News from the Archives

Ian Mason

(First published in 1987 in volume 3, pp. 63-66, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)

The Bradford District Archives contains the raw material for the study of local history. Anyone seriously interested in this branch of research will at some time need to use these original sources. The purpose of this series of short notes is to acquaint readers of the Bradford Antiquary with some of the collections available and to encourage their use in the production of original work. It is not my intention to provide a list of new accessions, which can be found in the annual reports of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, but to draw attention to potential areas of research opened up by new acquisitions.

The Effects of Abolition

Since the passing of the Local Government Act abolishing the Metropolitan County Councils, the West Yorkshire Archive Service has passed through an anxious time. There were doubts if the service would survive, as the West Yorkshire County Council promoted the formation of the joint service and was the main contributor to its budget. Since 1 April 1986, however, the Joint Archive Service and the former County Council Archaeology Unit have been administered by a new joint committee, the West Yorkshire Archive and Archaeology Joint Committee on which all five District Councils are represented. Wakefield District Council is the lead authority. The archive and archaeology services have been placed in the Wakefield District Education Department and the officers in charge of these two services report directly to the joint committee. Mrs Elizabeth Berry the West Yorkshire County archivist from 1974 and archivist to the joint committee from 1982 retired at the end of March and her successor is Robert Frost.

West Yorkshire Archive Service Database

Computer terminals have been installed in all offices forming part of the West Yorkshire Archive Service; Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society at Leeds. Each office now has access to a unified central database of accession entries. The database contains up-to-date information about all accessions received in all offices of the archive service since March 1984. Past accessions are being added on a class basis: work on entering group descriptions of parish records, the single most heavily used class of records held by the service, has already been completed. Over the next two years the remainder of the backlog will be added as quickly as possible and the database will ultimately embrace all accessions of archives held by all offices. Group-level entries retrieved at these terminals according to place and subject will guide staff and users to the location of archives and to any available lists.

Bradford Corporation, Town Clerk's Papers

The additional areas at the new premises in Canal Road have enabled us to sort and box a huge collection of the working papers of the Town Clerk of the Bradford Corporation. These papers, which came in about 300 tin trunks from the attic of the Town Hall, are now in 676 archive boxes.

Despite the dull-sounding title of the collection this is an excellent accumulation of official papers illustrating many aspects of the Corporation's work from about 1848 to the 1930s. The contents of each trunk contained complete sets of documents for their respective subjects, often with duplicates, indicating that hardly any material has been discarded. The papers are a valuable source covering a variety of subjects and areas of research.

The core of the collection relates to a series of Local Acts through which the Corporation acquired its powers and its control over various trading undertakings such as waterworks, gas and tramways. Papers have survived for most of the Local Acts sponsored by the Corporation. These include a whole series of boxes relating to various Bradford Waterworks Acts; the Bradford Corporation Gas and Improvement Act, 1871, which empowered Bradford Corporation to purchase the Bradford Gas Light Company; the Bradford Canal Act, 1871 authorizing the sale of the property of the Bradford Canal Company and various other acts dealing with tramways, the Conditioning House, water supply, public health etc. Some Bills sought to extend the boundaries of the Corporation. The most interesting of these was the 1920 Extension Bill which, in a fiercely fought campaign, proposed to extend the boundaries of Bradford to incorporate Bingley, Shipley, Baildon, Clayton and Denholme Urban District Councils. Amongst the records compiled in evidence for Bradford in this battle are some interesting photograph albums of insanitary housing in Shipley, Windhill and Baildon.

Another important series of records relates to civic events. Papers here include minutes, official programmes, invitations, tickets, guest lists; accounts and correspondence. Papers for the following civic events have survived: the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to open Bradford Technical College, 1882; visit of the Colonial and Indian Representatives, 1886; Queen's Jubilee Celebrations, 1887; visit of Shah of Persia, 1889; Great Yorkshire Shows, 1891, 1914, 1925, 1934; Mayor's entertainments, 1891; Coronation celebrations, 1902, 1911, 1937; Royal Visit and Cartwright Hall Exhibition, 1904; and Bradford Centenary Celebrations, 1947.

