Category Archives: Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns

Little Germany

66 Vicar Lane, Little Germany, Bradford

66 Vicar Lane, Little Germany, Bradford

Bradford’s Victorian prosperity was boosted by the dyeing trade led by the firm of Edward Ripley & Sons, and the invention of mechanical combing by Samuel Lister of Manningham Mills – and from the remarkable influx of German immigrant merchants, such families as Schuster, Behrens, Zessenheim and Moser, whose warehouses clustered on the hill that is now known as Little Germany within the tight network of streets above Leeds Old Road.

Most of these companies were already established in Bradford before they moved into the grand warehouses in the 1860s and early 1870s. They were encouraged to diversify when trade was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, only to suffer a sudden economic downturn from 1875 onwards with the introduction of tariff barriers by France, Germany and Austria.

At the same time unexpected changes in female fashions caught manufacturers unprepared, and though the Bradford wool trade eventually adapted, no further buildings were constructed in Little Germany until 1902.

The impressive architectural display of the Little Germany stuff- (ie, worsted) warehouses masks a tightly-organised functional building-type, comparable with the cotton warehouses of central Manchester.

John S Roberts, in Little Germany (Bradford Art Galleries & Museums 1977), describes in detail how “grey” cloth was brought into the ground-floor receiving bay, promptly sent out for dyeing and, on its return, hoisted by steam-power to the top floor for inspection and sorting, stored and then after sale sent to the ground-floor packing area for dispatch.

Only wholesale customers and senior staff used the front entrance and the show staircase to the upper floors.

Many of the Little Germany buildings were designed by the local architect Eli Milnes (1830-1899), in some cases as speculative developments. Milnes was in partnership with Charles France (1833-1902) from 1863 onwards. The other local architectural practices – Andrews & Delauney, Lockwood & Mawson and Milnes & France, together with the Leeds architect George Corson, participated in the short-lived building boom.

After the decline of the Bradford woollen industry in the 1960s and early 1970s almost all of the Little Germany buildings were redeveloped: many warehouses became offices, and a former temperance hall was converted into a theatre, initially known as The Priestley after the novelist who was its first president, and eventually in 2012 relaunched as Bradford Playhouse: http://www.bradfordplayhouse.org.uk.

In 2012 the mail-order clothing company Freeman Grattans Holdings, an amalgamation of the London-based Freeman Company and the Bradford-based Grattan, moved into 1860s offices at 66-70 Vicar Lane within Little Germany.

FGH has a German owner, Otto UK.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

People of the Book

Reform Synagogue, Bowland Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Reform Synagogue, Bowland Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

The Bradford Jewish communities were never numerically large, perhaps a hundred families in the late-nineteenth century, but they were extremely influential.

The German and Danish Jews whose warehouses are now called “Little Germany” were not refugees, but came in search of prosperity in the early decades of the nineteenth century.  They assimilated, and then coalesced into the city’s Reform Congregation.

From their ranks came four Bradford mayors, including Charles Joseph Semon (1814-1877;  Mayor 1864-5) and Jacob Moser (1839-1922;  Mayor 1910-11), as well as the merchant Sir Jacob Behrens (1806-1889) and Professor Friederich Wilhelm Eurich (1867–1945) who led the search for a cure for cutaneous anthrax or “wool-sorter’s disease”.  The composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934) and the painter Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) both came from Bradford German-Jewish families.

This Reform Congregation built the magnificent Moorish Grade II*-listed Reform Synagogue on Bowland Street, designed by T H & F Healey in 1881, a rare and fine survival of the Islamic Revival style.

In the 1880s, fleeing the pogroms that followed the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, came Russian Jews who disliked the practices of the Reform Synagogue and founded their own Orthodox Synagogue in Spring Gardens in 1906.

The Orthodox community were sufficiently confident of their future to close the Spring Gardens synagogue in 1970 and move to a modern building at Springhurst Road, Shipley.  The Spring Gardens building, with the inscription above its doorway, “How goodly are your tents, O Israel”, is now the Al Mumin independent Muslim primary school, and the Orthodox Congregation had to close their Shipley synagogue in April 2013 because they no longer had sufficient numbers to hold services.

Meanwhile, the Reform Congregation of around thirty-five people somehow manages to maintain their building and hold monthly services:  http://www.bradfordsynagogue.co.uk/index.htm.

Among the supporters who have helped this tiny community financially are the Bradford Council of Mosques and other members of the local Muslim community:  http://www.bradfordsynagogue.co.uk/index.htm.

