From Saltaire ‘stercorarium’ to Ripley Ville water-closets in ten years?

The industrial model villages of Yorkshire’s Worsted District provide fascinating insights into what was happening at the leading edge for the design and specifications of housing for the working classes during the mid to late 19th century. A recent article in the Saltaire Sentinel based on research by Richard Coomber takes us back to Saltaire in 1858. The description of the sanitary arrangements in general and of the Saltaire stercoracium (privy) make the search for proof of the installation of water-closets in the Workmens Dwellings in Ripley Ville even more pressing and the task more exacting. This post draws on what Richard Coomber has found out about provision in Saltaire and then gives an up-date on the Ripley Ville water-closets controversy.It ends by asking for your help.

Saltaire and Ripley Ville houses

Finer grained analysis

Previous posts have looked at the privy arrangements of Saltaire as improvements on those found in houses elsewhere locally. These were for what might be called ‘the lower orders’ when their building started in Saltaire and who were rather more likely to be called ‘the working classes’ by the time Ripley Ville was built. The label applied in Messrs Ripleys scheme for “Workmens Dwellings” is telling in what it neglects; the contribution of women, children, lodgers and boarders to the household income and for payment of housing costs. Locally the contrast is usually drawn between the dwellings of Bradford (bad) and what was built at Saltaire (good). Yet, a recent visit to archives held outside West Yorkshire revealed a description of Bradford in 1839 as ‘picturesque’. Made by a prominent newcomer to the town, who was impressed with the visual impact of the yorkstone buildings with their slate roofs and the buoyant state of its trade, this suggests a much finer grained analysis is needed. Efforts elsewhere within the Worsted District to improve the housing of industrial workers by enlightened employers and by borough and town councils through new bye-laws and attempts at enforcement should also be credited. What the Ripley Ville water-closet story may illustrate is that in Bradford in the late 1860s progress on sanitary reform involved two steps forward and two steps back – only one of which, to the bye-law ‘tunnel-backs’, was a bit of a side-step.

 Saltaire privies

The earlier posts considered the Saltaire privies from the outside. In summary the improvements at Saltaire offered;

  • a privy to every house,
  • some privacy from the height of the walls to the yard for those going from house to privy
  • a door that could be fastened to secure privacy beyond the door and of sufficient size and a proper fit to guard against unacceptable exposure.

Lawrence Wright’s book in the Penguin ‘Classic History’ series traces the development of the bathroom and water-closet. He sees the two criteria of ‘cleanliness’ and ‘decency’ driving change. There is little doubt that decency was high on Salt’s agenda following the investigation he instigated in 1849 into the Moral Condition of Bradford and in the council Committee’s report of the following year. As with other other aspects of the privy’s use, how Saltaire residents dealt with the emptying of the previous night’s chamber pots will have  been based on households view of delicacy, decorum and decency. Neighbours that overlooked the property would know whether it had a lid that was a proper fit, a cloth was used or nothing at all and probably have something to say about it.

 Beyond the privy door

Some research by Richard Coomber reported in this month’s Saltaire Sentinal (July 2014) allows us to take a look beyond the privy door, giving a description of the arrangements inside. His research is itself based in a report of a visit to Saltaire in 1858 by a visitor, Walter White. (1)

Here is the description of the Saltaire privy as it appears in the Sentinel;

‘Each house has a back-door opening into a lane; and the stencorarium (toilet) voids into an ash-pit, which is cleaned out once a week at the landlord’s cost. The pits are all accessible by a small trap-door from the lane; hence there is no intrusion on the premises in the work of cleansing.’

It would be interesting to know how Richard or other local historians interpret this snippet of information. ‘Stercorarium,’ in its avoidance of plain-speaking leaves us in the dark – in a rather different way than any Victorian inhabitant having to make use of it. This is clearly a pit excavated below a supported seat that has a hole in it that voids into the pit. That this is an ash-pit rather than cess-pit may suggest a scattering of soil or more probably ashes from the grate after its use.  This sounds very primitive; something more rudimentary than the pail-closet of the Lancashire system


Drawing of type of pail-closet installled in Rochdale Lancashire

or the earth closet with its hopper patented by Moules.

Moules Patent Ash Closet

The visitor’s assurance of the pits’ accessibility leaves us unsure as to whether it is just those in the house who benefit, or there is something undescribed, something more than shovel and rake – a container of some kind  – that made the job of the night-soil worker easier.  Lawrence Wright, referred to earlier, reports in the case of London of the removal of cess-pit contents by bucket – through the house if necessary – but carries an advertisement of a London ‘Nightman and Poleman’, Henry Hastings, who at a later date has devised ‘machine carts for the quick dispatch of business.’ An illustration on the web-site shows an earth-pit closet built on a draining principle. This may be instructive in how the Saltaire privy was constructed. In this example the privy floor is raised above the level of the trap-door and the floor of the pit slopes towards the door. This would be one way to make night-soil removal more practical.

Ripley Ville water-closets

If we move on from this report of Saltaire in 1858 to the industrial model village of Ripley Ville the intention, there, to provide each house with a water-closet looks a dramatic advance.  Made eight years later it remains a dramatic advance even if they were to be installed in the basement. Whether water-closets were installed remains uncertain, however.


