Category Archives: Wool Trade

97. To the Caverns of Castleton: the Bradford Technical College Staff Outings

On 14 July 1933, 29 members of staff of Bradford Technical College had a grand day out in the Peak District!  They travelled to Castleton, Dovedale and Buxton in a “chara” (charabanc) provided by Bullock & Sons of Wakefield.

Charabancs available from S. Thompson of Sutton-in-Craven (BTC 3/12/2)

Charabancs – we don’t have an image of J. Bullock’s coaches; these similar ones were advertised by S. Thompson of Sutton-in-Craven (BTC 3/12/2)

The morning featured a trip to the Great Peak Cavern, followed by a roast lunch at the Castleton Restaurant.  The coach then took the staff via Hathersage and Chatsworth, dropping them at Dovedale for a three mile walk, and tea at the Peveril of the Peak hotel: bread and butter, paste and cucumber sandwiches, jam, lettuce, and “plain and fancy cakes”.

Menu for the Castleton Restaurant, where the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing had luncheon (BTC 3/12/2).

Menu for the Castleton Restaurant, where the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing had luncheon (BTC 3/12/2). We don’t alas know which menu they chose!

We discovered the Castleton day out while enhancing the old catalogue of the Bradford Technical College Archive.  Among our finds was a delightful set of papers about the Staff Outings of the 1930s and 1940s, full of details about routes, menus, attendance etc. The trips were organised for the Staff Association of the College, by its Hon. Secretary.   In 1933 this was Mr R.G. Oversby, who observed in his report to the General Meeting, that “all taking part had a most enjoyable time”.  29 was a good turnout: previous trips had fewer numbers or even had to be abandoned through lack of interest, which rather irked Mr Oversby.

Flyer advertising The Great Peak Cavern in Castleton, visited by the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing (BTC 3/12/2)

Flyer advertising The Great Peak Cavern in Castleton, visited by the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing (BTC 3/12/2)

The trips were part of a long tradition within the Technical College, taking advantage of the many beauty spots and heritage sites within easy reach of Bradford, such as the Lake District, Whitby and Malham.

Group photograph Bradford Technical College.  We think this was taken on a Staff Outing, probably circa 1908 or 1909  (BTC 2/35)

Group photograph Bradford Technical College. We think this was taken on a Staff Outing, probably circa 1908 or 1909 (BTC 2/35)

The College had a small, close-knit (and overwhelmingly male) teaching staff.  The activities of the Staff Association helped build this sense of community.  As well as organising Outings and other social activities, they supported members (and their widows and orphans) and negotiated with management.

The material concerning the Staff Association is a wonderful and little-tapped source, not just about the College, but about education, leisure, and above all Bradford itself. The College had come into being to meet the training needs of local textile industries and its staff and students were part of the rich social, cultural and industrial life memorably portrayed in J.B. Priestley’s Bradford writings.

The Outings illustrate this well: local connections and family members often came along (witness the children in the above photograph, probably sons of the staff).  Typically, the Secretary of the Bradford Teachers’ Association, Mr Foster Sutherland, was part of the 1933 trip.  He seems to have been an influential local official and Mr Oversby observes that “many were able to profit by private conversations” with him during the day …

Look out for a new edition of the Bradford Technical College Archive catalogue later this year, which will make it much easier for researchers to discover this important historical resource.

Menu for afternoon tea at the Peveril of the Peak hotel in Thorpe, Derbyshire, visited by Bradford Technical College staff.  "Trust House" menu suggests that the hotel was part of a larger group of country inns.  (BTC 3/12/2)

Menu for afternoon tea at the Peveril of the Peak hotel in Thorpe, Derbyshire, visited by Bradford Technical College staff.  (BTC 3/12/2)  Presumably one of the “Trust Houses”, country inns managed as a group to ensure their survival, with emphasis on food rather than alcohol.

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81. Scotch Barley Broth and Fruit Tart: Jonathan Priestley and the “First School-Feeding” in Bradford

This photograph shows  Jonathan Priestley, father of the writer J.B. Priestley, serving school dinners to children at the White Abbey Dining Room, Bradford, in 1907.  Jonathan was Headmaster of Green Lane School, which hosted a new central depot which made meals for children across the city.

