Victorian Ripley Ville : Getting the Best & Doing it Right

Copyright R L (Bob) Walker 2015. All rights reserved. See side bar right →

A previous post on this blog stated that the research needed in rediscovering Ripley Ville was not ‘in any way complete [nor is] what is out there on the internet or in print … adequate to telling the story of Victorian Ripley Ville.’

The proposed new web-sites; and, will be aiming to improve what this project offers about the old Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village. This post develops the points about

  • research
  • content now on offer on the internet

It deals in particular with content available about Ripleyville on Wikipedia in comparison with the blog posts and pages on this rediscovering Ripleyville (rRV) web-site. The post’s focus is on the content on the Wikipedia site about Ripleyville’s Working Mens houses and on this rRV site and the Wikipedia site about the village’s original Victorian Vicarage. Issues of transparency and best practice in arriving at the Ripleyville story are raised on both topics.  The post’s overall message is that for Victorian Ripley Ville this web-site leads, while Wikipedia follows.

Getting the Best 1

To the extent that resources allow, the rediscovering Ripleyville project and this web-site try to get the best version of the Ripley Ville story in front of readers.


The first of the rediscovering Ripleyville booklets,’When was Ripleyville built?’ was written in that spirit. One of that booklet’s criticisms (Walker R L, 2008, page 4) was that previously existing accounts, all until then in print, were inaccurate or had glossed the story of Ripley Ville. The booklet made a detailed examination of historical evidence from the mid 1860s to clear up a hundred years of confusion on the basic question of when Ripleyville was built. It gave evidence (pages 13 to 15) that a start was not made on building Ripley Ville until Spring 1866. A start date of 1864 was until then most usually given.(1)

On page 25, the ‘When was Ripleyville built?’ booklet concludes;

‘ This booklet re-dates the building of Ripley Ville. It places the village in its later local and national context. Had its buildings stood, had earlier scholarship corrected its misdating, then it would have changed how it and its sponsor [Henry Wm Ripley] could be viewed and how its story could be told. Rediscovered, correctly dated, the challenge is to do the village justice now and to secure for it appropriate recognition in the future.’

That sentiment was carried forward 40 months later in the very first blog-post on this site, titled, Doing justice by ‘The Villa’. It is a sentiment that can only be achieved through continuous improvement – getting the best version that you can.

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Doing it right

Getting the best version of the Ripleyville story that you can involves doing the research right. This includes being open and transparent about what you have done or are doing to arrive at your history of Ripley Ville.

Early Collaboration

Contributions in telling the Ripleyville story, later transferred to the Wikipedia article, and initiatives taken forward by Peter Knowles in putting together information later appearing in the Wikipedia article have been recognised and were  praised when they first appeared on this web-site. (2)

Composite of early drafts of drawings and plans provided by Peter Eltham Knowles to rRV web-site in 2012 and published in the ‘Amazing Attachment’ post.

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)

Other contributors of content on this rRV site, such as Gordon Brook, Lesley Lowther, Graham Austin, Mick Watson, have their names ‘up in lights’ under the sub-heading ‘Beyond the Comment Box’ on the ‘Adding Content‘ page on this site.

After 3 years of blogging, this is likely to be the last major post to this rRV site. It is in part a review of the past three years and of where we are now with the rediscovering Ripleyville story. It sets out the challenges for the year ahead.

Content & Process

This post compares content available via Wikipedia with the blog posts and pages on this rediscovering Ripleyville web-site. It starts by identifying where, as at week ending 2015/04/11, the Wikipedia article on Ripleyville was adequate and better than adequate to the task. It then looks critically at the article and gives examples of where it either falls below the highest standards, or it is unclear whether it has met them. Issues of transparency and best practice in arriving at the Ripleyville story are raised. The post’s main focus is on content on the Wikipedia site about Ripleyville’s Working Mens houses and on both this site and the Wikipedia site about Ripley Ville’s original Victorian Vicarage.

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This image appears on the rRV site and in the Wikipedia article.

