Saltaire Festival & Ripley Ville Flyer

Saltaire Festival almost caught me out. Other work has been keeping me busy. When I went down Victoria Road and over the canal bridge towards the Park and the Half Moon Cafe last Saturday, first I could hear singing,

Eddie Lawler entertains the crowds from a narrowboat

Eddie Lawler entertains the crowds at 2014 Saltaire Festival on Saturday 13th from a narrow boat. Copyright R L Walker 2014


and then there was this dancer – early – waiting – expecting to meet up with the rest of her troupe.

Woman in colourful costume and red and white roses in her hair texting on her mobile phone waiting

Dancer from the ‘400 Roses’ troupe waits to meet up with other members at Saltaire Festival.       Copyright R L Walker 2014


Ripley Ville Flyer

So for this the coming, final week-end of the Festival, I’ve done what I did last year. I’ve put an A5 flyer round. Its in various locations round the village. I’ve copied the front of it below. The plan to walk round with a very large sandwich board promoting Victorian Ripley Ville has not been pursued -the possibility of getting crushed by the crowds was one issue.

largely text-based advertisement for Messrs Ripleys Working Mens houses

copyright R L Walker 2014


Advert and reality

I need to put the copy of the front of the flyer here in order that no-one is deceived. I need to point out that the ‘advert’ on the flyer’s front page isn’t the one H W Ripley used to promote Messrs Ripleys scheme for building Workmen’s Dwellings in Bowling. A detail of the real document used is shown below  – and  just to really confuse you, the real one was issued on 15th November 1865.

Copy of upper portion and headlines of notice advertising Messrs Ripleys Schemme for building Workmen's Dwellings

In November 1866, H W Ripley was giving evidence to the Rivers Commission.  He was explaining, amongst other things, about how they dealt with effluent, the polluted scouring and dye water from Bowling Dyeworks before it went in Bowling Beck. (1)

The reason for this pretend, spoof advertisement is that it provides a brief summary. It gives a flavour of what was proposed for these Victorian Workmen’s Dwellings. It gives a sense of what H W Ripley was like. It hints at a few of reasons why the industrial model village of Ripley Ville was eventually built and starts to suggest how those might be different from the ideas behind Saltaire.

Time slips and ‘facts’

The advert deliberately slips between time perspectives. It also does what an advert does; it presents the ‘product’ the Ripley Ville houses in a good light. It uses the ‘facts’ :-

  • The houses were to be built in Bowling, on Messrs Ripleys land,
  • The architects were Andrews Son & Pepper.
  • The houses complied with and were in advance of the Borough’s Bye-law Regulations of 1860 and, in that they were not built on the back to back principle, they also exceeded the lesser standards of the Bradford Borough Bye-law of 1866.
  • The houses were in a plain Gothic style.
  • The intention was to put water-closets in all of them.
  • Ripley did regard the development as part of his own private estate and there is some evidence that access was gated.
  • Ripley did seek to promote initiatives of individual self-help, as ‘little capitalists’ or worker ownership of non-voting shares.
  • Ripley is quoted as saying he was ‘not a churchman’.

On the time shifts, further criticism of the advert would be that:-

  • It’s not clear that the new home owning classes would have referred to themselves by that term in the mid-to-late 1860s.
  • The new voting classes did not actually get to vote until November 1868, following the passage of the Second Reform Act. (The Representation of the People Act 1867 had been passed the previous year)

It is also not clear whether, when he instructed his architects to devise the plans for the houses in 1865, that H W Ripley had intentions that a school and school master’s house, church, vicarage and alms houses would follow. The village came about through both looking ahead and planning ‘on the hoof’. Two of the building were built for different sponsors. Only 196 of the 300 dwellings were eventually built. Plans were developed. Intentions were compromised. Whether water-closets were actually installed in the Workmens houses remains to be proved. (2)

So, imagine you are the Bradford area in November 1865 or 1866. Are you going to buy a Ripley Ville house or rent one in Saltaire?