The local MP, George Galloway, tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons which congratulated “the members of the Bradford Muslim community for their extraordinary ecumenical gesture in raising a very large sum of money to repair the roof of Bradford’s last remaining synagogue, thereby enabling members of the Jewish community to continue to worship there;  and believes that this generous gesture shows the true spirit of Islam towards other People of the Book.”

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

 

Eat your way round Todmorden

Former Todmorden Industrial & Co-operative Society Limited branch, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Former Todmorden Industrial & Co-operative Society Limited branch, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

When I’m hungry in Todmorden, on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border, I head for the old-fashioned Co-op.  It’s not a co-op any more, though it retains its splendid iron-and-glass two-storey shop front emblazoned with the title ‘Todmorden Industrial & Co-operative Society Limited’.  The building dates from the 1860s, and was refurbished when the Co-operative Society took it over as its haberdashery department in 1910. 

Now it’s the Bear Café [http://www.bearco-op.com/cafe], a vehemently wholefood shop and café bringing the very finest local produce in conjunction with the food hub Incredible Edible Todmorden Unlimitedhttp://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk.

Sometimes you simply can’t get a seat at the Bear Café, so next door is Bramsche Bar [http://www.bramsche.co.uk/about], a little more relaxed and slightly less purist, offering alcohol and meat for those who’re so inclined.  I had eggs Benedictine, which is a combination of the ham and spinach components of Benedict and Florentine.

There used to be a nice little café with interesting posters in the loo which has now been transformed into Hanuman Thai & 3 Wise Monkeys Pub [http://www.hanuman-thai.com/?q=node/1] which might be worth a look.

And that’s just for starters.

 

Scott’s best church

All Souls' Church, Haley Hill, Halifax, West Yorkshire

All Souls’ Church, Haley Hill, Halifax, West Yorkshire

At the same time that Colonel Edward Akroyd set out his model village of Akroyden in 1855-6, he began work on his greatest gift to the locality, All Soul’s Church, Haley Hill.

He employed George Gilbert Scott, who also provided the original layout for the village, to design the grandest possible statement of High Anglican pride, a fourteenth-century Gothic church with a tower 236 feet high, one foot higher than that of his carpet-manufacturing rivals, the Crossleys’,Congregational Square Church down in the valley below.

Scott was and is generally regarded as the best architect alive at the time, and Scott himself described All Souls’ as “on the whole, my best church”.

As might be expected, the finest decorative materials were used – Minton tiles, glass by Clayton & Bell, Hardman & Co, and William Wailes, ironwork by Skidmore & Co, the font of Lizard serpentine marble standing on an Aberdeen granite base, Caen stone for the pulpit, alabaster for the reredos.

The tower houses a ring of eight bells by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and the four-manual Foster & Andrews organ of 1868 was the biggest in Halifax.

This huge church became redundant in 1979, and stood neglected until 1989 when the Churches Conservation Trust took it over.

Unfortunately, the Steetley limestone Scott chose for the structure reacted badly to atmospheric pollution, and the twin tasks of conserving the fabric and securing it against vandalism are prodigious.

Details of access and coming events at All Souls’ are at http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/All-Souls-Church-Halifax-Haley-Hill-West-Yorkshire.

Graham White’s fine set of photographs is at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/strabod72/sets/72157627625944270/with/6128063605.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

 

Akroyd town

Salisbury Terrace and former co-operative store, Akroydon, Halifax (1992)

Salisbury Terrace and former co-operative store, Akroydon, Halifax (1992)

When Colonel Akroyd came to build his second model village in 1855 (the first was Copley), he went upscale, as the Americans say.

Influenced by the growing permanent building society movement, he planned housing for his Haley Hill Mills, overlooking the centre of Halifax, to be purchased rather than rented by his workers.  He donated the land, adjacent to his own residence, Bankfield, and arranged for the cost of building to be underwritten by the Halifax Permanent Building Society.  The community was named Akroydon and all the streets were named after Anglican dioceses.

He hired George Gilbert Scott, the greatest Gothic Revival architect of the day to design 350 houses in terraced blocks of eight to ten in the style they called domestic Gothic, “the original style of the parish of Halifax”.  Akroyd considered that “intuitively this taste of our forefathers pleases the fancy, strengthens house and home attachment, entwines the present with the memory of the past, and promises, in spite of opposition and prejudice, to become the national style of modern, as it was of old England.”

However, he found that potential freeholders are not so pliable as prospective tenants.  Being Yorkshire people, they first regarded the whole thing as a speculation, and shunned it.

Then they objected to the Gothic style:  “…although they liked the look of it, they considered it antiquated, inconvenient, wanting in light, and not adapted to modern requirements.  The dormer windows were supposed to resemble the style of almshouses, and the independent workmen who formed the building association positively refused to accept this feature of the Gothic, which to their minds was degrading.”