There is evidence of intent from the ‘outline’ plans of late 1865 . There is the evidence given to the Rivers Commission by H W Ripley that shows the intention to do so still held, at least for him, in November 1866. We might expect the first of the contracts for building ‘Workmens Dwellings’ to have been moved beyond the tendering process by such a date. Building work may probably have started or be well advanced. The ‘you know whats’ in the cellars were then referred to, disparagingly, in the election campaign in late 1868 by H W Ripley’s opponents. This suggests their installation in some if not all of the houses.(2)

Evidence still needed

What is lacking, however, is clear evidence of:-

  • the time-scale beyond the tendering stage for the build of the Ripley Ville houses
  • what was built in each contract when let (or possibly by lots within each contract).

For that reason, I have been looking more recently at archive sources that could take us closer to the build and specification for Ripley Ville. These may reveal the contractors involved and data on when the building work is more likely to have taken place. Any evidence for the seasonality of the work of masons and plasterers from the search will also help in a more general way. At this point, in what looks like at least a three-part process (it could be a 4, 5  or 6 part process), I have found nothing that confirms the installation of water-closets in the Workmens Dwellings in Ripley Ville. It is still a little too early from reading the documents, so far, to come to the rather different conclusion that any installations, if they occurred, did not last –  i .e. that this was followed by their fairly rapid removal and replacement by a privy.(3)

It is worth noting that the Special Committee on the Building Bye-Laws, set up to resolve the objection of the speculative builders in Bradford to the ban on building houses on the back to back principle, reported that;

“in some of the communications it was recommended that water-closets in lieu of privies should in every case be required.”

So in addition to the vocal and eventually successful lobbying by the speculative builders for a rowing back on the ban on back to backs, there were some voices in the Borough of Borough in 1866 for further up-grades to the specification for working class housing.(4)

Notes and Queries

(1)   The extract appears to have been published previously under the heading ‘Visitor’s Book : The Model Town of Saltaire‘, selected by John Ward, on page 65 in the Winter 1993 edition of the Yorkshire Journal, published by Smith Settle, Otley.

(2)   Arguments for and against their installation have appeared in previous posts on this blog. rRV members are reminded that these have been moved to the Members Area.

(3)   It is unclear at this stage whether ex-residents memories alone are a good enough guide on this point. What they saw would depend on what they expected to see.  A reliable witness would also need the knowledge to have read the signs for the retro-fitting of privvies in the yard and for the removal of water-closets in the basement/cellar – at the time they were living or working there, prior to the houses’ demolition.

Are you an ex-resident of Ripley Ville, or do you have ancestors who lived there?

Did you do repairs in the cellars of the Ripley Ville houses before their demolition?

Do you have any information, however small or trivial it may seem, that may show that water-closets had been installed in the houses when originally built?

Conversely, do you have evidence they were not?

If the answer is ‘Yes to these questions, please leave a comment or get in touch.

(4)  The way in which the building of the Ripley Ville houses relates to the Bradford Bye-law dispute is covered in “When was Ripley Ville built?”, booklet 1 in the rediscovering Ripleyville series.

typographical errors updated 2014/07/19

Treasure Map and Tea-bag Boundaries : Where was Ripley Ville built? Part 1

Where was Ripleyville built? A simple question – deceptively so. This post uses a short quiz to tease out the strands of thinking wrapped up in the question. They show that arriving at an answer is not as simple as drawing a few coloured lines on Wiki P – or putting ‘X marks the spot’ on a treasure map. The post is the first of two that look at the question in detail. A linked post uses the idea of tea-bag boundaries to draw out relationships between locales and neighbourhoods and looks at place-names as they were used when Ripley Ville was built. In particular it looks at the relationship between Ripley Ville, Victorian west Bowling and the Ripleys’ estate.

This post focuses more on location and chronology; what was built where and in what order 100 years or so before the village became “buried treasure”.

Image ofMap of an island with palm trees mountain stream and X marking where treasure buried

Treasure Map

To most of us treasure maps are works of fiction. The Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville may be buried treasure but it wasn’t a work of fiction. It was, to a large though not total extent, demolished by 1970. Finding it requires us to follow sets of clues and trails at least as fascinating as the best fiction. The type of clues, how you think about them and assemble your evidence require that you first unwrap the question,‘Where was Ripleyville built?’ As this post shows, unwrapping it will involve us in following the plot of this part of south Bradford’s very local geography and its particular Victorian history. If we can discover where things happened and when, we can see them in relation to each other and get them in chronological order.


  rediscovering Ripley Ville logo in claret and gold

Quick quiz.

This is the prime site for rediscovering Ripleyville – the best researched and most comprehensive on the Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville.

Picking up on the theme of primes, the quiz lists not ten but eleven possible answers that describe where Ripleyville might be found.

So, imagine you are a fairly regular visitor to south Bradford

Go through the list.

In your head tick how many answers you think could be correct.

Question : Where was Ripleyville built?

Answer 1. Ripleyville was built off Hall Lane

Answer 2. Ripleyville was built in West Bowling

Answer 3. Ripleyville was built to the north and south of Bowling Dyeworks

Answer 4. Ripleyville was built on land belonging to the Bowling Iron Co

Answer 5. Ripleyville was built next to Bowling Park

Answer 6. Ripleyville was built in the Worsted District of the West Riding of Yorkshire

Answer 7. Ripleyville was built in Bowling Township

Answer 8. Ripleyville was built in south Bradford

Answer 9. Ripleyville was built on land between three railway lines

Answer 10. Ripleyville was built in Broomfields

Answer 11. Ripleyville was built on land between the ‘East end’ and ‘West end’ of Bowling

How many of these answers do you think are correct?