Bradford Corporation was also the local authority responsible for electoral registration. As a result, a large number of electoral papers have been retained. These consist of specimen election papers, posters, papers concerning appointment of returning officers and election agents and, perhaps most interesting of all, some declarations of expenses. Papers are available for most parliamentary elections between 1859 and 1929 and some local and School Board elections.

There are also items of more human interest which one would not normally expect to find in a collection of local authority records; for example the records of a scheme in 1891 to help distressed Bradfordians who had emigrated to Brazil and wanted assistance to help them return to Bradford.

This is an immensely important archive. Anybody interested in the development of Bradford from its Incorporation to the outbreak of the Second World War will find invaluable material here. Anyone trunk or subject could form the basis for an article or project in a school. Although there is no itemised list, and the papers are often bulky and difficult to use, they have been sorted, and a summary of the contents of each trunk prepared, so that the records have effectively become available for the fIrst time.

Miriam Lord Collection

A catalogue of the Miriam Lord Collection is now available. Miriam Lord was a disciple and admirer of Margaret McMillan, but she was also an important figure in the history of Bradford in her own right.

Miriam Lord was also in the forefront of the campaign to establish community centres in slum clearance areas in the 1930s. She was secretary of the Bradford school records, many documents which show how she attempted to build links with the community through parentcraft schemes and parents' clubs are included in the collection. Her correspondence shows how tirelessly she worked for the cause of nursery education. One of the highlights of the collection is a superb series of photographs, glass negatives and lantern slides of Lilycroft Nursery School.

Miriam Lord was also in the forefront of the campaign to establish community centres in slum clearance areas in the 1930s. She was secretary of the Bradford Community Centre Committee, which founded a centre on the Canterbury Avenue Estate in 1938, and she was also instrumental in raising funds for the Margaret McMillan Memorial Appeal immediately after the war. These activities are reflected in her papers which, in addition to the records of various committees, include a series of programmes and tickets for fund-raising events and a large collection of photographs of the activities of the Community Centre and Appeal Committee.

Miriam Lord's papers are significant for anybody who wishes to examine the influence of Margaret McMillan on education in Bradford. They are also important in themselves for the light they throw on education in the city, and in particular on some of the pioneer work in nursery education and community centres.

Selected list of new accessions

Tong Township Valuations, 1838-1839 (102085). These include a detailed valuation of the Township of Tong. Owners' and tenants' names are given and also the number of storeys and total floor area of each building. Valuations of coal pits include details on the thickness of coal seams, the number of men employed and their wages. The map that accompanies this valuation is also available at the Archives (52D79 /9), and the two combined provide the basis for a fascinating study of Tong.

Bardsley-Powell Estate and Family Archives, 14-20th C. (16D286). A major acquisition in recent months has been the deposit of the Bardsley-Powell Archives. The collection consists of the papers of three separate families, the Bridges, the Sharps (of Horton Hall) and the Powells centered on Bradford, Leeds and Wigan, whose estate devolved upon Sir Francis Powell, MP for Wigan in the 19th century. The archive contains a wealth of information about Bradford and is an estate and family collection of major importance. The collection is not yet listed but it is one of the office's highest cataloguing priorities.

Bradford and District Power Loom Overlookers, 1848-1980 (3D286). This is one of the office's largest collections of Trade Union records and consists of the records of the Bradford Society and of the Yorkshire Association of Power Loom Overlookers. Minute books of the Bradford Society have survived from 1862. There is also an excellent series of membership records dating from 1848 and copies of transcripts of the 1925 and 1930 Courts of Inquiry into the textile trade.

Records of the Bradford Scientific Association, 1877-1981 (33D86). Includes minutes of the Association and a fascinating photograph album of excursions to local sites of geological and scientific interest 1890-1906.

Note that a complete list of new accessions can be found in the West Yorkshire Archive Service annual reports and staff will be happy to provide any information on new acquisitions.

© 1987, Ian Mason and The Bradford Antiquary