Category Archives: Historical

Liverpool Zoological Gardens

Sadly, no trace remains of Liverpool Zoological Gardens, “a place of favourite and fashionable resort” in its day, which graced the south-side of West Derby Road beyond the old Necropolis from 1833 to 1865. Indeed, there are few relics nowadays of the Victorian terraced housing which subsequently dominated the area. The Gardens enjoyed an eventful history that I shall describe below, which involved a glorious rise and an ignominious fall.

The Zoological Gardens were opened on 27th May 1833 by Thomas Atkins, the long-time proprietor of a travelling menagerie, the beasts of which were, of course, destined to form its principal attraction. Now nearing his seventies and no-doubt tired of life on the road, Atkins had acquired an old brick-field and pit named “Plumpton’s Hollow” on the edge of town for his purpose. This had been notorious as “a place where multitudes of the lower orders have hitherto been accustomed to resort for the enjoyment of prize fights, and similar amusements”. Atkins had determined to transform it into a pleasant attraction for respectable townsfolk where, “every attention will be paid to the preservation of order and the exclusion of improper visitors…”. (The Liverpool Mercury 22/2/1833, 31/5/1833).


Liverpool Zoological Gardens. Liverpool Zoo/Zoological Parks (Click picture to enlarge)

The existing excavations made the chosen plot ideal for landscaping into a scenic garden, arranged around a natural amphitheatre. A circular grand-menagerie was built in this depression, next to a lake, and there was a monkey house, an elephant house, a bear pit, an eaglery, an aviary, and a waterfowl pond, all suitably populated. There was also a concert room, a refreshment room, and an orchestra-stand on a lawn. Shortly after its opening, the “inducements to a visit” were described as, “extensive grounds very beautifully laid out, a very numerous collection of animals and birds so disposed as to be seen to the best advantage, and the charms of music…giving life and animation to the whole.” Later, there was also a centrifugal railway and a camera obscura. One Monday in June 1833, there were estimated to have been between three and four thousand visitors, entrance being restricted to annual subscribers and their families, and only such others as could pay a shilling and produce a pre-booked Visitor’s ticket. (The Liverpool Mercury 22/2/1833, 31/5/1833, 21/6/1833, 28/6/1833, 25/12/1835; The Liverpool Standard 1/10/1833; The Liverpool Mail 7/8/1847).


Zoological Gardens, Regents Park, by George Scharf, (Aviary) (1835). Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)


Zoological Gardens, Regents Park, by George Scharf, (Monkey House) (1835) . Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

Of course ships put into Liverpool from all over the world, and they soon began to bring exotic animals with them to augment the Gardens’ menagerie. Many citizens also seemed to have curious specimens available to contribute. The Liverpool Standard of 7th April 1835 cited the following presents (amongst numerous others) as having lately been received by the gardens: “An Ursine sloth and a monkey from Captain Harding, ship Bounty Hall; an American black bear from Captain Nicholson, ship Tally Ho; a Caffrarian cat from Captain Adam McMinu, ship Hibernia; an Indian buffalo from Captain Ellis, ship Tyrer…etc…”. On 28th July 1836, Gore’s General Advertiser catalogued, amongst many live donations recently made: “…a king vulture, from Robert Gladstone, Esq, Abercromby-Square…a whistling duck, Captain Bispham of the Sandbach; a red curassow, a crocodile, and three tortoises, Captain Burnett of the Montezuma; a pair of Muscovy ducks and three snapping turtle, Captain Curtis of the Kensington…”. In September 1836, Captain Kellock of the East India ship the Cestrian presented the gardens with a tiger that had belonged to the Nizam of Hydrabad, and which had reputedly devoured sixteen sheep on the voyage over from Bombay. (The Liverpool Standard 6/2/1835, 7/4/1835, 7/7/1835, 16/9/1836; Gore’s General Advertiser 28/7/1836; The Liverpool Mail 15/12/1836).


Menagerie, by Hermann Van Aken, (1833). Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

Strangely, two (unnamed) men were brought before the city magistrates in late 1833 charged by Mr Atkins “with having represented themselves as belonging to the Gardens, and having obtained in that character from captains of vessels, different animals intended for that establishment.” However, “After hearing the case, the magistrates decided that there was not sufficient evidence to convict them of fraud, but cautioned then not to appear there again, lest they should stand in a very different situation.” (The Liverpool Mercury 4/10/1833)

Atkins was certainly not short of animals to exhibit, so that one wonders how such a diverse bestiary might be properly fed and looked-after. And he was always on the look-out for new additions. In June 1835, “Mr Atkins, the indefatigable collector of curiosities, is gone on a special mission to London, for the purpose of inviting some illustrious strangers, now in town, to partake of the illustrious hospitality of his gardens. He is expected to return, in the course of the week, accompanied by a male and female nylghou [large Indian antelopes], and their young family, a cassowary [a flightless New Guinean bird], some black swans, and several other birds and beasts.” (The Liverpool Standard 9/6/1835).


Isaac Van Amburgh with his Animals by Edwin Landseer (1839). Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

And the animals were far from being the Gardens’ sole attraction. For instance, in August 1834, Atkins was advertising evenings wherein, “The Grounds and Principal buildings will be Splendidly Illuminated with Coloured Lamps arranged in Arcades, Festoons, Stars, Flowers, &c, &c…” There was to be the spectacle of a balloon ascent and the accompaniment of a military band, and the evenings were to culminate in a firework display. The Gardens manufactured its own fireworks, and ambitious pyrotechnic performances featured regularly throughout its existence, though it is not recorded how its more timid residents tolerated these explosive disturbances. (The Liverpool Mercury 1/8/1834)

The Gardens opened in spring for each year’s season, with a program of events to last through to the autumn. Each season’s centrepiece was usually a topical tableaux, based upon recent dramatic happenings such as a battle, a siege, or an outbreak of revolutionary violence. In 1838, in view of its eruption in recent years, “The whole of the east side of the garden was laid out to represent Mount Vesuvius, towering above its adjacent hills, and, at its feet, Naples and its beautiful Bay…the optical illusion was accomplished by means of small hillocks and painted canvas…The lighting eruption began at 9 o’clock…At first, a thin column of smoke issued from the crater and rose in the air…After an interval a brilliant flash succeeded…Presently the flashes became more frequent, and flame mingled with the smoke at the craters mouth ever and anon changing its tint from a violet to a livid and from a livid to a crimson hue…Vesuvius opens, as it were, her womb, and pours forth an overwhelming flood of molten fire, carrying desolation in its path…” (The Liverpool Standard 8/6/1838)

There were some real-life, rather then merely figurative, mishaps along the way. William Mayman, a West Derby Road publican, stated that, early one Sunday evening in October 1838, “I was standing at my own door, near which was a man with a basket of nuts for sale. This man first saw a large bear make his way over the gate into the lane. He immediately threw his basket to the beast, and it began to eat the nuts. At this moment a child, being on its way to buy some nuts, I ran and caught hold of it to bring it to my house for safety. Before I had advanced many yards, the bear jumped upon my back, sized me by the right arm, and began to grind it with his teeth in a dreadful manner.” After a prolonged struggle, “the keepers of the gardens came and beat him off, just in time to save my life.” Unfortunately Mayman had been severely mauled in saving the child, and was henceforth subject to such bad fits that he took his own life by arsenic in 1845 (aged only 36). Bizarrely, Mayman’s pub was actually called “The Bear”, a name his widow later declared it had borne even before the attack! (The Liverpool Standard 19/10/1838, 11/2/1845; Gore’s General Advertiser 27/5/1841; The Liverpool Mail 8/2/1845; The Liverpool Mercury 3/11/1864).