What are its origins? Was it published? Where did it appear first?

Image of imposing frontage of Victorian vicarage with double gabled roof and central front door

St Bartholomew’s Vicarage also known as Bowling Park Vicarage date unknown

For answers go to section on Victorian Ripley Ville below

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On the Ripley Ville houses it raises concerns about the process for arriving at the drawings on the Wikipedia site. The post also takes the opportunity to correct potential misunderstandings where the Wikipedia article mentions this site and goes ‘footnote to footnote’ with it to show how the Wikipedia article muddies the waters on the story of Victorian Ripleyville and hides its debt to this site (see in particular footnote 14 below).

The overall message of this post is that for Victorian Ripley Ville the rRV web-site leads, while Wikipedia follows. The successor web-sites, in plan, are being designed to maintain that leading role.

Wikipedia : Ripleyville and ‘the Villa’ pre-demolition

Like the Curate’s egg, the Wikipedia article is good in parts.

The account that it carries of Ripleyville’s later years and the period immediately before and leading up to its demolition are good additions to the page and post on this web-site that deal with this period.(3)

The article contains the information of the very real threat posed by the plan by the Midland Railway to take a line through the centre of the village. The planning blight caused by the plan and the transfer of Ripley Trust properties to Bradford council severely disrupted community ties and added to problems of disrepair. Information about the Midland Railway plan was provided by Peter Knowles and featured in October 2012 in a post on this site.(4)

Elsewhere, considerable depth of understanding is shown on the topology, geology and industrial infrastructure of the area in which the northern site of Ripleyville and Bowling Dyeworks were built.  The lie of the land and its impact on the way the village was laid out and on roads and buildings are important. Similarly knowledge of what lay beneath the land, in minerals and water, and what was done to extract, move and use these over time and supplement them with a gas supply, drainage and sewage pipes, help to set the village both in in its physical landscape and in relation to piped services. The lie of the land influenced architectural continuities (e.g architectural punctuation) and the visual impact of the finished scheme (e.g the tiered aspect of the rows of terraces). The variations between earliest plans and what was built  indicate that it provided challenges in building and delivering what was intended for the northern site.

It needs to be noted, however, that physical factors did not determine the 7 types of buildings built (‘workmens’ houses, shops, schools building, schoolmaster’s house, Anglican church, vicarage and alms houses). It did not determine how they were built (e.g. choice of Gothic architecture for all buildings, grid of roads at right angles) or where the village was built (H W Ripley owned other local sites). The article tends to treat the physical geography and topology as determining more than it did. Another regret is that the article omits the southern site from this section of its story.

The internet based searches of newspaper archives that lie behind the paragraphs about the village’s active social life in the 1870s and the role of the Rev Cunningham are interesting and informative.  From the perspectives of religion, politics and the strata of Victorian society and of these in this part of south Bradford in the 1870s, the passage is, however, a little rosey-hued and under-nuanced. (see footnotes, 11, 13 & 14 below)

Wikipedia :  plans, elevations, section drawings of the ‘Workmens Dwellings’ of Ripleyville.

The Wikipedia article is better than good in some parts.

The work at the Wikipedia article’s core is of particular interest for the ‘rediscovering Ripleyville’ project, the history of Victorian industrial model villages of the old ‘Worsted District’ and improving Bradford’s heritage offer.  This is the work contributed to by ex-residents of Ripleyville to ‘remember’ what the internal arrangements and external appearances of the different Ripleyville houses were like in the 1960s. Illustrations, plans, cross-sectional drawings and elevations have been derived from these reminiscences. The Wikipedia article provides a sample of these sectional and scale drawings and illustrations, together with descriptions of the inside and outside of the different types of houses. These are very good on structural detail, materials used, internal measurements, arrangements of rooms, and fitments for the three types.(5) 

This positive evaluation extends to the Wikipedia article’s paragraph on the church of St Bartholomew.