The First School-Feeding.  Jonathan Priestley, father of the writer J.B. Priestley, serving school dinners to children at the White Abbey Dining Room, Bradford, in 1907.  Jonathan was Headmaster of Green Lane School, which hosted a new central depot which made meals for children across the city.  Image from Socialism over Sixty Years, by Fenner Brockway.  Copyright holder unknown.

The First School-Feeding. Jonathan Priestley, father of the writer J.B. Priestley, serving school dinners to children at the White Abbey Dining Room, Bradford, in 1907. Copyright holder unknown.

The introduction of “school-feeding” is an example of Bradford innovation in social welfare.  From its earliest days as a booming wool town through the 1890s and 1900s, the fast-growing city saw great poverty among its industrial workers and their families.  It became a centre of radical ideas and practice in alleviating these conditions, often strongly influenced by Nonconformism: social obligations and the value of education.   Witness the fight of Oastler and Forster against “Yorkshire slavery”- cruel conditions in factories – and later the Manningham Mills strike, which led to the founding of the Independent Labour Party (ILP).

The photograph is taken from Socialism over Sixty Years: the life of Jowett of Bradford, by Fenner Brockway (Allen and Unwin for the National Labour Press, 1946).  Frederick William “Fred” Jowett (1864-1944) was instrumental in the founding of the ILP and was a pioneer of “municipal socialism” to improve the lives of working people.  Jowett served on Bradford Town and City Councils and later became an MP. J.B. Priestley, by then perhaps the city’s most famous son, wrote the Preface to Brockway’s book.  JBP did not agree with Jowett and the ILP on all issues, but he paid tribute to Jowett’s integrity and what he and they had achieved for poor people. “School-feeding” was one of these  achievements.  The city’s workers suffered in the 1890s and 1900s as the wool trade declined.   ILP activist Margaret McMillan, elected to the Bradford School Board with a mandate to fight “the battle of the slum child”, saw from medical inspections that children were under-nourished and that this was the most serious health concern in the city.  It led to listlessness, disease, and meant children could not benefit from their education.  However, schools were powerless to help.  Charities such as the Cinderella Club could not feed all who needed assistance and the Guardians of the Poor Law provided inadequate meals mocked by activists as “bun, banana and beverage”. The Council finally agreed to supply school meals in 1904, after many years of campaigning by Jowett and others, and despite stiff opposition (McMillan had left Bradford by that time, following the abolition of School Boards).  Bradford was the first Council to offer this service.  The Provision of Meals Act was passed in 1906 in Parliament, Jowett, who had by then been elected member for Bradford West, speaking in favour.

Page from the "Priestley Family Register", kept by J.B. Priestley's grandfather John, and showing the birth of his father Jonathan.

Page from the “Priestley Family Register”, kept by J.B. Priestley’s grandfather John, and showing the birth of his father Jonathan.

As a result of the passing of the Act, a School Meals Depot was set up at Green Lane School in 1907, supplying food to several schools in the poorest parts of the city.  Our photograph shows the official opening in October 1907, which featured a meal of “scotch barley broth and fruit tart, with bread and a mug of water for each child”, Jonathan Priestley serving the broth.  JBP was then aged 13 and recalled in his Preface the great local and national press interest in the story.

It is fitting that Jonathan Priestley is linked with this major innovation in welfare.  A conscientious Baptist, Jonathan Priestley was part of Bradford’s Nonconformist socialist scene.  He came from a poor family; his father, John, was a mill worker (according to the 1881 census, a “cotton warp dresser”, the same trade as Jowett’s father).   The “Priestley Family Register”, a copy of Smollett’s History of England inscribed by John Priestley, shows the harshness of their world: three of Jonathan’s siblings died in infancy.  Education was Jonathan’s way out, and he believed passionately in its value.

Jonathan Priestley and his wife Emma, JBP's mother, in Blackpool.

