Book Review

(First published in 1991 in volume 5, p. 91, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)

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The Bradford Almanack: A compilation of oddities,ephemera, dialect stories and memorabilia of Bradford folk life

Edward Hotspur Johnson, 1989, £4.95.

Some of the nineteenth-century precursors of this volume, such as Holroyd's Bradford Historical Almanack published in the 1860s, were intended as serious works of reference, somewhat like a local version of the indespensible Whittaker's, with lists of councillors and officials, a short directory and a business diary. A "Bradford historical calendar", complete with improving monthly poems, provided a slightly less functional element. The emphasis in Edward Johnson's book, by contrast, is rather more on entertainment, and it seems unlikely to find its way into the inside pocket of the average Bradford businessman or local government officer.

It ought, nonetheless, to be on the shelf of every local historian and every true Bradfordian, since it is a wonderfully convenient means of finding all those forgotten facts, improving or otherwise, which are normally so hard to track down: the names and dates of all the Mayors, MPs and Freemen, the population figures and coats of arms, statues and dates of major buildings. There are also useful historical summaries of subjects such as the press, transport, the textile industry sport and literary connections of Bradford.

The text is interspersed with reproductions of old advertisements - for E. Bush, Practical Optician, Cutler & Truss Maker; for the alarming Madame Zara Lee, Scientific Palmist and Phrenologist; for the Sunbridge Road Co-operative Cafe - and there is plenty more which is included purely for curiosity value. Samples of "Buxom Betty's" dialect stories and accounts of such Bradford heroes as Joseph Jagger who broke the bank at Monte Carlo and Judy Barrett, the Queen of the Humbug Makers, can hardly fail to amuse. Strongly recommended for birthday presents.

Christopher Marsden

© 1991, Christopher Marsden and The Bradford Antiquary