Archive Fridays; Water supply & water use in west Bowling 1865-1871

Copyright R L Walker 2014. All rights reserved (see sidebar right→)

Baths, brewing, brick-making, building a Church, fire-hoses, piggeries, plastering, a public drinking fountain, smoke-houses, stables, water-closets, urinals, ‘1 horse, 2 cows and a duck pond’. This post is about water supply and use in Victorian south Bradford. It gives an update on some of the research I have been doing in Bradford Archives most Fridays over the last couple of months. The significance of Victorian Ripley Ville as an industrial model village and as an example of Working Men’s housing rests largely on the question of whether water-closets were installed. If they were this would be of national significance. In spite of a claim to the contrary, which has appeared on the internet, this question has not been resolved. The research I have been doing has the aim of finding archival evidence for or against the installation of water-closets –  from the time when it was supposed to have happened.


The scope of the research has been fairly wide but targeted as to dates and location. It has been on water supply, water use and domestic and industrial sewerage management -and the lack of it – in Bradford  between 1865 and 1871. Particular attention has been given to Bowling in south Bradford and the area around where Ripley Ville was built and in which it was built. The time period includes the year in which the Ripleys’ Scheme for building Workmens’ Dwellings in Bowling was announced (15th November 1865) through to the period after a start was made on building the Church of St Bartholomew in Ripley Ville. (1)

This post covers water supply and use during this period and provides a background and context for the installation/non-installation of the water-closets.

plan of basements ripley ville

Plan of basement of one of Messrs Ripleys’ Workmens Dwellings showing W C. Detail from architects drawings 1865 as submitted for building consent. Source : West Yorkshire Archives.

A follow-up post will look at the industrial and domestic sewerage of Bradford in the two years up to 1867. It will include findings from the Reports of the Rivers Commission published in August 1867. This is when the bulk of the Workmen’s Dwellings of the industrial model village of Ripley Ville were likely to have been built for Messrs Ripley. H W Ripley gave evidence to the Commission on what was done at Bowling Dyeworks to prevent pollution of Bowling Beck. His testimony also has direct relevance to the Workmen’s Dwellings of Victorian Ripley Ville because in it he reaffirmed his intention,

against and in advance of the common practice of the day, to have water-closets installed in all 300 of them.(2)

Archive Fridays

Water Supply and Water Use 1865-1871 with special reference to Bowling and Ripley Ville area.

My Fridays in the Bradford branch of West Yorkshire Archives, in its new base on the ground floor of the old central library, have been a mixture of;

  • the grueling – checking and re-checking through 100s of pages of manuscript documents
  • the insightful,
  • the tantalising
  • the disappointing – two archive documents listed in the collections catalogue could not be found.
  • and a ‘bingo’ moment now and again to keep me motivated.

para separator 1 V Findings

In brief, readings so far have revealed: –

  1. Potentially significant but conflicting findings related to the running of Bowling Waterworks by H W Ripley between 1865 and 1868
  2. Supporting evidence that Cordingley & Peel were the builders of the Church of St Bartholomew in Ripley Ville (refs : NB2008703 & NB2007801)
  3. The clustering of contracts for plastering of domestic property early in the month of May in Bradford in 1866 & 1867
  4. Information on owners of properties in west Bowling in the late 1860s. Mostly small landlords, these include H W Ripley’s continuing ownership of workmen’s ‘cottages’ outside Ripley Ville (ref : NB2012001)
  5. Insights into the distribution and use of water-closets and urinals in Bradford businesses, warehouses and private dwellings including those in west Bowling and of people with connections to Bowling Dyeworks, or living in the vicinity of Ripley Ville

and much more besides.


The next section takes each of these points in turn and comments on them.

1.  Water supply to Ripley Ville Workmen’s Dwellings

This finding requires follow-up research to resolve the contradictions (refs : NB2012802, NB2006101- 03 & NB2202701-03301) and, if possible to determine;

  • who was supplying water for the building of the Ripley Ville houses up to the time they were occupied?
  • what changes may have occurred in supplier and when they occurred  during the village’s building?