Jonathan Priestley and his wife Emma Holt, JBP’s mother, in Blackpool. Emma, who was remembered as high-spirited and witty, died when JBP was very young.  Amy, Jonathan’s second wife, fortunately proved to be very kind and loving mother for the young Jack Priestley.

His son remembered Jonathan as a pugnacious, fiery man, rather puritanical, a strict Sabbatarian, kind, dutiful, sometimes funny, and above all a born teacher.  Relations between father and son were strained for a time when JB did not want to carry on with his own education, but JB clearly loved and admired his father.  Many years after Jonathan’s death in 1924, he wrote that Jonathan was  “unselfish, brave, honourable, public-spirited.  He was the man socialists have in mind when they write about socialism”. Note on sources This account is based on that in the Brockway book and many other sources, including,

  • City of Peace: Bradford’s story notably the chapter by Brenda Thomson.
  • Writings by JB about his childhood, in particular Midnight on the Desert and Margin Released, source of above quotations.
  • Oxford DNB entries on Jowett and McMillan (subscription required, often available via public libraries)
  • This Green Lane School web page explains and illustrates with lots of photographs the workings of the Green Lane depot.

Our copy of Socialism over Sixty Years is itself an artefact.  Showing the wear of much reading, it has connections to Margaret McMillan, nursery school pioneer Miriam Lord and her father ILP member Hird Lord!

78. Isaac Holden et Fils: images of the Usine Holden, Croix, France

These lovely postcards introduce another element of the story of Bradford entrepeneur Sir Isaac Holden and his family.  The cards depict the family’s wool-combing factory, the Usine Holden, in Croix, a town in Northern France, just outside Lille.

Postcard showing the Usine Holden, the wool combing factory of Isaac Holden, Croix, France (ref. HOL 6/1/1).

Postcard showing the Usine Holden, Croix, France (ref. HOL 6/1/1). (The card states “reproduction interdite”, but we believe it to be out of copyright).

Sir Isaac Holden and his partner Lister set up the first factories exploiting their new wool comb technology in France because of the market opportunities that country offered: demand for worsted and immense capacity for spinning.  In addition, Lister wanted to expand his enterprises into Europe and Holden was frustrated by past difficulties in getting established in business in the UK.  The original French enterprise, at St Denis near Paris, opened in 1849.  High demand for their wool further North led to the building of two more factories, at Croix and Reims, which began production in 1853.

Isaac lived in France during this time, with his wife Sarah.  She was not happy on what she called the “barren and solitary soil of France”, and returned to England as often as she could.  Isaac was much more receptive to “this lovely country”, keen to try new food and experiences: “I have just ordered a bunch of small fish of the Rhine and frogs’ legs” (Strasbourg, 1852).   His letters try to cheer Sarah out of her habitual religious gloom.

Postcard showing La Grande Cheminee, Usine Holden (the big chimney of Isaac Holden's wool combing factory), Croix, France (ref. HOL 6/1/2).

Postcard showing La Grande Cheminee, Usine Holden, Croix, France (ref. HOL 6/1/2).

However there were real difficulties for the Holden-Lister enterprises: the industry was very competitive and their technology was unproven.  They faced several lawsuits.  Worse, relations between the two men deteriorated badly.  Holden bought out Lister’s shares in the French firms in 1858, adding his sons Angus and Edward as partners and renaming the company Isaac Holden et Fils.  St Denis was run down, to generate capital to support the other firms which were better located in the heart of the French wool industry: it was closed in 1860.

Holden then returned to Bradford, where he had growing industrial, charitable and family interests: the vast Alston works on Thornton Road were founded in 1864.  The French businesses were now managed by his nephews Jonathan Holden (Reims) and Isaac Holden Crothers (Croix).  However, tensions between the two and between them and Isaac’s sons caused problems.  Eventually in 1880 a new agreement put an end to the rivalries.  It left Isaac Holden Crothers as manager of Croix and the “Vieux Anglais”, the original Reims factory, while Jonathan set up another factory in Reims, the “Nouvel Anglais”.

