1836 : H W Ripley as SWCI, the Moulsons, their mark and a [Master] Carpenter and Joiner.

This post is about a very early Victorian water-closet. It establishes the time over which the Ripley’s were putting water-closets into their properties by going back to 1836 to look at Bowling Lodge. This was the home of Edward and Hannah Ripley, parents of Henry William Ripley, who was the main sponsor for the Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville. It adds just a little to what we know about the Moulsons who built much of Ripleys Mills, gives the specification for the enclosure of the water-closet and the cistern to be made in Bowling Lodge and identifies who is trusted with its making.

Copyright R L (Bob) Walker and/or rediscoveringripleyville.wordpress.com 2015. All rights reserved (see column left for details)


Another Day at the Archives

Bowling Lodge

Another day at the archives. Right at the end I just had time to look at the ‘Specification for a Dwelling House’ (NB3700901) that became Bowling Lodge; the home of Edward and Hannah Ripley. (1) The client for the work is their son, the twenty-two year old Henry William Ripley. The architect responsible for drawing up the specification was Walker Rawstorne. George Sheeran describes him ((1990 : 72) as most active in Bradford between 1830 and 1850 and, interestingly, as using, ‘Neo-classical styles for domestic architecture.’

I didn’t have enough time to establish if Bowling Lodge was actually built in that style.

Detail of black and white print from 1871 showing Bowling Lodge

Northern site of Ripley Ville from 1871 with Bowling Lodge mid left, below street

Source : Dixon’s 1871 Map of the Town of Bradford


The document I was looking at comprised both a specification and a signed contract. It was in manuscript form and difficult to read in places. It detailed the work to be done by the various tradesmen involved in the dwelling house’s construction. I had a look at the early part covering the masons’ work, including drains, and for carpentry and joinery.

H W Ripley SWCI

Catching my eye, as I read through it, was a description for the making of a water-closet and cistern. The document was dated January 9th 1836.(2) This would be thirty years before the plans for the Workmens Dwellings of Ripley Ville were drawn up and 15 or so years before H W Ripley began to have water-closets installed into the works and mills he had built in Bowling. A listing in a previous post shows that Ripley had water-closets installed in all those domestic buildings which he paid to have built in Ripley Ville and in the schools’ playgrounds. St Bartholomews vicarage built for the Rev J G Rice also had its water-closet. So I think on the basis of this new evidence H W Ripley deserves the SWCI title; Serial Water-Closet Installer.

The new information is also a reminder. This is that the Ripleys as dyers and in developing Bradford Waterworks were in the business of and early managers and practitioners of ‘the arts’ of water management. This is as Sanitarian principles like those promoted by Edwin Chadwick in Britain in the 1840s were developed and the use of man-made water courses to carry away sewage began to be accepted in larger urban settings. It is, however, before the building of an extensive network of municipal sewers in the Borough of Bradford. The latter was not embarked upon until the mid-1870s.

Water-Closet Enclosure and Cistern

The specification for the water-closet enclosure and the cistern for Bowling Lodge is for the attention of the carpenters and joiners. In it’s original spelling and lack of punctuation, what could be read, states;

‘The water-closet is to be fitted up with a moulded panelled back [two illegible words] seat and cover of the best spanish mahogany 1 inch thick –

The cistern to the water-closet is to be 4 feet and 6 inches by 8 feet and 2 feet 3 inches deep of deal one and a half inch thick dovetailed at the corners and groove tongued and glued fast at the joints having two wrought iron bolts each three-quarters inch diameter and 4 feet 8 inches long.’


The detail leaves you both wanting to know more and struggling to interpret it. There is much in the document that remains to be read.  There were other notable points on this first reading:-

The Moulsons

The masons for the property were the Moulsons, local contractors who built much of Ripleys Mills and the Saltaire mills though not the Ripley Ville houses. In addition to John and Miles Moulson, the document is signed by the lesser known, George and Jonathan Moulson. All were, however, unable to write. Between their first and last name written by someone else, each must make ‘his mark’ – a cross. The crosses do look very similar. They were witnessed by a James Mallinson and Thomas Healey.  ‘The Victorian Houses of Bradford’ (Sheeran G, 1990 : 62), contains an undated but evocative illustration of the yard and works of  ‘John Moulson & Son Builders and Stone Masons’.

Carpenter and Joiner

The carpenter and joiner entrusted with the work for making the enclosure to the water-closet and cistern – and much else besides – was Joseph Hargrave. He can write his own name – the sign of a ‘Master Carpenter and Joiner’ perhaps?




(1)    Evidence available from the West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds suggests, in correction of this and the opening statement, that Bowling Lodge was initially the home of Henry Ripley and his wife Susan and that until Holme House was purchased, in 1841, Edward and Hannah Ripley continued to live in the cottages belonging to the original Bowling dyehouse on Milligan’s Lane. (NB1002302 – NB1003903) 

(2)   Anyone knowing their Victorian history will know that in calling the water-closet ‘very early Victorian’, I am jumping the gun. Victoria was not crowned Queen until 28th June 1838, with William IV dying on 20th June 1837. So the document is pre-Victorian and if constructed and installed promptly, the water-closet would be Victorian minus one year -very ,very early Victorian or more properly, late, late Regency.

The numbers in brackets refer to entries in my notebooks that include full archive references including for this manuscript document.



1990, Sheeran G, ‘The Victorian Houses of Bradford’, Bradford Libraries and Information Service

Copyright R L (Bob) Walker and/or rediscoveringripleyville.wordpress.com 2015. All rights reserved. (see column left for details)

published 2015/12/15

updated 2015/12/29

new footnote (1) added 2017/04/13



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