Animal Shack, Paul Tierbude, Photo engraving after a painting by Paul Friedrich Meyerheim (1885). Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

Thomas Atkins died on the 6th June 1848, aged 84, described in his obituary as, “most liberal to all connected to the large establishment of which he was the head.” The saddest incident in the Gardens’ history coincidentally followed less than two weeks later, when his beloved elephant Rajah, whom he had owned for over eleven years, followed its master to its demise. The poor beast grew infuriated after being struck twice with a broom by its keeper (Richard Howard), to make him budge, and he ran at the man, jammed him against the bars of the cage, let him fall, and then crushed him to death underfoot. Rajah had killed a keeper (Henry Andrews) in this manner before, one night in 1843, when “The handle of a broom, with which the deceased had often struck the animal, was found near the place, broken in two pieces.” Rajah was not forgiven this time, and Atkins’ sons John and Edwin first resolved to poison the creature, then, that having failed, had him shot by a company of riflemen. The keeper’s widow, Sarah, died “through excessive grief” soon afterwards. (The Liverpool Mail 23/12/1843, 11/11/1848; The Liverpool Standard 13/6/1848, 20/6/1848).


The Shooting of Rajah. Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

The Gardens were, perhaps, never the same again. Shifting priorities were suggested by the new proprietress, Atkins’ widow Elizabeth’s, subsequent efforts to secure a wine & spirits licence for the premises (it already had a beer licence). A lawyer named Mr Snowball opposed her 1851 application, ostensibly on the ground that, “It would be very dangerous to allow parties to partake of spirits in a zoological garden, for many accidents, it was well known, had happened from persons poking the dens of wild beasts even when sober…” (Such examples of “Temerity Punished” had indeed arisen before, one man having had his hand “severely lacerated” in 1847 by a lion he had been “teasing” with a stick.) The real reason for the magistrates’ rejection of Elizabeth’s applications probably lay in their reluctance to see the Gardens descend into disorder and prostitution, such as was notorious at London’s Cremorne pleasure garden. (The Liverpool Standard 17/8/1847; Liverpool Mercury 12/9/1851).

In January 1852 Elizabeth sold the Gardens to Mr John Durandu, “a bullion dealer and exchange broker, Waterloo-road”, whose brief period of ownership does not seem to have been a happy one. In December of that year he brought a complaint against a police officer, who had insisted on taking him up as “drunk and disorderly”, despite his affirmation that he was “perfectly sober at the time”. The Liverpool Mercury speculated that 1852 “cannot have been a profitable season.” He had his own license applications rejected, and in March 1854 sought to recover £10 from Elizabeth Atkins in the County Court in respect of “four macaws and a parrot” he alleged had gone missing. (The Liverpool Mercury 24/2/1852, 10/9/1852, 21/3/1854; The Liverpool Mail, 25/12/1852).

By April 1854, Atkins’ son John had taken the Gardens back into family ownership. And, “In order to secure some new and curious specimens of the animal world,” his brother Edwin had “started, in 1852, on the perilous journey of exploring the almost unknown tracts of the interior of Africa. He had been most successful in his daring adventure, having secured several specimens, when death overtook him on a small island on the White River, a branch of the Nile, in January last.” This was quite notable, considering that David Livingstone’s famous Nile explorations did not begin for over a decade. But despite Edwin’s enterprise, by 1855 it could be complained that, “It is well known that these gardens do not posses that enormous zoological collection which so distinguished them in former years…” (The Liverpool Mercury 14/4/1854, 21/4/1854; The Liverpool Standard 24/4/1855).


Menagerie. In the Animal Shack by Paul Friedrich Meyerheim (1894). Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

The changing nature of the Gardens is evident from increasing references to “a great number of improper characters” attending them. This euphemism meant prostitutes, “a class whose presence must always prevent families from attending”, and John Atkins’ newspaper advertisements now stated that all such persons would be prohibited admission. Atkins responded to a complaint from “The Society for the Suppression of Vicious Practices”, that “with the assistance of the police, women of the town had in fact been prevented from entering the gardens.” He was finally granted a wine and spirits licence in 1857, which accelerated the Gardens’ slide into vice. A “Temperance Festival” held there in 1858, “was strangely belied by a visit to the alcoholic refreshment rooms, particularly as the evening advanced, the consumption of liquors being in proportion to the extra number of visitors.” (The Liverpool Mercury 29/6/1857, 13/7/1858, 31/8/1858; Gore’s General Advertiser 16/7/1857; The Daily Post 16/7/1857).

Atkins sold the Gardens to the Zoological Gardens Company Ltd (“a company of capitalists”) in early 1860. Despite their promises to increase the stock of animals, when they opened for the season in May 1861, “The most important improvement we have to notice is the new decorations of the immense dancing platform…These have been carried out in a most expensive and expansive style…Completely encircling the platform is an arcade of thirty-two arches… The inner faces of these arches are filled with gas jets…In the illumination of the platform and precincts three thousand gas jets are used and they are surrounded by thirty thousand lustres.” Clearly, the Zoological Gardens had completed the transformation into a Pleasure Garden that the licensing magistrates had feared. When the elephant house burned down in September 1861 all it contained was the skeleton of Rajah, which was thus “reduced to ashes”. (The Liverpool Mercury 30/3/1860, 4/5/1861; The Liverpool Mail 31/3/1860; The Daily Post 7/5/1861, 28/9/1861).


The Dancing Platform at Cremorne Gardens by Phoebus Levin (1864). Public Domain (Click picture to enlarge)

By now the area was becoming heavily built-up, and the Gardens were no longer on the edge of town. The finances must always have been precarious, with the expense of purchasing, feeding and keeping the animals, and of mounting grand spectacles, offset by the revenues from only a half-year season, and that at the mercy of the weather. And, since their fall from grace, the Gardens were no longer considered a public amenity by the metropolitan great and good. In 1864 the proprietors did offer to sell the land to the corporation for £28,000 to make for a public park, and it was sad that this means of preserving an open space with mature gardens for posterity was declined. Ultimately the temptation to realise the site’s development value, especially that of the frontage to West Derby Road for shops and pubs, proved too much, and the Gardens finally closed on 30th September 1865. The ground was levelled and laid-out for building purposes, with Boaler Street driven right through its middle, served by several streets leading off. Now most of that is gone in its turn, largely replaced by an anonymous industrial estate. (The Liverpool Mercury 8/9/1864; The Daily Post 2/10/1865).

When closure first loomed in 1864, The Liverpool Mercury commented thus: ‘The unenviable character borne by “the gardens” of late years extinguishes all feeling of regret at the fate with which they are threatened. It was not always so. At one time, and that no distant date, the title of “Zoological Gardens” was not the misnomer it has for some time been. The two or three half-starved specimens of the “king of beasts,” and the mangy monkeys, which a visitor to “the gardens” in recent times might, after much searching, find, were but the miserable remnants of one of the finest collections of animals in the kingdom, representing in value many thousands of pounds. In those better days, too, “the gardens” were the favourite resort, not of the demi-monde but of the “upper ten thousand,” as well as of the numberless lower ten thousand who could only claim to be honest and respectable.’ (The Liverpool Mercury 19/10/1864).

Additional Sources: “The Streets of Liverpool” by James Stonehouse, pp., 116-21 (1869); Entry for Thomas Atkins in the Oxford DNB; “A History of Zoological Gardens in the West” by Eric Baratay & Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugien (2002)

Nautical Nassau

Back in February of this year, before the dreaded “lockdown”, I flew to Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas to stay for a couple of weeks. This was rather out of character, since I am not normally a globe-trotter, but it was designed as a trip to research some settings for the second novel I am writing wherein the heroine sails to Nassau from Liverpool in 1864.

On my arrival the town at first defined my expectations, but not in a good way. Walking the short distance from my hotel to the “downtown” area at dusk in search of congenial rest and refreshment, I found everything closing-up and the prevailing atmosphere unsettling, so that I was forced to retreat to the hotel bar for the evening. I soon learned that downtown, which is basically Bay Street and Woodes Rogers Walk that run parallel at the harbour-front, caters almost exclusively for the cruise-ships that visit in the daytime. Along this tawdry esplanade of gift shops and insalubrious eateries, hustling for tourist dollars is the overriding preoccupation.


