The Ripleys’ use of water in the Bowling valley,Titus Salt & the Bowling Tough : early 1850s

Before Ripley Ville was built. More on the Ripleys’ use of water from Bowling Beck and elsewhere from the Bowling valley in the early 1850s, the complaints of Walkers Co against them and the connections to Titus Salt and the ‘Bowling Tough’.

Copyright R L (Bob) Walker 2016 All rights reserved.



The Ripleys’ use of the water of the Bowling valley, Titus Salt and the Bowling Tough : early 1850s

Previous post & this post

I have had a bit more time to look at the archive documents related to the case of Wood & Walkers and the Ripleys in the early 1850s. This post is a follow up to the previous one. I have updated that one from when it was first published last month on April 1st. It now conforms with the newer information. This helped to firm up the date for the original parts of the affidavit of Benjamin Murgatroyd. As Superintendent of Bowling Dyeworks, he had first-hand information about changes at the Works and their use of water and dyewares in worsted dyeing between 1830s and early 1850s; information not available elsewhere.

This post goes into more detail on;

  • the grounds for the complaint and the court case of John Wood, William Walker and Charles Walker (Walkers & Co) against Edward and Henry William Ripley (the Ripleys)
  • and the defense of the Ripleys’ actions as prepared by their solicitors.

Titus Salt became involved in an earlier case, a more general objection by Bradford’s worsted manufacturers to the Ripleys’ actions in 1853 and more directly in the case of Walkers & Co and the Ripleys.

The ‘Bowling Tough’, so called, played a part in the Ripleys’ defense.

Context and overview : 1850-1853

Large scale audacious plans

As Wood and Walkers’ case against the Ripleys went through the courts between 1851 and 1853 it became clear to them, to manufacturers in inner south Bradford, other water-users and the area’s population that H W Ripley had ambitious plans; plans that were audacious and in execution verged on the maverick.(1) Ripley was pursuing a course of action that would put him in the position of the main supplier of water across the area below Bowling Dyeworks in south Bradford. Buying land from Bowling Ironworks, Ripley had secured access to previously unquantified sources of water that were additional to those of Bowling Beck.(2)

High stakes

H W Ripley would claim that these supplies were equal in volume to five times the total that Bradford Waterworks, the only other local waterworks, had available for all of Bradford. In a very short period Ripley had work carried out to pump up, store and channel these waters; investing some £30,000.(3) In this water dispute between the town’s foremost worsted dyer, diversifying his activities, and a large and long-established worsted manufacturer, the stakes were high. Wood & Walkers employed 3,000 hands. As part of their own evidence for the court proceedings, they stated that they had £100,000 invested in their mills and premises. As the previous post shows, these were three quarters of a mile down dale and down stream from Bowling Dyeworks on Bridge Street in Bradford. (4)

Fig 1 Map c 1800 : Bowling Beck, Cuckoo Bridge and Bridge Street

detail Centre of Bradford c1800 route Bowling Beck into town

Wood & Walkers Mils and premises were on Bridge Street. This took its name from Cuckoo Bridge. Map Source: ‘The Story of Bradford’, Margaret Law (1913). Copyright may apply. Detail south and central Bradford with colour added.

Higher stakes

The bulk of the Ripleys’ construction work for water management in and near Bowling Dyework was carried out by October 1852. The scale and range of the visible works, across the upper end of Bowling valley, were noted by Walker & Co’s surveyor, Mr Martin, in early February of that year.(5) As Walker & Co’s case against the Ripleys was progressed, what Ripley would do or was prepared to do to bring his own plans on water-supply to fruition became clearer.  Three months into 1853, some town councillors, aldermen and officers of the Bradford Corporation had become increasingly worried. They saw their own plans, for Bradford as a whole, interfered with and that their sole rights and responsibility as the authority for the health and sanitation of the town, including the conditions of streets and provision of sewerage, were under challenge.(6) In June 1853 the Corporation applied for an injunction to the Court of Exchequer in London to stop men, working for the Ripleys, from digging up the streets of the town. The men were laying water pipes to supply the Ripleys’ water for profit to Mills in the region of Bridge Street.(7) The stakes in a widening dispute got even higher.

