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

rediscovering Ripley Ville logo in claret and goldrRVblog logo claretandamber

An amazing attachment

No not a cat and budgie picture. No, not a heron and frog or some other improbable pair cuddling up – No, this was the 7 page document Peter Knowles e-mailed me earlier this week. “Time Team” step aside – This was a serious recreation of ‘the Villa’, 1950s to 1960s Ripleyville, or to put it more plainly this was detailed drawings of the 3 types of house built in Ripleyville, of adaptations done to the commercial properties, of the architectural punctuation in the rows of terraced houses (where the house were in left and right hand pairs, where the gables to the roofs were), a plan of the northern site of the village, house numbering, drainage, etc.

Are you registering what I am writing, people. This is three Christmases, Divali and Eid all in one! Now the drawings are in Draft form and the final images won’t be on this site next week or even before the end of the year. There is as yet no date for when this will happen.The drawings also need to be subject to serious scrutiny. And Peter has asked for help in verifying the content of the drawings.

All the same this is an amazing e-mail attachment with game-changing significance for the blog and south Bradford’s local history and of much wider significance in terms of how the story of industrial model village’s from the Victorian era can be understood and told.

1)  End Terrace Commercial Premises 2)  Cross Section Ripleyville house 3)  Architectural punctuation (Gabled roofs in roofs in red)

1) End Terrace Commercial Premises 2) Cross Section Ripleyville house 3) Architectural punctuation (Gabled roofs in red)


Peter’s drawings are game-changing because they connect what was built and still stood in the Villa in 1950s/60s through a set of architectural drawings back to what was originally built in Victorian Ripley Ville. They provide a very valuable link.

They don’t answer all the questions about Victorian Ripley Ville but they move the process of rediscovery on – a very long way.

What we really need to find now are the original drawings made by the architects Andrews Son & Pepper, so comparisons can be made.

As he writes in the attachment, Peter is also interested to find if there is any ‘brief’, in existence, to the architects about the houses. This would  nominally have been from ‘Messrs Ripley’ but in reality from Henry Wm Ripley or those acting directly for him.

This is likely to be the focus of rediscovering Ripleyville research over the coming months.

This does not mean that the all the little bits of stories that will make the Villa come alive are now not needed. It just means they can be slotted in like missing pieces of a mosaic – with the kind of information Peter has come up with and the original architectural plans providing a background structure for your Ripleyville stories, memories and queries.

Wider Significance

My judgement now would be that with the information Peter has and that I have managed to accumulate and with the diligence and co-operation of local and national archives  and others who are contributing to this blog, it would be possible to put together a book that would be comparable, for instance, to ‘Saltaire : the Making of a Model Town’ by Neil Jackson Jo Lintonbon and Bryony Staples (2010). I am writing that as a pointer to the significance of the information, rather than any proposal to do that.

Until this point there was always the possibility that what was planned at Ripley Ville; the time period and topic I have most thoroughly researched, would not reveal what was actually built. Peter’s drawings provide a way of projecting backwards what in probability was built.

Mind you we haven’t resolved the issue of the water closets in the cellar and I’m sure detailed examination of these drawings and of whatever drawings, illustrations or photographs that we can still find, will throw up other puzzles and ‘facts’  that don’t fit this theory or that.


last updated 2014/04/02


5 responses

  1. Hi Bob

    I tried to post a comment earlier but was called away to dinner by Setsuko. Please regard this as a re-send with some typos and omissions corrected.

    Thanks for re-publishing this old post. The document I sent you was at that stage a very rough draft but it proved very useful. It was widely discussed off blog by the “Gentlemen of Ripley Ville”. The discussions elicited valuable new information.

    In summary, this was that the contact 1 and 2 houses (Ripley Terrace and Vere Street) were all completed with internal WCs. Contract 3 houses were built without internal WCs – though when the contracts were advertised (Nov. 1866) they were planned to have them. The “change of plan” must have come very early in 1867 – before the cellars of contract 3 houses were much advanced. As built they could not have accommodated WCs. There were no windows in the cellar and the space intended for the WC was partly taken up by the redesigned staircase – which gave additional space to the kitchen. The reasons for this change of plan are still obscure.

    The off blog discussions also brought to light the evidence given on Tuesday 13th Nov 1866 by Bradford’s chief Engineer, Mr Charles Gott, to the Pollution of Rivers Commission. Mr Gott stated that of the 26,000 houses in the Borough, 13,000, i.e. 50% of the stock, did not have sole use of a privy. Only 1500 houses had a WC. – a mere 5.8 % of the housing stock. H.W Ripley’s plan for WCs in working class houses was therefore a bold advance at a time when WCs were an upper middle class preserve.

    I will take your hint about getting a move on with the Wiki – but every time I plan to work on it external events intervene.

    best wishes

    1. Hi Peter,

      It does look as though you and the Gentlemen of the Villa have been very occupied off-blog and off-project with really interesting results.

      That said, I think it is very important that we do not, in summary or for other reasons, gloss over what we do or do not know about Ripleyville – and how we ‘know’ what we ‘know’. So thanks for your sentence below on the process you followed with the ‘Gentlemen of the Villa’ to arrive at the drawings.

      I’m not sure, however, how that, of itself, led to the deductions about the contracts. What I can see is how vital the ‘Contracts to let’ information (‘When was Ripleyville Built?’, page 8) has been to you in identifying the time period when a change in plans for wcs in the different blocks of houses and contracts very probably happened.(Can you reference ‘When was Ripleyville Built?’ and page 8 in the body of the text in the wiki, Peter)

      Also as it appears on the wiki, your quote from Mr Gott looks like it is being used to stand up your argument for the time-frame of when things happened? – rather than to confirm the uniqueness of the water-closets’ installation in Working Mens housing. Your comment below is useful in that it goes some way in correcting that impression. Oh and you were referred by me, in the second Water closets Controversy post on this web-site, to the Rivers Commission as a possible source of context for a decision about the water-closets.

      I have put up the question about drying times for Victorian dwellings on the ‘Contributions : Can you help?’ page of the web-site because it may further narrow down the time-period for the installation of the wcs – or add supportive evidence for when it could have happened. I am also actively exploring if the wcs’ installation is likely to be the first of its kind in the UK for this class of house.

      Given all the hard work that has been put into producing them, I’m sure visitors to this web-site would be very pleased to see and comment on the improved drawings. The new Adding Content page tells you how to get them to me in a rediscovering Ripleyville friendly format. Ex-residents who have continued to find their way to this web-site over the last 6 months could also then add to the collective memory of how the various houses of the Villa were.


  2. Stanley Goulding | Reply

    Not sure if I am registered as. Friend of RipleyVille but my password does not work.
    Please let me know.



    1. Hi Stanley,
      Quite a lot of people seem to have missed it but there was a request some five months ago, on the web-site and by e-mail, for members to re-register. All passwords have been changed since then for security reasons. Membership will not only give you access to premium posts like those on the Water-closet Controversy but also more details on project plans like those to test if we can do a Community Heritage survey for the Ripleyville and Bowling Dyeworks sites. So can you up-date your registation please Stanley?


      1. I should have mentioned the new Ripleyville facebook page and Skydrive facility that members and Friends of Ripleyville will be able to use.


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