Five huge cruise-ships tie-up at the Prince George Wharf, at right angles to the harbour-side Woodes Rogers Walk, every day. My Photo

To the left of the above picture loom the massive installations of “Paradise Island” (formerly the more prosaic Hogg Island) which is an entirely self-contained resort, the residents of which do not seem to visit the town of Nassau at all.


A closer view of Paradise Island from the shore to the east of Nassau. My Photo

Apart from the beach bars of Arawak Cay and Junkanoo, the town centre has almost no native life of bars, shops or restaurants of its own. Indeed a number of the streets climbing the low ridge rising inland from the harbour are actually derelict, their buildings being reclaimed by nature. Like the protagonist in the Beach Boys’ classic rendition of “Sloop John B”, my initial impressions of Nassau left me feeling so broke-up I wanted to go home (and we’re talking here about my home being the then storm-lashed and wintery north of England!).


A derelict bungalow to the South West of Nassau town centre, near Clifford Park. My Photo

Knowing something of the history of the Bahamas, it occurred to me to compare the current era of cruise-ship driven prosperity to previous boom-times in Nassau brought about by temporary incomers. I’m thinking of its periods as a nest of piracy in the early eighteenth century, as a base for Confederate blockade running in the American Civil War in the 1860s, and as a hub for liquor-smuggling into the US during the 1920s prohibition. Perhaps in the aftermath of the current global pandemic with its social distancing, the ascendancy of the cruise-ship will prove to be as ephemeral for the town as were those other historical phenomena in their day.

But, if so, it will leave a most pleasing alternate aspect of the town, which I was soon to discover during my stay, entirely intact. Some parts of Nassau which few cruise-ship excursioners visit, particularly those around Government House atop of the ridge, are very beautiful.


Government House, looking westward. My Photo


 A view along West Hill Street, looking east.  My Photo


A garden by the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, off West Hill Street. My Photo


A view of St Francis Xavier Cathedral from the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas garden, looking North West. My Photo


A colourful mural. My Photo

I was delighted to find, as my explorations widened, that the town actually hosts many notable attractions that I seemed to have pretty much to myself, all staffed by the most helpful, friendly and informative local people you could wish to find. I particularly enjoyed the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, the Heritage Museum of the Bahamas, the Nassau Public Library, and Fort Charlotte.

At the Bahamas Historical Society Museum, I was settled down at a table with a cup of tea and given wonderfully informed help with my researches. At the Balcony House Museum, I was offered some tremendous insights into the historical nature of Bahamian society. At The Retreat, a bus ride out to the southeast of town, I discovered a gorgeous ornamental garden run by the Bahamas National Trust. And at Ardastra Garden, I enjoyed a terrific garden/zoo replete with exotic birds and marching flamingos.


 A peaceful scene at The Retreat. My Photo


Flamingos at Ardastra Gardens. My Photo


A Study in Flamingos at Ardastra Gardens. At certain times of the day a park-keeper drills these birds to march up and down to his order. My Photo


Exotic Birds at Ardastra Gardens. My Photo

I went on a catamaran trip to offshore Rose Island and bathed in the sea while most other trippers went snorkelling, which I didn’t fancy.


A cool dude on a catamaran. My Photo


A monster emerges from the sea at Rose Island. My Photo


A view from Rose Island. My Photo

I took a bus trip to Clifton Heritage Park, a former slave plantation at the western tip of the island, and leaned something of its history of slavery and emancipation.


A moving memorial to slavery at Clifton Heritage Park. These tree-trunk representations of slave women are looking out to sea over sheer cliffs. It is reported that some slaves threw themselves to their deaths at this spot. My Photo

So, in the end, I really enjoyed my time in Nassau and gathered some invaluable research. My hotel was opposite Junkanoo beach and my favourite bar became that beach’s Salty Crab, where I was treated to bottles of the local beer and delicious lobster salad.


The view from my hotel window, as a cruise-ship arrives in the morning. My Photo


My favourite beach bar, The Salty Crab, Junkanoo Beach. My Photo

Wild Woodhouse Moor

Before it became a landscaped park, Leeds’s Woodhouse Moor was a wild, rough stretch of common land on the town’s North-Western fringe, scarred by disused quarries and coal-pits, bordered by mean cottages, and grazed by livestock. The baying of hunting hounds kept in kennels there could be heard, and dog and cock fights drew rude crowds. Despite the Town Council’s purchase of it in 1855, ostensibly to undertake its improvement, it could still be described in the 1860s as a “ragged moor”, and “a compound of bog and puddle” which was “ploughed up by pigs, and rutted and cut up by carts, and made a depositary for all sorts of rubbish.”

Such out-of-town moorland was traditionally regarded as dangerous terrain that travellers would pass through quickly in case highwaymen were lurking about. Riders and pedestrians alike were regularly assailed, beaten and robbed on Woodhouse Moor. And a variety of more unusual hazards abounded there, which I shall describe hereafter as reported in the local press.


“Highwaymen raiding a tilt car by a forest stream”, Peter Snayers (1592-1667) Public Domain

Unbridled violence, sometimes as a public spectacle, often took place on Woodhouse Moor. A prize fight (for one guinea) held there in 1835 caused “a great assemblage of people to collect together,” and was “attended with considerable excitement …endangering the public peace.” An 1830 dispute regarding “a certain young lady”, led two gentlemen to fight a duel with pistols on the Moor, one receiving “his adversary’s shot in his left side.” Later that year, a deaf and dumb man “passing over Woodhouse Moor…was met by some fellows who robbed him of a silver watch.” In 1833 a Leeds merchant was assaulted there by two blackened-faced ruffians armed with a stick, who, “tore off one of his breeches pockets, containing £3, with which they ran off.”

In 1829 Joshua Grant, a “well-known disorderly” of Woodhouse, having been ejected from the Red Lion pub (at what is now Hyde Park Corner) for drunkenness and threatening behaviour, chased and violently assaulted an innocent bystander on the Moor by throwing a large stone at the back of the man’s head, so that “A torrent of blood gushed from his nose and mouth and he was taken home for dead…”. His victim survived, but on the very day Grant was let loose from custody he went on to engage in “a sanguinary pugilistic contest” elsewhere. The Leeds Intelligencer remarked that “Warning and lenity, to such men, are totally fruitless.”

At the annual Woodhouse Feast, “mountebanks, clowns and rough-riders catered for the people’s amusement.” Woodhouse Races, which accompanied the feast until the mid-nineteenth century, attracted assorted villains as well as “many a motley fool.” Gambling and pocket-picking (or “conveyancing”) were rife. Several such incidents at the races held in the September of 1846 occasioned press coverage:

One “young urchin” picked a silk handkerchief from the pocket of a gentleman who was rendering assistance to a man knocked down by a horse. A woman was sent to Wakefield jail for gambling, despite her protestation that “if she’d ‘know’d’ there was a law prohibiting such work, she would have been the last woman in the wide-world to break it.” A pair of girls were committed to Wakefield for a month each for pick-pocketing. A pair of youths were committed to be tried for the same offence, though “According to their own account they were very ill-used persons, and very innocent withal.” A trio of youths was sent to the stocks for gaming, and “The exhibition of these wooden-gartered loons was a rare source of amusement …”

Other “sporting” pursuits on the Moor brought their own dangers. A twelve year old boy was accidentally shot in the forehead during a pigeon shooting match in 1836, and in 1838 a man was killed in the same way. These incidents led to the use of firearms on the Moor being banned, but this was ignored and a correspondent to the press (calling himself “Ranger”) in May 1839 noted that a practice of shooting arrows (“tipped with sharp pointed steel, and…shot from very powerful bows”) was also widespread. Pigeon shooting was still going on in May 1854, when another correspondent (named “Fairplay”) denounced it (“Dear Sir, I have the strongest possible objection to being shot…why can’t I take a walk on Woodhouse Moor without running the chance of never getting home again?”)