The article goes on to discuss how houses of different types, size, accommodation and design might have compared to Victorian ‘workmens’ housing built in Bowling. before the Ripleyville houses. Houses in close proximity to the northern site of the village are used. (6)

Lack of transparency in process for arriving at drawings of the houses of the Villa

There is, however, a lack of transparency in this part of the Wikipedia article. It does not give sufficient detail of the process or processes used to arrive at the scale drawings and illustrations. A brief gloss on the process is given. Mysteriously this seems to implicate this rediscovering Ripleyville web-site. I will deal with this first. Under ‘Sources of information’ the article starts with the sentences;

In 2011 R.L Walker established a website “Rediscovering Ripley Ville”. The site has stimulated interest in the history of Ripley Ville and the dye works. Several of the “guest posts” are by former residents of Ripley Ville, who have provided copies of rare photographs.

All three of these statements need their own separate response. Starting from where there is some agreement and moving to where a statement is plain wrong, the responses are:

Responses A

A1     Rare copies of photographs have indeed been made available to this site by ex-residents of Ripleyville – and by non-residents. Others have been traced through my own research and contacts. Contributions are always welcome and always fully acknowledged.

A2     Probably the rarest photographs contributed so far by a Ripleyville ex-resident are those from Graham Austin. These have been given prominence on this site and can be seen in a composite image on the ‘Ripleyville 1936-1970 : More than a Memory‘ page under ‘Family Connections, Vere St photos and the Co-op shop…’ Non-residents contributing include Mick Watson, Graham Hall, Jeff Halmshaw and others.

A3     A small number of edited posts compiled from the reminiscences of more than one ex-resident about life in the village have appeared on this site. Depending on definition 6 or at most 9 ‘guest-posts’ have appeared over the web-site’s three year existence and the 94 posts and 18 pages on the web-site. Four of the ‘guest-posts were written by Peter Eltham Knowles. On a widen definition this rises to six which were in large part contributed to by Peter.

A4     In addition to stimulating interest in the history of Ripley Ville and of Bowling Dyeworks, this site has been at the forefront in researching and setting the agenda for research into the village’s Victorian history. With help it has uncovered detailed biographical information on Edward and Henry William Ripley, members of the Murgatroyd and Milligan families and beyond these for close associates like Wilson Sutcliffe, Francis Haley and John Cotton (Edward Ripley & Son’s Chief Engineer), his brother-in-law Thorp Whitaker (a dyer), and James H Exon, one time teacher alongside his father at the Ripley Ville schools. (7)

This web-site also has a much larger social purpose agenda than the Wikipedia article. It is actively monitoring the condition of the Grade II listed alms houses, seeking to bring benefit to the area of south Bradford in which Ripley Ville and the Dyeworks were built and seeking to get worsted dying (and merchandising) more prominence in Bradford’s Heritage offer.

A5     Much of what appears in the Wikipedia article for the Victorian period follows this web-site’s agenda and is derived from work published on this site, or in the booklet ‘When was Ripleyville built?’ – much more than the Wikipedia article acknowledges.

and finally

A6     The rRV site was set up in April 2012, not 2011.

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The passage in the Wikipedia article, quoted above, continues:

Some former residents had retained survey notes and measured drawings of the houses – details of which have been posted on the site. These are the source of the plans and section drawings shown in Fig. 6.

The phrase ‘posted on the site’ can be read as meaning the’ rediscovering Ripleyville’ web-site. Again a detailed response is needed:-

Responses B

B1     In contacts with ex-residents, two or more of whom later became contributors to the Wikipedia article, no copies of working papers, i.e. ‘original’ survey notes and measured drawings of the houses were made available to the rRV project. Since none were provided, none have been posted to this rediscovering Ripleyville site.

B2     Of residents contacting this site, only Peter Knowles claimed to have survey notes, drawings and measurements on the Ripleyville houses. No direct evidence of the continuing existence of these notes or drawings has at any time been provided to this site. (8)

B3     More numerous than any images sent to me have been residents’ descriptions of the houses in which they lived. All such information made available to me up until September 2013 was forwarded to Peter Knowles. With their written agreement ex-residents’ contact details were also passed on to him. Fewer than 6 contacts, brought together through this site, were involved in the early development and consultation about the plans, layout and drawings later appearing in the Wikipedia article. Peter Knowles led that process. More ex-residents may have been involved since then.