How many are sort of right – give or take a quibble or two?

All of them?

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The Need for Precision

Is there anything about the question ‘Where was Ripleyville built?’ that makes it unfair?

What makes it difficult to answer?

What is it about the question that makes it easy to come to what seem like conflicting answers?

Can Ripleyville have been built both ‘off Hall Lane’ (answer 1) and ‘in West Bowling’ (answer 2)?

Well it can, if we are talking both about:-

  1. the modern complex of flats (modern Ripleyville) built in the 1970s to the south of Ripley St (between Bowling Old Lane and Spring Mill Street)
  2. and the older Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville, built between 1866 and 1881 and further east along Ripley St – on and beyond what became Ripley Terrace and further south beyond Ripley Road.

As shown in the previous sentence and elsewhere, this website spells the name for the Victorian village as ‘Ripley Ville’, to distinguish it both from modern Ripleyville flats and the village across its whole 100 year existence.

In answer 2 above, I am using ‘West Bowling’ in its 21st century sense.  I am using present ward boundaries to mark the area’s western limits, including Bowling Park Drive and Hall Lane. If you have used the link in the previous sentence you will see I have also done this in the earlier post. The aim there is to locate where Ripleyville used to be and where the almshouses are in the present 21st century townscape.

As will become clear, at this point, the question of whether ‘Victorian Ripley Ville was built in West Bowling’ is open to further review.

Question defined and Some answers

This post and a linked one concentrate on the building of Ripley Ville in its Victorian setting between about 1855 and 1885. This post is an attempt both to think how a Victorian visitor might be given directions to get to Ripley Ville and to recreate what was going on within this setting before and during its building.

The map below is from 1871 when Victoria Ripley Ville was only part built. It sort of confirms answer 1 in the quiz. It shows that what was built by that time was indeed ‘off Hall Lane’.

Detail of black and white print showing

Detail from Dixon’s 1871 Plan of the Town of Bradford showing the
northern site of Ripley Ville with Hall Lane running from bottom right, up between the ‘B’ and ‘O’ of Bowling, over two curving railway lines and on through industrial buildings

The description ‘off Hall Lane’ gains even more historical purchase from what had happened six years earlier. In November 1865 Andrews Son and Pepper’s plans for Messrs Ripleys Workmens Dwellings in Bowling were filed under ‘Hall Lane’ in Bradford Council’s register of planning applications. Hall Lane, leading to Bolling Hall, was a thoroughfare of importance and long standing . Using ‘Hall Lane’ required no new page to be drawn up in the planning register. At this early stage and for planning purposes, an older, well-known place-name was adequate .

N B  Even if you get the dating right and understand it is Victorian Ripley Ville that is being talked about, this is still one of the many answers in the list that it would be right to have a quibble about.


The problem with the question ‘Where was Ripleyville built?’ is its imprecision. The same goes for many of the answers in the list above. They too are imprecise. Different forms of imprecision are shown in the examples below:-

In answer 2, does ‘West Bowling’ mean within the boundary of the West Bowling ward or some other definition of West Bowling? If we are talking about Victorian Ripley Ville and the period when it was built (1866-1881) then it would be wrong (anachronistic – out of chronological order) to say it was built in the West Bowling ward. The ward did not come officially come into existence until the following year; 1882.

Answer 9 works at the scale of the village approximating the boundaries of the northern site but while, it may be correct for the northern site of Ripley Ville (see map above), it isn’t much use as an answer if we don’t know which railway lines are being referred to.

Answer 8 ‘south Bradford’ and answer 6 ‘the Worsted District of the West Riding increase the scale; containing the village without pin-pointing its location.

So, answer 8 places the village according to; points of the compass (south, south-east might provide a better bearing from the town centre) or at an as yet fuzzy location somewhere south of the town within the Bradford of Borough.

Answer 6 places the village in a historical district of Yorkshire, characterised by its by then dominant industry.

These answers add different information which in their different ways might help our Victorian visitor especially if equipped with a pocket compass and travelling from a distance.

Different parts of Victorian Ripley Ville

To get precise answers we need to move beyond whether it is Ripley Ville or Ripleyville we are talking about. We need to say what parts of Ripley Ville we are talking about and the year or years we are referring to when we put the various bits of Victorian Ripley Ville in their place and name that place in south Bradford. The objection to answer 1, ‘Ripley Ville was built off Hall Lane’, for example, is that it applies only to the village’s northern site.  It applies much less well, both by date and location, to the southern site. As the map below indicates the whole width of what became Bowling Park separated the southern site of Ripley Ville (vicarage and almshouses) from Hall Lane – just as it separates the village’s surviving almshouses from Hall Lane and Bolling Hall, now in 2014.

Coloured Map showing two sites of Ripley Ville and Bowling Park 1882

Detail of Walker’s 1882 Map of Bradford with colour overlay. Bowling Park in green. Bowling Dyeworks in pink. Copyright R L Walker 2014

Here are a couple more examples; this time in relation to answer 5 and Bowling Park.

When moved and rebuilt during 1881 on the southern site of Ripley Ville, the Bowling Dyeworks alms houses were built next to Bowling Park. Bowling Park, a purpose-designed public space, was officially opened in 1880. It is not correct chronologically to say that the buildings of the village’s northern site (houses, schools building, school master’s house and church) were built next to the Park. An area called ‘The Parks’ is shown on earlier maps but Bowling Park did not exist then. As noted above, the description is also imprecise as to location. It would be more accurate, by date and location, to say the buildings of the northern site of Victorian Ripley Ville were ‘built off Hall Lane’ or ‘ just to the north of Bowling Dye Works’.