(1)    Future posts on the blog will look, amongst other things, at:-

  • the Reports of the Rivers Commission on the Rivers Aire & Calder in 1866
  • the kinds of problems to which the Commission was trying to find answers
  • H W Ripley’s evidence to the Commission
  • What the Commissioners thought of what he told them.

(2)   Circumstantial evidence (a proposed sequence for the build, changes in the internal design for different blocks of housing as remembered by ex-residents) supports the idea that water-closets could have been installed in those houses built first. Building work started at the earliest in the Spring of 1866. Only ‘outline’ planning documents and architects specifications have so far been found. It is for this reason that the historical context for the scheme, including the Rivers Commission in November 1866 and the recent cholera outbreak in Bradford, are important.  Equally important is any documentary evidence of when the different phases of the build did actually occur or of what went into the build at each stage.


Ripleyville remembered : ‘Victorian’ poverty in the 1960s

My most recent post on Ripleyville in 1969, pre-demolition year, has as yet attracted no comments. It has been clear since this blog started that the life experiences of people who lived in the village could be very different.  What might be described as the happy babbling brook of those experiences have tended to dominate on this blog. Very little has been written by the women of the Villa; those who were girls, teenagers, young women or young mothers through the 1950s and 60s. Very little has been written on this blog by those who experienced hardship, though the book by Brian Mynott gives ample evidence that it existed.

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Not just bare feet

Aware of these gaps I have been haunted for much of latter part of the week and over the week-end by the account of Ripleyville in the 1960s that I heard in a chance meeting last week. This was with someone who worked with those who were suffering with mental health problems in ‘the Villa’ and who was shocked by conditions of ‘Victorian’ poverty seen there. So I asked them if they would write something for the blog. This what they wrote:-

My work in Ripleyville was as a young psychiatric social worker in 1960, working out from the Mental Health Service offices at 181A, Barkerend Rd, in the pre-Seebohm Report days when there was also a Children’s Dept and a Welfare Dept for the elderly; all separate services but regularly linking up.

I had a number of clients in Ripleyville and this was my first real experience of the level of deprivation in the poorest areas of Bradford.  Quite apart from the condition of the adults and the poor living conditions, it was the condition of the children which disturbed me most.  I’d always thought that young children without shoes with blue feet in mid winter had disappeared in Victorian times, but here it was in Ripleyville.  And children exhibiting pica by eating car batteries.


monochrome photograph two street children 1890 London

detail of a photograph taken with a hidden camera 1893 in Lambeth by Paul Martin

Many of my clients had unseen physical problems such as epilepsy, deafness, speech problems or minor physical defects which undermined their everyday functioning, in addition to their mental health difficulties.  Multi-Agency working was the norm.

Small wonder that I went on to a career with children and families.

My thanks to yet another person, this time someone coming to it from the outside, who are willing to share their experience of Ripleyville.

When I was talking to them they explained that the pica, the compulsion to eat batteries, was probably connected to the individual’s lack of minerals in their diet.

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The photographs by Nick Hodges in the Shelter Collection, showing people in their homes elsewhere in Bradford and a little later in the sixties, give an indication of the connection between poverty, poor housing conditions and personal circumstances. They can also suggest resilience and a very sorely tested personal dignity in the face of hardship – in some of the images.

More than Just Visiting : the ‘Villa’ 1969 and the Shelter Photographic Collection

Ripley Ville was the last of the Victorian industrial model villages to be built in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Built largely for H W Ripley between 1866 and 1881, it eventually contained; 196 Workmens Dwellings (some of which were used as shops), a schools building and a school master’s house, an Anglican church, a vicarage and 10 alms houses. It was built in Bowling on two sites; one to the north and one to the south of Bowling Dyeworks in south Bradford, near what later became Bowling Park.