Scott’s former pupil, W H Crossland, later the architect of St Stephen’s Church, Copley, recast the scheme as 92 houses “clustered around a market cross in a toned-down Gothic style ‘simple, yet bold in detail’”.

These were duly built, and still remain.  The original owners, long gone to their rest, left their mark as a result of an inspired appeal to their vanity:

The occupiers find their new homes commodious in every respect, with abundance of light;  and their prejudices against the pointed style are now finally uprooted.  They are much gratified by one feature recently introduced, viz, the insertion of the owner’s monogram or device, on a stone shield, placed over the door, with the intent to give individuality and a mark of distinction to each dwelling.

These Englishmen’s homes were indeed their terraced ancestral castles.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

 

 

The church across the water

St Stephen's Church, Copley, West Yorkshire

St Stephen’s Church, Copley, West Yorkshire

I find it hard to imagine the sheer power of churches in nineteenth-century England.

There’s a specific reason why the magnificent parish church of St Stephen, Copley, West Yorkshire, was built on the opposite side of the River Calder from Colonel Edward Akroyd’s model village beside the mill.

The vicar of All Saints’, Dudwell, objected having a new church so near his own, so the site was moved from the main road to the woods beyond the village.

The £4,000 cost of the building was raised by public subscription, and Colonel Akroyd spent a further £5,000 of his own money on the furnishings, stained glass, and building the chancel and sacristy.

Consecrated in 1865, it’s a complete essay in Victorian church design by the Huddersfield architect William Henry Crossland (1835-1908) – rich in stained-glass, some of it by Hardman & Co, carving, mosaic and painted decoration.

Furthermore, according to Malcolm Bull’s informative Calderdale Companion website http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~calderdalecompanion/qq_12.html, Colonel Akroyd contributed to the vicar’s stipend.

In 1872 Colonel Akroyd took against the practices of the vicar he’d appointed, Rev J B Sidgwick, and stopped paying his voluntary contribution.  A group of parishioners promptly made up the deficiency, while others decamped to the local Methodist church.

St Stephen’s, which is big enough to seat a third of the village, is now redundant, and is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust:  http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/St-Stephens-Church-Copley-West-Yorkshire.

Graham White has an admirable series of photographs of the interior at http://www.flickr.com/photos/strabod72/sets/72157627628722184/with/6227123155.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Housing the workers

Copley, West Yorkshire

Copley, West Yorkshire

Tucked by the river Calder, the village of terraced houses at Copley, West Yorkshire, looks a pleasant place to live.

That was exactly the intention of its builder, Edward Akroyd – always known as Colonel Akroyd – when his family firm transferred the business and employees to their new mill at Copley in 1846.

In the political conflicts of the time, Colonel Akroyd became one of the driving forces in the movement to reconcile the interests of workers and capitalists.

To house the workforce at this unpopulated spot beside the River Calder he began a small community which eventually consisted of 136 houses, accommodating by the 1870s a population of about seven hundred.

This was anything but cheap housing, but the village provided excellent facilities, including allotments, a co-operative store, an employees’ canteen-shed seating 600 and serving dinners of meat and potatoes at three-halfpence or twopence each, boys’ and girls’ schools (1849), a burial club (1849), a lending library (1850 – free until 1863), a branch of the Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank (1862) and a clothing club (1863).

Colonel Akroyd admitted he didn’t make much money out of renting houses to his workers, but he believed his business gained “from a more attached and contented population”.

It’s tempting to think of the building-society movement as a nineteenth-century workers’ enterprise, sponsored by radical politicians, but in some cases it was the product of employers’ enlightened self-interest.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

 

Wainsgate Baptist Church

Wainsgate Baptist Church, Old Town, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Wainsgate Baptist Church, Old Town, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Visitors to Hebden Bridge often find their way to the older hilltop town of Heptonstall, but few find their way to the other hilltop settlement on the opposite side of the valley of the Hebden Water – Old Town.

Up the hill above Old Town stands the Wainsgate Baptist Church, founded by the Particular Baptists c1750.

The second minister, Rev John Fawcett (1740-1817), had packed up ready to move to a better-placed ministry in London, when the distress of his Yorkshire congregation at losing him made him change his mind and remain in Hebden Bridge for the rest of his life.  He used this experience when he wrote the great nonconformist hymn, ‘Blest be the tie that binds’.

The present church dates from 1859-60, a typically robust, elegant classical, galleried chapel, expensively embellished at the end of the nineteenth century.

