Henry William Ripley : Pattern Man

The aim of this page is to create an authoritative snap-shot of the public and commercial life of H W Ripley, the main sponsor of the Victorian industrial model village of Ripley Ville and to show how different ideas and different circumstances led to a later Victorian village built in south Bradford, within 4 miles of Saltaire, that may best be described as a ‘pattern’ village.



Henry William Ripley : Pattern Man

From Model to Pattern

Titus Salt & Henry William Ripley Compared

On the day of Titus Salt’s funeral, January 5th 1877, tens of thousands of people lined the streets; fewer as his bier left his home of ‘Crow Nest’ in Lightcliffe but swelling in numbers down Manchester Road to Bradford and out along Manningham Lane to Saltaire. Writing of the crowds Balgarnie (2003 : 238-9) suggests there were 40,000 in the centre of Saltaire alone and that seeing the funeral procession in Bradford and the affectionate respect of the crowd ‘A stranger might have thought a prince had fallen…’.

There is little doubt that during the 1860s and early 1870s and beyond, Titus Salt was held up as the model of Christian and commercial virtues amongst Bradford’s assorted worsted barons. One hundred and fifty years later he retains his reputation.

Henry William Ripley : Main Sponsor of Ripley Ville

Against that kind of judgement where do you put Sir Henry William Ripley Bart (1813-1882). H W Ripley was the main sponsor of Ripley Ville, its major benefactor and the village takes its name from him. The contrast between Salt and Ripley, real and embellished, can be found in contemporary accounts and later histories of Bradford.

H W Ripley in later life

Lack of authoritative biography

The need to do Ripley justice in such accounts has suffered and continues to suffer from the lack of an authoritative biography. Even those who deliver most on context and details of his life; William Cudworth (1881, 1891), Jack Reynolds (1983) and Theodore Koditschek (1990) make errors of fact and/or interpretation. After 10 years of admittedly intermittent and part-time research, I have only sketchy knowledge of H W Ripley’s activities when in parliament (1874-1880), or in his role from 1848 as Borough magistrate and later as West Riding magistrate. Only a very rudimentary digitised record of his contributions in parliament is available via the Hansard site. The activities of the Ripley families outside the West Riding or indeed of the UK have not, as yet, been pursued.

A Pattern Man not the Model of Paternalism

What came earlier and was other than these activities is, however, slowly becoming clearer. It still remains difficult to summarise Henry’s 40 years of prominence in Bradford’s commercial, public and political life in a short space. In this attempt I have made use of a colloquial expression common in the Victorian period in the West Riding, of ‘a pattern man’, or ‘pattern woman’. The idea of a pattern, particularly in textiles, allows us to think of a garment with widely variable fit or of something which viewed differently would at the same time appeal to different groups of people. It also suggests something of the move during the mid-Victorian period towards enlarging markets in housing, personal consumption and taste and rather differently to the liberalism of J S Mill; of living a life according to one’s own light. More particularly, it provides the right kind of contrast to Titus Salt who in an earlier period of consensus in Bradfordian society was, or in a mythic sense continues as, the model of a paternalistic employer, or as I have written above ‘of Christian and commercial virtues’.

Newlands Mill Disaster

If there has been one incident that has tarnished Ripley’s reputation more than most, and there were at least three other lesser incidents, it is the Newlands Mill Disaster of 28th December 1882. In one of Bradford’s worst industrial accidents fifty four workpeople were killed, twenty-six of them below the age of 16 and the youngest, Susan Woodhead, only 8 years old. The fall of the chimney occurred nearly two months after the then Sir Henry William Ripley’s death. So the failure to deal appropriately or effectively with its very palpable instability actually lay with his executors and their agents. This is irrespective of any assertions that H W Ripley pushed through its construction with inadequate foundations. The inquiry into the Disaster, at which these assertions were made, came to a conclusion of ‘no blame’, while finding it regrettable that ’the works were not stopped during repairs.’

Sketch Newlands Mill Disaster

Sketch of Newlands Mill Disaster from Bradford Weekly Telegraph

The rest of this page is in the process of being transferred to the Members Area

Copyright R L Walker December 2013

Information sources

Election Cartoons 1867-1874 from own collection

In addition to publications listed below, this web-page draws on historical evidence from three major sources and one lesser source. These are;

B O         Events and episodes of H W Ripley’s life reported in the local newspaper, the Bradford Observer 1851-1874

BCCM    Minutes of meetings of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce from 1851 to 1869

DWR     `The Register of Deeds for transactions in land and property in the West Riding that H W Ripley was involved in between 1840 and 1867

WD Corr         H W Ripley’s Correspondence, mainly with his lawyers and the Clerk to Bradford Borough council on the Water Dispute 1850-1857


Balgarnie R  (1877) Sir Titus Salt Bart : His Life and its Lessons,  Hodder and Stoughton, London

Cudworth W  (1881) Historical Notes on the Bradford Corporation, Thomas Brear, Bradford

Cudworth W  (1891) Histories of Bolton & Bowling historically and topographically treated, Thomas Brear, Bradford

Firth G (1990) Bradford and the Industrial Revolution, an Economic History 1760-1840, Ryburn Publishing, Halifax

Harrison R  (1965), Before the Socialists : Studies in Labour and Politics 1861 – 1881, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London

Ilersic A R  (1960) Parliament of Commerce : the Story of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce 1860-1960, Newman Neame, London

Jennings P (1995) The Public House in Bradford 1770 -1970, Keele University Press, Staffordshire

Koditschek T  (1990) Class Formation and Urban Industrial Society : Bradford 1750-1850, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Reynolds J  (1983) The Great Paternalist : Titus Salt & the Growth of 19th Century Bradford, Maurice Temple Smith, Hounslow

Scott A (2002) The Newland Mill Disaster, Bradford Trident, Bradford

Walker R L (2008) When was Ripleyville built?, SEQUALS, Shipley

back to Ripley Ville & its Victorian World 1835-1885

Last updated 2014/02/26

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