happened to our brick-makers? The census taken in 1881 records that Haigh Bates, a brick-maker, lived at 50 Haycliffe Road in 1881: just down the road from two talented archaeologists of my acquaintance as it happens. As I have said Edwin Hopkinson at one time owned the Aycliffe Road brick works. At the time of the 1871 census two men of this name lived locally, a 34 year old grocer and a 41 year old ‘engineer’ in Bowling Old Lane, the engineer I suppose is the man. He was married to Lydia and also appears in Bowling in the 1861 census. Two men, S & E Hopkinson, were Bradford engineers who developed an apparatus for reducing smoke nuisance from chimneys. I cannot find him in the 1881 census and I wondered if he had died. I can find his wife Lydia and his children still living in Bowling however. Edwin is not with his family but Lydia uses the marital status ‘married’ not ‘widowed’. Where did he go? When did he die? Does anybody know more?

The Past Revealed: Sunbridge Wells



Some months ago I posted an item explaining the background to the creation of Sunbridge Wells in Bradford, which was built under Sunbridge Road, Upper Millergate and Ivegate. My Bradford local history blog tends to bumble along with 20-30 hits per day but earlier in the week this item alone received more that 1300 hits in a single day from the UK. I’m not accustomed to this  blogging big-time but I assume it has been shared somewhere rather more prominent than Bradford Unconsidered Trifles. Anyway it seems timely to return to the topic. 

The new development was officially opened in December 2016 and yesterday the developer Graham Hall kindly gave me a conducted tour of his creation. I’m not often lost for words but that was the effect of what I saw. Graham knows the maze of corridors, bars and retail outlets very intimately of course. As we moved from location to location I was usually left wondering both what was immediately above our heads, and what would have been present at the same site 200 years earlier. I was provided with a nineteenth century sale plan but I have a great deal of enjoyable studying to do before I can claim to fully understand how Sunbridge Wells developed.

A truly enormous amount of work has been undertaken. Simply clearing out decades of accumulated debris, or sand-blasting and re-pointing all the external and internal stonework must have been major tasks. All is now restored to its original beauty. I feel quite comfortable underground, and in artificial light, but not everybody does. It was a wise decision to dig out an old courtyard to bring natural light down into the atrium at the centre of the development. There can’t be many parallels to Sunbridge Wells anywhere, although if you have visited Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh you will have some idea of the original appearances. You can see pictures for yourselves on:

If you live near Bradford, and intend to visit, there are several points to consider. You can’t see more than a tiny fraction of the delights on display by simply walking through the passageways connecting the entrances. Most of the attractions are located in the various bars provided for the thirsty visitor. So it will be necessary for local historians to pause for refreshment while pursuing their investigations, but then we have to expect some minor sacrifices in the hunt for knowledge! My personal favourites are the cells from old Bradford magistrates court, long hidden and invisible. What makes them especially noteworthy is that they were evidently built into an old sandstone quarry face. Bradford is of course famous for its fine building stone and it is no exaggeration to say that there must have been hundreds of large and small quarry sites within the current city boundaries. I hadn’t appreciated that there were such quarries so near the city centre, but then most of my map studies  are undertaken in nineteenth century material. The area in question was already long built over by the time of the 1800 Bradford plan and could, I suppose, well be medieval.

Graham Hall has obtained a great many objects to add interest to the ‘visitor experience’, most of these have a Bradford connection. The best-known is a miniature locomotive which I believe used to pull trains at Shipley Glen. Also noteworthy are a sign displaying all the patents granted to Hattersleys, the Keighley textile engineers, and the ledgers and old pharmaceutical bottles once belonging to Rimingtons the chemists. But my personal favourite has to be an astounding display of chemical glassware. The final stage of the development will be the recreation of an old city centre pub called, if I remember correctly, the Rose & Crown. The plan is to retain as many of the original beams, and as much of the original brickwork, as possible. It was in this space that I recognised my only marked brick, from Wrose Hill Fireclay Company in Shipley. So, have you got to visit? Of course you have: it’s the first unique location created in Bradford in decades and finally a good news story concerning our city. See you there soon I hope. If you’re one of the 1300 hits please identify yourself.

Rev. Godfrey Wright – who he?


