This post takes the idea of ‘Doing Justice by the Villa’ and moves it on. It takes the idea of ‘rediscovering Ripleyville, Bradford’s only industrial village’ and moves that on. Because doing justice by ‘the Villa’ requires more than the rediscovery of a forgotten industrial model village or revealing how it came to be demolished. It requires more than a re-evaluation of the village as part of Bradford’s mid to late Victorian heritage, or in relation to Saltaire. All these things are needed but it also requires urgent steps to ‘save’ what’s left.
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Doing Justice by the Villa : The Almshouses – Saving what’s left
It is a scandal that very little does remain of the old Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village – at least from what can be seen above ground and at street level. The most significant remains are the ten Grade 11 listed almshouses on New Cross Street near Bowling Park.
To most people – those who find traces of buildings or locational hints like walls, kerb-stones or railway lines and embankments leave them cold – the almshouses will be the only remains that count. The Laboratory building on Ripley Road is significant in terms of the area’s industrial and dyeing heritage but, built in 1916, is disqualified by date from inclusion as part of the Victorian village.
As indicated elsewhere, the almshouses are listed by English Heritage as ‘Bowling Dyeworks Almshouses’. That is consistent with the earlier of the plaques on the almshouses.
The almshouses’ full significance
For the 21st century visitor to the area, the amateur or academic researcher the Bowling Dye Works label fails to communicate the almshouses’ full significance. Their transfer and rebuilding to the western side of the main entrance to Bowling Dyeworks in 1881 are an act of completion. With the imposing Victorian vicarage to the other side of the carriage way to the Works’ southern entrance, they are a final act by Henry William Ripley in respect of the industrial model village of Ripley Ville. The movement of the six almshouses, their re-building as a row of ten, their ‘Tudorbethan’ detailing, (described as Jacobbean in the listing) and their charitable purpose serve as as a coda both to what was built before and the change in values and thinking embodied in the buildings of Ripley Ville. They both carry forward the memory of the parents’ charity and augment it in that of the son. They connect pre-industrial ideas of charity from a golden age of English history with those of neo-paternalists like H W Ripley and Edward Akroyd at Akroydon. Over a 15 year period H W Ripley was the sponsor for; the workmen’s dwellings, schools and almshouses and he allowed the Anglican Church and vicarage to be built on land that he gave for that purpose. These each in their turn gave physical expression to Ripley’s changing stance on the issues of the day whether it was workmen’s housing, education of the people, or religion. Against his parents’ Dissenter background and the Radicalism claimed for H W Ripley’s youth, they mark the by then 68 year old Sir Henry William Ripley’s establishment credentials. The almshouses bring the industrial model village’s story to a close between symbolic pillars; the Anglican vicarage and buildings that reference a mythic Elizabethan Commonweal. To the more ‘philosophical’ Victorian of a party political, or literary bent they would also reference ‘Young England’, ‘Sybil’ and the ‘one nation‘ Toryism of Benjamin Disraeli.
‘Tudorbethan’ architecture and detailing of Almshouses
- Roofline features including end and transverse gabling and increased length of chimney
- Moulding to door casing above paired front doors
- Detail of central feature above doors
There is a really excellent view of the alms houses from 2008 on Google Maps in satellite view. Put ‘Switchgear and Instrumentation Ltd, Bradford’ in the search and zoom in. The alms houses are shown below (south of) their works. The works are now part of the Powell Industries group.
Rural and Urban : Neo-paternal and Personal
Henry had been frustrated by an earlier refusal of planning permission to put the almshouses to the fore of the vicarage. It is difficult to picture it now. In their present position, the alms houses are near a mini-roundabout, hemmed in between New Cross Street and a high back fence. But with the planned Park opened in 1882 and the vicarage standing in its own grounds there must have been the hope of creating more than the illusion of ‘rus in urbe’. There is even a sense in which on a very minor scale the re-building of the alms houses echo the parallel personal project of Henry William Ripley in the building of the mock Tudor Bedstone Court.
Condition of the Almshouses
I am not aware of any immediate threat to the Ripleyville almshouses. I should also add that I am not an architect nor am I an expert on the listing of buildings. My concern about the condition of the almshouse comes from putting a card about ‘rediscovering Ripleyville’ through the letter box of each of the almshouses. When there is broken glass in a door or it gives at the slightest push, when the frontage of individual houses is secured with grills to the windows and across the doors concern seems warranted. On a visit in the same week, ex-resident of ‘the Villa’ Gordon Brook had similar concerns. I have to say that I have had a concern about the long-term survival of the row of almshouse from 20 years back, when it appeared that individual properties were being offered on the market. The threat is of bit by bit deterioration and piece-meal remedies that over time erode the architectural integrity of individual houses or that of the whole row. Looked at closely the images above show evidence of that erosion with missing chimney pots and grills to doors. The images below show the previously insecure alms house has been temporarily boarded up and recently sold at auction (2). Within the row another almshouse is ‘to let’ (3). The security grills of various types are more in evidence (1 & 2). It should be noted that the condition of individual almshouses varies.
What’s to be done?
This post places the Bowling Dye Works Almshouses in their proper context as the the final act in the building of the old Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village. All the other buildings from the village have been demolished. It raises concerns about the present condition of the almshouses and for their longer-term survival.
The almshouses need to be recognised as an asset by local residents, Bradfordians and those responsible at District level and above for such assets. This blog can try to act as a catalyst to that change and monitor what happens. To that end I have written to both the Conservation Team of Bradford Council’s Planning Department and to the local Newspaper, the Telegraph and Argus. I will be doing a future post around listing and building conservation. My letter to the T&A has as yet attracted no comments, likes or other attention. You could change that. It is possible through the T&A site to publicise the letter through Google and social media.
In the end whether the Ripleyville almshouses survive, will depend on whether people care enough, or feel passionate enough about the almshouses and their own Victorian heritage.
This blog does. Do You?
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last updated 2014/09/13