Ripley Ville : 150th Anniversary today

Bradford’s only industrial model village, Ripley Ville, has the 150th anniversary of its founding today, 15th November 2015. The village was unique : each and every one of its 196 workman’s dwellings, built between 1866 and 1867, had a water-closet in its basement.


150th Anniversary

Today is the 150th anniversary of the event in 1865 in south Bradford that promoted ‘Messrs Ripleys scheme for building a number of Working-Mens Dwellings’. The event was a public meeting that took place in Edward Ripley & Son’s Patent Melange Works on Spring Mill Street, west Bowling on the 15th November 1865. At it, a prospectus was made available to those attending and the planned scheme for up to 300 dwellings of three types was explained. From the 20th of November 1865 draft plans of the dwellings were available ‘between Six and Eight O clock’ until ‘Friday 1st December’. In this case ‘Tickets of admission [were] to be had of Messrs Ripley and at the Melange Works’.

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

The event of 15th November 1865 was the first in a chain of events, stretching to 1882, that saw all the other buildings added that made up the Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village. The more famous Saltaire, built for Titus Salt and begun 12 years earlier, was outside the old borough’s boundaries.


A year later, to the day, on 15th November 1866, the village’s main sponsor, Henry William Ripley, principal partner in the nearby Bowling Dyeworks and owner of Bowling Waterworks, appeared before the Rivers Commission Inquiry into the state of Bradford’s rivers and its canal. The proceedings were being widely reported in the Bradford press and regional press. Ripley took the opportunity to publicise his advanced ideas on the use of water-closets. He explained that it had been his practice since the 1850s to install water-closets in all his Mills and works, using an ‘intercepting tank’ for the purpose of separating liquids and solids. He then went on to confirm one very important feature shown in the deposited plans for the houses and passed by the Borough council earlier that year. His words were;

I am going to build about 300 cottages and I am so satisfied with my plans that I shall adopt the same principle in all of them. I do not like to see cottages with nasty privies about them. I am putting a water-closet in each, and shall have an intercepting tank to carry out the same.

H W Ripley : Vol 2 ‘Minutes & Index’ – Rivers Commission Inquiry

Charles Gott, Bradford Borough Surveyor, had given his own evidence to the Rivers Commission Inquiry. He gave figures that indicate how rare it was for any Bradford people to have use of a water-closet at home.

When built, Ripley Ville had 196 workmen’s ‘cottages’, rather than the 300 planned or the 254 for which planning permission was given. The ratio, of a water-closet to each house, probably makes Ripley Ville unique. The ratio exceeds that of the Peabody Estate’s ‘associated’ tenements for working people available for occupation in Spitalfields, London in 1864, probably the only other scheme with water-closets in working class housing from around the same period.

Recent research strongly suggests that water-closets were installed in all 196 of the workmen’s ‘cottages’ (see next post for further details)

Water-closets were also installed at the Ripley Ville schools (2 inside, 4 in an annex for the girls and another block of 4 in the boys’ playground. There was one in the school-master’s house and one in the vicarage, which also had privies outside. There was a water-closet in each of the almshouses, when these were moved, rebuilt and added to in 1881/2.

This really does make Ripley Ville ‘something to crow about’. It makes this day even more worthy of remembering.

grapic of cockerel crowing the words Ripley Ville Bradford's only industrial model village

Something for Bradford to crow about.

A Happy 150th anniversary to Victorian Ripley Ville!

Copyright R L (Bob) Walker 2015. All rights reserved.

original 2015/11/15 amended 2015/11/20


One response

  1. I have always been told by my grandfather ( I am 71 ) that the 6 Alms houses that are in New Cross St. came from the junction or Ripley St. and Springmill St.. To this very day you can see that the house numbers start from No. 11 as the 6 Alms houses Had gone to New Cross St. “Stone by Stone” the reason being that the railway Co. needed the land to excavate and lay down the lines, which they did.

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