In 1850, John Wood and the Walkers had found that in spite of court actions; a judgement in their favour and one that was going their way, the Ripleys had not stopped polluting Bowling Beck nor, as they saw it, from interfering with the supply of water coming to Walkers & Co’s Mills and premises on Bridge Street. The Ripleys had appeared to be planning remedial works in and near Bowling Dyeworks. Trust between the two parties was low. By the February of 1852 Walkers & Co were both unconvinced of how practical the Ripley’s plans for water management in the Bowling valley were and very apprehensive about the safety of construction work being carried forward for the Ripleys (NB3).(8)

Walkers & Co v the Ripleys

Walkers & Co’s complaint 1850/1

When eventually brought to court, Walker & Co’s complaint against the Ripleys was couched in very broad terms. It extended to interference with the flow within the Bowling valley of surface and underground water and reducing their quality and utility. Bowling Beck was the focus for surface water and Bowling Colliery Sough for underground water.

Bowling Beck

Walker & Co’s allegations about the Beck were in terms of flow, pollution or its ‘injurious’ condition. Their ‘plaint’, which was designed to cover all potentially injurious substances poured or discharged into Bowling Beck above Wood and Walkers’ premises, included;

  • dye wares
  • dye liquor
  • foul and impure water
  • lees
  • washings
  • refuse
  • other filthy noxious and offensive substances

The water coming to them, they claimed, was ‘foul, dirty and unfit’ for the supply of Walkers’ Mills and for the ‘use and enjoyment of their premises’ (NB3403401-05)

Bowling Colliery Sough

Bowling Dyeworks was built ‘over or near over’ the Bowling Colliery Sough which joined Bowling Beck below Bowling Dyeworks and above Walker Co’s Mill. It was thought that the Ripleys’ very recent work in the extraction of underground water at their Bowling Dyeworks site was interfering with the flow of water through the sough,. In consequence it featured alongside the Beck in parts of Walkers Co’s complaint and prominently in the expert evidence sought and prepared in the Ripleys’ counter-arguments. (9)

Conditions of Bowling Beck 1834-1848

Condition of Bowling Beck and remedy by John Wood : 1834 -1838

The discharge of spent dyewares into Bowling Beck by the Ripleys had been a problem since the 1830s. John Wood, who was then the sole owner of the Mills on Bridge Street, had brought concerns about the water of Bowling Beck to the attention of Edward Ripley as early as 1834. (10) Face to face discussions and an exchange of solicitors letters had brought no improvement. So John Wood and new partner William Walker took steps on their own land to protect their steam engines, worsted spinning mills and premises from the ‘fouled water’ coming down Bowling Beck. This was done by the construction of ‘a sluice or clough’ with a ‘drain’ to take water to the reservoir of their Mills on Bridge Street. The sluice gate was kept closed during the daytime when Bowling Dyeworks operated. It was then opened at night to let relatively purer water from Bowling Beck into Wood’s reservoir. This was the position by 1838. (NB3403702-NB3403801)

Water use misuse and court cases lower Bowling valley : 1848 – 1851

By 1848 this remedy no longer gave the water that Wood and the Walkers needed to conduct their business. In addition to the fouling, water was now coming to them already heated. In June of that year they decided;

‘to insist upon their legal right to have the water of the Beck [flow to their] mills and premises in a pure and unpolluted state’ (NB3403803)

In a series of three civil actions, Walkers & Co took court action first against Christopher and Edward Waud, worsted spinners and wool-combers who, in 1844, had a Mill built above them on Bowling Beck. Walkers and Co won the case with a final judgement given towards the end of October 1849. The determination of the case in Walker & Co’s favour did not alter the behaviour of the Ripleys at Bowling Dyeworks. It did not influence those of William Sutcliffe, occupier of the New Dye Works built even more recently above Mill Lane, which was also discharging ‘fouled water’ to Bowling Beck. Sutcliffe argued that Wood & Walkers’ case against the Wauds was limited to the voiding of heated waters into Bowling Beck (NB3402305). In response and to try and make good deficiencies in the former court ruling, Walker & Co started a second court action in June 1850. This time against William Sutclffe. (11) The case was heard at York Assizes on 22nd July of that year and a final judgement given in the first week in January 1851. (NB3402401&2 & NB3404102-04)

Well before the final judgement was given Ripleys’ solicitors were reporting the likely threat of court proceedings, by Walkers & Co against the Ripleys, to H W Ripley.  Such action had been contemplated in October of the previous year but Walkers had avoided taking two cases through the courts at once. On the 1st January 1851 the case against the Ripleys was filed.

