Delving into History & rRV Membership

Copyright R L (Bob) Walker 2012-2015. All rights reserved. (See sidebar left)

The first part of this post picks up on Graham Wilkinson’s comment about ‘delving into history’ and outlines an idea for a Victorian history and heritage project for Bowling, south Bradford. The second explains the present and likely future position on Membership of the rRV project and for people who have signed up as ‘Friends’ of ‘rediscovering Ripleyville’. Looking towards the future, the post ends on a positive note.

Ripleyville buildings composite 2014

Images courtesy:- Sheffield University, Local Studies : Bradford Libraries & Jeff Halmshaw. Composite R L Walker 2014


Delving into History

Graham Wilkinson’s recent comment and his use of the verb ‘delve’ took me back to where I was in my head, pre-A&E, in November last year. I had spent some time playing around with some ideas about how to promote and celebrate the 150th anniversary of when Ripley Ville was founded. They were in the search for answers to the question;

“What project might capture the interest of people living and working in present day West Bowling and help promote learning about Ripley Ville, Bowling Dyeworks, the area’s Victorian past and its heritage?”

For all sorts of reasons (e.g encouraging individual and self managed group action, low cost, ‘public’ displays – and that something similar worked with the Grand Depart part of last year’s Tour de France) I had started to focus down on the idea of a ‘Three Spades’ Victorian History and Heritage project.

‘Three Spades’ Victorian History and Heritage Pr0ject

The idea would be for local people and groups to make and put on a display or exhibit for their windows, their front yards, community or public spaces. These would about what they knew or had learned about the local area’s Victorian History and Heritage. The displays would be themed around ‘Three Spades’ – the physical equivalents of Le Tour’s bicycles.


Colour image of modern coking shovel

This is one of a number of coking shovels bought in 1981 for a tool bank and loaned for snow clearing in West Bowling – as part of a community enterprise project based on portakabins on Little Cross Street. Copyright R L (Bob) Walker 2015


Why Spades?

At the time, when thinking about spades or shovels, I wasn’t thinking so much about ‘digging into or delving into history’ as digging foundations for the Ripleyville houses. Interestingly, ‘delf’, a common word in the mid 19th century was applied to local quarries around Bradford where building contractors got their stone. So whether for digging or delving into history or used to do the manual work to shift coal, bring in water and gas pipes, build the roads, railways and bridges, Mills, reservoirs, sewer systems, schools, Gentlemen’s villas or workpeople’s cottages of Victorian Bowling, ‘spades’ fit the bill.

A spade is not a spade.

The theme also allows broader creative interpretations of a ‘spade; basically it could be anything remotely spade shaped – from Victorian carpet beater to short-handled ice scoop.


Carpet beater

Ice scoop

So, it could be (and these are just my ideas):-

  • a shovel for stoking a mid 1850s steam-engine on the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway line,
  • an iron, or wooden peel for putting bread into and taking it out of an oven,
  • a paddle for manually stirring a small dye-vat (in Bowling Dyehouse?),
  • a mason’s trowel for building a back to back house on Bowling Old Lane or the Ripleyville almshouses
  • a mash stick for beer or ale making at a local brew house, like the Red Ginn
  • a wooden pat for making butter in a Victorian home
  • or (getting back to Graham W’s comment) a spade for digging in the allotments in Ripley Road near the workmen’s houses on the northern site of the industrial model village of Ripley Ville.

Choice of media

The exhibit/display could be a collage, patchwork quilt or woven article or use other media showing such items or other spade like tools or implements and how they were used in the Victorian period. The spades would be the link to how the Victorians in general, or particular Victorians in Bowling lived their lives.

Colour scheme

The sets of three spades would need to have a standard colour scheme. That way, when used as a symbol, project logo or exhibit item its links to the overall project would be clear – like the Tour’s bicycles all being yellow.

Colour image yellow tricycle. Two wheels at front box with yellow lid lid between them

Promotional event for ‘Le Tour’ in Shipley Market Square. Copyright R L (Bob) Walker 2014

Given Bradford City football team’s continuing success and the link the the rRV logo, claret and amber would seem, to me, to have a good claim on 2 of the spades’ colours.  The additional colour, or colours, could be left up to individuals or groups.


