This week I read Bradford: A Centenary City by Tom Montgomery , written 20 years ago in 1997. Tucked away between the familiar tales of Lister's Mill, Saltaire and the Bradford Pals were less familiar stories from the history of Bradford - stories ripe to be retold, adapted and used as springboards for fiction.
I can't possibly write them all myself. And, even if I did, I wouldn't write the same story you would. So, for your delight and delectation - and for your inspiration too - here are 10 stories from the history of Bradford that deserve to be told:
- 1770s-90s: The move from the piece-work of cottage industry (spinning, weaving and wool-combing) to the very first machines and mills. A key player here is the Quaker John Hustler, after whom the street Hustlergate is named.
- The "Wild West Riding" of the 1820s-40s, when Bradford was a "lawless frontier town." Before the Incorporation Act of 1847, Bradford was a squalor of mills and slums, with money the only driving force behind the mill owners. Both Luddites and Chartists were active in this period: Bradford was a dangerous place!
- Bradford composer William Jackson, who was a favourite of Queen Victoria and the first conductor of Bradford Festival Chorus.
- "The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo," Joseph Hobson Jagger, who cleaned out a Monte Carlo casino in 1875 due to his superior knowledge of the effects of wear and tear on wooden spindles (gained in his job at Bottomley's Mill).
- The Bradfordians tricked into emigrating to Brazil in 1892 by unscrupulous recruiting agents. A rescue mission was mounted to bring them back from their dire straits (yellow fever, starvation and work "only fit for slaves") but only 59 were brought home.
- The vanished Manningham Hall, home of the Listers, which was demolished to make way for Cartwright Hall and Lister Park.
- Manningham Rugby Club (founded 1876), a founder member of the Rugby League, but converted to Bradford City Football Club in 1903 when soccer became more popular.
- The tragic demise of Little Germany due to the onset of World War 1. Members of influential merchant families that had made Bradford great found themselves persecuted and faced with conflicting loyalties.
- Tramp Arthur Blackburn, who coped and indexed hundreds of grave inscriptions in the 1920s-30s, but whose own grave went unmarked.
- Bowling Park and Birchlands - homes of mill-owning brothers Abraham and Joseph Mitchell - which were demolished in the 1990s and rebuilt in Japan as golf club houses.
So, there you go! It wasn't all "trouble at t'mill" in the West Riding. Happy writing!
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