This French connection is one of the most intriguing and unexpected elements of the Holden Papers.  Who would imagine that the archive of a Bradford mill-owning family would be a rich source of information about the tumult of France in the mid 19th century?   However, the letters from Sir Isaac and other family members are full of detail about travel and everyday life and valuable testimony about the impact of political upheaval (Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’etat in 1851) and the Franco-Prussian War.

The French factories continued into the 20th century: Honeyman and Goodman report that the Usine at Reims was destroyed during the Great War, and Croix “ceased production in 1938 and its assets sold to the local Syndicat des Peigneurs”: a combine of local wool combers.

Postcard showing the Temple Anglais, rue Holden, Croix, France (ref. HOL 6/1/3).

Postcard showing the Temple Anglais, rue Holden, Croix, France (ref. HOL 6/1/3).  The firm built Protestant places of worship for their English workers.

The Holdens were not purely concerned with profit from their French firms.  They took a paternalistic, philanthropic approach, rooted in their Methodist beliefs, providing work, training, new buildings and opportunities for religious and social improvement: “our business is a great good to France”, Isaac wrote in 1851.

The Holdens’ philanthropy is still remembered in Croix and Reims.  Witness for instance this, from the short history of Croix on the municipal website: “Retracer l’histoire de Croix, c’est aussi évoquer la mémoire d’Isaac Holden”, because of the significance of the works’ contribution to the development of the town.  Croix boasts a Rue Isaac Holden Crothers and a car park: Parking Isaac Holden!

In Reims, Jonathan Holden founded the first public library (which still bears his name) in 1887.  He too is commemorated in the cityscape with the Rue Jonathan Holden.  I was delighted to discover that Isaac Holden was the founder and first president of the Bicycle Club Rémois, set up in July 1880.  I will be following this up: links between our archives and cycling in France are of particular interest this year!

Note on sources: I am again indebted to the study of the French firms by Honeyman and Goodman, where much more detail about the processes and finances of the firms can be found.

77. The Living Story of Bradford’s Glory: The Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

“My aim is to weave for you a story that shall be like a beautiful fabric, rich and varied … the Living Story of Bradford’s Glory”.  This week, meet The Book of Words of the Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931.

Cover of Book of Words, Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

Cover of Book of Words, Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

This huge and ambitious event took place in Peel Park, from 13-18 July.   It was intended to complement the Imperial Wool Industries Fair at Olympia Hall, showcasing Bradford’s wool trade to the world.  Wool was the source of the city’s growth and prosperity, but by this time, the trade was in decline, the worldwide markets badly affected by the Depression.

Detail with drawing of trumpeters from title page of Book of Words, Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

Detail from title page of Book of Words, Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

The story followed the conventional outline of “Briton, Roman, Saxon, Norman, Plantagenet, Stuart and the industrial Bradford of later times”.  Each episode was written by a well-known author or dramatist, notably Phyllis Bentley, who contributed the Norman section.  Alongside plenty of references to wool, audiences learned about vikings before their conversion to Christianity, Robin Hood and his merry men, the Bolling Hall ghost (“Pity poor Bradford!”), the cruel conditions of child labour during the 19th century, and of course the story which gave the city its coat of arms: the Bradford boar.

The Pageant must have been a wonderful sight: 7,500 performers, a chorus of 500, orchestra of 150 and a choir of 300 children, creating a “lavish spectacle” in their “gorgeous costumes”.

Advertisement for Novello, Bradford's fashion house, featuring stylish lady in red gown with elaborate hairstyle and cigarette, back cover of Book of Words, Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

Advertisement for Novello, Bradford’s fashion house, back cover of Book of Words, Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

The Book of Words contains not only the scripts for the Pageant, but historical notes and masses of illustrations and photographs.   The marvellous advertisements for shops and businesses in Bradford are particularly appealing: from dolly tubs for washing to luncheons for two shillings, Ballito ankle-clinging stockings to “Wil-be-fort” wet weather wear.