B4    rRV was happy to support ex-residents efforts to reconstruct the Ripleyville houses. The expectation was that, when worked up, the findings of this group would be published to this site. At some point, evidenced by an internet search in late autumn 2014, it became apparent that Peter Knowles had decided instead to publish to Wikipedia.

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The process for gaining knowledge of the Ripleyville houses

At all points in the development of the plans and elevations or illustrations it would have helped to know;

  • how much of ex-residents’ ‘reconstruction’ of the Workmens Dwellings was based in memory (and forgetting) and still is


  • what the other sources were that were used by ex-residents during this process (e.g. plans, photographs, sketches, measurements, etc) – Evidence of the existence of any source held by ex-residents prior to the houses’ demolition would be doubly interesting.

With that kind of adequate explanation, it would be possible to make a better evaluation of the content on the internal and external features of the different Workmens houses of Ripleyville as presented in the Wikipedia article.

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Changes over time : back from the Villa 1960s to Victorian Ripley Ville in the 1860s

An evaluation would need to extend to the variations that may have occurred between what could be reconstructed from the 1950s and 60s and the Victorian period when the houses (and other buildings) were built.

For the Ripley Ville houses, changes like those listed below would all be possible and of interest;

  • multiple occupation within a property with or without physical sub-division,
  • shared commercial/trades usage and domestic use within a property with minor interior changes.
  • physical sub-division,
  • other internal alterations or extension of properties,
  • usage for exclusively for commercial purposes with and without internal alteration
  • commercial usage with change to external windows and doorways

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Evidence of misreadings of houses and unrecognised absences

There is evidence in the comments streams on this web-site that those ex-residents who have contributed to the Wikipedia article and to this site were not at first aware of key elements of the village’s original Victorian design. The comments streams of this web-site also indicated that in their ‘reading’ of the houses that they lived in, or of the area they ‘knew well’, they sometimes did not understand the significance of what they could see. As might be expected misreadings were more common where fittings or whole buildings had been removed or altered by the time they lived there. Notable misreadings concerned the cellars of the houses and the site of the original Victorian vicarage. Ex-residents were also unaware that the premises they related to as the ‘rent office’ or ‘estates office’ or a maintenance workshop/garage when they lived there, had been built as a ‘schools’ building. Through pages and posts on this site ex-residents were alerted to the existence of the Victorian vicarage, the possible installation of water-closets in the cellars and to the original purpose of the schools building.

Such misreadings of our surroundings are not uncommon. We are all fallible in this way. That these people were, with one exception, in their teens and early twenties in the 1960s makes the misreadings or omissions in knowledge quite understandable. Individually and as a group they have shown exceptional powers of recall in recovering what they have from 45 years and more ago.

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Change and Stability

The Wikipedia article does trace some changes in the village’s early history, for example in the ‘Retail premises – Shops & pubs’ section.  However it uses the OS map surveyed in 1889 and published in 1891 as its ‘benchmark’ map of the northern site of the village. The Ripley Ville ‘houses’ had by then been built for more than 20 years and may have undergone alteration during that time. Some certainly had. Installation and removal of water-closets may have occurred. (Incontrovertible evidence for this remains to be found.)

There is a general tendency within the Wikipedia article to emphasise stability; the unchanging, e.g

‘ Apart from minor changes the pattern of land use on Ripley’s land holdings and the built environment established at the time of Henry Ripley’s death continued into the 1960s and until the demolition of Ripley Ville in 1970.’

In asserting the village’s unchanging fabric, are there other alterations that have gone unremarked by the small number of residents known to have contributed to the Wikipedia article?