Since the Park was not in plan until 1878, it would not even be true, in terms of chronology, to say that the village’s original Victorian vicarage, dating from 1874/5, was built ‘next to Bowling Park’. The Park had not by then been planned, let alone created or opened. This is in spite of postcard evidence on this web-site that within 20 to 30 years the vicarage was being called ‘Bowling Park Vicarage’.

So answer 3 in the quiz, in the form ‘Ripley Ville was built to the north and south of Bowling Dyeworks’, or a similar phrase would help that late Victorian visitor to locate its two sites. Access on foot, horseback, with a dray or carriage, a hobbyhorse or for a high-wheel bicycle would require much more detailed knowledge of works, roads, bridges, paths, ginnels, the public and the private.

Physical setting for Ripley Ville and its mid to late Victorian world

Stability and continuity are not the norm

People lived in Ripleyville for over one hundred years. Some of its buildings stood for the whole of that period, some may have undergone little change or something more to allow a change of use. Others like the schools building saw more substantial change or like the Victorian vicarage and church of St Bartholomew were demolished before the final clearance in 1970. These changes should be a warning to us. Stability and continuity are not the norm in this part of south Bradford. Some periods were maybe more chaotic than others. The mid-Victorian period was certainly one of those.

Mid-century land-sales lead to big changes

The setting for the buildings of Ripley Ville and the Victorian world into which the various parts of the village were introduced from 1865 onwards had undergone a significant change during the previous 20 years. The OS six inch map of Bradford from the end of the 1840s shows the area at the start of  these changes. They continued between 1866 and 1881 while Ripley Ville was being built. Mills expanded, Bowling Dyeworks added a new ‘shed’. Brick-making and the yards of Pearsons and Moulsons were still present. A route for the new Thornton railway line was tunnelled and cut. This might seem like more of the same but in the area west of Hall Lane and as far as Bowling Lane, large-scale land sales in the mid 1850s had signalled a move from extraction activities and their supporting infrastructure (mining and waggonways) towards in-fill building. A growing portion of the new use was for housing; particularly workmens dwellings. After 1866, with the change in the bye-laws the housing  to the western side of Ripley Ville would include back to back property. This phase of house building did not slow until the end of the Victorian period. Ripleyville was part of that trend which transformed land use – a distinctive, somewhat isolated, first part.

What the area was like as a place to look at, to walk and ride through, listen to, smell and live in would have been profoundly affected by these changes. Impacts on the number and kind of people living nearby would ensue.

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A linked post will consider answers 4, 7, 10 & 11 in the quiz above and looks at answer 2 again. It explores how west Bowling developed in shape and extent between 1855 and 1885 and how place names were changed, modified, or re-used to suit. It uses the idea of tea-bag boundaries to sketch in relationships between locales and neighbourhoods (e.g.Hall Lane, Broomfields and Ripley Ville). In particular it looks at the relationship between Ripley Ville, Victorian west Bowling and the Ripleys’ influence and estate; how the development of their landholdings from the mid 1850s up to when Ripley Ville was complete, contributed to changes in west Bowling’s shape and extent.

And all this to get closer to an answer to the question, “Where was Victorian Ripley Ville built?

It really isn’t as easy as drawing a few coloured lines on Wiki P or putting ‘X marks the spot’ on a treasure map.





Just Visiting 4 : West Hill Park & Akroydon – again

I had a very interesting return visit to Halifax last week. Dry, slightly overcast but bright enough, the weather provided a good opportunity for taking photographs. I wanted to get a range of shots of the houses in West Hill Park and Akroydon; the town’s two industrial model villages. Last time when I went to the Bankfield Museum, with a plan to also photograph Akroydon, it rained. This time I got the shots I wanted. They are for a print publication I am working on. It is one of several rediscovering Ripleyville activities that are keeping me busy off-blog and off the web-site.


West Hill Park

West Park Hill was the surprise package. Imagine Victorian Ripley Ville had survived. Think of West Bowling in south Bradford as it is now in the 21st century. That’s how West Hill Park is.

Front-facing rows of terraces

The novel arrangement of front facing rows of terraces in West Hill Park immediately conjured up a picture of what the inner rows of Saville Street and Sloane Street in Ripley Ville might have looked like.

West Hill Park inward facing terraced houses

copyright R L Walker 2014

I’m not sure how the height of the houses and distance between them compares. Anyone out there ever been to both?

Walking the path between the houses there was the smell of food and washing hung out to dry. A woman walked past, trowel in hand, “Saf kerna grandmaji”, she said, holding it out to an elderly neighbour.

Corner Shop – ornate balcon

Later, the man in the shop on the corner of Gladstone Street and Gibbet Street that I was photographing, invited me in. Between customers, he showed me a photograph of the shop, Madni Food Store, taken from the front and on page 27 in a wonderful glossy booklet, ‘The Building of Halifax’  published in 2010 by Calderdale Council and English Heritage.

My side-on version, showing the ornate balcony to an upper window, is below.

West Hill Park corner shop ornate balcony

copyright R L Walker 2014

Same or different?

Remembering the photographs of the Villa  – the ones in archives and the ones sent in by ex-residents to the ‘rediscovering Ripleyville’ web-site, there were lots of other things to compare and contrast as I walked round. There were bits of architecture or whole houses that made you go. “That would have been like in Ripley Ville,” or “That would have been different”.

