Housekeeping v Demolition

This page tracks some of the background to decisions to demolish buildings on the northern site of Ripleyville in the late 1960s, references the Grade II listing for the village’s Almshouses but shows how these or other Bradford buildings are not enough to reveal what Victorian Ripley Ville was like physically or to live in.


rRVblog logo claretandamberHouse Keeping v Demolition

I could be wrong but I’m not aware of any great public outcry when the decision was made in the late 1960s to demolish Victorian Ripley Ville. Many of the houses still lacked hot water and basic amenities and ownership was split broadly between the council, the Ripley Trust and possibly a few owner-occupiers or private landlords. Demolition also followed a period of considerable animosity between older residents and more recent tenants. Community workers were put in to try and help resolve the problem.

The history of Ripleyville’s decline can be followed through articles, reports and letters to the editor of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

You can follow the thread on the microfiched copies in Bradford Central Library. These entries give a flavour :-

1966/Oct/11th, page 10, column 1 : Letter headed, ‘The Decline of Ripleyville’ by ‘Rip Van Winkle’.

1968/Aug/15th, page 1, column 3 : Front page article, ‘Tension in Ripleyville’, about police being called, with publican allegedly threatened and hotel damaged.

1968/Dec/31st, page 5, column 2 : Article, ‘Danger from empty houses : Vandals wreck Ripleyville property causing hazards to health and children’.

1969/July/29th, page 6, column 3 : Article to effect that a place ironically called ‘the Villa’ and a community that accepts ‘muck blown through t’winder oiles’ and ‘cold water only’ was ‘now doomed’.

1969/Sept/12th, page 10, column 3 : Article (under heading ‘Rotten Apple’?), saying Shelter Report of 11th September 1969 contained ‘exaggeration’ and offering a report by John Hewitt, David Blackburn ( Leeds College of Commerce) and Katrina Ackroyd (Bradford University).

The story told through this thread of articles and letters provides a background to Peter Knowles’ contribution in the ‘Three Vicarages’ post about a plan to take a railway line through the middle of the Villa in the late 1960s.


If it had survived another decade Ripley Ville’s significance, as the old Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village, may have been realised.  In that later decade the Ripley Ville alms houses were identified as deserving of preservation. They are now Grade II listed by English Heritage.

The listing can be accessed through Bradford Council. Under Bradford, click on ‘ Grade II Listed Buildings’.  In the PDF scroll down to ‘New Cross Street, West Bowling, Bradford 5’, listing No 9/885 II, where the architectural and historical reasons for their listing will be found.

Its interesting that the listing doesn’t say they were part of an industrial model village!

copyright R L (Bob) Walker

Losses regrettable

The alms houses can’t, however, stand for a whole village. The loss of the schools’ buildings and the vicarage are particularly regrettable. There is some indication, for example, that elements in the design of the Ripley Ville schools building were repeated by the architects, Andrews Son and Pepper, in the design of Bradford Boys Grammar School. The vicarage with its wine cellar and day and night nurseries would have offered a very interesting glimpse of contrasting wealth in such a small village with lessons that could be drawn about a wider Victorian society.

image subject to license agreement

Nor can the short terraced row of Victorian Back to backs from Gathorne Street, rebuilt at Bradford’s Industrial Museum, make up for the loss of housing. All the Ripley Ville houses were through terraced houses. The distinction, common to all the improved and model housing in the mid to late Victorian West Riding is that it was not built back to back. As those who have been on it will know,  some part of the success of Saltaire’s Arts Trail is in seeing how industrial model housing, of the various sizes and types in the village, is lived in now.  In contrast, at this point in time, we have next to nothing to tell us how the larger houses on Ripley Ville’s Vere Street compared to the inner houses on Sloan Street and Saville Street or those fronting Ripley Terrace.

image subject to license agreement

Filling the Gap

It is the kind of gap in knowledge that this blog is hoping to fill – with your help. Almost any illustration; photo, sketch, map plan, or recollection would improve on the few grainy photos available now.