Front cover of Programme for the Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931, showing knight with banner

Front cover of Programme for the Historical Pageant of Bradford, 1931

Special Collections also has other Pageant publications: the Programme and the Souvenir Book.  The former gives us more detail about the Pageant, including a map of the site.  The latter is full of wonderful photographs plus stories and articles by well-known local authors, such as Halliwell Sutcliffe on the aforementioned Bolling Hall ghost.   Windyridge author Willie Riley contributed “The Message of the Moors” to the Souvenir and “The Volcanic Peep-show” to the Programme: his Archive includes his own copies of these documents.

Another local author also joined in: J.B. Priestley contributed a piece to the Souvenir in which his famous Bradford character Jess Oakroyd from the Good Companions talks about the Pageant: “a champion idea” which will show that although the city may seem have to grown out of nothing during the 19th century, its roots are very deep.  Both Priestley and Riley emphasise the value of the event in brightening up people’s drab lives and making them feel part of something important (it’s estimated in this useful article by Jim Greenhalf in the Telegraph and Argus that 30,000 Bradford people got involved in some way!).

Want to explore further?  The records held by the West Yorkshire Archives Service can tell us more about the creation of the Pageant.

Taking a Movember break

Objects are taking a short break – join us again on 15 November for lots more. Meanwhile, here’s a look back at some of the stories of previous Objects, with a Movember theme!

Group photograph from the Bradford Technical College era.  Who are they?  We don’t know: do you have any idea?

Joseph Riley, a Bradford wool merchant who travelled on the Orient Express.

Joseph Riley

Joseph Riley

His son, Willie Riley, who became a writer late in life, creating Windyridge and other much-loved Yorkshire tales,

Willie Riley

Willie Riley

John Hartley, Yorkshire comic writer, of Clock Almanack fame,

John Hartley

John Hartley

And stories of Sir Isaac Holden, Bradford entrepeneur and politician: courtship of Sarah Sugden, his quarrel with Lister, his lost mansion – and there’s more to follow!

69. “A STATELY MANSION, substantially built of STONE, in a pleasing style of ARCHITECTURE”: auction plan and description of Sir Isaac Holden’s Oakworth House.

Detail of plan of Oakworth House Estate, showing mansion and glasshouses (HOL 3/2/2)

Detail of plan of Oakworth House Estate, showing mansion and glasshouses (HOL 3/2/2)

“An elegant edifice … most elaborate and sumptuous” Keighley Past and Present (1879, p.236).

“I trust your Chateau is making progress at Oakworth” Jonathan Holden in a letter to Isaac Holden 1876 (Holden-Illingworth Letters p.513)

This week, documents which give a vivid picture of a lost wonder of Bradford: a plan and draft description of the Oakworth House Estate written for the Sale by Public Auction at the Temperance Hall Keighley on 20 July 1898.

Letter heading for Oakworth House, used by Sir Isaac Holden and others throughout the Holden Papers

Letterhead for Oakworth House, Keighley, with Holden crest

Located in the village of Oakworth, just outside Keighley, Oakworth House was a large Italianate villa, designed for Sir Isaac Holden by Bradford architect George Smith.  It replaced a smaller house built by Jonas Sugden, brother of Isaac’s wife Sarah.  On the edge of the moors, with clean and bracing air, Oakworth village was becoming popular with well-off Bradfordians seeking to live outside the pollution of the city; it was easily commutable from 1867 thanks to Oakworth Station of Railway Children fame – though, typically, Sir Isaac tended to walk to his Alston factory, on Thornton Road, about 9 or 10 miles depending on the route.

Oakworth House took ten years (1864-1874) to complete and cost £80,000.  Sir Isaac took a close personal interest in all aspects of its design, sparing no expense to include every luxury and convenience: electric and gas light, telegraph, telephone and innovative heating and ventilation systems.  It had a Central Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Morning Room, Study, Billiard Room, eight bedrooms, two bathrooms, servants’ quarters, offices and cellars: the auctioneer’s description gives dimensions and details of elements such as the splendid oak panelling.