The end terrace house, in the photograph below, could prompt some discussion. What’s familiar, like the houses in Ripley Ville and what’s not the same?

West Hill Park end terrace house comparison

copyright R L Walker

Decline and preservation

The West Hill Park houses had obviously been part of a group renewal scheme; stone-cleaned, walls repaired, fences replaced.  It made you wish that someone, amongst the many who contributed to the demise of ‘the Villa’, could have called a halt to it and then put all the changes into reverse. The ideal would be that we could rewind time – back to 1881 when the Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville was still new but complete.  A further rewind could take us back to 1865.  Then we could rewind time forwards again and watch the village being built.

Not unexpectedly, such thoughts led to me thinking again about the condition of what does survive of Ripley Ville; notably, the Almshouses – and the need to secure their preservation.


Compared to West Hill Park, Akroydon was more as I expected, more like the self-guided heritage trail and the displays in the Bankfield Museum prepare you for.

Visiting does remind you, however, that Edward Akroyd’s plan for houses to the sides of a square ‘village green’ was achieved, even if only a third of the houses intended were eventually built. At the centre of the square Akroyd demonstrated his support for the Anglican church and the monarchy in a monument; the ‘Victoria Cross’. Since the square was at first reserved for the use of residents and their visitors it also sought to put Anglicanism and the monarchy at the centre of their lives. A view of the central section of the monument is shown below.

Close up of Victoria Cross in the square

copyright R L Walker 2014



I now have photographs of the housing of four of the industrial model villages of the West Riding’s Worsted District. More photographs of Ripleyville would always be welcome. But its a job done  -and so, on to the next stage but not before I mark an anniversary. The 21st May this week was the second birthday of the blog. The web-site was set up in April 2012 but received its first comment on the 21st of the following month. No party and no cake this year – not like last year. We can try and make up for it in 2015. The blog and web site will then be 3 going on 3 and three-quarters years old.

Much more importantly, later in the year, on November 15th 2015, it will be 150 years from when Messrs Ripleys’ Scheme for the Ripley Ville houses was made public and Ripley Ville was begun.


last updated 2014/05/23



Ripley Ville houses : Contracts Seasons and Drying-out time

This post poses questions that are of interest for both of the old Borough of Bradford’s industrial model villages. Its about the houses of Victorian Ripley Ville and Saltaire. It goes back to the beginning when they were built. The core question is about the drying-out time for newly built and newly plastered Victorian terraced houses for ‘Working Men’.  The schedule of contracts for Ripley Ville and Saltaire differs. With only two exceptions, the ‘contracts to let’ for Saltaire were not placed during late autumn or the winter months. In Ripley Ville one of the four contracts for houses was’ let’ in the first week in November 1866.  Would this be because of the effect of wetter, colder weather on drying out times for the houses and when they could be ready to live in?

Saltaire and Ripley Ville houses            The photograph left shows the end terrace houses of Saltaire on Caroline Street.  The houses of Ripley Terrace are shown for Ripley Ville

Ripleyville Houses : Contracts, Seasons & Drying-out times

In the Victorian Arts, Crafts & Sciences page of this web-site are two questions about Drying-out times for Working Mens houses.

They asks:-

‘How long might it take for a newly-built, newly plastered cottage/working man’s house to dry out in the mid-to-late Victorian era?’



The questions are part of an effort to understand the phases for the building and drying out times for workmen’s houses in the industrial model villages of Ripleyville and Saltaire. (1)

Ripley Ville Contracts & Houses

 At Ripleyville 196 cottages were built. This is from a total of 200 put out to tender in the twelve months between March 22nd 1866 and March 21st 1867. Plans for 254 houses had been passed by the Building and Improvement Committee of Bradford Borough Council in January 1866. Contracts were then let in March, July and November of 1866 and finally in March 1867. The November 1866 contract was the largest at 75 houses. (Walker, 2008 : 15)

Saltaire Contract & Houses

In their book ‘Saltaire the making of a model town’, Jackson, Lintonbon and Staples (2010 : 66 ) note that only two of the Saltaire contracts were placed in the autumn. This included the 15th contract, ‘consisting of SIXTY-NINE HOUSES’ , placed in October 1869. Later they refer to the 10th contract advertised on 10th March 1860 and approved by the Shipley Local Health Board on 15th May 1860. Using Census data for 1861, when 27 of the 64 houses were unoccupied, Jackson and his co-authors ( 2010 : 71) speculate that the houses may not have been ‘completed internally or some were still drying out’  by early April of the following year. Citing the need to avoid occupation of ‘damp houses in the cold winter months; tuberculosis or consumption, was always a risk’,  they conclude that for Saltaire  ‘a seasonal cycle starting with the contracts being advertised in the early spring and the houses being completed about eleven or twelve month later, would seem to have worked best’. Evidence in support of their interpretation of events is not offered.

More evidence needed

Variations from the norm

If this was a contracting and building practice common to the Worsted area of the West Riding or more locally, the Ripley Ville schedule looks both more compressed and varies from it. Two of the 16 Saltaire contracts did vary from this norm, including the 15th contract scheduled nearer the two years of construction for the Ripley Ville houses. Explanations for this variability (Ripley Ville 1 : 4, Saltaire 2 : 16) start to look interesting. An explanation based in seasonality and drying-out times – rather than one that factors it in – starts to feel less satisfactory.

