Bradford

Fairmount

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

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:

 img_0745

Fairmount, looking East, 19th October 2016.

 img_0746

Fairmount, looking East, 19th October 2016.

 img_0749

  Fairmount, looking West, 19th October 2016.

 img_0762

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

 img_0754

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.

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.

IMG_0722

IMG_0714

IMG_0715

 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.

The Phoenix Works

I recently visited the refurbished York Art Gallery, with my cultured friend, to see the exhibition, “British Art of the First World War”. It’s a very impressive display, with many large-scale, and strikingly evocative paintings. The kind of images generally associated with the war on the Western Front feature strongly. We can all envision the muddy trenches, the shell-blasted landscapes, the branchless, shattered tree-trunks, and the dispirited, broken soldiery. But there are other, less familiar, depictions of the conflict on view in the exhibition.

 We_are_Making_a_New_World_Art.IWMART1146

We Are Making a New World, 1918, by Paul Nash, collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, IWM Art 1146

The above work, with its ironic title (“We are making a new world”) and its new-day sun rising over a scene of total desolation, epitomises how we have come to picture the war. But my attention was most powerfully drawn to a painting of women war-workers taking a canteen break at the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Co factory at Thornbury in Bradford.

 Flora_Lion_was_a_portrait_painter_who_was_given_access_to_paint_factory_scenes_in_Leeds_and_Bradford_during_World_War_One._The_interior_

Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford, 1918, by Flora Lion, collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, IWM Art 4434

The women pictured are clearly tired, but a strong sense of purposefulness and solidarity shines through all the same. Painted by a female artist, the depiction points the way to a new world that was in the process of being created. The women represented would have been doing the sort of industrial jobs that, before the war, would have been an exclusively male preserve. In wartime, women filled men’s places in all sorts of home-front occupations they were not previously thought capable of, or were not thought suitable for them. As a result of this massive contribution they won (partially) the parliamentary vote in 1918. The prospect also dawned of their entrée into broader walks of life than housekeeping, and into higher occupations than the ones of drudgery and servitude that had hitherto been the norm. Even the most atrocious events are not always without beneficial consequences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>