The building specification, provided by the architects Andrews Son & Pepper in 1865 when they applied for building consent, indicates that the Workmens’ Dwellings would be supplied with ‘Town or Ripleys’ water’.

2.  Builders/Contractors for St Bartholomew’s Church, Ripley Ville

St Bartholomews (Hird Street (from Ellen Street) Hall Lane

St Bartholomews Church at the top end of Hird Street. Image courtesy Graham Hall via Jeff Halmshaw.

I prefer to have at least three pieces of evidence before being convinced that historical information is useable particularly if I am publishing to print and this is not a first draft, like many of the posts on this web-site are. That Cordingley & Peel might be the builders of the Anglican Church of St Bartholomew in Ripleyville is reported in newspaper accounts of the time. I tend in general to distrust single newspaper articles.

This confirmation is from an entry in a Bradford Borough register for use of town water for ‘building a church’. The application was made by Cordingley & Peel. So far, so good but the entry does not name the Church. Using the date in the register, the Catholic Church of St Ann in Broomfields and Anglican Church of St Bartholomew in Ripley Ville are the two candidates. So this is further bits of evidence in favour of Cordingley & Peel’s involvement in building (or as contractors?) for St Bartholomew’s. Evidence from a third and more specific source would be useful.

3.  Seasonality in Plastering work

The clustering (e.g. refs : NB2008903-06) gives support to the idea of a seasonality in plastering work in 1860s Bradford and when Ripley Ville was built. This may feed into judgements about the phases and time periods during which the building of the Workmen’s houses was taken forward.

4 (i)  H W Ripley as landlord

H W Ripley’s ownership of domestic property extended to cottages, some of which were built as a speculation by his father Edward Ripley, ‘John Wood and others’, in proximity to St James church towards the bottom of Manchester Road. The properties, near Adelaide Street, had been held by the family from before the time of the Chartist riot of 1848. The riot culminated in the decisive confrontation of Chartists, who took refuge in Adelaide Street and the mix of police, volunteers and dragoons who sought to arrest them. Living conditions in neighbouring properties, in Nelson Court, had been identified as some of the most objectionable in the Woolcombers Report of the early 1840s and their inhabitants recorded as in abject destitution. There is, however, some reason to believe that Edward Ripley may have been a more compassionate man than his son. He may also have been, at least initially, more dependent on the rents. The listings of 26 properties in March 1868 (ref : NB2012001) also include cottages on Mill Lane owned by H W Ripley. The rentals were between £5 to £9 a year. This is cottage property at the lower but not lowest end of the rental market. Another document identifies a further 4 properties on Birch Lane. So at the same time as he was having model housing built Ripley was retaining ownership and extracting rents for domestic property of an earlier build and lesser standard.

The significance of the findings is in its confirmation of Henry Wm Ripley’s power, as an intending electoral candidate. This was diffused through a broad swathe of the West-end of Bowling. (3) Almost hydra-headed it extended down; to those of the lower orders renting houses, those securing a supply of gas or water to their homes, or seeking employment directly with Edward Ripley & Son or through them. Above this it extended to those entrepreneurs or small manufacturers seeking workspace, motive power and associated utilities (water and gas) in Ripleys Mills. The largesse, from H W Ripley’s ‘superfluity’, that aided the building of schoolrooms, churches and chapels and larger contributions to Bradford Infirmary, its Mechanics Institute, all of which also saw him invited as benefactor to many social gatherings, added gloss to that power.

west Bowling 1871 Streets & Landmarks

west Bowling : a detail from Dixon’s 1871 map of Bradford showing streets and landmarks additional to Ripleys Mills, Ripley Ville and Bowling Dyeworks.

4 (ii) Population, property &  development in Victorian west Bowling

The range of documents so far consulted provide sample information on people and their property in west Bowling and of landlords and in some cases tenants for e.g. Manchester Road, Bowling Old Lane, Birch Lane, Caledonia Street, Mill Lane, Hall Lane, Bailey Street, Ellen Street & Lavinia Street, It also helps to map new building developments like those of Calcutta Street and Tennant Street in what became known as Little India in west Bowling (refs : NB2013802&03 and NB2011803).