How the information will help

For Ripley Ville the time taken to dry-out and for internal completion are pieces of evidence that can help establish when any of the Ripley Ville houses could first have been lived in. Was this during 1866 or not until the following year. (2) It would also help to sort out which of the four contracts for the Ripleyville houses led to water-closets actually being installed. For Saltaire a more rounded picture for the context of its building may appear. An incomplete example of the kind of periods involved is given in the text accompanying the carousel of images for a relatively small-scale project to replace a lath and plaster ceiling here

The topic is something that clearly bears further investigation and debate. Factors like how the rental market and the one for house sales worked, prevailing attitudes to the new ‘model’ houses of each village and whether there were disruptions to building schedules from labour shortages or strikes in any particular year are, amongst others, also worth a look.

How you can contribute

If you can help with information about likely schedules for the construction of Working Mens houses in the 1860s and particularly on drying-out times for houses (stone-built using black lime mortar and Victorian plastering techniques) then use the comment box below. If you need more information you can use the contact form on the Victorian Arts Crafts & Sciences page to get in touch.

Please feel free to pass on this request for information, if you know someone who can help.


1.  For brevity I am including all the Ripley Ville houses and those of Saltaire under the ‘Working Mens’ houses label. Only the Ripley Ville houses can as named, rather than as built or occupied, be so described.

2.  In a paragraph on Ripleyville on the Just Visiting & News Update 2 page of the web-site, I speculate that some houses were ready to move into by late summer 1867 and invite you to imagine the scene.


2010  Jackson N et al, ‘Saltaire : the making of a model town’ , Spire Books, Reading

2008 Walker R L, ‘When was Ripleyville built?’ SEQUALS, Shipley

last updated 2014/03/11

Houses of Ripley Ville and the Villa

This is a re-post of content that appeared on the blog in mid-November 2012. It shows early versions of content now on the not-yet-a-Wikipedia page for Ripleyville by Peter Knowles. I have left it unedited. It expresses the surprise and excitement and the right notes of caution about the content Peter sent and some of its meaning for rediscovering Ripleyville.

I would at this point just add a number of additional points of caution.  With the help and prompting of the ‘Gentlemen of the Villa’ (ex-residents put in touch through this web-site) Peter has done architectural reconstructions for the church of St Bartholomew and the houses of the Villa i.e. projections backwards from the 1960s, while also using large scale maps from the 1890s. The example of St Bartholomews Church, below, indicates one of the stages involved in such a process. For the houses, the full set of architectural drawings and plans have still to be found.

St Bartholomews Church Lambeth Palace & OS map compared

Missing from Peter’s ‘wiki’ are the school master’s house and the building’s of the village’s southern site; the vicarage and the almshouses.

On the water-closets controversy we may have narrowed down what may have happened 1866-69. Peter’s deductions need better evidencing. He also down-plays the water-closets’ significance. This comes both from their historic significance; their installation in a group of Working Mens housing by 1868 (Where is there an earlier example in the UK?) and their place in the Saltaire,West Park Hill, Akroydon, Ripley Ville progression; that is their actual installation in the forth of the industrial model villages built in the Worsted District of the West Riding.

Two detailed post on the ‘Water-closet Controversy‘, in the Members Area, are password protected. They are accessible to ‘Friends of Ripleyville’ registering through the sign-up form (side-bar right) →

The original title of the post was ‘An Amazing Attachment’. It was published 2012/11/17 and follows

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Write note & random Quote 4

The ‘Write note’ and ‘random Quote’ for this month span the period 1868 to 1873, when the last of the Workmens’ houses, the Schools building and Anglican church of St Bartholomew were being built in the industrial model village of Ripleyville. The Write note features ‘A Bowling Resident’ who complains in July 1868 about smoke from Bowling Dyeworks and of not having enough water for washing or to use their water-closet or bath.  The random Quote is from Archibald Neill, who was a major building contractor in Bradford in the 1860s to early 1870s and needs to be added to the list of possible builders for Ripleyville. The quote is from a paper ‘On the Bradford Building Trades’ delivered in 1873 at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Alongside figures for the size of the various trades and occupations involved and when machinery could be used, it contains the curious claim that Bradford’s mid-Victorian buildings (including those in Ripleyville?) were erected largely without scaffolding.

rediscovering Ripley Ville logo in claret and gold

Write note [4] : ‘The Water Supply’ Bowling 1868

My notes for this item are taken from the more radical of Bradford’s two newspapers of the 1860s; the Bradford Daily Telegraph. The notes are of a letter to the newspaper published on July 25th 1868 and signed ‘A Bowling Resident’ and concern ‘The Water Supply’, or more accurately the lack of water-supply. They also touch on mid-Victorian Bradford’s notorious smoke problem.

The resident begins:-

“… I happen to be one of those who pay for a bath and water-closet, neither of which are now available.


[there is] not enough water to keeps hands and face clean”

water supply letter Bowling Resident 1868

S/he continues;

“I must inform you that from the contiguity of my residence to Bowling Dyeworks, my hands and face require a deal of water to keep them clean, because of the large quantity of smoke emitted from these dye-works daily, not excepting Sundays.”

source : Bradford Daily Telegraph 25th July 1868, page 4, col 2.

Mystery Resident : Just who is writing this letter and their motives remain unclear.