Fig 2  Sketch c1825 : Cuckoo Bridge, Bowling Beck & Bridge Street

Sketch of Cuckoo Bridge central Bradford c.1830 (with Bowling Beck passing under Bridge Street)

‘This sketch may be a re-imagining of the scene. It does not show the turn in the river beyond the bridge suggested by the detail of the map of the town of Bradford c1800 (Fig 1 above). Nor does it show the Walkers & Co’s Mill, which under John Wood’s control was already the largest in the town by 1833.

A Court Case joined but not resolved

H W Ripley acted to appoint Tolson, Clough and Taylor as their attorneys in February 1851. John Taylor appears to have been H W Ripley’s main contact  The case was expected to come to trial in March 1851 but was rescheduled to June of that year at York Assizes. The decision of the jury was divided. Required to answer two question asked of them by the judge, the jury decided that the Ripleys had infringed Walker & Co’s rights but did not agree that this had gone on as long as Walkers & Co claimed. As a civil case this left the two sides to present new evidence at a further hearing or to come to a resolution themselves in settlement.

Deed of Covenant : postponements and missed opportunities

There were postponements from both sides to give more time for the preparation of evidence and counter-evidence. Then a fire at Walkers & Co’s mill and the serious illness of one of H W Ripley’s daughter caused each, one after the other, to disengage with the issue. When progress seemed unlikely, a potential path towards settlement came about unexpectedly when H W Ripley signed an ‘Agreement of Reference’. Ripleys’ solicitors noted in their accounts that this was done ‘in our absence’. (NB3713605) With solicitors re-involved on both sides, the parties agreed instead to resolve outstanding issues through a Deed of Covenant. A resolution of the major points for this was reached by early 1853. A flurry of meetings between owners and solicitors on both sides took place on the two days 29th and 31st of March of that year. An opportunity to move the agreement forward was frustrated when his solicitor, John Taylor, found H H Ripley was ‘not yet at Bowling Lodge’, when he called in the morning. Then an attempted late insertion of a clause by Walkers & Co about ‘wash-houses’ was strongly contested by Ripley. A compromise clause suggested by Taylor was rejected by H W Ripley towards the end of August 1853. At this point, the archive trail on Walkers & Co case against the Ripleys goes cold.

Change of landscape

As indicated earlier in the post, Bradford Corporation had by then already taken out an injunction against Ripley’s men for digging up the streets. The flurry of activity in March 1853 looks as if it was prompted by a determination to conclude an agreement between Walkers & Co and the Ripleys before the dispute with the Corporation had to be joined in earnest or escalated. With that opportunity missed the case was very much overtaken by events. H W Ripley had by mid-1853 changed the landscape, metaphorically, in commercial terms and physically in the Bowling valley. The landscape against which Walkers & Co had begun their court action was three years later barely recognisable. Remedial action, dealing with Walker & Co’s complaint of pollution and reduced water supply was addressed through the actions H W Ripley had taken and was seeking to take to shape conditions across inner south Bradford. Subsiding pits had been built. As Benjamin Murgatroyds affidavit makes clear, 100s of cartloads of spent dyewares were being settled out and taken away or waiting for disposal, rather than being discharged to Bowling Beck. Walkers & Co’s legal complaints became subsumed in the larger contest of court cases, rival Parliamentary Bills and negotiations between the Ripleys and Bradford Corporation which then ensued.

Water use and supply after 1853

Court proceedings between Bradford Corporation and the Ripleys continued through into the early 1860s. H W Ripley continued to sell water through Bowling Waterworks directly to Mills and to individual property owners into the latter end of 1867. He continued to supply water within his own estate in Bowling beyond that date. Large scale projects by Bradford Corporation to improve water-supply across the town required Water Acts to be passed by parliament and the construction of reservoirs at Doe Park, Chellow Dean, Barden and elsewhere. These early efforts were bolstered, as need demanded, by auxiliary supplies from the water resources of Bowling Waterworks, on terms negotiated with H W Ripley.(12)

Titus Salt

Salt in Bradford : early 1850s

By 1850 Titus Salt was no longer mayor of Bradford. He had been town mayor until September 1849. He was followed by Henry Forbes and then from October 1851 by William Rand. The impacts of Salt’s mayoral year were carried over into 1850 with the presentation of the Report of the Committee on the Moral Condition of Bradford in March 1850 and ensuing discussion and action.(13) Salt’s Mill premises were still in Bradford and, in connection with this early part of the ‘water dispute’, he was still first among equals as the President of the Chamber of Commerce which then represented both Bradford and Halifax.