Other complimentary information is available from the Burgess Rolls for Bowling (ref :  BB 001-091).

4 & 5  Water use and life in Worstedopolis and west Bowling


Of a morning – and through the night – some parts of Victorian Bradford would have smelled strongly of smoke-houses and herrings variously prepared for that day’s customers. In other parts the air would carry the smell from the hops, malt and barley of its small brewhouses like that of George Crabtree, described as a ‘publican’, ‘Broomfields’ and using water for ‘brewing’ (ref : NB2009402). (4)

In yet other places the washing down of horses and hansom cabs and carriages would have been witnessed daily. Consumption of the town’s water had to be monitored. When it was agreed to supply free water to a drinking fountain on Vicar Lane it was to be done ‘in a manner satisfactory to the [Bradford] Waterworks Manager’ (ref : NB2004505).

Victorian west Bowling

Nearer Ripley Ville,  on Caledonia Street,  E P Duggan had a piggery and stables with three horses (ref : NB2007303). B Berry & Sons on Hall Lane was registered for use of a ‘washhand basin and fire hose’. The above were relatively small consumers. None had a metered supply like the Soapworks of Benjamin Murgatroyd on his Woodroyd estate (ref : NB2011802) or John Baxandall at his farmhouse on Bowling Old Lane.  Below both of these were the individual consumers and their household, like Francis Lee at 1 Bailey St in March 1868 or the shop with living quarters like that of W Appleyard on Ellen St (ref : NB2013004)

Samuel Pearson & Son

At different periods, Samuel Pearson & Son provide examples of all three types of water supply and use. At the ‘New Seven Stars in Bowling’ they had a metered supply for the purpose of ‘Lime Blacking’ (ref : NB2011402)  Their offices and stables off Mill Lane and where, in early 1868, they kept 7 horses and a two-wheel carriage were unmetered (ref : NB2012203). It is unclear how water was made available to their brickworks just south of Mill Lane (see map).


Source unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply

In 1871, George Pearson, the son who would take over the Pearson’s firm of building contractors, was living on Hall Lane, just up the road from these offices and works in Broomfields. The house was probably 233 Hall Lane and within sight of the new church of St Bartholomew begun in that year. His well appointed house had both a water-closet and bath (ref : NB2008705).

Earlier, in 1868, he was paying rates of £24 per annum for a house, without such amenities on Upper Lavinia Street within site of what by then was built or being built on Ripley Ville’s northern site.

Worstedopolis : Water-closets & urinals

Incidental to my research I can also say that in 1870, if you were at the premises of Simon Israel & Co in Vicar Lane, you could have had use of any of 5 water-closets and, if you were male, of 5 urinals (ref : NB2007305). The warehouse of Leo Schuster on the corner of Charles Street and Brook Street was similarly provided (ref : NB2007705). Bradford’s Mechanics Institute visited by many more people offered use of 8 water-closets, 15 urinals and washing apparatus (ref : N2B007004). According to records read, water-closets and/or urinals could in addition be found in Gentleman’s Tailors, Refreshment Rooms, photographers, schools and railway stations in the Victorian Bradford of the 1860s and early 1870s. It is as yet unclear if any public urinals were available (X ref NB2004204).


Design for a gas-lit public urinal c 1860 Source unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply.

Photographers Galleries or Studios

By 1873 the most renowned of Bradford’s photographers, Appleton & Co, on Manningham Lane also had their own water-closet (ref : NB2003101). This was something neither John Blakeborough of Godwin St (ref : NB2007005), Walker & Co on East Parade (ref : NB2014201) H A Holbrook & Co on Godwin Street, John Bottomley on Market Street (ref NB2008704), nor Andrew Wilson on Carlisle Road (ref : NB2003101), all photographers, had at their premises.

The water-rate charged to the owner of such premises by Bradford Waterworks and now run by Bradford Borough Council ?

In 1863 it had been set at ‘five shillings per annum for one urinal and two shillings and six pence for each additional one’ for ‘warehouses, offices and other commercial premises’ (ref : NB2004101).