Even apparently benign sports could prove hazardous to the recreational stroller. The ancient game of “Knor and Spell” (or Knurr and Spell) was played on the Moor for monetary stakes, often before large crowds. This featured a small wooden ball (the knor) being thrown up from a trap and hit by a bat (the spell). Each player had so many such “rises” of the ball (usually 30), and the winner was the one who drove it the furthest aggregate distance (“score yards”).

Airborne knors endangered pedestrian safety, and so did the games of rough cricket that were all-too-prevalent on the Moor. “Only a Burgess” wrote to the Leeds Mercury in August 1861 that he had been hit on the cheek-bone, while out walking with his wife, by a cricket ball: “One side of my face is now considerably larger than the other, and I feel altogether as if my nervous system had sustained a very severe shock”. He demanded that the council prevent the playing of “dangerous games in public places”.


“Yorkshiremen playing Knurr and Spell”, from George Walker’s “The Costume of Yorkshire” (1814) Public Domain

Calls for the council to turn the Moor into a proper park appeared regularly in the press. “An Inhabitant” wrote in such terms to the Leeds Mercury in June 1864 declaring that other northern towns (especially Manchester!!!) had “handsome public parks”. He went on to bemoan “the danger to which pedestrians are exposed (notwithstanding bye-laws and police regulations) from galloping horses and flying balls.” The bye-law outlawing horse-riding was widely flouted, and in July 1863 Thomas Horncastle Marshall, a Judge of the Leeds County Court no-less, was himself convicted of this offence by the Leeds magistrates and fined the derisory sum of one shilling.

Definite proposals to transform Woodhouse Moor (“the Lungs of Leeds”) into a safe public amenity, fit for all citizens, did not receive serious consideration by the Town Council until the late 1860s. Even then, progress was slow and seems to have been piecemeal. But the work of draining and landscaping was undertaken, and by 1889 Jackson’s Guide to Leeds could describe the Moor as “a public park with some pretentions to beauty,” and remark that “The ornamentation is the gradual growth of the last dozen years.”

In 1906, the Yorkshire Evening News celebrated the “civilisation” of the Moor, a condition no-doubt gratifying to North-West Leeds’s view of itself as home to a refined and cultivated citizenry.



Leeds Intelligencer 10/5/1819, 4/6/1829, 11/6/1829, 20/8/1829, 11/3/1830, 18/3/1830, 30/12/1830, 20/7/1833, 2/4/1836, 30/6/1838, 7/7/1838, 4/5/1839, 30/9/1843, 3/10/1846, 5/8/1848, 8/5/1854, 29/9/1855, 31/10/1857, 20/2/1862; Yorkshire Evening News 28/4/1906; Leeds Times 20/7/1833; 4/2/1843; 25/3/1843, 7/10/1843; Leeds Mercury 4/4/1835, 28/7/1838, 22/8/1861, 6/7/1863, 8/6/1864, 30/7/64, 29/9/1868.


“East End, West End: The Face of Leeds during Industrialisation”, Maurice Beresford (1988); “Woodhouse Moor”, by Edna Bews in “Aspects of Leeds”, ed. L.S. Tate (1998); “Jackson’s Guide to Leeds” (1889)

Leeds Welcomes Suffragists

This year marks the centenary of women being granted the parliamentary vote in 1918 (though it was for over-thirties only at first, whilst it was twenty-one for men!). We may expect the media to dwell through the year, as usual, upon the sensational activities in support of this goal of the militant “suffragettes”, led by the Pankhursts. But the peaceful, non-militant, “suffragists” were much better-supported and were arguably more effective in the long run.

The crowning glory of the non-militant suffragist campaign was their Great Pilgrimage of Summer 1913, in which thousands of women (and some men) marched from all over the country to London where a huge rally demanding women’s suffrage (over 50,000 attended) was held in Hyde Park on July 26th. They trekked along six main routes to the capital, over a six week period. The “Great North Road” contingent, starting out from Newcastle on 18th June, had an eventful time of it in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which I shall describe in this post. 


Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) photographed as a young woman. Public domain

The Great Pilgrimage was organised by the suffragist National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), which was led to victory by Millicent Fawcett from 1897 to 1919. Mrs Fawcett deserves to be at least as well-known as Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst, as does Mrs Katherine Harley, (from Shropshire) who masterminded the Pilgrimage. And countless ordinary women, who campaigned long and hard for the cause in local branches of the NUWSS, also deserve to be better-recognised. My own great, great aunt Edith Eskrigge, was on the “Watling Street” route of the pilgrimage from the North-West, and my blog about her, posted on 1st December 2014, can be read on this site.


NUWSS Poster, 1913. Public Domain

Leeds Women’s Suffrage Society (LWSS) was formed in 1890. This followed a sometimes acrimonious conference of Northern Counties Women’s Liberal Associations, held at Leeds Philosophical Hall on Park Row in November 1890, when members voiced frustration at the Liberal party forever giving priority to causes other than women’s suffrage (in this case Irish home rule). Prominent amongst LWSS’s founders were the Quaker Ford family of Adel Grange, particularly Isabella Ormston Ford (a longstanding trade union activist) and her sister Emily Susan Ford (a noted artist). Its object was “to obtain for all duly qualified women the right to vote at all the elections at which men vote…”.

When it was announced that the Great North Road route of the Pilgrimage would pass their way, the LWSS set itself to organising the marchers’ itinerary and accommodation at short notice. In an echo of today’s “man with a van” phenomenon, the LWSS advertised in the Yorkshire Evening Post, on 17th June, for “a public-spirited Leeds tradesman”, to come forward and earn “the LAW-ABIDING SUFFRAGISTS gratitude” (though not their cash reimbursement, apparently!), by providing a van to carry their hand baggage from Wetherby to Leeds and then on to Wakefield.

Law-abiding though the marchers were they got into trouble at Ripon, where their arrival on Wednesday 25th June coincided with the annual Agricultural Show and its accompanying drunkenness. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that their leader, Miss Ida Beaver of Tyneside, who “knows how to take care of herself in the rough and tumble of the world”, apparently landed “a left straight from the shoulder” on “a rough and boorish fellow” who had ill-used women who tried to speak with his “rude hands”. She “floored him.” Rowdy behaviour denied the marchers a hearing at Ripon and elsewhere, and this was not the sort of publicity they were seeking. The whole point of the exercise was to present women as responsible public citizens, and to distinguish them from their anarchic suffragette sisters. 

They fared much better in Leeds where the Yorkshire Evening Post greeted their arrival on Tuesday 1st July (from Wetherby) warmly, describing the “little band” of marchers as having, “all the winsomeness, refinement, and delicacy which one expects to find in women.” The paper also praised the “silver-tongued” oratorical skills of Miss Beaver, and those of Miss Meikle, West Riding Federation NUWSS march organiser, who was reckoned a “rare spouter” after she held forth at Collingham on the road to Leeds.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer was also well-disposed towards the pilgrims. It described them lunching at Bardsey and then taking tea at the Mansion in Roundhay Park, where a meeting held by the lake was attended by about five hundred people and addressed by Miss Meikle and Mrs Renton (LWSS organising secretary). By this time there were about twelve original pilgrims remaining, though their numbers were swelled to a “valiant” fifty on their departure from Leeds to Wakefield.

A big splash was made on the evening of 1st July, when a crowd of some eight thousand people demonstrated with the pilgrims at Woodhouse Moor: “Large crowds lined the streets as the ladies marched to the Moor. Here and there they were subjected to rough chaff, and in places there was booing, but when it was seen that they belonged to the ‘peaceable’ party this soon ceased. In Woodhouse Lane some supporters of the cause strewed flowers on the roadway as the party approached.”  At the Moor speeches in support were delivered from two platforms, not just by NUWSS members but also by local worthies (some of them male), and “Resolutions pledging support to the movement were carried with few dissentients.”

