My mate Richard and I have explored the extant parts of the Great Northern Railway trail, a work-in-progress to give public access to as much as possible of the trackbed of the former Great Northern Railway’s Queensbury Lines, the so-called “Alpine Route” built in pursuit of competition and in defiance of geography between 1874 and 1884.
We walked from the spectacular Thornton Viaduct south to the former Queensbury triangle, where trains from Bradford, Keighley and Halifax met at an unusual triangular six-platform station sited four hundred feet lower than the town it was supposed to serve.
North of the line, at a place called Brow Lane, is an unusually decorative tall chimney – not, as you’d expect in the old West Riding, a woollen mill, but a brickworks.
Clayton Fireclay Brickworks was founded in 1880 by Julius Whitehead (1839-1907), at the time when the nearby railway between Queensbury and Keighley was being built. The works closed in April 1970.
According to the Grade II listing description, the chimney dates from c1890 and was erected by Julius Whitehead’s son, Claude.
The enamelled brick panels on the chimney depict an urn, and are said to represent the FA Cup, celebrating Bradford City’s victory in the 1911 Cup Final when, following a goalless draw after extra time at Crystal Palace, the team captain Jimmy Speirs (1886-1917) headed the only goal in the replay at Old Trafford.
I’m grateful to John Dewhirst, who knows more about football and Bradford than I do, for explaining that there’s no evidence that the Whiteheads had any strong football connections.
He suggests that the decorations were probably installed earlier than the 1911 Cup Final, and the story was probably a Bradford City FC fans’ wind-up to annoy rival fans passing on trains to and from Horton.
By a curious coincidence, the actual trophy – the same one in use today – had been manufactured by the Bradford jewellers Fattorini & Sons, a family with strong connections to Bradford City FC and its historic predecessor, Manningham Rugby Club. The 1911 final was the cup’s first outing.
Regrettably, it has proved to be its only visit to Bradford so far.