Bradford (St. Peter)

BRADFORD (St. Peter), a borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, in the wapentake of Morley, W. riding of York, 10 miles (W. by S.) from Leeds, 34 (S. W.) from York, and 196 (N. N. W.) from London; comprising the townships of Allerton, North Bierley, Bowling, Bradford, Clayton, Eccleshill, Heaton, Manningham, Shipley, and Wilsden, and the chapelries of Haworth, Horton, and Thornton; the whole containing 105,257 inhabitants, of whom 34,560 are in the town. This place during the heptarchy formed part of the extensive parish of Dewsbury, from which it appears to have been separated soon after the Conquest. The manor of Bradford, which in the Domesday survey is described as a barren waste, was given to Ilbert de Lacy, who attended the Conqueror from Normandy, and fought under his standard at the battle of Hastings. Ilbert had 150 other manors in the county, which he formed into a seigniory, called the Honour of Pontefract; and in the same family was vested the barony of Clitheroe, in the shire of Lancaster. The frequent intercourse between the proprietors of these two baronies, which were separated by a wide tract of dreary, rugged, and uninhabited country, rendered some intermediate station requisite either for refreshment or security, in a journey of such difficulty and danger, at a time when feudatory wars were raging between the various chieftains among whom the lands were divided; and the comparatively fertile and pleasant vale in which the town of Bradford is situated, appears to have been selected for that purpose. There is evidence of a castle existing here in the time of the Lacys, which, as a baronial seat, would naturally assume that character; and the inhabitants in its immediate neighbourhood, whom even the temporary residence of a chieftain and his retinue would attract, are styled burgesses in an inquisition taken after the death of Henry de Lacy, the last earl of Lincoln. In this inquisition, which is dated 1316, notice also occurs of a fulling-mill, a soke corn-mill, a market on Sunday, and other particulars; from which it would appear that the town, originating in the residence of the Lacy family, had already attained no inconsiderable degree of importance. In the time of Henry III., Bradford paid more tallage to the king than Leeds, though smaller in extent. During the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, it suffered much from the hostilities of the contending parties; and in compensation the inhabitants, though firm adherents of the house of Lancaster, received from Edward IV. exemption from toll, and a grant of two annual fairs of three days each. From this time the town continued to prosper without interruption; in the reign of Henry VIII., it had become equal to Leeds in extent and population, and far exceeded it in manufacturing importance.

During the civil war in the reign of Charles I., the town was garrisoned for the parliament, whose cause the inhabitants zealously supported. In 1642, it was attacked by a detachment of the royalist forces from Leeds, that took post at Undercliffe, in the immediate vicinity; but after one or two assaults, in which they were repulsed, the assailants retreated to Leeds, from which a stronger detachment was sent with no better success. Sir Thomas Fairfax soon afterwards took the command of the garrison in person, and marched out to meet the Earl of Newcastle, who had fixed his headquarters at Wakefield, and who now obtained a signal victory over Fairfax: the parliamentarians, after their defeat, retreated to Bradford; and the earl, who took up his head-quarters at Bolling Hall, and brought his artillery to bear on the town, commenced a regular siege. Fairfax, seeing the dangerous position in which he was placed, endeavoured to make his escape by a desperate sally, in which Lady Fairfax, who accompanied him, was made prisoner, but generously sent back with an escort by the earl in his own carriage. The town now surrendered, and was garrisoned by the royalists, from whom, after the Earl of Newcastle had marched against the Scots, it was taken by Col. Lambert for the parliamentarians, in whose possession, after one or two attempts to retake it, it ultimately continued.

The prosperity of Bradford received a severe check during this struggle; its trade was so much impeded, that nearly half a century elapsed before it recovered its former importance, and Leeds, which had been inferior to it as well in population as in extent, now became greatly its superior in both. The woollen manufacture, for which it had from a very remote period been celebrated, and for which it is noticed by Leland in the reign of Henry VIII., was at its height in the reign of Charles I.; but after the breaking out of the parliamentary war, the town lost its consequence as the principal seat of that manufacture, and languished till the middle of the last century. It then began to revive; on the subsequent introduction of the worsted manufacture, it fully recovered its previous importance, and since that time it has been rapidly advancing in prosperity.

The town is pleasantly situated at the junction of three fertile valleys, and is supposed to have derived its name from a ford over a stream which, rising in the western hills, flows through it into the river Aire. It is built partly in the bottom, but principally on the acclivities, of the valley, at various elevations; and though some of the streets in the more ancient part are narrow and irregularly formed, most of those of modern date are spacious and handsome. The houses are chiefly of stone, and roofed with slate: many of them are large and substantially built; and in the suburbs are numerous excellent houses and pleasant villas, inhabited by merchants and the proprietors of the various factories in Bradford and its vicinity. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas from works erected at an expense of £15,000, by a proprietary of 600 £25 shareholders, under an act obtained in the 3rd of George IV., subject in its provisions to an act of the 43rd of George III. for paving, lighting, watching, and improving the town and neighbourhood. The inhabitants were until lately very inadequately supplied with water from works established by a company, incorporated by act of parliament in 1790. The water was conveyed by pipes from a spring at Brown Royd Hill into a reservoir at Westgate, capable of holding only 15,000 gallons; some of the larger houses, which were not supplied from this source, had wells attached to them, and the remainder were supplied by water-carriers from wells belonging to various proprietors, most of which were sunk to a depth of more than 100 yards. Great efforts have, however, been made, for some years, to obtain a more ample supply from Manywells, a copious spring of pure water, about eight miles from the town; a company of shareholders recently subscribed a capital of £45,000, and an act for their incorporation was passed in 1842. The air, though sharp, is healthy; and the environs abound with pleasing scenery.

