This week’s Object is a silk panel produced to commemorate the opening on 23 June 1882 of the Bradford Technical School. The Technical School later became the Technical College, eventually morphing into Bradford University and Bradford College.
Woven silk panel of the 1882 Opening of Bradford Technical School (BTC 2/2). Note the city’s Latin motto at the foot: Hard work conquers all.
The School was set up to improve technical education in Bradford so that the city’s wool and textile industries could continue to thrive in the face of growing competition from Europe. As the Trust Deed put it: to impart “to youths, artisans and others, technical, scientific, artistic and general instruction in the various processes involved in the production of Worsted, Woollen, Silk and Cotton Fabrics and other manufactured articles …”.
Detail from programme of 1882 Opening of Bradford Technical School (BTC 2/1).
On the day, the Prince and Princess of Wales formally opened the new building for the School (which remains part of Bradford College and is now known as the Old Building). There was also a bumper Victorian lunch featuring salmon, pigeons and, naturally, Yorkshire hams. The Bradford Technical College Archive is rich in memorabilia from the event, such as the programme (detail above). The panel itself is too fragile to put on show, so this exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to highlight its story.
These gorgeous images come from a scrapbook, British Patterns of Manufacture, which collected the fabric patterns featured in Ackermann’s Repository for the benefit of students at Bradford Technical College. Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics is a famous source for early 19th century fashion and style.
Patterns 1 from Ackermann’s Repository.
Dyeing was a major industry in 19th century Bradford, hence its importance at the Technical College, and at the Institute of Technology and University that succeeded it. Hence also the Special Collection of dyeing and textile history books which we have inherited. Patterns is typical of these books because it includes fabric samples. It’s impossible to convey via digitised formats just how bright and tactile these fabrics are. Tucked away inside books, they have not been harmed by light or dust or handling so remain vivid, contrasting wonderfully with their often drab bindings, leading to a lovely surprise when the volumes are opened.
Patterns 36 from Ackermann’s Repository
I chose Patterns for this exhibition because it is a personal favourite, offering a different perspective on the Regency period: there are the whites and pastels one might imagine, but also bold, even garish, hues and designs.
We don’t know what happened to the issues of the Repository from which these patterns were taken; I wonder if any West Yorkshire library has a run of the title missing its patterns? To see the fabrics for real, check out other runs of the Repository in libraries (e.g. via COPAC). Of course, there are various digitised versions online; this blog post from Two teens in the time of Austen is a useful guide to the archive.org versions and also recommends this fascinating article about Rudolph Ackermann himself.
Bradford’s phenomenal growth and prosperity in the 19th century were founded on the wool industry. But the industry had a dark side. Alongside bad working conditions and poverty, a deadly disease awaited some wool workers.
Death in the Woolpack, 1880s cartoon ANT 1 p.45
In Object 3 we learned about the innovative Bradford products based on new wools from overseas such as alpaca and mohair. These bales of wool were often contaminated with blood or skin and sometimes contained the anthrax bacillus. Workers quickly made the link between these wools and “bronchitis, pneumonia, and so-called blood-poisoning of a peculiar deadly nature”. Those who sorted the bales were most vulnerable to what became known as “woolsorters’ disease”, or “la maladie de Bradford”, though other cases were known e.g. a woman who washed her husband’s contaminated clothes, or a boy who fell asleep on a bale of wool. Death could result within a day or so, accompanied by terrible pain.
Two Bradford doctors played key roles in researching and removing the disease: Dr J.H. Bell, who established in 1879 that “woolsorters’ disease” was indeed anthrax, and Dr Fritz Eurich. In his capacity as bacteriologist to the Bradford Anthrax Investigation Board, the latter spent many years of dangerous work growing and experimenting on the bacillus. He found a method of killing it by disinfecting fleeces, removing the danger without spoiling the fleece or harming the workers.
This week’s Object comes from The Anthrax Papers, copies of two scrapbooks of press cuttings about the disease in Bradford between 1878 and 1911. The Papers have added resonance because the originals were collected by the two doctors and used as evidence in their work. They were also used by Dr Eurich’s eldest daughter, Margaret Bligh, in writing her biography, Dr Eurich of Bradford (also in Special Collections).
The Wool Scouring and Drying Room in the new Textile Block
These fascinating images are taken from an album of photographs, part of the Bradford Technical College Archive. The album was put together for the 1911 opening of a new textile department at Bradford Technical College, and was presented to Alderman William Warburton, Chairman of the City’s Education Committee: the College was at that stage in its history run by the City Council. The photographs show the facilities of the new department, which was equipped with machinery similar to that students would encounter in textile mills, to carry out all operations from “the raw material to the finished cloth”. The album also showed external views of the College buildings and equipment in the other departments, such as the Motor Car Engineering Laboratory (below).
Motor Car Engineering Laboratory
The BTC had been founded in 1882, growing out of classes held by the Mechanics’ Institute. Its teaching centred on the advanced skills required by Bradford’s industries. The original departments were Textile Industries, Chemistry and Dyeing, Engineering and Art, plus a day science school, though by 1911, the Art department had become a separate School of Art, and the science school was closed.
Bradford Technical College is part of the heritage of both the University of Bradford and Bradford College. In 1959, the BTC’s higher education strand became one of the Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATS), renamed the Bradford Institute of Technology, which later became the University of Bradford. Find out more about the BTC and its successors on the Archive webpage. The full story of the various institutions which are now Bradford College can be found on their 175 heroes exhibition web pages.
The new Textile Department. The building survives as part of Bradford College, is now known as the Lister Building, and when we last heard was home to departments for law, arts and media.