These kinds of incidentals to research both people and bring to life Bradford’s mid-Victorian world.

The second of these sets of incidentals, on urinals and water-closets, also help to provide a context for H W Ripley’s intention in 1865, re-affirmed in November 1866, to install water-closets in all the Workmen’s Dwellings of what would become Ripley Ville; the old Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village. They also help justify his pride in installing water-closets in all his works built from the 1850s onwards.

and much more

The ‘and much more ‘refers to:-

additional information on what Bradford Borough Council was doing:-

  1. to improve the availability of water through building new reservoirs and their effective maintenance (Doe Park, Chellow Dean & Barden) and finding new sources of supply (e.g refs.; NB2005605, NB2005701, NB2006004))
  2. in enforcing the connection of individual domestic dwellings in Bowling to the mains supply from mid 1866 onwards (refs : N2007402 & others)
  3. in expanding supply beyond the Borough’s boundaries (e.g refs : N2007401, NB2004404-05, NB2004902-03, NB2005303)

and additional information on builders and plasterers and the sites and buildings on which they were working in approximately the same period.

The latter adds evidence for the relative decline after the mid-1860s in the size and importance of the contracts won by the Moulsons in the Borough – though they were building ‘the Literary Institute’ on North Parade in Bradford – and of the advance of both Samuel Pearson & Son and the firm of Archibald Neil as major contractors (e.g ref : N2009102-04).

And finally

Wilson Sutcliffe and Upper Burnett Fields

Black and white photograph of Wilson Sutcliffe

In 1867 Wilson Sutcliffe gave his address as Bowling Dyeworks when registering to vote (ref :BB00901). In the autumn of 1868 he was appointed managing partner at Edward Ripley & Son. The appointment was made at least in part to free up H W Ripley from his responsibilities at Bowling Dyeworks so Ripley could run for election and if elected have the time to carry out his duties as a Bradford M.P. Early in 1868 Wilson Sutcliffe registered for the supply of water for a house and farm buildings at Upper Burnett Fields by meter (ref : N2013401). In 1873 he added to this a registration for a substantial house in its own grounds merely identified as in ‘Burnett Fields’. I assume these are the same property. As the map of 1882 below shows ‘Upper Burnett Fields’ was to the east of Manchester Road and south of Marsh Street. (5)

In 1873, it needed water for 3 water-closets, a bath, 1 horse, 2 cows and a duckpond! (ref : N2003301)


The road left with the solid black line running down it is Bowling Old Lane. The wide road curving to its east (left) is Manchester Road. The dots and dashes mark Low or Claw Beck which was the old boundary of the out-township of Bowling and Bowling Ward. Detail from ‘Plan of the Borough of Bradford’ by B Walker 1882


(1)  Some documents have been followed through to 1873

(2)  Only 196 Workmens Dwellings were eventually built.

(3)  The terms ‘East-end’ and ‘West-end’ of Bowling are used by William Cudworth (1891) and seem to have come into use after the building and opening, between 1848 and 1850, of the Bradford and Halifax branch of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. Together with the development of housing and industry to its west, particularly in ‘the growing neighbourhood of Bowling Old Lane’, the building and operation of the railway line appears to have added to a sense of separation and for the need in the 1850s to distinguish two ‘Bowlings’.

(4) The nearer you got to Bowling Dyeworks or down-wind of it, the more the smells of its various industrial processes would dominate. See interesting article page 2 ‘Chasing the sixpence’ in October 2014 ‘Saltaire Sentinel’ about the smell of chemicals on dye-workers’ clothes a hundred years later.

(5)  The site would be near the present position of Hastings Place in what is now known as Marshfields.


The numbers in brackets are index numbers. They refer to an item or items in my research notes. These give access to a full reference for a document in the archives used – in this case from Bradford Archives.


A full bibliography will be included at the time of the follow up post on the Rivers Commission and their Reports.

This post is being updated as new information becomes available.

R L (Bob) Walker copyright 2014 & 2015

last updated 2015/11/06


One response

  1. Thank you sending me about the water works

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