existing local authorities in Bradford were unprepared for the growth
of the city, and unable to respond quickly enough to its new demands.
A new council was established which took control of the running
of the city. One of its earliest priorities was to take control
of the water supply and ensure that clean drinking water was available
to residents. It also modernised the police and fire services, began
to clear the slums and build underground sewers, light the streets
and open public baths. It also improved pollution levels (the smoke
and smog from the mill chimneys stifled the city), built a new general
hospital and began to regularly collect and destroy rubbish. Libraries,
markets, public buildings and open areas for recreation were built.
Transport systems improved, thanks to the growth of the railways
and the opening of a new horse-drawn tram service.
was officially made a city in 1897, by which time living and working
conditions had drastically improved. It had taken the new council
just fifty years to make Bradford a civilised city in which to live.
textile industry dates back as far as the thirteenth century, but
it was not until the nineteenth century that it became world famous.
Yorkshire boasted plentiful supplies of iron ore, coal and soft
water which was good for cleaning raw wool, and a coal seam which
stretched as far as Nottingham provided the power that the industry
needed. Sandstone, Bradford's local stone, provided excellent resource
for the building of the mills, and the large population of West
Yorkshire meant that a workforce could easily be recruited. More
importantly perhaps, trade was enhanced by the marketing, organisational
and business skills of a number of key individuals, and Samuel Cunliffe
Lister was a key player amongst them.
first steam engine was brought to Bradford in 1798, and put to work
in a mill close to the city centre. All the processes involved in
the production of cloth had been done by hand for many years but
the industry mechanised quickly. The first steam-powered spinning
mill opened in Bradford in 1800, and a brief twenty years later,
39 more were operating by steam. Weaving the thread was the next
process to change. An estimated 14,000 handloom weavers were working
in West Yorkshire in 1838, but within ten years, almost all had
been either driven out of business or into the mills, to operate
the new power looms.
last process to be modernised was woolcombing. Raw wool has to be
separated and straightened before it can be spun into yarn, and
in the nineteenth century it was a hot, dirty and tiring job. Many
attempts were made to build a machine which could comb wool mechanically,
but none were successful until Samuel Cunliffe Lister came along,
built the Lister Nip Comb, and revolutionised the industry.
came from all over the world to buy cloth in Bradford. Foreign traders
built offices in the city to oversee the export of the fabrics they
purchased. Local industrialists and traders built mills and trading
houses for their expanding businesses. Many new fabrics and machines
used in the processing of wool were invented in the city and great
fortunes were made by Victorian men. They, in turn, developed the
city, building parks, houses and great halls. The fame, wealth and
achievements of the mill owners were, and still are, legendary.
Mill (otherwise known as Manningham Mills), and its owner, Samuel
Cunliffe Lister, were particularly well known in the district. Founded
in 1838, the business eventually made Lister one of the city's most
famous fathers, a multi-millionaire and the provider of thousands
of jobs in the city. Lister's Mill changed the identity of the region,
its skyline and its economy. Lister himself epitomised Victorian
enterprise; and he worked on a grand scale.
original Manningham Mills were destroyed by fire in 1871, 33 years
after Lister began trading. When the new Manningham Mills opened,
they were the largest and most imposing textile building in the
north of England. They remain a dominant feature of the skyline,
even today. Designed by local architects in an Italianate style
and with a chimney reaching 250 feet into the air, the new buildings
covered a vast area. The new mills were a fitting home for the Lister
empire, which by 1871 had acquired several other mills in the north
of England and a colliery (Manningham Mills alone used 50,000 tons
of coal per year!). At its height, Lister's employed over 11,000
people, and was a major exporter, with two thirds of all its production
built the largest silk factory in Europe and was the most important
textile inventor of his time. Although he was known as the 'King
of Velvet', his business was diverse, and over the many years it
traded, produced an enormous range of fabrics. Crepes and chiffons
were produced for ladies' fashions; military uniform and parachute
fabrics were made during the wars and synthetic fabrics such as
Crimplene and Terylene were manufactured. As early as 1889 Lister
had become world famous for the production of silks, imitation sealskin
and mohair plush, although he was probably best known for his velvets.
The company supplied more than 1,000 yards to Westminster Abbey
for the Coronation of George V in 1911, and as late as 1976 supplied
the velvet for the curtains in the White House in Washington.
tremendous growth which characterised the Victorian era changed
the face of the British manufacturing industry for ever. Today,
although Bradford's confident buildings remain, most stand empty,
and Lister's Mill is amongst them. There have been many schemes
proposed for the redevelopment of the site, but its sheer size is
its main hindrance. The total floor space available amounts to 27
acres and its South Shed is a quarter of a mile long. Lister's continued
trading until recently, but its heyday has long since passed.