It’s hard to imagine how the houses scattered along the hillside could fill the chapel and the Sunday school – and the graveyard – year in, year out, but they did.

This fine Grade II* listed building was taken over by the Historic Chapels Trust after it closed in 2001 [http://www.hct.org.uk/chapels/yorkshire/wainsgate-baptist-church/21], and it’s now used as a venue for musical events.

To see what’s on, go to http://wainsgate.co.uk.  It’s worth turning up in good time to be sure of a parking place.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

 

Honest John’s memorial

Unitarian Church, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Unitarian Church, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Todmorden Unitarian Church (1864-9) is a highly unusual piece of nonconformist architecture, designed and built as a splendid recreation of a fourteenth-century Gothic church, with a spire 192 feet high and internal arrangements which – but for the absence of an altar – are largely Anglican in layout and design.

It has an elaborate font and pulpit, a William Hill organ originally powered by a water-powered air pump, and very fine stained glass by the Belgian designer, Jean-Baptiste Capronnier.  The tower contains a clock, carillon and a ring of eight bells hung for change-ringing.  The final cost amounted to £35,000, almost six times the initial estimate.

It was paid for by the Fielden brothers, Samuel, Joshua and John, as a memorial to their father, “Honest John” Fielden (1784-1849) by John Gibson, who also built Todmorden Town Hall and John Jnr’s residence, Dobroyd Castle, overlooking the town and the Unitarian Church.

John Gibson (1814–1892) is an under-rated architect, otherwise best known for his “Marble Church”, St Margaret’s, Bodelwyddan, in Denbighshire.

William Gaskell, the widower of the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell and the respected minister of Cross Street Chapel in Manchester gave the address in the inaugural service.  He suggested that it was entirely proper to enlist art to serve religious observance – if it was done sincerely.

The Fieldens transferred ownership to a trust in 1882, and inevitably over the years the available income became increasingly unequal to the costs of maintaining the structure.

After a centenary refurbishment, the building became increasingly impractical, and in 1987 the diminished congregation moved down to the lodge at the bottom of the drive.  The decaying and increasingly vandalised Grade I listed church was taken over by the Historic Chapels Trust in 1994 and is now cared for by local volunteers:  http://todunitarianchurch.caldercats.com/index.html.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

 

Honest John and his sons

Dobroyd Castle, West Yorkshire (2007)

Dobroyd Castle, West Yorkshire (2007)

The Pennine border-town of Todmorden is founded on the acumen and discipline of the Fielden family, and particularly “Honest John” Fielden (1784-1849).  The son of a clothier, he built up the Fielden Brothers’ cotton-spinning business and pursued an energetic political career as MP for Oldham alongside William Cobbett.  As a successful millowner, he argued a powerful case for an eight-hour day, saying that shorter working days would equally benefit factory-owners and workers by restricting production and thereby increasing prices and wages.

He also founded the first Unitarian church in Todmorden, and served as its Sunday School superintendent, exerting a “severe and wholesome discipline”.

He handed on the business, first to his brother Thomas (1790-1869), and then to his three sons, Samuel (1816-1889), John (1822-1893) and Joshua Fielden (1827-1887). 

Fielden Brothers became an extremely powerful business, employing at its peak two thousand workers with, in addition to the Todmorden mills, trading offices in Manchester, Liverpool, London and New York.  In the period 1850-65 it generated net profits of around £1.2 million.  During the cotton famine of 1861-5, Fieldens paid half wages to their unemployed workers for road-building and other public works.

Of the three, Joshua was the most prominent.  He became a Conservative MP, retired from the business in 1869 and bought Nutfield Park, Surrey.  There and on his yacht, Zingara, he lived an opulent lifestyle, particularly after giving up his parliamentary seat in 1880.  He died at Cannes, and was brought back to Todmorden for burial:  despite his expensive tastes he left an estate of half a million pounds.

John Jnr lived a quite different lifestyle.  He chose as his wife a mill-girl called Ruth, for whom he built Dobroyd Castle, designed by John Gibson and completed in 1869 at a cost of £71,589.  This sombre, domineering pile on a hill high above the town remained in family ownership until 1942, when it became a Home Office approved school for boys and later an independent boarding school for boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

In 1995 it was purchased for £320,000 by the New Kadampa Buddhist Tradition and opened as the Losang Dragpa Centre for meditational retreats.  The Buddhists peremptorily moved out in August 2007, and the Castle reopened as an outdoor pursuits centre, operated by Robinwood Activity Centres [http://www.robinwood.co.uk/activitycentres/dobroydcastle], in March 2009.

Dobroyd Castle is not open to the public.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.