This beautiful map from the Bradford Local Studies Library is of Askwith, a village between Ilkley and Otley but north of the Wharfe valley. Today it is in North Yorkshire, just over the border from West Yorkshire. The different colours are used to designate the fields of several tenant farmers but the landowner is one Godfrey Wright. Stylistically this looks like a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century map; as you will read 1805-06 would be a plausible date. Rev. Godfrey Charles Wright (1780-1862) owned land all over Bradford and district in the mid-nineteenth century. You will see his name in central Bradford, Horton, Manningham, Baildon, and elsewhere. This map does not employ his title which also suggests an early, pre-ordination, date. Wright does not seem to have lived in Bradford for any prolonged period, if at all. Certainly by 1822 he resided at Bilham House, Hooton Pagnell, South Yorks where he stayed for the next 40 years. In census reports he describes himself as ‘clergyman without cure of souls’ and has an indoor and outdoor staff of a dozen or more. He appears in newspaper reports subscribing to Leeds Infirmary and Bradford Infirmary, and is a member of the Camden Society with, presumably, an interest in ancient history. He left a substantial fortune at his death but how did he acquire all his property?

Victorian Bradford historian William Cudworth, and modern historian Astrid Hanson (author of Sharp to Blunt), agree that Godfrey Wright’s wealth essentially resulted from an ancestral relationship with three local families, the Swaines, Fields and the Booths. That there was such a connection is certain since Wright used all three surnames as his own sons’ middle names, and a collection of Wright papers in the West Yorkshire Archives contains much material relating to Swaines and Booths. Both the authors mentioned believed that he also benefited indirectly from the estate of Abraham Sharp of Horton Hall, the famous mathematician. This is definitely true but I am less certain about the extent of this inheritance. At present I am also uncertain whether Wright inherited the bulk of his property on a single occasion, or benefited from multiple bequests as distant relatives died without direct descendants, ‘heirs of the body’ as they would be termed in old wills. There can be no doubt that, however he acquired them, his fields and cottages in his possession became vastly more valuable as space in Bradford itself became increasingly necessary for new roads, mills, dwellings and public buildings. Godfrey Wright owned the land on which Little Germany and St George’s Hall were eventually built for example. He and his estate reaped an enormous fortune from the prosperity of the borough, a fact that evidently occurred to his contemporaries. He left £80,000 at his death in 1862 which equates, according to the National Archives currency converter, to £3,452,800 in 2005 values.

There is a Swain (sic) tablet in Bradford cathedral. It commemorates William Swain of Bradford and his family. I think it is reasonable to assume that only wealthy families of some consequence had commemorative tablets inside the Parish Church. The monument was erected by Mary and Elizabeth Swain, co-heiresses of the family:

William Swain d.1737 aged 71

Son, William d.1715 aged 20

Son, Abraham d.1732 aged 34

Abraham Swain (brother of elder William) d.1731 aged 58

Son, Abraham d.1733 aged 28

Mary seemingly stayed single but Elizabeth was to make a significant marriage. Cudworth also mentions a ‘Dr Swaine of Hall Ings’ who was an eminent apothecary and a friend of Abraham Sharp whom shall soon meet for a third time.

George II became king in 1727. The following year, according to a West Yorkshire Archives indenture, two spinsters Elizabeth & Beatrix Field (daughters of William Field ‘late of Bradford’) are involved financially with an Abraham Swaine. He is possibly the elder man of this name on the Parish Church tablet. The document mentions a great many fields, barns and dwellings. Some familiar place names are: Goodmansend, Silbridge and Penny Oak all in Bradford. One dwelling is occupied by ‘the widow Beatrix Field’ who is likely I suppose to be the girls’ mother. The indenture talks about the Field girls paying a ‘fine’ but I’m not certain exactly what was involved nor why. It may not matter as we shall see. Clearly the Field family must also be linked to Godfrey Wright if their family papers ended up in his archive.

Remember the two Swaine girls, Mary & Elizabeth? Mary Swaine may be an ‘Aunt Swaine’, who lived in Hall Ings dying in 1759. Mary’s sister Elizabeth Swaine married Rev Charles Booth I, who died in April 1761. They had a number of children including Charles Booth II who was born in 1734. Fortunately the will of Rev Charles Booth I also survives in the West Yorkshire Achives. Among the legal language there are three important facts: Rev Charles Booth I was a wealthy man himself with much cash and property. Sarah & Beatrix Booth were his only surviving daughters who were left £500-£1000 each, which would be many hundreds of thousands of pounds in modern money. Finally Charles Booth II was his only surviving son and was executor, land inheritor and residuary legatee. The lands were in the parishes of Halifax and Bradford although the only names I am certain about are Ovenden and, I am glad to say, Askwith.

