9th June 1897. Slums and Civic Pride.

Bradford 1960.s

Bradford 1960.s

Bradford early 20thc

Bradford early 20thc.






Broad Ford (Bradford) was laid waste after the Northern Uprising against the 1066 Norman Invasion. The first mill  to be recorded was at Leaventhorpe being mentioned in the 1311 Will of the Earl of Lincoln.(1)

When the later major textile manufacturer Samuel Lister, later Lord Masham was born in 1815, Bradford had no water supply, sewerage or railways and most people lived in the surrounding countryside.

Bradford by 1841 had over a hundred worsted mills which represented two-thirds of the Country’s woollen processors. The town was now the woollen capital of the world with a population of 100,000.

Bradford, Yorkshire: an industrial landscape Date: 1873 Source: Unattributed engraving in Illustrated London News, 20 September 1873, page 260

Bradford, Yorkshire: an industrial landscape Date: 1873 Source: Unattributed engraving in Illustrated London News, 20 September 1873, page 260

Later in the 19thc there were 300 textile mills amidst the smoke, dirt and tall chimneys: the epitome of Blake’s ‘Satanic Mills’.

Of the ¼ of a million workers in West Yorkshire, 70,000 were in the ‘Wool City’ of Bradford.

Bradford’s gain was to the detriment of the traditional woollen areas of the West Country and East Anglia, as the motive-power of ‘The Old Mill by the Stream’ was replaced by steam-power from coal now set to drive the mills in Bradford, Halifax and Batley (known for its ‘Shoddies’) and many other places.

However this dramatic expansion in industrial Britain came at a price, with infectious and industrial diseases wiping out the badly-housed population, so by mid 19thc average Bradford mortality was only 18 years.

Then the 12 hour days in poor and dangerous working conditions, contamination of anthrax from imported fleeces, and dust igniting into serious fires, all took their serious toll.

However on the back of all this endeavour, Bradford as other important centres of industry, was rewarded with the civic dignity of becoming a Municipal Borough in 1847. Then it acquired a grand new Town Hall in the Revised Gothic style to emulate Leeds and Halifax, a grandeur to culminate Today in 1897 in its award of city status.(2)

Civic glory, City Hall from Centenary Square.

Civic glory, Bradford City Hall from Centenary Square.

One of the more prescient comments came from the great Lord Masham when opening a Memorial Hall on April 13th 1904, when he ‘pictured the Hall as a place where Asiatics of the future would come to search for the inventor of the Power Loom’.

(1) Bradford was originally centred on the medieval Kirkgate, Westgate and Ivegate. The local Manor was held by the de Lacy family, until 1311 with the Earls of Lincoln, then John of Gaunt, then the Crown, and in private hands until 1620.

(2) Queen Elizabeth I shares pride of place with Victoria at the entrance to the old Town Hall in Bradford, lining the façade in chronological order from the Conqueror to the young Victoria; thirty-five in all.

Ref: yorkshirepost.co.uk/rise-and-fall-of-wool-city.21.11.2007.Tony Phillips.

Ref: Wool City, Mark Keighley. G. Whitaker and Co.

Ref: bbc.co.uk/history-learning/bradford-19thc./Pic.

Ref: friendsofbuckwood.org.uk/slums Pic.

Ref: dailymail.co.uk/swinging-60s/7.2.2016/Nick Hedges/Pic.

Ref: wikipedia.org/bradford/Pic of City Hall.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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