If you have ideas for raising the village’s profile, I’d be happy to hear them.

see Contributions page

see also new ‘Heritage Matters : Events Projects & Campaigning’ page (under development)

Which brings me to the the aims of this blog. These are

  • To reach out to people with interests, old or new, in Victorian Ripley Ville
  • To add to the ways in which people’s different stories of Ripley Ville can be shared
  • To use different people’s knowledge to improve on what we can know with any certainty about what the village and its buildings were like physically and to live in, in Victorian times

So, get using the comment boxes, take a look at the ‘Adding Content‘ page. Get in touch.

There so much to find out.

In return I’ll keep you up to date on my attempts and those of others at rediscovering Victorian Ripley Ville; the old Borough of Bradford’s only industrial model village.

last updated 2014/01/14

14 responses

  1. I was born in sloan street the t&a story of the rotten apple involved my family and they followed the story up with my family being re-housed into bradford moor.
    I have a few memories of living there but my older brother and sisters have fond memories of life in rippleyville from what i remember it looked war torn.

    1. Hi JJ,
      Welcome to the blog. There must be all sorts of stories from the time when the Villa went into decline. In parts of an e-mail that I have but haven’t printed, the unmade roads on Saville Street and Sloan St and the disappearance of the houses iron railings are mentioned as part of and adding to the idea the place wasn’t being looked after. To a youngster it must have looked war-torn.

  2. Stella Marie burton | Reply

    My Great Grand parents lived in Sloan street They were called Milner My mum used to say that when she was growing up in the 1920s/ 1930s It was posh round there.

    1. Hello Stella, Welcome to the blog. There is a photo from 1928 taken in a garden in Vere St – definitely the post bit. Click on this to find the image and recollections of Graham Austin and about his ancestors.


  3. Stella Marie burton | Reply

    Thankyou Bob My Mum Used To visit Sloane St in the 1920s-1930s.

    1. Graham Austin is the man we have to thank for the photo. Its amazing it survived.

  4. Stella Marie burton | Reply

    Hi Graham By Some Coincidence My Grandad Henry Milner Married A Margaret Ann Austin Of Brownroyd Our Austins were Originely from Norwich Norfolk They Came To Bradford In The 1970s for the work They Lived On Lawrence St.

  5. Stella Marie burton | Reply

    Sorry Should Say 1870s Stella.

  6. Thanks for your site – very interesting. In relation to Ripley’s demolition, it is important to be aware that Saltaire was also under threat of demolition in the 1970s. In particular, if plans for a new motorway to the Lake District had come off, the village would have been destroyed as part of the works. Saltaire in the 1970s was also very run down (according to personal communication from the housing historian, Alison Ravetz), and, indeed, remained so until somewhat after the listing of the village in 1989. Even when I purchased a house in Saltaire in 1999, many houses I looked at lacked central heating and had kitchens constructed from free standing cupboards, stoves and sinks.

    1. Hello Liz,
      Welcome to the blog. I tend to worry that Saltaire’s survival is taken as proof of its worth. So your reminder is timely. I also wonder whether the late 1960s and mid 1970s were sufficiently different economically and culturally to explain the demise of one and the survival of the other? At less than 10 acres and 200 houses, it would also be a lot easier to do damage to Ripleyville or to seriously consider and then carry out clearance of the northern site.

  7. Stanley Goulding | Reply

    Puzzled by your reference to unmade roads in Saville Street where I lived 1954 to about 1960.
    The front was a pathway leading from Ellen Street to Lonton Street.
    The back was a cobbled road which I recall the gaps between cobbles were regularly tarred, perhaps even to 1966 when I lived at Ripley Terrace which backed onto Saville Street.

  8. Stanley Goulding | Reply

    Sorry, should be Linton Street.

    1. Hi Stanley,
      Is this for me (Bob)? If there is a mention of unmade roads, it will be what residents have reported to me or in the newspaper articles above. I never saw the village. The housing was demolished ten years before I came to Bradford. What it was like can only be worked out through photographs, reports articles and memories like your own. On a personal note and as a follow up to Liz Sharp’s comment earlier. Though I was living some 70 miles away in a small country town, I did read the Shelter Report that condemned housing conditions in the Villa. Reading it, I was appalled – I had no idea this was what should be treated as an industrial model village or Heritage site but I did think the landlords had a duty to repair and upgrade their properties.

  9. I lived on saville st at 24 I think my great grandmother was called Margaret never know my granddad ,she is buried in bowling cemertiy where all her family are buried I think some of children are buried there and so is my mother ashes

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