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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter LII. - In Bradford


WITH literary work I had been long acquainted, but I had a good many things to learn about the office work on which I now entered in Bradford. Mr Byles, however, helped me over technical stiles, and his and his family's kindness made me feel from the first much at home in my new location. I got comfortable lodgings in Springfield Place, and never changed them until, on marriage, I took a newly- built house on the road between Peel Park and the Undercliffe Cemetery a hilltop, airy situation, with a varied outlook. My dear wife, Mary Catherine Aspinall, and I were married at Horton Lane Chapel on the 31st of March, 1864, by Dr J. R Campbell, in the presence of a cloud of witnesses. My fair young bride was twenty-one years old in the previous December, and two months after that I saw my thirty-sixth birthday.

The Bradford of the sixties was very different from the Bradford, say, of 1900. A process of extension and of transformation had, indeed, been going on since the beginning of the railway era, if not earlier. Extension was visible in the new tentacular streets which connected Manningham, Bowling, and Horton with the Bradford overlooked by the Parish Church of St. Peter's. Architectural advance was visible in Peel Square, St. George's Hall, and some other business buildings, dwelling-houses, and places of worship. But the great architectural transformation, rectification of streets, covering of offensive becks, and getting rid of the stinking canal, which had served its day, were yet mostly all to come. Peel Park, indeed, had been acquired and well laid out before 1860, but its young trees required years to grow before its beauties could be developed. The nobly wooded Manning- ham Hall Park was, until many years later, the property and residence of Mr S. C. Lister, afterwards Lord Masham, whose inventions made many men's fortunes besides his own. The smaller public parks were not yet thought of or desired. New wants grew with the town's growth and its wealth and dense population. When on the morning of my arrival, I first looked down on Bradford with its mills, workshops, and dwellings pouring out black smoke amidst the hilly, snow-white scenery, I was surprised to see that most of its buildings were covered, not by slates as in Scotch towns, but by weather-beaten sandstone flags, which in many instances had weathered the gales and storms for hundreds of years. Like the iron and coal which gave life to the adjacent foundries of Bowling and Lowmoor, the sandstone quarries helped to enrich the place, and furnished the best possible building material for the wonderful extension and architectural transformation which were just beginning. Bradford had, before I ever saw it, made itself in the manufacturing line the capital of the worsted trade, while Leeds had gone in for broadcloth, and Halifax for carpets. The first attempt to add fabrics made from alpaca to the original worsted trade ended in disappointment, because the machinery which suited the wool's natural curl did not at all suit the different one of alpaca. It was, I was told, a Highlander of the name of Mackenzie who finally invented means to overcome the difficulty. He did not live to reap the benefit of his invention, which was bought on terms that would have been sure to enrich him had his life been prolonged, by Mr Titus Salt, who, after having built the great mill and handsome village of Saltaire by the profits made from alpaca manufacturing, of which he and some associates had at first a practical monopoly, was created a baronet. The crinoline fashion, introduced or at least patronised by the Empress Eugenie, brought much gain to Bradford and to all the worsted manufacturing villages and hill and glen mills which sold their goods in Bradford market. After that, the civil war in America, which caused starvation in Lancashire, enriched the worsted district. I knew a Bradford tinsmith who made a modest fortune by furnishing blockade-runners with watertight cases, which, filled with goods, were sunk at appointed places on the coasts of the Confederate States, and which when taken up and emptied were filled with cotton, sunk as before, and then taken up again by the blockade-runners. In this enterprise it was said Wesleyan manufacturers had more success than others, because they were better served by their co-religionists and agents on the other side, In the flush of worsted district advancing prosperity, the ambition of invading the Continent seized upon Bradford's great inventor, "Sam Lister," on whom in advanced age the title of Lord Masham was tardily bestowed in recognition of the fact that he was truly one of his country's most remarkable captains of industry in the nine- teenth century. He set up manufacturing works in the north of France and in Saxony which in the end turned out to be more profitable to others than they were to himself.


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