Salt’s role in water disputes of early 1850s

There are few documents from Walkers & Co’s side of their court case in the archives I have been using. Much information comes from the Ripleys’ side and their solicitors. Used in combination, it is clear from these that Titus Salt had provided an affidavit for John Wood in the case of Wood v Sutcliffe. He also provided one in the case of Walkers & Co and the Ripleys. Neither are contained in the archive. Salt was, in addition, named as the figure-head of a Memorandum originating within the Town Council in autumn 1852. This laid out the concerns of a group of manufacturers in the town who felt the recent actions in water use and management were an actual or potential threat to their business. The exact contents of the Memorandum and Salt’s role in organising it will have to wait until later. It was of sufficient importance and enough potential relevance to the determination or settlement of the case of Walkers & Co and the Ripleys for the Ripleys’ solicitors to request a copy of it from Bradford’s Town Clerk in January 1853 (NB3712804) The story of Titus Salt’s move to the valley of the Aire are usually presented as a move from the pollution, moral and environmental, of Bradford. As laid out above, the water disputes of early 1850s introduce and give a prominence to the business and commercial risks of water shortages and the fouling of water courses for a Bradford Mill owner. Their particular part in persuading Titus Salt to move to the valley of the Aire remain to be examined.

Bowling Tough

The Bowling Tough was the name used in this period for a clay that occurred in surface deposits and natural outcrops  More than 150 years later, with the valley built over and its landscape largely man-made, it’s presence is hidden.  In 1850 and as John Wood and Walkers case against the Ripleys progressed, it was being described, in affidavits in preparation, as ‘a thick impermeable clay’.  Importance was attached to where it lay within the underlying geological strata both in relation to the coal seams and to Bowling Colliery Sough.  The experts brought in on the Ripleys’ side also considered its relevance when taking account of the ‘the steepness’ of the Bowling valley.

Bowling Beck : natural drain

They saw these points as important because they could be used to refute suggestions made by Mr Martin, Walker & Co’s surveyor and Frederick Bateman. Engaged by Bradford Corporation to prepare plans and estimates for the water-supply of the whole town, Bateman also provided an affidavit for Walkers & Co. Their joint understandings were that underground water if not raised by pumps or diverted by the Ripleys would percolate upwards, or through springs run into the valley or run along the sough and on into Bowling Beck. Walker & Co’s complaint described the beck as the ‘natural drain’ of the Bowling valley.

Bowling Tough inhibits natural springs

The Ripleys engaged the services of at least three expert witnesses; Charles Moreton,  Walker and a Professor Ramsey of the Geological Museum. The latter argued against the idea that a significant number of springs had fed Bowling Beck in the past. For all of the experts one of the crucial impacts of the Bowling Tough and its presence in the strata they argued was to prevent the occurrence of natural springs both in the recent past and for the foreseeable future.

Artificial flow of water between and along underground levels

The experts with mining experience emphasised that the Colliery sough and mine working were artificially made and needed to be artificially maintained for water to flow. They understood that subterranean springs filling the Bowling Sough and mine workings did so from deep below them and did not then naturally emerge from these levels. Turning Walker & Co’s argument about interference with water of the valley on its head, Moreton’s view was that the Bowling Colliery Sough would fill with debris and mud when pumping stopped. There would be no increase in the volumes of water flowing through it to feed the Beck and Walkers & Co’s mill, if pumping stopped. On the contrary and referring to both Bowling Colliery and Low Moor Colliery’s sough, Moreton’s view was that without pumping the flows would’ abate’ over time ‘so that no water whatever would pass along them’.

Ripleys’ water source from below level of sough

In a fuller rebuttal of Walker and Co’s understanding of the source of the Ripleys’ water supplies and their assumed flow under and through the Bowling valley to Walkers & Co’s Mills, Moreton stated;

‘water raised for the supply of reservoirs by the [Ripleys’] boreholes sunk considerably below the Bowling Sough or Colliery workings would never as I believe reach the Bowling Beck if not interfered with by [them].’


