A Moment in the History of Bradford Moor

George Redmonds

(First published in 1985 in volume 1, pp. 19-23, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)

It is difficult now to realise that much of the high land to the east and south-east of Bradford was once moorland, even though some of the placenames and a number of early maps indicate quite clearly that it was so. It was on these moors that the tenants of manors such as Tong, Calverley and Bradford had pasturing and turbary rights; they were crossed by important highways and some of the boundaries were doubtless ill-defined.

Early documents show quite clearly that the moorlands were the cause of frequent disagreement and dispute. In Bradford manor court rolls for the years 1411-1423, typical entries refer to pasturing offences on Bradford Moor, and the illegal movement of carts loaded with ironstone. In one case brought to the court's attention a large number of Calverley men were accused of digging turves on the moor.1

Other examples of quarrels between the manors occur in the records of the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1500, for example, Percival Thornton and Sir William Calverley, Kt. disputed the title to common of pasture, turbary and right of way on Tyersal Moor. In 1556, Bradford Moor was the subject of a Commission involving the Tempests, and only six years later it figured in a case between Robert Cook and - among others - George Kitchen2. Slightly further to the south-east, on the moors between Tong and Toftshaw, where settlement and enclosure had been encouraged from the early 1500s, first by the Mirfields and then the Tempests, a difference of opinion resulted in Christopher Saxton being called on to produce a map of the area, and this rare piece of evidence survives in Nottingham County Record Office.3

Early in the 1700s, when piecemeal enclosure was again taking place, the area in question was systematically surveyed and mapped for the estate owners. The maps of Tong (1725) and Tyersal (1720), which contain a wealth of detail and are of excellent quality, are already well known to historians.4 However, there is also an undated map of c1720, which depicts part of Bradford and Calverley Moors, and results from a dispute between Sir Walter Calverley and Mr. Marsden, lord of the manor of Bradford. It was surveyed by T. Stroothers, and although somewhat carelessly drawn, contains much fascinating information.5

At least two copies of this map survive, one in the local studies section of Huddersfield Library and the other at the Claremont headquarters of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.6 The version appearing with this brief article is a tracing and re-drawing of the first of these, and so much of the area it covers has now changed dramatically, that it might be useful at the outset to define it, using modem place-names.

Map showing part of Bradford and Calverley Moors c1720

This is a tracing and re-drawing of the map held in the Thornhill Collection at Huddersfield Library. Although every care has been taken to avoid errors, there are one or two details on the original which are hard to decipher, and the serious student is advised to consult the originals. Moreover, several features on the Thornhills' map have been crossed out and these corrections do not appear on this tracing.
Both the original maps are coloured, but the 'Red line' and the 'Blew line', marked here as R - Rand B - B are now faded and discoloured.

The unnamed lane to the south, for example, close to Quarry Gap in Tyersal, must be Dick Lane, whilst the eastern limit, appearing on the map as Wainforth Clough, is the beck which runs through the Phoenix Park sports ground. In the north, the road junction on Bolton Common probably marks the point where Undercliffe Road and Dudley Hill Road now meet, whilst most of the enclosures to the west form part of the present, Bradford Moor golf course.

There are numerous incidental points of interest on the map: the rabbit warrens or Coney Burrows near Quarry Gap; the Brick Pitts to the south of Fagley Lane; the leave to get Turves on Bradford Moor, and the Causway on Leeds Old Road, but much more informative are the boundary markers, wells and coal-pits, which relate directly to the dispute. Their significance is made clear in a variety of documents which are now to be found in different collections in the archives department of Bradford Central Library.

The Boundary between Bradford and Calverley

Boundary markers shown on the map include thorn bushes, a thorn tree, a Poll and various stones, some defined as standing, some as earthfast. The significant boundary is the one marked by a straight line running from the north, to Kitching Corner in the south. In an indenture of 1721, which defines the area in debate, it is described as:

"abutting on the North and Northwest on a Square stone commonly reckoned a boundary stone, Scituate between the said Manner (ie. Calverley), and the Manner of Eccleshill, and bounded on the West by a Line from the said stone to another Stone lying South thereof and marked with a letter (C), fixed on or near the West end of two intacks made by Sir Walter Calverley and his ancestors, and by a line from the said stone to a place in the Causway leading from Leeds to Bradford."7

At this point on the map there are two symbols close together, a three-tiered Cross and The Stone that was broke. The indenture mentions the second of these, saying that the line of the boundary lay 'one Yard and no more nearer Bradford than the place where the said Sir Walter Calverley lately fixed a stone, which stone was since broken, and where it is agreed another stone is to be fixed'.

The references to the final boundary marker in this north to south line tell us something of its development and history. The site is marked on the map by The Stone Stoop where the old oak Stood being a boundary, and immediately adjoining this point are written the words the Poll. In the indenture, the same marker is described as 'a Stone Cross or stoop, fixed where formerly an old Pole stood'. The inference clearly is that the oak tree was the original marker and gave way in turn to a wooden post and then a stone column. It is worth noting that what was almost certainly merely a boundary stone, drawn as a simple column on the map, is called 'a Stone Cross', the sort of name which invites speculation when the exact circumstances of its history are not known. Boundaries have been marked by crosses from a very early date and a 12th century land grant for Bradley, near Huddersfield, actually refers to one boundary marker as 'an old oak on the hillock, marked with a cross', although admittedly this was monastic property.8

There is a second document which refers directly to the dispute.9 It records the testimony of witnesses used in the trial at York Summer Assizes in 1720, and illustrates just how far back into history the 'memory' of the manor could go. It said:

"Old Mr Henry Calverley caused a Wall to be made, a good piece on from Kitchin Corner, only leaving room for a Cart-way and at (the) same 'ime, down from it by the way leading to Leeds, caused a great casten dug out) ditch to be made for a good space, intending to inclose it, but then the Civil Wars coming on it was after neglected."