As to ‘who’, the language – educated if a little flowery and overdone in the Victorian manner- , the ability to pay for a water-closet and bath and the willlingness, at least behind a mask of anonymity, to take on the area’s main employer and their works suggest this is not a Ripleyville resident or, conversely, that they are a very independent-minded one or of independent means.[C]ontiguity’, if the writer was using it in its strictest sense and not in exaggeration, means ‘touching’ – so they are claiming to live very near the Works.

On their motivations perhaps the simplest is most tenable. They really were fed up with the lack of water, especially where they paid extra for the supply to their water-closet and ‘plumbed-in’ bath. If a plumbed-in bath, it would be even more unlikely to be a Ripleyville resident. We might also think that they are sufficiently aware, or affiliated politically to send their letter to the Telegraph, which would be more likely to print it.

Back story – smoke : Regulation of smoke-emissions from the many Bradford Mill and Works chimneys lay with the Borough council, who could bring infringements before the local magistrate’s court. There is evidence of Mill owners who were also Borough magistrates avoiding prosecution for smoke emissions. H W Ripley was particularly proud of devices fitted at the Dyeworks that ‘consumed’ smoke. Whatever their claimed effectiveness the note – and the letter it is based on – show smoke was emitted from the dye-works seven-days a week. I am reminded of the images on this site of Ripleyville where washing is hung-out to dry; it was not just faces and hands that needed to be kept clean. Prompted by his glass-plate images from the 1920s, Graham Austin imagines what it must have been like to do the washing then. What must it have been like in the 1870s?

Back story – water supply : As with other aspects of infrastructure, there was a non-stop battle to meet the needs of Bradford’s growing population both before and after the Town Council was incorporated in 1847 and before and after the then Bradford Borough Council took over responsibility for water supply by the late 1860s. At the point when this letter was written the Borough Council had complete responsibility for water-supply. It is they through Bradford Waterworks who would be being paid extra for water-closet and bath. Twelve to fifteen months before there is the possibility that this Bowling resident may have been taking water from the Ripleys through Bowling Waterworks. Ripley’s interest in and ability to supply water was bought out by the Council in 1867. Maybe, in changing from one to the other, the supply had got worse? At the moment its a mystery – a dried-up face-cloth wrapped in a blanket of smoke.


random Quote [4] :  The Bradford Building Trades 1873

The random Quote moves us on 5 years. It is from a paper presented at the British Association for Advancement of Science in 1873. The paper’s title was ‘On the Bradford Building Trades’ and it was presented by Archibald Neill. He was a Scotsman and came to Bradford where he was involved in the building trades as building contractor, in quarrying and in brick-making. There are claims that the firm was one of the largest in Bradford, that he was a model employer and pioneered improved building techniques. In his caption to the warehouse of Law, Russell & Co in Little Germany in Bradford, John S Roberts wrote of the building ‘its flamboyance belies its brilliance’ . ‘The building is a monument to the contractor Archibald Neill (1825-1874). … The building was built in 19 months…’ Neill died of a stomach complaint soon afterwards.

The quotes below are from the paper he delivered a year before at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Bradford in 1873.

There is little machinery at work in the stone trade of this district as yet… stone dressing and moulding machines … are not adapted to work the hard stone …

While he writes that 10% of work with stone may be done by machine he estimated that 60% of work with wood carried out by the carpenters and joiners, machine joiners and steam-sawyers was aided by machine. He adds:-

The small amount of scaffolding used by builders in Bradford is a peculiarity, and must attract the attention of strangers. Our large mills and warehouses are raised without the aid of the forest of poles or heavy timbers to be seen in other towns.

Amongst the related trades outside of quarrying, stone getting and the stone-masons,  for Bradford in 1873, he lists:-

200 plasterers, 200 plumbers and glaziers, 50 slaters, 1300 excavators, carpenters and labourers, 400 painters, 300 smiths and mechanics and 600 employed in brick-making.

Plot thickens? : The firm of A Neill need to added to the possible contractors for the Ripleyville buildings. Neill would have been known to Henry Wm Ripley. He was involved in the political process to nominate and support candidates in Bradford’s parliamentary elections of 1867 and 1868 and the by-election of 1869.

The pen portrait below is from one of the many political cartoons relating to the period. In it Neill is identified simply as ‘Archy’. From a Ripleyville point of view, we need to ask, ‘Is the church in Archy’s hod a symbol of his religious and political allegiances or a reference to recent contracts for church building?’

N B  It is not a drawing of St Bartholomews Church

pen portrait 'Archy' Neill carrying hod on shoulder with a church in it

detail of cartoon ‘We Have No Work To Do-o-o!’, from own collection, c. 1868

St Bartholomews Church : In 1870, the contract for St Bartholomews Church in Ripleyville had to be re-advertised. It may have been considered challenging both architecturally and from the cramped and sloping site. Existing relationships of the potential contractor to the Church’s Building Committee (1) and to the architects (2) may have had as much influence on who was chosen, as those to H M Ripley – in spite of the latter’s gift of the land and other smaller contributions to costs.


(1)  Memorial Committee of Charles Hardy

(2)  Plans and designs were drawn up by the Bradford-based firm of Francis Healey (b 1835 – d 1910) and Thomas Henry Healey (b 1839 – d 1910). Work was carried forward by the firm of Healey and Hand to the designs and drawings of F Healey and T H Healey.