This post comes to you in the same week as:-

The need for vigilance to ensure there are no further losses to what remains of Ripleyville, Bowling Dyeworks or the Victorian Heritage of this part of Bowling and in particular the Grade II listed Ripleyville almshouses could not be clearer.

If you care, sign up to the Heritage Matters campaign side bar right →

National Media Museum : More than Just Visiting

In a further attempt to leave no stone unturned in the search for information about the industrial model village of Ripley Ville, I returned last Monday to the National Media Museum, here in Bradford. It was to look at a selection of photographs taken by Nick Hedges in May 1969. He had been commissioned to take photographs by Shelter, the housing charity, as part of its campaign against the poor housing conditions that existed at that time. He also took photographs of improved municipal housing.

I was looking for photographs of people, streets or houses of Ripleyville, or the ‘Villa’ as it was known by residents. This was the year before the final demolition of what remained on its northern site. By 1969, this was the workmen’s houses and the ‘schools’ building which for a long time had been used as a rent office for the Ripley Trust and as a garage and maintenance yard.

Decline of Ripleyville

Residents from the late 1930s to early 1960s have fond memories of the ‘Villa’.

Ripleyville postwar from the air

Ripleyville : northern site from the air circa 1951. St Bartholomew’s Church towards bottom corner right. Rows of post-war pre-fabs behind Mill upper right. Hall Lane running to right edge. Bowling curve to btm edge. Image courtesy Phill Davison. See full size at

But by the mid-sixties, the church which provided a spiritual and culltural resource for the community had gone out of use, then fallen into disrepair and been partly demolished. The ‘Villa’ was in steep decline. A timeline for that decline can be traced through local newspaper reports. By 1969 the area’s sense of community as well as some of its houses were falling apart; the houses perhaps less so than the social fabric.

In September 1969 a report by Shelter that included Ripleyville amongst case studies of poor housing conditions was published. It added to pressure for a solution to a problem that had become progressively more embarrassing for those owning land and property, including Bradford Council and the Ripley Trust. There also seems to have been plans to take a new railway line straight through the middle of the village. Shelter’s claims in respect of Ripleyville were refuted. But, there is a sense in which a week in the glare of a national press spotlight made an incrementalist ‘make do and mend’ approach to the Villa’s physical and social fabric no longer tenable. Demolition would follow. Hence my interest in what the Media Museum’s Shelter Collection might hold.

St Bartholomew Church Ripleyville under demolition

St Bartholomew’s Church circa 1965 : photos courtesy Mick Watson

The Shelter Collection

Nick Hedges’ 1969 commission took him round cities and towns in England, Scotland and Wales. The National Media Museum has 900 images in its Shelter Collection. Sixty one of the photographs in the collection and by Nick Hedges are captioned as taken in Bradford. Listerhills and Manningham figure prominently. Other areas would be recognisable to those who lived in the city in the late 1960s. Street names recorded incidentally in the photograph or those more intentionally captured help identify other locales. For example:-

  •  A group photographed ‘at the back gate’ near Bower Green.
  • Newport Street and Newport Terrace in a photo captioned, The city is built on hill which run up from the central trough …’
  • Allen’s, No 105 in an unspecified street and an off-licence and herbalist offering ‘Harehound Brew’, Sasparilla and ‘Real Indian Pills’.
  • The chimney of H Hey & Co.
  • A photograph showing cards in the window of the Takhar Indo-Pak Estate Agency (Regd.) at 379 Leeds Road .  One of the cards is for 87 New Cross Street, BD5.

The images provided a fascinating glimpse of Bradford 55 years ago but the last of these images seems to be as close to BD4, Ripleyville or Bowling Dyeworks as the collection takes you. I cannot for certain say -‘none of the photographs were of ‘the Villa’ – only that I did not recognise any as such. Some photos featured interiors of property and others people in close up with fewer clues to their location.

This does lead to a number of questions.

If you were a resident in Ripleyville in May 1969 do you remember a photographer from Shelter visiting. Did you talk to anyone from Shelter?