The same witness claimed:

"that the Cross on the Moor was first set up by some Bradford persons, Mr Calverley being absent after the Warrs, but when he came home, or was informed of it, sent to break it, but being after better informed that it was to be a guide for the way, ordered it to be set up."

A cross could clearly be just a guide post as well as a boundary marker.

Water rights on the moor

Mary Jackson who had been living in the 1680s at 'Cordingley's house', (shown on the map) testified that her family had 'looked upon it to be Mr. Calverley's right beyond the Pole and Cross'. Nevertheless, they had allowed their animals to pasture on the moor, and escaped having them impounded only because they 'kept in favour'. Other Bradford tenants were not so fortunate: according to Richard Cordingley, Mr Calverley 'would send to pinder the rest of the Townsmens' goods of Bradford'. It obviously paid to cultivate the Calverleys' good opinion; the Kitchens of Robinson's house 'were always friends with old Mr Calverley, upon which account… he spared theirs'.

The dispute must also have touched on rights of way, and there is clear evidence 'that when the way below the Scarr hill was deep' an alternative route was taken. Samuel Haworth and Robert Marshall of Yeadon used 'to take down near the head of Calverley Intacks and so down near the Cross on the moor, and by the Wood Pole down to Kitchen Corner and so over Tiersall Common', roughly along the disputed boundary line in other words. As these men were going to coal-pits they may even have had pack-horses or carts with them.

A further important aspect of the dispute concerned the tenants' access to water. The occupants of a New house and inclosure on Bradford Moor paid 1d for theirs; Cordingleys had rights at Nero(?) Well, and the Kitchens paid 2d p.a. for 'the use of a Well on the lower side of the Moor'. On the map the Kitchens' farm-hold was named as The Isle of Man or Kitchin house, and under the former name it figures in a later dispute about water rights, which throws light on the events of 1719-20.

The document in question is dated 1756 and it relates to the customary water rights prevailing at the Isle of Man.10 The most detailed evidence came from George Rooks, a Bradford clothier who had been a servant at the hamlet in 1719. He testified that at that time there was 'a Well called the Shep-Coat Well, lying upon Bradford Moor not far from the Isle of Man and adjoining to the Road leading to Leeds'. The customary rights of the inhabitants of the hamlet allowed them 'to fetch water for the use of them and their family, to drive and water their Cattle att all times of the year'. Furthermore 'when the Well was fowl, they always cleansed and scoured the same'. This may sound rather like an obligation, but actually the matter cleansed from ponds and wells was used to improve the land, and the task would be seen, in part at least, as a customary right.

A final point of interest concerning the dispute emerges in the testimony of Richard Cordingley, referred to earlier. He claimed that 'old Mr Marsden' had been incensed against 'old Mr Calverley' by William Rawson of Bowling, who had 'set Mr Marsden of trying for Coal' on the moor. It was this that gave immediate rise to differences between the two men and persuaded Mr. Marsden, after meeting with the townspeople, to consider taking the matter to court. At that point 'old Jervas Dixon, Thomas Ledgard, Mr Richardson and others had consultations and mett to Scan things on the moor'. A number of coal-pits are shown on the map, in the area marked as being in dispute, but so far I have not located any other evidence which refers directly to them.

This brief article is intended to evoke a moment in the history of Bradford Moor, before its landscape was permanently ravaged and disfigured during the Industrial Revolution. The maps and documents which support it are now dispersed, the personalities obscured by the passage of time and the landmarks have almost totally disappeared. However, the former Isle of Man, so important in its day, may have left some mark on the landscape, although the name does not survive. No doubt the enclosures acquired their distinctive name partly because of their shape and partly because they were an island of cultivation on the moor. This shape appears to be preserved in the rough triangle formed by New Lane, Thornbury Road and Killinghall Road. Otherwise all that survives to remind us of the ancient contention, and the moor which gave rise to it, are some open spaces and a few place-names such as Scarr Hill and Intake Road. Calverley and Rawson Avenues recall two of the principals in the case.


1. Duchy of Lancaster, Court Rolls, (Bradford). Originals in the Public Record Office, a transcript available in Bradford Central Library. (back)

2. Duchy of Lancaster, Calendar of Pleadings, P.R.O. Guides to these documents, with some details of the contents, were published in 1823, 1827 and are available in Leeds Reference Library and at Claremont. (back)

3. Savile Papers, DD.SR. See Old West Riding, Vol.1, No.2 (1981) p.32, for a copy of this map. (back)

4. Both maps are held in the Local History Section of Bradford Central Library. (back)

5. Notebooks containing Thomas Stroother's accounts for Sir Walter Calverley (1727-1732) are now in the Thornhill Papers, Huddersfield Library. T/R/a/15-18. (back)

6. Thornhill Papers, T/p.1/5, dated 1730? (Huddersfield). Plan of Eccleshill Common c1700 (sic) DD 12/11/38. (There are some slight differences between the two copies.) (back)

7. Bradford Central Library, Archives Section, Deed Box V, Case 12, No.18a. (back)

8. W.T. Lancaster, (ed) Chartulary of Fountains Abbey, p.127. (back)

9. Bradford Central Library, Archives Section, Deed Box V, Case 12, No.3. (back)

10. Bradford Central Library, Archives Section, Miscellaneous MSS., A.487. (back)

© 1985, George Redmonds and The Bradford Antiquary