Source : the archive of the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS)


Roberts John S, 1977, Little Germany City Trail No 3, Arts Galleries & Museums, City of Bradford Metropolitan Council

last updated 20140215

Missing : the Colour Supplement in Bradford’s Heritage offer – Part 2

The review so far … the post to come

This post is a continuation. It is the last in a series of 4 posts prompted by visits to the ‘Cloth & Memory {2} exhibition in the Spinning Room in Salts 1853 Mill, in October 2013. It picks up on the idea that there are supplementary histories and a ‘Colour Supplement’ that are missing in Bradford’s Heritage offer. These would contain the histories and a heritage offer that, in presenting Victorian Worstedopolis, gave proper weight to the roles of;

  • Bradford’s dyers and finishers, particularly Edward Ripley & Son and Bowling Dyeworks,
  • Ripley Ville – south Bradford’s industrial model village
  • the village’s main sponsor, innovator in worsted dyeing and principal partner in the Dyeworks; Henry William Ripley (1)

Postheadercomposite Like its companion post this one picks up on some of the ideas underpinning and informing the works in the Cloth & Memory {2} exhibition. The word ‘supplement’ was first used in its conventional sense in the post ‘Cloth & Memory {2} : Mutable Frame of Reference‘ and then in a stronger Deriddean sense in ‘Missing : the Colour Supplement in Bradford’s Heritage offer – Part 1‘.

This post draws on but also moves away from of the central idea of the supplement to look at the thinking behind Maxine Briscoe’s exhibit ‘Mutable Frame of Reference – Installation – Materials’ rather than the exhibit itself. To the ideas, found there, on ‘mutability’ and ‘the contingent’ – as against stability, coherence, continuity and the unifying narrative – this post adds the postmodern idea of the ‘trace’. It does so to introduce questions about how local history can be thought about and how it may be written about and used.

Then returning to the idea of the Deriddean supplement it locates emptinesses in the structures that stand for, contain or support Bradford’s Heritage offer. The post ends by looking forward to a renewal of Bradford’s Heritage offer with some thoughts and suggestions about the challenges and opportunities for making good what is missing, by adding the Colour Supplement.

There is a contact form at the end of the post for you to get in touch.

Using two images, two hyperlinks and very few words, the post starts with an anecdote, makes contrasts, evokes the 1890s, the 1950s and the present – and may predict a child’s future memory.

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Hover Click Woops

rRVlogorRVblog logo claretandamberThe quickest post yet!

Links between new pages within their new drop down menus and across the navigation bar completed – I hope.

Links between new pages and pre-existing posts broken? – maybe

If you find a post to page link not working there are two options:-

  • come back to the Hover Click Connect post for help on where you may find it
  • Hover and click on the pages now in the navigation bar.

Hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the blog posts

As I re-visit posts I will check out links but this will be on an ‘as and when’ basis – sorry

If you give me a ‘heads up’ and alert me to to broken link – through the comment box, it’ll get done sooner.

Progress reports:-

  1. 2014/01/18 – last 10 posts checked and links updated
  2. 2014/01/19 – 8 more posts checked and updated


last edited 2014/01/16

Hover Click Connect

rRVlogorRVproject symbolrRVblog logo claretandamberAs of today, 13th Jan, the first set changes to the web-site are not quite finished. I will be putting in hyperlinks across the new pages and in pages in new places this evening. So be warned some might not work – just yet.

The changes completed take the web-site nearer to where it needs to be for 2014.

There are still plans for the Heritage Matters page to be made – probably in a week’s time.

To get the best out of the site you need to Hover, Click & Connect.

Whats New?

Just Click and Connect

  • a new About : rediscovering Ripleyville Project page
  • a new suite of Adding Content pages offering, amongst other things, a new way to generate content for the web-site and clearer guidelines for e-mailed content
  • a new Contacts page
  • a new and separate Contributions page with a Contact Form for your ideas and offers of help.
  • a new section for content from ex-residents of the Villa; Ripley Ville 1936-1970 : More than a Memory

Where is the … page?

Hover Click & Connect

In the navigation bar, 3 pages have nested pages ‘inside’ them :-

  • Adding Content,
  • Ripleyville & its Victorian World
  • Victorian Ripley Ville Now

Hover over them – a list of pages will drop down. Click on what you want to see.

Under Adding Content are a suite of pages; Content Cascade, e-mailed Content Guidelines, Priority Content and Resource Constraints. You need to take a look at all of these if you are wanting to add content to the web-site

A new Bowling Dyeworks : Working the Chemistry page, a revised and updated Henry William Ripley : Pattern Man and a revised and re-titled Ripley Ville : south Bradford’s industrial model ville page are nested within Ripleyville & its Victorian World

The Victorian Ripley Ville now page has the Housekeeping v Demolition page ‘inside’ it

News for New Year 2014

Just a quick post to start off the new year and explain where things are at with the rRV blog and project.

Firstly belated wishes for a happy New Year 2014 and thanks for your comments and contributions throughout 2013.(*)

News for New Year 2014

rediscovering Ripley Ville logo in claret and gold

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Changes to rediscovering Ripleyville blog and web-site

Stage 1

I will be continuing this week to make additional changes to the pages on the web site. Two have already been made and are flagged up through the text at the top of the side panel, right.

The next step is a restructure with clearer sub-sections for the Contacts and Contributions page. A new ‘Content’ sub-section will also be added to this. The work makes good on changes first mooted back in September 2013.

Stages 2 & 3

Two further restructures to the About page and Heritage Matters page with new or improved content in each section will complete the planned changes. Progress will depend on how quickly and successfully stage 1 can be completed.

rediscovering Ripley Ville logo in claret and gold

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