The Yorkshire Evening Post concluded that: “Leeds has unmistakably received the non-militants well – so well that the pilgrims themselves are inclined to look upon their progress through the city as one grand triumphal march.” Miss Beaver (“their Amazonian young leader”) went into raptures about the Woodhouse Moor crowd, saying “…they were tremendously enthusiastic. Practically they were all for us, so that the ‘anti’s’, who had been there before, had evidently troubled themselves in vain.” They left Leeds in “high spirits”, having signed up nearly four hundred new adherents and raised a good deal of money for the cause.

Though they were generally well-received on their subsequent path through West Yorkshire, their time in Leeds seems to have been the highpoint. At well-attended meetings in Wakefield things were slightly marred as, “At times the speakers were interrupted, and occasionally pebbles and lumps of cotton waste were thrown by hobbledehoys at them.” And the marchers on this route of the pilgrimage were to experience a good deal of hostility and violence as they passed through the East Midlands, particularly at Mansfield where there was a near-riot.

Nevertheless, the Hyde Park rally in London on Saturday July 26th was to prove a “joyous” (Millicent Fawcett’s word) culmination of all the marchers’ efforts. Maintaining its sympathy for the pilgrims, the Yorkshire Evening Post declared on the day of the rally that: “All will agree in their admiration for the pluck displayed by these women who have marched long distances to London, and roughed it by the way, for the sake of the cause they have at heart…All the more honour to them, therefore, because they will not stoop to unworthy means.”


Women’s Suffrage Pilgrims in Cathays Park, Cardiff, 1913. Public Domain


Book: Hearts And Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote, J. Robinson (2018). This excellent account is just out. It includes references to my great, great aunt, Edith Eskrigge.

 Newspapers: Leeds Mercury,  13/11/1890, 10/12/1890, 1/7/1913, 3/7/1913; Yorkshire Evening Post, 9/12/1890, 17/6/1913, 1/7/1913, 2/7/1913, 26/7/1913; Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 16/8/1889, 15/11/1890, 8/7/1891, 18/6/1913, 25/6/1913, 30/6/1913, 2/7/1913, 3/7/1913; Leeds Times, 15/11/1890

The Leeds Mummy

Leeds is an unlikely place to find a three-thousand year old Egyptian mummy. But the coffin containing the embalmed remains of Nesyamun, a priest of the ancient god Amun, was brought to Leeds in 1823 having been unearthed near Thebes in Egypt. It became the star exhibit in the newly formed Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s museum on Park Row (“The Philosophical Hall”) which also housed rooms for the society’s meetings, a hall for lectures and recitals, and an extensive library.

Although his coffin bears an inscription praying for Nesyamun’s freedom of movement in an eternal afterlife, it was probably not anticipated by the tomb-scribes that his soul’s wanderings would bring him to West Yorkshire. His mummified remains, however, have not since been allowed to rest in peace.


Park Row, Leeds, 1882, by Leeds artist John Atkinson Grimshaw. Public domain

The Philosophical Hall, built in 1821 to a neo-classical design by Leeds architect R. D. Chantrell, appears in the left-foreground of Atkinson Grimshaw’s wonderfully moody, and appropriately spooky, evocation of late-Victorian Park Row (above). So successful was the Philosophical and Literary Society, and its museum, that the hall was substantially enlarged and renovated in 1862 by architects Dobson & Chorley, who gave it the impressive porch we see in the painting. The splendid Italian-gothic Beckett’s Bank appears opposite (designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who also built the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station in London).

On visiting Leeds in 1896, The Builder magazine praised Park Row “for its remarkable succession of large and dignified buildings”, adding, “…it is not often that one meets with a modern city street which can show so large a proportion of buildings that are worth notice.” For almost 150 years Park Row was home to the earthly remains of Nesyamun, the “Leeds Mummy”, but, inevitably, few of the street’s buildings “worth notice”, now remain.

By the time of its renovation in the eighteen-sixties, the Philosophical Hall’s museum (according to its historian, E. Kitson Clark) “…was equal, if not superior, to that of any other provincial institution. It comprised 7,000 geological, 1,300 Mineralogical, 6,000 Zoological specimens, and the most remarkable Mummy in the kingdom.”

Other notable exhibits were the skeleton of a female elephant, late of Wombwell’s traveling Menagerie, and those of an Irish elk, an Ichthyosaurus and a Plesiosaurus, plus the stuffed bodies of a young lion, an armadillo and a boa constrictor, also acquired from Wombwell’s. The bones and teeth of a “Great Northern Hippopotamus”, discovered in a brick-yard at Wortley, were featured, as were two skulls of extinct bears, a slab of Breccia with prehistoric flint implements from the Dordogne Valley, and mummies of crocodiles, plus implements and bones from a tumulus on Esketh Moor, near Thirsk. The Archaeological Room displayed a magnificent collection of Greek Marbles, Roman Altars and Querns, together with a tessellated Roman pavement from Isurium (Aldborough, Yorkshire).

Entry was cheap and, “The Museum attracted thousands of visitors, many of whom were in the humbler walk of life, whose decorous conduct…deserved commendation” (presumably their “decorous conduct” was not normally to be relied upon!). A photo of the Zoological Room shows an impressive space well-lit by skylights, with large exhibits in the middle, surrounded by a good many (now terminally old-fashioned) glass display cases at floor level, and a further course of collections running  along a gallery above.

It may seem perverse to bomb someone who has already been dead for three-thousand years, but on 15th March 1941 a German air-raid shell exploded in the Philosophical Hall and disturbed Nesyamun’s slumbers. The building’s frontage was destroyed and three floors towards the front collapsed, so that the curator found himself conducting an archaeological dig in the wreckage of his own museum.

Although the glass case surrounding Nesyamun’s coffin was shattered, the coffin and the mummy within were largely undamaged. Rubble was swiftly cleared, exhibits were recovered, and damage done to taxonomic figures (such as that of Mok the Gorilla, late of London zoo) was repaired. Much of the building, and its essential structure, remained intact, so that the museum’s lunch-time music recitals in the lecture hall were resumed after just a few months’ work, and the whole building was reopened by the Lord Mayor in June 1942.

Given this, it is maddening that the Philosophical Hall was closed in 1965, and demolished the year after, to make way for the atrocious HSBC building that now occupies its spot. The hall had been transferred into the ownership of Leeds Corporation in 1921 and that body never properly restored the frontage, settling for a temporary concrete render that gave it a “makeshift appearance” (according to the Yorkshire Post in 1953). The glorious Beckett’s Bank building, opposite, was demolished around the same time to make way for an anonymous NatWest Bank.

Today’s City Museum (including Nesyamun, and the Great Stuffed Bengal Tiger) was opened in the Mechanics Institute building on Cookridge Street in 2008. Good effort though this is, it only displays a tiny fraction of the collections on show in the old building (the rest is in storage), which could claim to be a natural and local history museum of national importance. Also lost is the architectural quality of the Philosophical Hall itself, and its quality as a centre of municipal cultural and intellectual life. Meanwhile Nesyamun slumbers on – indifferently and indestructibly – as the millennia roll past.


A reconstruction of how the coffin of Nesyamun might originally have appeared. By Tomohawk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


Books: The History of 100 Years of Life of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, E. Kitson Clark (1924); The Coffin of Nesyamun, the “Leeds mummy, Belinda Wassell (2008); Building a Great Victorian City, Leeds Architects and Architecture, 1790-1914; West Yorkshire Architects and Architecture, D. Linstrum (1978).