Whether a resident of Ripleyville or not, did you read the Shelter report? Did you have a copy of it?

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Additional information

I was made aware of the photographs of the Shelter Collection through a Nick Hedges’ photograph taken in Sheffield that was in a small exhibition at the Media Museum featuring Yorkshire villages and towns that would be visited by ‘Le Tour’.

The photographs I viewed were on 5 contact sheets. As the selection below shows their description and captioning varies from the detailed to the more mundane or cryptic.

1983-5235/53 Estate Agent’s windows 1969-05 Gelatin silver print entitled ‘Estate Agent’s windows’.
1983-5235/54 Girls looking through wire mesh fence 1969-05 Gelatin silver print entitled ‘Girls looking through wire mesh fence’.
1983-5235/55 Patrick, Mrs B’s eldest boy 1969-05 Gelatin silver print entitled ‘Patrick, Mrs B’s eldest boy’.
1983-5235/56 Untitled 1969-05 Untitled and uncaptioned gelatin silver photograph taken in Bradford by Nick Hedges, May 1969.
1983-5235/57 Untitled 1969-05 Untitled gelatin silver print of a landscape showing chimney, water cooling tower, smoke and water vapour, photographed by Nick Hedges, May 1969
1983-5235/58 Untitled 1969-05 Untitled gelatin silver print of boys playing football on waste ground; chimney and cooling tower in background photographed by Nick Hedges, May 1969
1983-5235/59 Hill Terrace, Bradford 1969-05 Gelatin silver print entitled ‘Hill Terrace, Bradford’.
1983-5235/60 Within a mile of the City Centre 1969-05 Gelatin silver print entitled ‘Within a mile of the City Centre’.
1983-5235/61 Skipping school, nowhere to go 1969-05 Gelatin silver print entitled ‘Skipping school, nowhere to go’.

A selection of Nick Hedges photographs from the Shelter Collection will be going on a touring exhibition later in the year, starting in London.

My thanks to Rebecca Smith for making the photographs available and aiding my search.


1850s Lustrous Orleans : natural or dyed alpaca worsted?

Ripley Ville was the last of the Victorian industrial model villages to be built in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Built between 1866 and 1881, it contained; Workmens Dwellings, a schools building and a school master’s house, an Anglican church, vicarage and alms houses. It was built across two sites to the north and south of Bowling Dyeworks in Bowling to the south of Bradford near what later became Bowling Park.

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This post looks again at the relationship between Bowling Dyeworks and Salts Mill in the mid-Victorian period. This is a largely unexplored relationship but what went on between the two businesses may help us understand why the industrial model villages of Ripley Ville and Saltaire were built, how they compare and how they were paid for. Because you are probably in holiday mood or even on holiday the post also includes some photographs of alpacas. Most are of one being sheared. The more serious aim is to set up a series of questions about how the mixed worsted cloths called ‘lustrous Orleans’ were finished.  In the 1850s would the lustrous Orleans that used alpaca fibre have been dyed or not? Were Bowling Dyeworks and Messrs Ripley likely to have done the dyeing?


close up colour photograph of head of aplaca

Copyright R L Walker 2014

1850s Lustrous worsteds : natural or dyed alpaca fibre?

Salts Mill, Bowling Dyeworks and lustrous worsteds

Salts and lustrous Worsteds

Lustrous mixed worsted cloths of the mid-19th century that were produced in the Worsted District of Yorkshire used a lustrous fibre in the weft; commonly mohair, famously at Salts Mill alpaca or possibly angora, vicuna or other fibres. This was most commonly combined with a cotton warp to give the cloth strength. Aided by the fictionalised description given by Charles Dickens in ‘Household Words’, Titus Salt’s role in buying alpaca fibre at Liverpool Docks from ‘C W & F Foozle & Co’ and working out how to spin it are a staple of the Salts story and part of the folklore of the industrial model village of Saltaire  – just as they were in Worstedopolis (mid to late Victorian Bradford) a century and a half ago. (see Holroyd A, 1973,  pages 9-12)

Alpaca fibre has properties that make it attractive for many reasons. In the mid-nineteenth century it was its lustrous quality and ‘shades and tints, that led demand in womenswear and fashion cloths.

