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Ripley Ville was the last of the Victorian industrial model villages to be built in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Built between 1866 and 1881, it contained; Workmens Dwellings, a schools building and a school master’s house, an Anglican church, vicarage and alms houses. It was built across two sites to the north and south of Bowling Dyeworks in Bowling to the south of Bradford near what later became Bowling Park.
This post looks again at the relationship between Bowling Dyeworks and Salts Mill in the mid-Victorian period. This is a largely unexplored relationship but what went on between the two businesses may help us understand why the industrial model villages of Ripley Ville and Saltaire were built, how they compare and how they were paid for. Because you are probably in holiday mood or even on holiday, the post also includes some photographs of alpacas. Most of these are of one being sheared. The more serious aim of the post is to set up a sequence of questions about how the mixed worsted cloths called ‘lustrous Orleans’ were finished. Three questions in that sequence are:-
In the mid 1840s,
- Would the lustrous Orleans that used alpaca fibre have been dyed or not?
- Would the dye for lustrous Orleans or other alpaca worsteds be applied to the fibres before weaving, or to the woven cloth?
- Were Bowling Dyeworks and Messrs Ripley in Bowling likely to have done the dyeing for Salts Mill?
1840s Lustrous worsteds : natural or dyed alpaca fibre?
Salts Mill, Bowling Dyeworks and lustrous worsteds
Salts and lustrous Worsteds
Lustrous mixed worsted cloths of the mid-19th century that were produced in the Worsted District of Yorkshire used a lustrous fibre in the weft. This was commonly mohair and more famously, at Salts Mill, alpaca but could be angora, vicuna or other fibres. The lustrous weft was usually combined with a cotton warp to give a cloth strength. Aided by the fictionalised description given by Charles Dickens in ‘Household Words’, Titus Salt’s role in buying alpaca fibre at Liverpool Docks from ‘C W & F Foozle & Co’ and working out how to spin it are a staple of the Salts Mill story and part of the folklore of the industrial model village of Saltaire – just as they were in Worstedopolis (mid to late Victorian Bradford) a century and a half ago. (see Holroyd A, 1973, pages 9-12)
Alpaca fibre has properties that make it attractive for many reasons. In the mid-nineteenth century it was its lustrous quality and ‘shades and tints’, that led demand in womenswear and fashion cloths.
One of the best contemporary accounts, from Abraham Holroyd, makes this clear. (Holroyd A 1873 page 29)
Bowling Dyeworks and lustrous worsteds
The Bowling Dyeworks story and its mid century dominance in worsted dyeing was achieved in two-stages;
circa 1830s : achievement of speed, colour fastness and matching in dyeing worsteds black and most particularly for bombazine and cloths of the range that mixed cotton warps and silk in the weft. (1)
circa 1840s : the dyeing of mixed worsteds in the piece (after weaving) across an increasing range of colours. This included the new lustrous Orleans cloths as they were developed and became fashionable.
It is clear that by the early 1880s Bowling Dyeworks was majoring in dyeing mohair fibre and cloths. But what were Edward Ripley & Son doing from the mid 1840s either within their own works or premises available to them?