Dyed in the wool

Bradford Industrial Museum, Moorside Mills, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Bradford Industrial Museum, Moorside Mills, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

I once worked for a man who was born and brought up in Bradford.  Though he’d worked among the coal of South Yorkshire and the steel of Sheffield for much of his adult life he was steeped in the traditions of his native city.

He once drew my attention to his habit of always stowing a couple of pins in the inside of his lapel.  I’m assured by a knowledgeable West Yorkshireman that “No man connected with cloth (Huddersfield perhaps rather than Bradford, but perhaps Bradford too) would feel properly dressed to go out without a couple of pins – a sort of ‘just in case’.”

My former boss was born at the beginning of the First World War, and he told me that he was taken by his parents to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924-5 – a remarkable event that deserves an article of its own:  http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk/server.php?show=conInformationRecord.86.

He described being taken to an auditorium where he and his parents sat in the second row seats.  The front row was reserved, and after a pause in walked the then Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

The Duke sat directly in front of my boss’s father, who gently reached across the open seat-back to make a discreet examination of the royal suit-cloth.  “Not very good wool,” he remarked to his wife and son.

Nobody knows wool like Bradford people.

Those of us who don’t share the woollen-district heritage can pick up some insight at the excellent Bradford Industrial Museum, which is based at Moorside Mills at Eccleshill (built in 1875 and since much added to).

This is one of the admirable municipal museums that soldiers on through hard times without charging admission.

Here in the textile galleries – if you turn up at the right time – you can observe machinery in operation illustrating the successive processes of combing, drawing, spinning and weaving, with informative operators to answer questions.

You can even feel the fabric at every stage from just off the sheep’s back to finished cloth.

There’s much more to see – the millowner’s residence, stables with horses at work, terraced houses furnished at different periods, a fine collection of Bradford-built Jowett cars, a Bradford trolleybus and the only surviving fully intact Bradford tram.

For details of opening times and what’s on when, see http://www.bradfordmuseums.org/venues/industrialmuseum/index.php.  It’s worth a couple of hours at least.

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 £10.00 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.

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