Newspapers: The Builder, 12/12/1896; Leeds Mercury, 17/12/1862; Yorkshire Evening Post, 27/3/1941, 2/3/1942; Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 24/3/1941, 28/3/1941, 24/6/1942, 7/7/1941, 3/8/1944, 15/7/1953

The Cardigan Arms

The Cardigan Arms, on Kirkstall Road, is the last of Tetley’s once much-vaunted Victorian “Big Three” Burley pubs to still be in business. Along with the Rising Sun (now derelict) and the Queen Hotel (now a supermarket) the Grade II listed Cardigan was described as “superb” in a 1988 survey of old Leeds pubs. With its five rooms, each of individual character, and its fine original tiling, woodwork, glasswork and brasswork, the place remains a tremendous (and rare) example of the late Victorian gin-palace.

It is, however, unlikely to last long in its current shabby and unloved condition, exacerbated by the flooding it suffered when the River Aire burst its banks on Boxing Day, 2015. Its closure would be a frightful loss, especially so since the Cardigan name features prominently in Leeds’s history. Indeed, the failings of the 7th Earl of Cardigan (famous for leading the charge of the light brigade and known to some as the “Homicidal Earl”) were indirectly responsible for the present building’s existence.

 Cardigan Arms

The Cardigan Arms by Tim Green, taken 20th January, 2017:

An earlier “Cardigan Arms” stood on the same spot from about 1806, when a turnpike road was laid from Leeds to Kirkstall (Kirkstall Road). This was probably a coaching inn, as it was then surrounded by fields and the nearest village (Burley) was some way distant. Despite the building of the Leeds-Harrogate railway line viaduct nearby in the 1840s, the inn stayed beyond the reach of urbanisation for a long while. Whilst Leeds was advancing rapidly towards it by the late 1880s, its setting was still predominantly countrified in character. “Cardigan Field” opposite then housed sports recreation grounds, and horse-drawn omnibuses trundled sedately past.    

Up to then this had all been Brudenell land. The Brudenell family, hereditary earls of Cardigan, owned over half of what was then termed the township of “Headingley cum Burley”, as part of the vast former Kirkstall Abbey estates they had inherited in 1671. This accounts for the many appearances of “Brudenell” and “Cardigan” in local place-names, though their family seat was actually at Deene Park in Northamptonshire and they had extensive further lands there and elsewhere.  

In 1837, James Thomas Brudenell came into his inheritance as the 7th Earl of Cardigan. Tall, lean, golden-haired and luxuriantly be-whiskered, his likenesses in portraiture offer a caricature of the dashing Victorian cavalry officer. But the man himself seems to have been a caricature of the arrogant, aristocratic cad. As a serial adulterer and philanderer he was often the subject of high-society scandal, and, as an acrimonious bully with a bad temper he often attracted the hatred of brother army officers. And it was his penchant for duelling that earned him the sobriquet “the Homicidal earl”.


James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan by Sir Francis Grant

Even the 7th earl’s one moment of glory, when he led the charge of the light brigade at the Crimean War battle of Balaclava in 1854, was tempered by the fact that the enterprise was a suicidal disaster. Of the 673 men and horses who began the charge, 113 men and 475 horses were killed and many more badly injured. Cardigan, who was undoubtedly brave, maintained that he acted correctly, though the debate about who was at fault continues.

And the earl had a similarly cavalier attitude to financial prudence, since his excessive gambling and extravagant high-living saddled the family with huge debts on his death in 1868. The Yorkshire lands were by then heavily mortgaged. His highly eccentric widow Lady Adeline Cardigan, to whom he left a life-interest, set out to match him in excess and dissipation, which landed the estate in ever-deeper financial trouble.

This occasioned a sale by auction of all the Cardigan lands in Leeds, which took place over four days in December 1888 at the Albert Hall (the lecture theatre at the Mechanics Institute, Cookridge Street– now Leeds City Museum). The old Cardigan Arms, together with a substantial building plot behind it, was sold to Mr William Child for £6,250. Another notable lot, offered for sale the same day, included the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey. In truth it was a good time to sell, because agricultural land was depressed in price but land released for house-building was at a premium. And Leeds was on the verge of a huge building boom.

Within a few short years, the old Cardigan Arms found itself within a newly developed quarter (described in 1897 as “a rather superior residential neighbourhood” by Jackson’s Leeds guide) and had electric trams running to-and-fro outside. The sports grounds of Cardigan Fields opposite disappeared under acreages of terraced housing (now demolished and replaced by shopping and leisure facilities). The ramshackle old inn had become dilapidated, however, and was not up to catering for an urban population, and the magnificent replacement we see today was built in 1895. The architect was Thomas Winn, of Albion Street, and the licensee was Mr Benjamin Greaves.

I remember many jolly evenings spent in the “Cardy”, in the days when it was warming and well-patronised and welcoming. I re-visited it one recent lunchtime to find myself one of only two customers, and no real ales on tap. A couple of other people were there doing some redecorating, apparently in preparation for the pub to be closed for a while for use as a film set. This historic building should surely be refurbished to act as a living entity, not relegated to being an occasional museum-piece film backdrop. The Adelphi in town shows just what can be done with such places.

(There is an initiative afoot to buy the Cardigan Arms and turn it into a community owned pub:


Books: “Jackson’s Guide to Leeds” (1897); “The Brudenells of Deene”, Joan Wake (1953); “The Homicidal Earl: the life of Lord Cardigan”, Saul David (1966); “The Rise of Suburbia” ed., F.M.L Thompson (1982); “Old Inns and Pubs of Leeds”, Barrie Pepper (1988); “Chapters in Headingley History”, Michael Collinson; DNB entry on “Brudenell, James Thomas”.

Newspapers: Leeds Mercury, 12/12/1888, 25/8/1894, 8/9/1894; Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer, 15/12/1888; Yorkshire Evening Post, 23/8/1894.

Maps: Lands belonging to the earl of Cardigan (J Dickinson, 1711); Ordnance Survey Maps (Leeds, 1852, 1893 & 1908).

A North Street Curio

The North Street area of Leeds is a bit of an inner city nowhere-land these days. Few people live there, and a recent visit one afternoon finds it largely bereft of pedestrians. Very little of the original nineteenth-century built environment remains, though one curious survivor does still stand. With its elegant classical frontage cleaned and restored the building in question looks prim, almost sterile. One can imagine it having been a high-class drapery shop, or an insurance office, or even a non-conformist chapel. But it actually started out life as a pub, and it appears to have been a very lively one at that.

 Smithfield Hotel

The former Smithfield Hotel, North Street. By Tim Green

Built in 1861, the Smithfield Hotel was named after the Smithfield Cattle Market which then occupied the land opposite that is now called Lovell Park. In those days it was commonplace for livestock to be driven through city streets, and the market held a Cattle Fair twice a week when some 500 heads of cattle, and 4,000 sheep and lambs might be displayed. There was also a General Fair half-yearly and the Great Show of the Smithfield Club annually.

The Smithfield’s bars must have regularly been thronged with farmers and drovers and dealers and auctioneers. The densely populated surrounding area provided a large potential customer-pool too, accommodating as it did the maze of overcrowded dwellings and tailoring sweatshops that constituted the Leylands. And the hotel backed onto the extensive Smithfield Ironworks of engineering firm Thomas Green & Sons.


Smithfield Hotel 15th April 1897. By kind permission of Leeds Library and Information Services, subject to broadcaster agreement

Surmounted by a tower, fitted with an illuminated clock, the place was a sizable and imposing establishment. On the ground floor it had a vaults, a taproom, a snug, a main bar and a kitchen. The first floor had a billiard room, three sitting rooms, and a bathroom. Spacious ale, spirit and coal cellars were in the basement, and outside was a brew-house, a coach house and a stable block. On the second floor were six bedrooms, though the hotel does not seem to have been primarily residential. No paying guests are recorded as staying there on census night in 1871, when John Maude, the Hotel Keeper, was in residence with his wife Bessy and their daughters Polly, Annie, Isabel and Emily. A cook, a house maid, a groom and a waiter also lived-in.