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Oral History

The process to arrive at the drawing and illustrations of the Working Mens dwellings is one of oral history. To a certain degree this just involves collecting reminiscences of the village, from the 1960s or earlier, to create a memory bank. This is an expert process but the more people who add to the store of memories the nearer we might get to confirming what the different types of houses were like in the 1950s and 1960s prior to demolition and to adding specific details of individual houses and for the other buildings of the village.

  • Can you add to what is known?
  • Did you do work on any of the properties that took you below the houses’ surface, like maintenance or alterations?
  • Were you involved in the demolition of the houses?
  • As an ex-resident, or someone in possession of photographs or images of the village, do the drawings on the Wikipedia site look right to you? Do you remember anything different in the house(s) you lived in or visited or worked on?

Please get in contact or let me know. The comment box is also there for your use.

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Best Practice

Such reminiscence work does, however, need to be quality checked and authenticated.  The challenge to contributors is to remind them that they are being asked to ‘bear witness’ in what they say. That is they are giving a testimony that is to be used for a public purpose and will be open to challenge from ex-residents and others, or from ‘archival’, or ‘material’ evidence. Anyone conducting the process also needs to understand they too can be challenged on their practice; i.e. how they conducted the process of gaining and using the oral records collected.(9)

Beyond that memories need to be carefully compared. Photographic or other substantiating evidence needs assembling or accessing.(10) To get the best, a careful critique of the process and evidence needs conducting. In preparing what appears in the Wikipedia article, it is not clear how much of this has been done. It is not clear that it has been done in the best possible way. It has not involved all those who could contribute. This is a tough challenge. I return to these points in the final section of this post.

Victorian Ripley Ville

The Wikipedia article is less good and less transparent where it deals more directly with the village’s Victorian history and where evidence is either not based in newspaper archives, Ecclesiastical records or map evidence.

This can be illustrated by taking two examples that relate to the same topic; the original Victorian vicarage, already mentioned. This was built on the village’s southern site between 1874 and 1875 and demolished probably in the 1930s. To understand this part of the problem you do have to look behind the scenes. This is for two reasons. Firstly, information is kept behind the ‘front page’ of the Wikipedia article. Secondly, the reassuring appearance of the Wikipedia article; the bibliography and the many footnotes, including those referencing ‘sources’ of information, can be deceptive. Both can muddy the rediscovering Ripleyville story rather than make it clearer.

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Image of original Victorian vicarage : Wikipedia article as at w/e 2015/04/11

Lets look at the two examples. The first example relates to an image of the village’s original vicarage carried in the Wikipedia article. Click on this and you are taken to a copy of the image with brief notes about it. These give a dating and then its provenance (where the image came from)

Original publication: Created c 1876, Bradford, UK Immediate source: Found in family papers

These are then used to sanction the image’s use under a global commons license in the Ripleyville article.

Created: Not known if it was published. Possibly parish magazine c 1876. No copies of magzine survive.

As copied and pasted here verbatim from the Wikipedia article, it is clear that the origins of this image have been glossed.

Surely we/those policing Wikipedia articles should want to know;

  • In whose family papers the image was found?
  • What is the evidence of its dating from c.1875?

Image of Victorian vicarage : rediscovering Ripleyville web-site

The provenance is also of particular interest to the rRV web-site and its contributors, because this is, in essence, the same image as that used on the rediscovering Ripleyville web-site since November 2012. So it, or a version of the image appeared on this site two years before the image in the Wikipedia article appeared. The image has frequently appeared in cropped form since just after that date in the centre of this blog’s ‘composite post header’.


More recently a larger copy appeared in the centre of another composite image, in the post ‘Delving into history ..’

Ripleyville buildings composite 2014

 Image courtesy Jeff Halmshaw from collection of Graham Hall.

One or other of these composites has been in regular use on this site since it was made available to the rRV project. The image came to this site via Jeff Halmshaw of West Bowling Local History Journal and was provided to him from the postcard collection of Graham Hall. Appearing under the sub-heading ‘New Image of Victorian Vicarage of Ripleyville’ in the ‘Victorian Vicarage, a pink brick, the balloon map..’ post in Nov 2012, the image was captioned ‘St Bartholomews Vicarage, also known as Bowling Park Vicarage, date unknown, collection of Graham Hall’.