Oakworth House, Keighley, photograph from The Holden-Illingworth letters, date & photographer unknown

Oakworth House, Keighley, photograph from The Holden-Illingworth letters, date & photographer unknown

Many of the features of Oakworth House reflected Sir Isaac’s beliefs about health: the value of fresh fruit, exercise and very hot daily baths.  Hence a Turkish Bath was fitted in the house, while the grounds contained a unique Winter Garden  and many other Glass Houses (Peach House, Vineries, Fig House, Tomato Houses …).  French and Italian craftsmen created magical caves, grottoes and mosaic paths in the extensive woods.

Oakworth House, Keighley

Oakworth House, Keighley, by Poulton and Sons (mislabelled Oakworth Hall, which is an 18th century building still in existence).

After Sir Isaac’s death in 1897 (in his 91st year – a lifespan possibly thanks to his healthy lifestyle!), the House was left empty.  Sadly this wonderful building burned down in 1909.  Later his family presented the grounds of Oakworth House to the local Council as a public park in his memory; Holden Park was opened by his grandson Francis Illingworth in 1925.  It is still open to the public, who can delight in what remains of Sir Isaac’s magnificent mansion: the portico, summerhouse, caves, grottoes, mosaics, paths.

Holden Park in 2009 showing the portico and some of the rockeries.  Photo from Tim Green's flickr stream under CC BY 2.0

Holden Park in 2009 showing the portico and some of the rockeries. Photo from Tim Green’s flickr stream under CC BY 2.0.

Sources: plan and description archive reference HOL 3/2/2.  This account is based on many published and unpublished sources, including the Holden Papers and The Holden-Illingworth letters.

62. “A Controverted and Debated Question”: Mr Holden, Mr Lister, and the Square Motion Combing Machine

Front cover of The Square Motion Combing Machine, letters by Holden and Lister (ref HOL 5/2)

Front cover of The Square Motion Combing Machine, reprinting letters by Holden and Lister (ref HOL 5/2)

This little pamphlet tells the story of a bitter dispute between two Grand Old Men of Victorian Bradford: Sir Isaac Holden and Samuel Cunliffe Lister (Lord Masham).  It reprints letters written by the two men during the 1870s to the Bradford Observer and other local newspapers arguing about the origin of the “square-motion” wool comb, following “some reflections by Mr Lister upon Mr Holden in a letter during the County Election of 1872”.  The pamphlet was printed at Holden’s instigation circa 1887 when the argument flared up again.

We already met Isaac Holden, courting his second wife Sarah during the late 1840s.  At this time, Holden linked up with Lister, a successful inventor and industrialist to develop a commercially viable wool comb, an innovation which had so far eluded inventors.

Detail of the 1848 Memorandum of Agreement between Holden and Lister (HOL 1/4/2)

Detail of the 1848 Memorandum of Agreement between Holden of Bradford and Lister of Manningham, in which they agree to have equal shares in the profits of the French wool combing enterprise(HOL 1/4/2)

Lister filed a patent for what became the square-motion wool comb and the two set up a partnership agreement for an enterprise in France which would use and improve the new comb, Lister supplying capital and machines, Holden dedicating his time to running the business.  The first factory at St Denis was followed by others at Croix and Rheims; the original design was perfected and patented; great profits were made, setting the foundation of Sir Isaac’s immense wealth.  However, the business relationship was never easy.  In 1858, Holden bought Lister out for £74,000.  For the rest of their lives, they would continue to argue about the origins of the square-motion comb and what had really happened between them during the 1840s and 1850s.

The letters in the pamphlet show how public, painful, personal and bitter the dispute became.  Holden argued he had developed square motion before he formed links with Lister, Lister insisted that Holden was just a book-keeper whom he had used to run the French enterprise, too ignorant of the mechanics of wool-combing to invent the machine, and that a patent was more than an idea.

The Holden Papers contain a wealth of correspondence, legal and business papers  shedding light on the complex issues involved.   They include the original partnership agreement of 1848, many of the important letters referred to by Lister and Holden in their arguments, press cuttings (including letters reprinted in the pamphlet), and notes made by Holden.

(I’ve simplified the story of the technical innovations of Holden and Lister and the various patents and legal issues involved:  Technology and Enterprise by Honeyman and Goodman offers a useful introduction and is widely available in academic libraries).