Sufficient event occurred there from time-to-time to involve the courts and to excite press interest. One evening in 1866, a knife changed hands in the taproom that was later-on used to desecrate St. Matthew’s Church in nearby Little London. In 1868, a tramp who loitered about “that excellent hostelry” and was given to sleeping in its brew-house, fell into a beer-vat of boiling water and was scalded to death. In 1876, a drover enjoying a glass of beer there trod on the paw of a retriever lying under his settle and was badly bitten by the dog, which turned out to have rabies. He contracted “the usual symptoms of madness [hydrophobia] and he died in great agony”.

In 1885 the then landlord, Councillor William Metcalfe, was attacked with a stick in his own bar by an obscenity-spouting drunk. In court the offender quoted extensively from the Psalms, which did not prevent him being jailed for three months. In 1894 William Fawcett, who succeeded Metcalfe as publican, was summoned for having permitted music to be played on the premises without a licence. In 1903, Fawcett endured a night-time kitchen fire at the hotel that caused significant damage.

Of course, the place was not wholly subject to untoward happenings. It also hosted a wide range of social activities. A Four-in-hand club met there, before setting off on country outings. Messrs Oliver & Appleton, auctioneers of Albion Place, regularly held land sales by auction in one of the upstairs sittings rooms, and sales of all kinds of property were advertised to take place on the premises. Public meetings on contentious issues of the day were conducted there, as were political debates at election times. Billiard competitions were popular, and the Smithfield Club conducted its general proceedings and planned its livestock shows there.

By 1886, having such a noisome facility as a cattle market in the central area come to be considered an inconvenient nuisance by the city fathers and it was closed, its home being transferred to Gelderd Road. The five-acre site was then converted into the Recreation Ground that is now Lovell Park. The Smithfield Hotel had been much frequented by those having business at the market, and it is likely that the place was never the same again. It was finally closed as licensed premises in 1927, probably suffering from a further loss of clientele as more prosperous elements moved northwards out of the Leylands into Chapeltown.   

Later, it was for long the entrance block to Thomas Green & Son’s Ironworks which, in turn, closed down in 1975. Despite its striking appearance, the former hive of local life seems strangely invisible in its present incarnation as offices. It sits there rather forlornly, unnoticed by passing motorists and bus passengers and largely unremarked upon in folk memory.


Books: “The Changing Face of Leeds”, B. Godward; “Jackson’s Guide to Leeds”, R. Jackson; “Leeds. A Historical Dictionary of People, Places and Events”, D. Thornton; “A History of Modern Leeds”, ed., D. Fraser; “Images of Leeds (1850-1960)”, P. Brears.

Newspapers: Leeds Intelligencer: 23/6/1866. Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer: 31/10/1874; 31/11/ 1874; 6/4/1875; 25/6/1886; 16/7/1927. Leeds Times: 21/9/1861; 28/9/1861; 4/7/1868; 7/2/1885. Yorkshire Evening Post: 30/5/1894; 10/11/1903. Leeds Mercury: 31/8/1861; 25/9/1862; 4/7/1868; 12/6/1876; 7/11/1903; 31/12/1903.

Leeds Directories: White’s (1866); Porter’s (1872); Kelly’s (1881, 1900, 1904, 1927, 1929).

1871 Census.


Opposite Lister Park’s stately Prince of Wales gate on North Park Road sits an unpretentious, but rather lovely seven-house terrace named “Fairmount”. When it was built in 1853, out of Bradford’s fine honey-coloured local sandstone, it stood alone in what was then a rural setting, overlooking Manningham Hall, home of the landed Lister family. There was then no Lister Park, nor yet a Cartwright Hall, and what is now North Park Road was a country track known as Hesp Lane. Sadly, Fairmount is not so fair now, being unoccupied and in a state of semi-dereliction.  


Fairmount, North Park Road, Manningham, Bradford. Taken on 2nd February 2009 from Lister Park by Tim Green.

Like many northern manufacturing towns, early nineteenth-century Bradford rapidly became a stinky hell-hole in its first flush of industrialisation, so as to prompt an exodus of its prosperous citizens. Conditions were compounded by Bradford’s position in a sort of natural amphitheatre, surrounded by hills, wherein smoke and other noxious discharges hung heavy about the town, which also suffered from overcrowded and insanitary accommodation. Those made prosperous by industrialisation soon escaped to out-of-town sanctuaries, uphill from its halo of pollution.

Several pleasant islands of exclusive development to house the refugees popped-up amid the quiet fields of rustic Manningham in the 1840s and 1850s. One thinks, in particular, of the still-surviving localities built about that time around Hanover Square, Peel Square and Apsley Crescent. Fairmount leapfrogged these to become, in the mid-nineteenth century, the only such residential pocket north of Manningham village, its name surely epitomising the aspirations for leisurely living of its first occupants.

When built, Fairmount terrace was angled deliberately to view picturesque Manningham Hall and its grounds. Its only other near neighbours were isolated villas in the valley of Bradford Beck further below, and Trees Farm uphill to the west. With its private carriageway and communal gardens to the front, it must have been an idyllic situation. But its early residents were far from being leading industrial magnates. The unadorned simplicity of its ashlar (dressed stone-block) construction is reflected in its initial social composition.

“Stuff” (wool) merchants were strongly represented amongst its early householders, which is hardly surprising since Bradford’s growth was founded on the manufacture and retailing of woollen goods. Most Fairmount households were of the middling kind that could afford two or three live-in servants. Bradford’s population of German-born wool traders was represented by F.E. Schlesinger, a worsted and silk-yarn merchant, who lived alone at No 2 in 1861, attended only by a housekeeper. Another stuff merchant, James William Mills, who was apparently behind Fairmount’s construction, preceded Schlesinger at that address, before moving on to one in the Kirklands area of Baildon by 1861.

Fairmount’s refined isolation was successively breached, however, as Samuel Cunliffe Lister began to build the gigantic Manningham Mills in the 1870s, and less exclusive housing than itself was constructed all the way uphill from Fairmount to the new factory walls. Lister himself abandoned Manningham Hall in the 1870s and gave it and its grounds over to Bradford Corporation to make Lister Park, the family seat being demolished and later replaced by Cartwright Hall.

Fairmount was last occupied as a residential care home, which was forced by the CSCI (Commission for Social Care Inspection) to close in 2006 due to multiple failures to meet regulations. In a scandalous case at that time a care worker who had secured employment there, despite having a criminal record for robbery and kidnapping, was jailed for stealing considerable sums from vulnerable residents.

The terrace is in North Park Road conservation area and Bradford Council tell me that they are negotiating with the current owners (property developers) for it to be restored and preferably returned to residential use, either privately or in council ownership. Apparently, two wild cherry trees in the garden are listed with the Natural History Museum Urban Tree Survey. My recent photos below show how far restoration has to go:


Fairmount, looking East, 19th October 2016.


Fairmount, looking East, 19th October 2016.


  Fairmount, looking West, 19th October 2016.


No 2 Fairmount, where J.W Mills and F.E Schlesinger lived, 19th October 2016.


Looking through one of the east-facing bay windows at No 1 Fairmount, 19th October 2016. A pair of residents had perhaps just gone upstairs for a nap after taking afternoon tea in the bay when the care home closed? The table-flowers have wilted somewhat.

 Sources and Acknowledgements:

Manningham, Character and diversity in a Bradford suburb, Simon Taylor & Kathryn Gibson, English Heritage (2010); Histories of Manningham, Allerton and Heaton, William Cudworth (1896); Lunds’ Bradford Directory (1856); Post Office Bradford Directory (1916);1861 Census; Telegraph & Argus; Bradford Local Studies Library maps.

I am grateful to Bradford Metropolitan District Council Department of Regeneration and Bradford Local Studies Library for their help in researching this post. 