The existence of this identical version of the image and this statement of its provenance would have been well known to the main contributors to the Wikipedia article. They were at that time in almost weekly contact with rRV either by e-mail or through the comments stream on different posts on this web-site. Irrespective of whether the image on the Wikipedia site was found in a ‘Parish magazine’, ‘in family papers’, the statement ‘Not known if it was published’ where a version of it was known to have been published, seems difficult to justify. The need to firm up details on the provenance of the Wikipedia version of the image also becomes more acute.

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 Description of the Victorian vicarage as a ‘gentleman’s residence’

The second example of a lack of transparency relates to the description, in quotation marks, of the Victorian vicarage as a ‘gentleman’s residence’. In the Wikipedia article this is associated with a footnote (reference 29).  The hope and expectation of a reader familiar with this web-site would be that the footnote referenced this site. The description of the vicarage as ‘a gentleman’s residence with a day and night nursery’ had appeared on this web-site in November 2012, in the same sub-section and post already cited above.

It is puzzling, therefore, to find that footnote 29 does not treat ‘gentleman’s residence’ as a quote from this site. The footnote cites, ‘Brass Castles’ by George Sheeran (1993). The use of the supporting authority at this point and in this way obscures the debt of the Wikipedia article and its contributors to this web-site. If you read it, you will find that ‘Brass Castles’ is not a source of contemporary accounts that describe the Ripley Ville vicarage as a ‘gentlemans residence’.

( N.B.The Wikipedia article was changed while this post was in preparation – see my footnote 14 this site) .

Whether the Vicarage can be described as a ‘gentleman’s residence’ depends in no small way in the particulars of it size, accommodation and setting.(11)  A more detailed description of the vicarage had been given on this web-site in the post ‘Ripley Ville’s Victorian Vicarage’ in August 2012, more than two years before the first ‘sand-pit’ version of the Wikipedia article appeared. The relevant passage on this site, below a map showing its location near Bowling Dyeworks, reads;

‘The vicarage was to be a detached Victorian villa standing in its own private grounds on a plot of land given by H W Ripley to the corner east of the work’s southern approach road. The property is different in scale, layout and accommodation to the working men’s terraced cottages on the northern site, even those on Vere Street. It was planned as something much grander; to accommodate servants, with day and night nursery and a wine cellar. This is a middle class home shading towards upper middle class and superior to the School Master’s house built next to the school on the northern site’.

The phrases ‘to be’ and ‘as planned’ indicate that the description above was based in plans seen in the Bradford branch of West Yorkshire Archives. (12)

It was also based on the grainy image of the vicarage then available, which can be traced back to Alan O’Day Scott and an early edition of the West Bowling Local History Journals (January 2007).

photograph Bowling Park vicarage behind screen of trees figure of woman in foreground

In comments on the image above, the original blog post mentions how the figure to the front suggest the imposing size of the vicarage while the screen of mature trees suggest attempts at seclusion (13)

Other information accompanying the plans and from elsewhere about the Vicarage and the Church of St Bartholomew were included in the August 2012 post, e.g.

The 1879/80 Post Office Directory gives the following :-

  • Vicar of St Bartholomews : Rev John George Rice
  • Organist & choirmaster : James Moore
  • Verger : Robert Whalley
  • Sunday School : Henry Exxon, 2 Merton St
  • 741 sittings – all free

As with the image of the vicarage, both these posts and their contents were known to those who later set up and contributed to the Wikipedia article. So when you find such content in the Wikipedia article you can know they read it or saw it here first!  – something the Wikipedia article avoids revealing. (14)

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 Getting the best 2

It is the view of this project that the oral history process to rediscover Ripleyville needs to be properly resourced and capable of external support and scrutiny.  It is of national and regional interest and the resolution of the kind of research and best practice issues outlined here would also be of local benefit.