So this was what was in my head, being mulled over in October and November last year. The attraction of the idea was that it might not require a lot of organisation from the centre by rRV. Individuals, groups and organisations with an interest in the local area’s Victorian history and heritage – whether a school project, reminiscence group or someone doing a house or family history – could pick up on the idea and run with it and take it where they wanted. They could then badge it with the three spades. In my head the badge was three different kinds of spades side by side, splayed – a bit like Prince of Wales feathers but celebrating men, women and children’s work and activities rather than privilege!

Other ideas & resourcing

This seemed an idea more likely to catch fire in Bowling than, for instance, a Community Heritage Survey based on the highly successful project being taken forward in Shipley by the ‘Friends of Northcliffe‘. Copying Northcliffe was an idea shared amongst a few people connected to the rediscovering Ripleyville project earlier last year. I’m not sure Bowling has the volunteering capacity Shipley has, nor that it has a group like Friends of Northcliffe. Ideas for looking at Victorian and more recent migration histories in Bowling have also been batted about. Some people have also suggested that a version of the “Community Profile of Greater West Bowling” for 1991 that I was involved in compiling, should be put on-line.

There are clearly resources needed for getting any of these ideas off the ground. Some like the Community Heritage Survey would require more organisation from the centre and more funding within a single central project than the ‘Three Spades’ idea might.

My A&E misadventure meant, however, that the ‘Three Spades’ idea stayed to a very large part in my head.  But, now, its out there.

Comments please

So, what do you think?

Want to know more?

The comment box is there for your ideas and responses.


rRVlogorRVproject symbol

rRV Membership & Friends of Ripleyville

People are continuing to use the Friends of Ripleyville sign up form in the side column right. My thanks to those who continue to show their interest in the web-site and project. Please feel free to do this – but read the section below too.

The Friends of rediscovering Ripleyville membership form was introduced for a number of purposes. Two stand  out. These were;

  • to find supporters for the rediscovering Ripleyville project
  • to offer benefits to people who became ‘members’ of rediscovering Ripleyville


A hope was that supporters signing up would be able to offer practical support; the idea was to get a small project steering group together. All sorts of claims are made for the organising power of the internet. The experience of the last two years for rediscovering Ripleyville and this site would seem to put question marks against many of those claims. From where I am sitting now, the conclusion would be that there is no substitute for face to face contact and local people on the ground getting together regularly to make local projects happen.

In the coming months, the prime focus for the rRV project, organisationally, will again be directed to getting a project steering group of local people together.

Membership & Benefits

A benefit offered to Friends of Ripleyville as members of the rRV web-site and project was access to the Members Area and to password-protected posts. This has not really worked. The present system requires the e-mailing of passwords for each individual post to each member. This is time consuming to administer and over-complex for ‘Friends’ to use. I know you’ve told me!

The benefit was, also, offered without any conditions of use or requirement of Friends to commit themselves to rRV project aims. Two years ago when the benefit was first offered project aims were still relatively fuzzy.

All of this needs sorting out; more so now 95% of posts are password protected and some parts of web-pages inaccessible. However, for the avoidance of misunderstanding, I need to say that I do not see this being done in the next three months, i.e. before June 1st  – at the earliest. This is if personal and project resources and priorities remain as they are.

A previous post started to make clear what the conditions of use for Members and Friends are likely to be. It also makes clear the sort of actions that are unfriendly or worse, where the rediscovering Ripleyville project acts within a Social Enterprise model. The conditions of use themselves need to be regularised, shorter, simple and clear.

I have started to do this with the revised copyright statement at the top of the side bar right →

This is an appropriate variant of that recommended by

On a positive note

A follow-on post will be listing actions taken and some of the movement towards resolving a number of these issues.

Recent events in Bradford and Saltaire also give reasons for optimism. They show that the way the Victorian history and heritage of our local area is presented may be beginning to change.

Even a small pebble thrown in a large pond causes ripples.


Copyright R L Walker 2015. All rights reserved.


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