In an aside, of assistance to the Ripleys, that returned to the topic of the thick impermeable local clay, Moreton (NB37124004) added ; ‘the bottom of the large reservoirs made by the Defendants consist only of the Bowling Tough’ and, in his view, this offered, ‘the best protection against percolation’.

para separator 1 V


Numbers in brackets beginning with NB reference notes made of archive documents held by West Yorkshire Archives on the Water Dispute. Full archive references will be substituted in later publications on the topic.


2009, (facsimile copy without map) ‘Ibbetson’s General and Classified Directory of Bradford   1850’, Bankhouse Books, New Romney

1885  Burnley J, ‘Yorkshire Tales Re-told’, Richard Jackson, Leeds

1889  Burnley J, ‘The History of Wool and Woolcombing’, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London

1913  Law M, ‘The Story of Bradford’, Pitman & Sons, London


(1)     Looking forward and from his point of view, the judgement of H W Ripley’s behaviour might be less harsh if he believed that commerce when left alone could solve the sanitary condition or water-supply problems of Bradford and if he was unaware of the direction of the Corporation’s thinking. His actions over two decades in Bradford show that H W Ripley believed the first. Other actions at this time show he was aware of the second. Then and later he opposed those who sought to constrain his freedom to take economic action in his own interest.

(2)      It is unclear; what H W Ripley or others knew about the existence of such large underground water resources, when the boreholes were sunk that revealed them. Frederick Bateman, who was engaged by the Bradford Corporation to identify ways to bridge the huge gap between the town’s supply and its needs, did not include them in his plans for that supply.

 (3)     It is unclear whether this capital outlay covered construction costs only or included boreholes and pumping equipment.

(4)    According to James Burley (1889, p183), Walkers & Co had been one of the first firms in Bradford to introduce machine woolcombing in 1841. Ibbetson’s General and Classified Directory of Bradford 1850 shows William Walker as living at Bolling Hall and serving as a West Riding magistrate.

(5)     The site had been staked out and preliminary work begun. Martin identified what he saw as ‘a reservoir’ or ‘reservoirs’ rather than the pits to settle out dyewares that Walkers & Co were hoping he would see and that they understood the Ripleys were having constructed.

(6)     The Corporation’s role and powers and responsibilities had been enhanced through the ‘Bradford Improvement Act 1850’. The meaning of the Act had not, however, been tested in case law. A Corporation monopoly on water supply was not being pursued at this point in time.

(7)      Croft Street, Portland Street, Queens Cut and Victoria Street – clearly named in the affidavit of Edward Shaw, the Borough Surveyor – were below Bridge Street and nearer the centre of the town (NB3807102)

(8)     Similar concerns appeared in later statements by Bradford Corporation’ s surveyor and representatives of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The apprehensions of the Corporation or larger concerns like the railway company were about lack of official oversight or inexpert construction. The devastation of the very recent flood at Holmfirth in Yorkshire’s Worsted District was also much on people’s minds.  In this the dam of the Bilberry reservoir above the town of Holmfirth had burst just after midnight on February 4th and, according to James Burnley (1885, p 36/7), killed 42 adults and 43 children, caused £200,000 of damage to property including 17 mills and 129 workmens cottages and threw 4,896 and 2,142 children out of work.

(9)     The Ripleys were understood by Walkers & Co to be taking water from the sough and/or returning ‘spent’ water to it, i.e. using it as water resource and/or a drain.

(10)      A letter from John Wood’s solicitors in 1834 contained the suggestion that it would be ‘practicable’ for the Ripleys ‘to collect [their] spent dyewares and sediment and to cart them away rather than sending them down the Beck’. (NB3403701)

(11)    William Sutcliffe’s identity and his relationship to Wilson Sutcliffe remains unresolved.

 (12)    Initially deals were struck with the Bradford Waterworks Company and then with Bradford Corporation, when they bought out the company.

(13)    Salt had been responsible for seeing the Committee and its enquiry into the Moral Condition of the town set up.


published 2016/05/06

Revised 2016/06/03 and 2017/02/11

Copyright R L (B0b) Walker 2017. All rights reserved.





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