An original aim of this rediscovering Ripleyville web-site was to bring together a group that would take forward a bid or bids for resourcing this kind of oral history/local heritage project and other such projects of benefit in ‘rediscovering Ripleyville’. With the planned transfer of information from this site to two new web-sites, there is now an opportunity for a new start.(15) 

If you would like to know more about what this might entail?

If you live in or close enough to Bradford and could attend meetings that would take this work forward?

Please get in touch.

A network of interested people is being formed.

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(1)     On this point, the Wikipedia article’s debt to ‘When was Ripleyville built?’ is recognised in the article’s footnotes, references 11 and 14.

(2)    These are the posts; ‘Tramways & Heritage Trail : A guest post’ and  ‘Amazing Attachment’. The ‘Amazing Attachment’ post was revisited and reviewed in the post ‘Houses of Ripley Ville and the Villa

(3)    These are the ‘Housekeeping v Demolition‘ page and the guest post ‘Ripleyville remembered : ‘Victorian’ poverty in the 1960s

(4)    The information was included in a map on the ‘Three Vicarages’ post.

(5)    It would be good to have more architectural details, for example of the different treatments of roof-lines, doors and window casings both for different types of houses, between the different streets and for the school-master’s house.

(6)   In a previous post on this blog, the point was made that a more interesting comparison would be ‘How do the Ripley Ville houses compare with those of other industrial model villages built in the Worsted District at this time?’.

In its footnotes, reference 19, The Wikipedia article references the water-closets installed by the Peabody Estate in London. Although suggested as a solution to the gross overcrowding and insanitary conditions identified in the Bradford Woolcombers Report’ of October 1845 (tenements in Liverpool were cited as the model to follow in the report) tenements were not adopted in Bradford as housing for the lower orders/working classes nor were they built in the Borough of Bradford or Saltaire in the mid-Victorian period. ‘Ten flats on each floor sharing four w/cs’ is not a solution comparable to what was done in the Worsted District, whether attempted in Akroydon or perhaps carried out in Ripley Ville. Ripley Ville’s Victorian houses were planned as through terraces with a water closet in the cellar of each and every house.

N. B. In spite of the Wikipedia article’s claim no incontrovertible evidence for the installation of water-closets in the Ripleyville workingmen’s dwellings has to-date been found.

(7)       The Wikipedia article contains errors in its biographical details on the Ripleys and appears confused about their roles in Bowling Dyeworks and/or the firm of Edward Ripley & Son or the BDA.

(8)    The spin-off project to arrive at reconstructions of the Ripleyville houses was supported by rediscovering Ripleyville through late 2012 into mid 2013 in the expectation and hope that such background jottings and rough drawings and possibly more detailed measurements did exist.

(9)     A recent publication (Jackson et al : 2010) on the slightly older and larger industrial model village of Saltaire found ‘blind’ windows (built bricked up to maintain external symmetry) as well as windows subsequently bricked up, division of houses, boarding houses built as additions across end-terrace rows, a second phase to building that abandoned the original axial plan, changes in the architecture of houses built in later phases on the same street, etc.

(10)    For an interesting discussion of issues in the use of autobiographical accounts and memory in writing history see;  Garner P, (2013), ‘Memory, Identity & Witness’. This draws distinctions between memory used in ‘narrative identity’ and   as a ‘witness’. In summary these are:-

”narrative identity’ -the stories we tell ourselves and share to found and maintain a sense of who we are (and who or what we are not)

 ‘witness’ –  (Gardner, 2013 pages 117-118) combines; ‘cross examination’, memory that is ‘truely of the past’, assertions of; ‘I was there’ ‘Believe me’ and ‘If you don’t believe me, ask someone else’  and of ‘preparedness of the witness to submit their testimony to the space of public discourse’.