Charles Booth II evolved into a wealthy young barrister. He changed his name to Charles Swaine Booth after inheriting more property from his ‘aunt’ who I assume was Mary Swaine of Hall Ings. I believe that by this means he obtained the whole of the Booth and Swaine inheritance but he had one more piece of financial luck, and one more name change, to come. A lady called Hannah Gilpin changed her name to Hannah Gilpin Sharp in 1767. Essentially she had inherited Abraham Sharp’s estate via his niece Faith Sawrey. Abraham Sharp was a mathematician and scientist and he lived and worked at Horton Hall. Abraham’s estate passed to his niece who had married Robert Stansfield of Esholt. Their daughter, Faith, married Richard Gilpin Sawrey in 1722 but died in 1767 without children. Faith Sawrey left her estate to Hannah Gilpin who was probably related to Mrs Sawrey’s husband in some way. Latterly Hannah had lived together with Mrs Sawrey.

As you may have guessed Charles Swaine Booth married Hannah Gilpin Sharp, in 1769. The couple lived together at Horton Old Hall under their final names of: Charles SB Sharp (1734-1805) & Hannah Gilpin Sharp (1743-1823). Presumably the new Charles Sharp would have acquired control of his new wife’s considerable property. I don’t know enough about contemporary legal affairs to know whether some was entailed to accompany the Hall, or whether the marriage contract would have reserved certain properties to his wife. Charles Sharp died in 1805. At that time he had no living brothers or children and was clearly in need of an heir. He seems to have left property to his sisters Sarah & Beatrix but both were seemingly dead by 1811. Control of the inheritance was passed to Gordfrey Wright although on the face of it he was rather distant relative. The closest common ancestor would seem to be the Rev Marmaduke Drake, a vicar in Derbyshire, who was Godfrey Wright’s great grandfather.

Godfrey Wright had been born in 1780 at Kimberworth, Rotherham and educated at Hipperholme GS (like Sir Robert Peel) and Trinity College, Cambridge 1799 (MA 1807). I don’t know the exact year of his ordination but he married in 1812, at Huddersfield, Mary (1790-1821) daughter of Henry Stables & Penelope Greenwood. His wife died at Bath in 1821. Wright was already described as ‘of Bilham House’ at that time. He frequently visited Bath, York & London for the season according to contemporary newspapers. In the mid 1800s his agent was Thomas Hirst of Hall Ings, Bradford. Wright was involved in a legal action, Rawson v. Wright, an action brought by the Ladies of the Manor against him for the erection of the Waterloo market in Hall Ings (Charles St) in 1825: they won. He was involved in some controversy over paving Hall Ings in 1835. In 1850 he owned the land on which a public hall (St George’s) was built and got £15,000 for it (Bradford Observer October 17 1850). The Bradford Observer February 26 1857 said that he owned The Beehive Inn and other ‘low’ dwellings in the Silbridge Road area (The Beehive estate was eventually purchased from his trustees for £5,775 in 1864).

Cudworth states that Hannah Gilpin Sharp (aka Madam Sharp) long outlived her husband finally dying in 1823. Godfrey Wright didn’t inherit all the Sharp property although he was executor of and beneficiary from Hannah Gilpin Sharp’s will. She bequeathed the mansion at Horton, with all her estates in Bradford and elsewhere, to her nephew, Captain Thomas Gilpin, and his male heirs, and in default of issue to her niece, Ann Kitchen, widow of Major Kitchen, and her heirs. Captain Gilpin, after enjoying the estates three years only, died at Madeira in the year 1826, without having been married, whereupon Ann Kitchen came to the property, and married in 1828 Mr. Edward Giles, a clerk in Somerset House, for her second husband, who died in 1832. The property extended over many portions of Horton, including that fringing both sides of Horton Lane. Estates of ‘Mrs Giles’ are also common on maps of Bradford and Horton. She died at the age of 80 and is buried in Bradford PC. When it comes to nineteenth century property you might do well simply for being a survivor, but there were many slips betwixt cup and lip.