(First published in 1987 in volume 3, pp. 48-50, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)
On 29 April 1986 a meeting was held at 15 Canal Road, by kind permission of Bradford District Archives, to discuss the future of the Bradford Antiquary. The purpose of the meeting was to try to attract support from other organizations and from people outside the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society who sympathize with our aims.
The notice said:
"Anyone who has studied local history at all seriously will at one time or another have consulted the Bradford Antiquary, which, since 1881, has provided readers and researchers with an invaluable store of original articles on a wide range of topics. The Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society has published this journal on its own initiative and from its own resources ever since it was founded. At present the publication is subsidized by members' subscriptions and moneyraising efforts, but this cannot continue much longer. There is an urgent need to promote sales and put the whole thing on a business-like footing … Local history is booming as never before, and Bradford ought to have a journal which would encourage writers by giving pennanent fonn to the results of their researches."
There was an attendance of about fifty, and it was very gratifying to have offers of support from our friends in the archives, museums, library and education services, as well as from members of the general public. The main thing was to make our position known. After all it is unfair to blame people for not supporting the Bradford Antiquary if they are unaware of its existence. The Society can, with a little help, continue to produce the journal, but we must keep the price down. To do this we need to sell at least 1,000 copies, which is not too much to expect, surely, in a Metropolitan District the size of Bradford. We already have a valuable mailing list of home and overseas subscribers, but not, as yet, a ready home market with a quick turnover. The meeting was not all about money, however, and we were pleased to receive offers of editorial help and suggestions about distribution.
From our point of view the evening was well spent. It was a very pleasant social occasion and we were very grateful to all those who gave up their time to come.
As a result of more general enquiries the City Librarian, Mr Barry Smith, had written earlier offering help with publicity and suggesting that we apply, through Leisure Services, for a loss guarantee. He also very kindly said, 'Bradford's first Librarian (Charles G. Virgo) was one of the founders of the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society and we have its interests at heart and would want to do anything we could to help.' Through Mr Smith's good offices and Leisure Services a loss guarantee has been made available to us.
The best piece of news came in November from Mr Robert Frost of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, who wrote to say that the Archive Advisory Council had agreed to make a grant of £400 to help to finance the Bradford Antiquary. This is a most generous donation and I have assured Mr Frost that the money will be well used.
With so much encouragement on all sides it is sad to have to apologize for the delay in publication of 'Third Series No.3'. There should have been no trouble this time, because I have had the assistance of Mr Tony Jowitt, Warden at the Bradford Centre of the Department of Adult Education, Leeds University, but there have been so many snags and so much waiting. We must do better.
In Little Germany (Bradford Art Galleries & Museums), which all should read, John Roberts says that the systematic investigation of Robert Milligan's family and the histories of the numerous descendants of his brother, John, would be a most valuable piece of research. Without knowing anything about this, Mrs Sheila Cox of Wimbledon (whose great-great-grandmother was Agnes Milligan, elder sister of Robert, of Acacia), has spent, as she says 'happy times' sorting out the entwined relationships between these families of Scottish stuff merchants.
Mrs Cox wrote to me after reading Catherine Thackray's article on Brunswick Place in the Bradford Antiquary (Third Series No.2), which she came across in the library of the Society of Genealogists, London. Her interest was in the Rennie connection, James Rennie having become Agnes's brother-in-law by marriage to Susan Milligan. The detailed and carefully researched article by Mrs Cox is the result of our correspondence. She would be the first to admit that this is only the start of a 'systematic investigation' of the Milligan families. There is plenty of scope for anyone who wishes to pick up any of the trails.
Mr Joe Wood, of Fagley, also got in touch with me after reading about Brunswick Place, to say that the business owned by his grandfather, Charles H. Wood (Bellhangers & Whitesmiths), was at 49 Coppy Quarry, and later in Rawson Road, which was fonnerly Brunswick Place. Mr Wood hastened to explain that the bells they hung were those in domestic use, not church bells.
The dictionary definitions are confusing:
'Blacksmith: a smith who works in iron, as distinguished from one who works in tin (a whitesmith).'
'Whitesmith: a tinsmith - a worker in iron who finishes or polishes the work.'
Mr Wood's job was to take the articles made in the blacksmith's shop, such things as brackets and locks, and fix them wherever they were required.
A letter from Mr John Smith of Pudsey reminds me that some events and ways of life in the more recent past vanish without trace, while what happened long ago is always being brought to our notice. He worked for Wm Laycock & Sons, stuff merchants, from the 1920s onwards, and says,
"Telegrams were much used by us and other traders, and it was a regular sight to see the Telegraph Boys in their uniforms, marching smartly down Church Bank in fours to start their turn of duty at the GPO. Most of their deliveries were made on foot, but a few red pedal cycles were used for outer districts."
Before the Second World War these boys used to buzz about the centre of the town, either walking, running or riding bicycles. This is how most male employees at the main post offices began their apprenticeship.
In those days the General Post Office in Forster Square was the great centre of communications: shades of office boys dashing with late fee letters to catch s/s 'Almanzora Star'.
To remember the Low Moor Explosion is immediately to give one's age away, but there are many who still recall exactly what they were doing when the earth shook on that sunny day, Monday 21 August 1916. These memories, carefully preserved and often repeated, are part of Bradford's folk history. Clarrie Muff's father gave his son an eye-witness account of the start of the fire.* He was one of the 'Yellow Men', whose faces and clothing were indelibly stained by the chemicals they handled; but though he was near to the scene of the accident, and had his clothes blown off, he escaped injury and lived to tell the tale.
Dr Ronald Blackwell, who is preparing a book about the explosion, kindly agreed to write an article for this issue, and we are very pleased to welcome him as a contributor.
Recent numbers of the Antiquary have drawn attention to two of Bradford's 'good causes': Paper Hall and Undercliffe Cemetery. As this is a crucial time for Saltaire it seemed appropriate to take advantage of the proceedings at last year's seminar to tell part of an old story whose sequel has come to an abrupt end. It is sad to think that only two years ago, in 'Third Series No.1' we were giving thanks for 'a busy mill' at Saltaire, but change comes quickly these days. The building has outlived its original purpose and is up for sale.
I wish to thank Tony Jowitt for his contribution to this particular article and for helping to edit the journal. I am also grateful to Dr Derek Linstrum for making his script available and to Jack Reynolds for guidance on one or two important points about Saltaire.
Finally, thanks are due to all the contributors for their co-operation in what has been rather a long haul, and to Jeffrey Roberts for reading the proofs.
The President and Council of the Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society wish to express their thanks to the West Yorkshire Archive Advisory Council for a very generous grant of £400 to help to stabilize the finances of the Bradford Antiquary.
© 1987, The Bradford Antiquary