This page introduces and provides an outline for seventy years of the Bowling Dyeworks story from 1807 to 1877 with snap-shots for the mid 1850s and mid 1860s and late 1870s.
The Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville was built on a split site. Between and alongside it were the buildings of Bowling Dyeworks, by that time (1866-1881) the largest worsted dyeworks anywhere in the world. The main sponsor of the industrial model village of Ripley Ville was Henry Wm Ripley. Though he was to diversify his interests in mid and later life – a good marriage and a significant inheritance through his wife also helped – Bowling Dyeworks was for 30 years the source of much of his wealth.
This page looks at the development of Bowling Dyeworks and the firm of Edward Ripley & Son. Starting from it’s beginnings in the early 1800s, the strand explores the place of the Works and of George, Edward and Henry Wm Ripley, their partners, associates and employees in the dyeing of worsted cloth in the West Riding and in the history of Worstedopolis. The strand helps to round out the Victorian world within which Ripley Ville was built. It also seeks to make clear the difficulties worsted dyers faced, the changes in dyeing technology that led to the pre-eminence of the Works and the Ripley firm in worsted dyeing by the mid to late Victorian period and the the challenges in the 1860s that came from the new aniline dyes.
Bowling Dyeworks : Working the Chemistry
1812 – 1821 : From Bowling Dyehouse to Bowling Dyeworks
1807-1812 : Bowling Dyehouse, Mr Walton and George Ripley
In 1807 or 1808, sources vary as to the exact date, George Ripley and members of his family, including his son Edward, moved to Bowling where George entered into partnership with a Mr Walton at Bowling Dye House. The Dye House was at the Smithies or Smithies Close near the bottom of Milligan’s Lane in what was then called little Bowling to the south of the town of Bradford (pop, 1801 census, 6,393). Described as ‘three cottages’ the dyehouse had access to the water of Bowling Beck.
Around 1812, George’s son, Edward joined the partnership and Mr Walton retired to private life. Cudworth describes the dyehouse during this time as involved in dyeing ‘stocking yarn, hearthrugs, women’s dresses and men’s garments sent to be re-dyed.’ and George Ripley as ‘the only practical dyer about the place’. There are claims that the dyehouse was ‘worn out’ and there was not business for two’.(1)
In the same year Edward married Hannah Murgatroyd, daughter of Nathaniel Murgatroyd, cotton merchant and partner in Holme Mill, one of Bradford’s first steam powered mills. Edward and Hannah’s son, Henry William, was born in April 1813 the following year.
1812 – 1821 : from Dyehouse to Dyeworks,’George Ripley & Son’ – Eighteen men and boys
At some point over the next 8-10 years dyeing was moved to a new site and a new Works started at “Dyers’ Field”, further up the bowl-end of Bradford Dale. In 1821, this new Works trading under the name ‘George Ripley & Son’ and around which the main Bowling Dyeworks site later became established was employing 18 men and boys. At the time, the blue and woad dyer was George Ripley, the pattern dyer James Murgatroyd, who had been brought in from Leeds, and the black dyer a Joseph Crowther. Orders for the Works were taken by Edward’s wife, Hannah, two days a week at a room in Bradford town centre and also sought from Halifax – where George had learned the dyeing trade. Hannah’s father Nathaniel Murgatroyd, mentioned above, may at one stage have had a financial interest in the land or property connected with the dyehouse or works.
1821 – 1846 : From Jobbing Works to World-beating Innovation
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Copyright R L Walker 2014
last updated 2014/02/26