(11)   Local collections containing a small number of photographs of Ripleyville pre-demolition or while deloition was was happening have not been published to this web-site because of copyright and other restrictions. Similarly modern OS maps have not been used (see also footnote 14 this site, below)

(11)     Sheeran (1993, pages 11-12) uses objective criteria on income, including Schedule D Tax Returns from 1848 as well as those of occupation and source of original wealth across generations (page 17) to describe the 92 ‘new rich’ of West Yorkshire who bought, built or enlarged the ‘brass castles’ featured in his book. Using his analysis from a variety of sources, he is of the view that an income of £5,000 per year characterised ‘a middling gentleman’ (page 11).  It is not clear whether the Rev John George Rice’s income amounted to this. We don’t have his tax returns. It is doubtful : even taking into account ‘in kind’ contributions it is unlikely that the living provided by the benefactors of St Bartholomew were that generous. Other sources of income or inherited wealth would be needed.

The Vicarage in its plan is not of the size or complexity nor does it have the number of dedicated spaces like the billiard room, business room, servants and ancillary rooms shown as examples in ‘Brass Castles’ (pages 52-57). Comparisons and subjective views are, however, important. In these the Rev Rice’s home would be an ever present symbol of his relative wealth and his occupation confer social standing. It is the travelling curate, the Rev Cunningham who, in an intermediary position takes the Anglican mission to Ripleyville’s residents and promotes ideas of right action to ‘parishioners’ of the yet to be completed church. On the basis of Sheeran’s analysis of incomes and wealth, it would not be surprising to find the Rev Rice enjoying a yearly income 50 times that of some tenants of the Ripleyville houses. The calculation needs to be made when it can be but, in summary, we can perhaps provisionally judge the Rev Rice to be ‘a gentleman’ of a lesser kind.

(12)    The statement in the Wikipedia article that ‘No plans of the Vicarage survive.’ would appear to be in error or needs qualifying.

(13)    Sheeran (1993, page 106) quotes correspondence that identifies ‘seclusion from intruders with a command of view rather than territory’ as a characteristic of the setting in which from early in the 19th century the new rich may have bought houses or had them built. Thirty years on, more modest in scale and complexity and in a place as yet not urbanised, the Ripleyville vicarage can be seen as aspiring to this kind of setting.

(14)    As at 2015/04/08, the Wikipedia article footnote, reference 29, wrote of ‘contemporary accounts’ before citing ‘Brass Castles’. Brass Castles does not contain ‘contemporary accounts’ describing the Ripleyville Vicarage as a ‘gentleman’s residence’ . For 3 months the footnote stood as the prime example of the Wikipedia article glossing information and muddying the Ripleyville waters!

Footnote, reference 15, now gets the prize. Lucy Caffin (1986) is not the source of information about the transfer of Bowling Waterworks to Bradford Borough council in the 1860s. Nor is Victorian Bradford (1982). The Wikipedia article includes no secondary or primary source for this information and gets the date of transfer wrong. It is information that has appeared on this web-site and, because it is so relevant to the installation of water-closets at Ripley Ville, a very current strand in research.

(15)    By seeking a partnership approach which included archive holders, photographs covered by copyright might be more readily accessed to both stimulate and act as validation in reminiscence work. This would make it easier to conduct the work with the widest possible group of Ripleyville ex-residents (together with visitors & those who worked on the houses) from the 1930s onwards.


1982    Wright D G & Jowitt J A, ‘Victorian Bradford’, Libraries Division, City of Bradford Metropolitan Council, Bradford

1986     Caffin L, ‘Workers Housing in West Yorkshire‘, HMSO

1991     Bradford Woolcombers Report (orig 1845), reprinted in ‘Misery & Mechanisation‘, Ryburn Publishing, Keele

1993    Sheeran G, ‘Brass Castles : West Yorkshire New Rich & Their Houses‘, Ryburn Publishing, Halifax

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

2010   Jackson N, Lintonbon J, Staples B, ‘Saltaire : Making of a Model Town‘, Spire Books, Reading

2013   Gardner P, ‘Memory, Identity and Witness‘, Cultural & Social History, Journal of the Social History Society, Vol 10, Issue 1, pp 109-128.


last edited 2015/04/16

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