A subscription library, containing a well assorted collection of nearly 8000 volumes, supported by 140 shareholders and annual subscribers of a guinea each; and a public newsroom, supported by 200 subscribers, were opened in 1828, in the Exchange Buildings, a handsome structure of freestone in the Grecian style, erected at an expense of £7000, by a proprietary of £25 shareholders. It comprises various apartments, of which those on the ground-floor are appropriated to the library and newsroom, while on the first-floor is a spacious and elegant assembly-room for concerts, balls, exhibitions, and public meetings: the late Miss Jowett bequeathed £1000 towards liquidating the outstanding claims for the erection of the edifice. A mechanics' institution was formed in 1825, but after a short time discontinued; and in 1832 another was established, for which an appropriate building was erected in 1839, at an expense of £3300. It is situated at the junction of Well-street with the new road to Leeds; and contains a theatre for the delivery of lectures, a library of 3000 volumes, and a museum in which is a good collection of specimens in natural history, antiquities, various models, and machinery: an exhibition, including also a collection of paintings, was opened to the public for fifteen weeks in 1840, and the receipts for admission amounted to £2345.

The staple trade is the worsted manufacture; the woollen manufacture is carried on to a considerable extent in several parts of the parish, and that of cotton on a smaller scale. For the spinning of worsted-yarn, and the weaving of worsted goods, there are not less than 112 large mills in the parish, of which 38 are situated in the town: in these are 88 steam-engines of the aggregate power of 2059 horses, and 20 water-wheels of 87horse power; and the number of persons engaged is 10,896. In the woollen manufacture are six extensive mills, chiefly in the adjoining townships; the machinery is propelled by 5 steam-engines of 150-horse power, and one water-wheel of 12-horse power, and the number of persons employed is 681. For the cotton manufacture there are two mills, worked by a steam-engine of 14horse power, and 3 water-wheels of 22-horse power; affording occupation to 98 persons. A very considerable number of persons are also engaged in hand-loom weaving. The Piece Hall, in Kirkgate, was erected by the merchants and manufacturers, in 1773, for the exhibition and sale of worsted stuffs; and is a neat building, 144 feet in length, and 36 in breadth, containing an upper and lower chamber. The larger manufacturers display and sell their goods in the spacious warehouses attached to their factories; yet on market days, the hall is crowded with numerous manufacturers from neighbouring places, and by multitudes of dealers who resort to the town as the principal mart of the worsted manufacture. It is open every Thursday from ten till twelve in the morning, and from two till four in the afternoon. Much business is transacted on Monday in the woollen-trade; and of late years, a considerable trade in English and foreign wool has sprung up, large quantities of wool being transmitted hence to the various parts of the clothing district. The quantity consumed in the manufactures of the parish in a recent year, was 17,135,704 pounds; nearly equal to the aggregate quantities of Keighley, Bingley, Halifax, and Wakefield. The Bradford Canal, which communicates with the Leeds and Liverpool canal at Shipley, affords facility of conveyance for the manufactures of the town, and also for the rich mineral produce of the surrounding district, which abounds with coal, limestone, and freestone of excellent quality; it is three miles in length, and has a fall of 87 feet in its whole extent, with 12 locks. A railway was opened to Leeds in July, 1846; and an extension, from Shipley to Colne in Lancashire, has since been completed. The market, which is amply supplied with corn, cattle, and provisions of all kinds, is on Thursday; and fairs for horses, cattle, sheep, and various articles of merchandise, are held on March 3rd, June 17th, and Dec. 9th; the two last continuing for three days each. The market-place, built by the lord of the manor in 1824, comprises a spacious area, round which are ranged shops for butchers, poulterers, greengrocers, and dealers in other necessaries; and above, on three sides of the area, are ranges of stalls and shops for the sale of fancy articles. The market for cattle is held in an inclosed area in Duke-street; swine, of which great numbers are brought to the town, are exposed for sale in the streets.

By the act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., Bradford was invested with the elective franchise, and constituted a borough, with the privilege of returning two members to parliament. The right of election is in the resident £10 householders, and the returning officer is appointed by the sheriff of the county; the borough comprises the townships of Bradford, Manningham, Bowling, and Horton. The town is within the jurisdiction of the magistrates for the West riding, and the adjourned Midsummer quarter-sessions are held here: the powers of the county-debt court of Bradford, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Bradford. The court-house is a handsome building of freestone, in the Grecian style; in front is a rustic basement projecting boldly from the centre, above which is a portico of four Ionic columns, supporting an entablature and cornice surmounted with a triangular pediment. The watch-house, with a depôt for fire-engines, was built in 1837, at a cost of £1400.