One of the best contemporary accounts, from Abraham Holroyd, makes this clear. (Holroyd A 1873 page 29)

From page 29, 'Saltaire and its Founder' Abraham Holroyd orig 1873, republished June 2000

From page 29, ‘Saltaire and its Founder’ Abraham Holroyd orig 1873

 Bowling Dyeworks and lustrous worsteds

The Bowling Dyeworks story and its mid century dominance in worsted dyeing was achieved in two-stages;

circa 1830s : black dyeing of mixed worsteds and most particularly bombazine or cloths of the range that mixed cotton warps and silk in the weft. (1)

circa 1840s : the dyeing of mixed worsteds in the piece (after weaving). This included the range of lustrous Orleans cloths as they were developed and became fashionable.

It is clear that by the early 1880s Bowling Dyeworks was majoring in dyeing mohair fibre and cloths. But what were they doing in the 1850s?

Continue reading →

Messrs Ripleys’ Scheme, the vote & a one shilling portrait

Ripley Ville was the last of the Victorian industrial model villages to be built in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Built between 1866 and 1881, it contained; Workmens Dwellings, a schools building and a school master’s house, an Anglican church, vicarage and alms houses. It was built across two sites to the north and south of Bowling Dyeworks in Bowling to the south of Bradford near what became Bowling Park.

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1856, February 1866 and November 1868. Three ‘firsts'; a studio portrait, having your name down for one of Messrs Ripleys’ Working-Mens Dwellings and, as a working man, being able to vote. This post brings together an advertisement for a commercial photographer with a studio in south Bradford from 1856, Messrs Ripleys’ re-promotion of their Scheme for Workmens Dwellings in February 1866 and those people who gave Ripley Ville as the place where their ownership or rental of property entitled them to vote in the 1868 General Election – for the first time and very probably for H W Ripley. The post lists, by name and address, 70 residents from the industrial model village of Ripley Ville who may have voted for the first time in that election.

Copy of upper portion and headlines of notice advertising Messrs Ripleys Schemme for building Workmen's Dwellings

First ‘first’

Re-promotion of Messrs Ripleys’ Scheme

There had already been a photographer’s studio near the junction of Caledonia Street and Wakefield Road, for ten years, when Messrs Ripley held their follow-up meeting in February 1866 to re-promote their Scheme for the building of a number of Working Men’s dwellings in Bowling. The plans for the Scheme, as submitted by the architects Andrews Son and Pepper, and for 254 houses, had been passed by the Borough council’s Building and Improvement Committee on January 24th 1866.  A December 1865 meeting had been anticipated. The ‘Notice’ now issued by Messrs Ripley scheduled the meeting for “Friday next [26th February], at 7 O’clock in the warehouse of the Patent Melange Works, Spring Mill Street.” (1)

 Portrait studio of Joseph Bottomley

The enterprising photographer – and grave-stone cutter – was a Joseph Bottomley. He had announced the commencement of the business and ‘the creation of “a gallery suitable for the occasion and convenient to the public …’, through an advertisement in Lund’s 1856 Trade Directory of Bradford – and no doubt elsewhere. Bottomley was offering a framed and coloured portrait for ‘from one shilling each, and upwards …’ His likenesses ‘taken and framed in a few minutes’, he warranted to ‘imitate life’.

monchrome scan of advertisement Continue reading →

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

Ripley Ville was the last of the Victorian industrial model villages to be built in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Built between 1866 and 1881, it contained; Workmens Dwellings, a schools building and a school master’s house, an Anglican church, vicarage and alms houses. It was built across two sites to the north and south of Bowling Dyeworks in Bowling to the south of Bradford near what became Bowling Park.

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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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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?

Continue reading →

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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