In Memoriam

I was in Liverpool recently for a day and decided to go over the water to visit the U-Boat Story museum at Birkenhead, where salvaged German submarine U-534 lies at rest. I went aboard U-534 some years ago at the Historic Warships Museum in Birkenhead, when she was still in one piece. She has since been sliced vertically into four segments, like a shark on a fishmonger’s slab, with head, tail, and middle bits arranged separately, their interiors visible, but not accessible, through transparent partitions sealing their exposed ends. The U-Boat Story is situated at the Woodside Ferry Terminal, which has sentimental associations for my family that I shall describe.

U-534 was sunk at the end of the war on 5th of May 1945, the order having been given for the U-Boat fleet to surrender to the allies as from eight a.m. that morning. She had just left Germany for Norway and was proceeding on the surface in the Kattegat, northeast of Denmark. Fatally for her, she was not flying a flag of surrender. An allied aircraft spotted her and dropped depth charges on her stern, one of which slipped off and exploded below, blowing the hole in her side which drove her to the bottom. Her crew escaped but she remained on the seabed until 1993, when she was raised and brought to Birkenhead. It is not known why the captain failed to fly a surrender flag, nor what final mission he was on, because he later committed suicide without elucidating these mysteries.


The tail section of U-534, showing the depth charge damage which sunk her. My photo.

It’s such a pity that the boat has been cut-up, though I understand there were significant practical difficulties in moving her to the site and showing her without doing so. Better that she is displayed like this, I suppose, than not at all. Going aboard her when she was still intact was a tremendous experience, however, that cannot really be reproduced by the internal cameras now installed. Everything was encrusted in fifty years’ worth of marine deposits that one could touch. There was still tinned food in the galley, and items of clothing hanging up, and bundles of still-readable documents, waterproofed by silt. She was so long and narrow that one could acutely feel the claustrophobia of a confined and dangerous world.

It is fitting that she is housed on the Mersey, given that the Western Approaches command was situated there during the Battle of the Atlantic. My mother was a teenager in nearby Wallasey when the war started and was evacuated to north Wales, their house being completely bombed-out subsequently during the blitz on Merseyside. At the same time my father worked as a shipping-office lad in Liverpool, and thus had occasion to visit vessels limping into port after surviving the U-Boat menace on the Atlantic convoys. He later fought in Burma during its liberation from the Japanese.

My parents first met at the Woodside Ferry Terminal, where U-534 is now displayed, in the early 1950s, as they were queuing for excursion tickets. Sadly, my mother passed away some weeks ago. They had been married for sixty-three years. We are losing our human connection to the nobility and sacrifice of those who endured the war. We do need to remember.

A Botanical Building

On the road from Leeds to Shipley, I often admire the old Carnegie Library building at Windhill that stands empty and decaying. This fine brown-stone structure has a simple grandeur to it, with its pleasing curves, roof-pinnacles and balustrade-fronted gallery. It was one of many public libraries in the UK financed in Edwardian times by Scottish-American steel baron Andrew Carnegie. But despite Carnegie’s generosity, it strikes me that the likelihood of this building’s ultimate demise was inherent from its beginning.

 Windhill library 001

Windhill Carnegie Library, Shipley, photo c1968, courtesy of Bradford Local Studies Library.

Windhill library was built in 1905, financed by a £3000 donation from Carnegie and designed by Bradford architect Abraham Sharp. At that time it was not a middle-of-nowhere relic complicating a busy traffic junction, but an integral part of a vibrant local centre of shops, pubs and other community institutions. On opening, the place was distinguished enough to merit a column in The Builder magazine that described its internal splendour.

The front doors apparently led into a vestibule and a hexagonal entrance-hall whose flooring consisted of terrazzo mosaic tiling. Beyond this was the main lending library, flanked by a reference library to one side and a reading room to the other, furnished in varnished pitch-pine and teak. The librarian’s room was situated in a central position on a raised platform to “afford full supervision” (it was, after all, a more paternalistic age!). There was space for 8,000 books and 50 readers. Upstairs there was a student’s room, a ladies’ room, a patent journal room, toilets for both sexes, a tea-room and a lecture hall accommodating 150 persons. Sliding partitions enabled the whole floor to be opened out for greater numbers if need be.

By contrast, I was able to peer inside the library on a recent visit to observe a derelict shell gutted of its original features. Paint is peeling from the ceiling and dangling in shards, and rubbish is strewn across the exposed concrete base. Most of the window glass has been replaced by haphazard boarding, but the building is not weatherproof since several frames on the upper story gape empty. Much of the external woodwork is rotting, and areas of stonework are buckling and crumbling. Somewhere along the line it has lost its tower, and the place may be said to have joined the ranks of those neglected “botanical buildings” that harbour cultures of vegetation growing out of their guttering.




 My  photos, taken 8th August 2016

Given how well-appointed the structure was initially, it is interesting to note that Carnegie’s contribution to such institutions went no further than funding the actual building work. Also, given his control-freakery regarding the more prestigious philanthropic foundations that bore his name, it is surprising how much the relevant local authorities were simply given the money and told to get on with.

Working through his secretaries, Carnegie stipulated only that local authorities provide the land, set aside ten percent of the building’s cost annually for its maintenance, and sign-up to the Public Libraries Act of 1850 which enabled them to raise a penny rate for the provision of books. No architectural uniformity was imposed, nor was any charter issued setting out how the actual business of a Carnegie library was to be conducted. Concerning grants to build public libraries in New York City, Carnegie declared: “I give you the seed, cultivate it as you will.”

Deciding which localities were to benefit from his bounty seems similarly lax. The field was thrown open to UK applications in 1902, and hopeful local authorities were to send requests to Carnegie’s secretaries. If approved the council signed a pledge agreeing to the basic Carnegie terms, and the money arrived by instalments as work progressed. The amount given to a town was based on the size of its civic population.

The first Carnegie Library in England (which, unlike Windhill, is protected by a Grade II listing) was opened in 1904 at Keighley, and it got £10,000 (to Windhill’s £3,000), which stretched to mounting a marble bust of Carnegie on a pedestal within. Apparently Carnegie toyed with Sir Swire Smith, who was associated with the Keighley application, by initially offering him $50,000 dollars when Smith was staying with the magnate at his Scottish castle of Skibo, only to rescind the offer next morning with a carefree quip.

This incident suggests that Carnegie enjoyed the power his money gave him over people. “The man who dies rich,” he however declared, “dies disgraced.” Free libraries were just one beneficiary of his untiring efforts to divest himself of his fortune towards the end of his life, but many questioned the philanthropic sincerity of someone who had reputedly made his pile ruthlessly and without regard for workers’ rights.

Another ground for criticism of Carnegie returns us to the present plight of the Windhill library building. Because he did not settle permanent endowment funds on such institutions that could finance books, staff and upkeep, Carnegie did not safeguard them against changing times. He built 660 free libraries in Great Britain in total, but a report on UK library provision in 1914 found that some were underprovided as regards the quantity and quality of their book-stock. Revenue from the penny rate was simply insufficient in some cases, and one commentator talked of “overbuilding” leaving many smaller towns with “collections of bricks rather than of books.”

The upstairs floor at Windhill apparently came to be used as a function hall and ballroom, but when the new Shipley library was opened in 1985 the building closed. It was reputedly leased to the Irish Folk Music Society and a Pentecostal church at one time or another, but it was sold to private owners in 2006 since when it has been neglected. The lack of a permanent endowment may prove fatal to its survival. I’ve just looked at a current photo of Carnegie Hall in New York City and am unsurprised to find that it does not have wild bushes growing from its skyline.   

Sources & Acknowledgements:

The Builder, 27th January, 1906, p. 99; Post Office Bradford Directory, 1909; Carnegie by Peter Krass, 2002; Little Boss: a life of Andrew Carnegie by James A. Mackay, 1997; Books for the People: An Illustrated History of the British Public Library by Thomas Kelly, 1977; The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland Vol III 1850-2000; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Andrew Carnegie; A file of various press sources available at Bradford Local Studies Library.

I am grateful for the help given to me by staff at Bradford Local Studies Library and Keighley Local Studies Library.