The parish comprises by computation 33,323 acres, of which 1198 are in the township of Bradford. A very considerable portion is hilly moor, affording but indifferent pasture; and the land under cultivation being divided into small farms, occupied chiefly by persons who are also employed in the domestic woollen and stuff manufactures, or in the factories, the system of agriculture pursued is susceptible of much improvement. The soil near the town, and generally in the lower parts of the parish, is a loam on a substratum of clay, and the lands in the bottoms of the valleys produce abundant crops. The substratum is rich in mineral produce, abounding with coal, ironstone, freestone, and millstone-grit, all of which are extensively wrought: of the last the town is mostly built; it is raised in large blocks, and, together with great quantities of flagstone, is sent to London, and some of the principal towns in the kingdom. The millstone-grit is abruptly cut off to the east and south of the town by the coal-measures, which form the northern boundary of the large Yorkshire coal-field; and in these strata are found the rich iron-ores so extensively used in the Low Moor, Bowling, and Bierley iron-works. The coal is of two kinds, distinguished as the black bed and the better bed; the former found at various distances from the surface, with a roof of argillaceous ironstone; and the latter about forty yards below the former, varying in thickness, and extending to the magnesian limestone formation in the south. To these valuable mines and quarries, and to the numerous rivulets that intersect the parish, may be in a great degree attributed the importance of the town, as the principal seat of a wide and prosperous manufacturing district.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £20; net income, £437, with a good house; patrons, the Trustees of the late Rev. C. Simeon. An afternoon lectureship was founded in the seventeenth century, by Peter Sunderland, who also presented part of the communion-plate. The parish church is a spacious and venerable structure, with a massive square embattled tower strengthened by double buttresses at the angles, and crowned with angular and central pinnacles, rising from a perforated parapet. The western entrance is through a handsome arch, above which is a large window, in the later English style; the south porch is modern: the walls of the aisles are strengthened with buttresses of several stages, and those of the nave are embattled. The nave is separated from the aisles by a series of finely clustered columns, and lighted by a range of clerestory windows; the east window, which is of modern insertion, is large, enriched with tracery, and embellished with some portions of ancient stained glass. Christ Church, erected on a site presented by Benjamin Rawson, Esq., was completed in 1815, at an expense of £5400, raised by subscription, towards which a lady unknown contributed £800, through the Rev. Dr. Gaskin, of London; it was enlarged in 1826 by the assistance of the Incorporated Society, and in 1836 was new roofed and repaired at an expense of £1000. The incumbency is a perpetual curacy; net income, £160; patron, the Vicar. The churches dedicated to St. James and St. John are described under the article Horton, in which township they are situated; as also St. Jude's church under the article on the township of Manningham. Other churches have been erected at Bierley, Bowling, Buttershaw, Clayton, Daisy-Hill, Denholme-Gate, Eccleshill, Haworth, Horton, New Leeds, Manningham, Oxenhope, Shipley, Stanbury, Thornton, Wibsey, and Wilsden: the greater part of the livings are in the Vicar's gift. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive Methodists, Wesleyans, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics; the gateway of the Unitarian meeting-house is an ancient massive piece of masonry, removed from Howley Hall on its demolition.

The Free Grammar School, which is of very early date, was refounded and richly endowed by Edward VI.; and, by charter of Charles II. in 1662, was placed under the direction of thirteen governors, of whom the vicar of Bradford is one ex officio. The school-house was rebuilt on a more eligible site, under an act of parliament, in 1818, and comprises a neat dwelling-house for the master, and a library. The endowment exceeds £500 per annum, and the number of scholars on the foundation is by the statutes limited to fifty; the scholars are eligible to exhibitions founded in Queen's College, Oxford, by Lady Elizabeth Hastings. At Undercliffe, about a mile to the north-east of the town, is the Airedale Independent College, a handsome edifice of freestone, with a stately portico, and occupying a considerable eminence; it affords accommodation for twenty students, each of whom has a private study and separate bedroom, and contains a library, lecture-room, and diningroom, with apartments for the tutors, one of whom is always resident. At Horton is a Baptist College, founded in 1804. The Infirmary, in Westgate, erected in 1842 at a cost of £5000, contains wards for 60 patients, and is gratuitously attended by two physicians, two surgeons, and two apothecaries: this institution now unites the business of a dispensary; the buildings in Darley-street, where a separate establishment existed, having been vacated in 1843. The union of Bradford comprehends the whole of the parish except the township of Haworth, and eight townships in the parishes of Birstal and Calverley; including in the whole twenty-two townships, and containing a population of 132,164. The learned and eloquent John Sharp, Archbishop of York in the reign of William III., was a native of the place.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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