Mr. Smith of Deanston, in a sanitary report made about 1837, describes
Bradford as being the dirtiest town in England. Mills abound in great
plenty, and their number is daily increasing, while the town itself extends
in like proportion. Bradford is essentially a new town. Half a century
ago it was a mere cluster of huts: now the district of which it is the
heart contains upwards of 132,000 inhabitants. The value of life is about
1 in 40. Fortunes have been made in Bradford with a rapidity almost unequalled
even in the manufacturing districts.
... As I have stated, the greatest part of the labour of male adults
through the worsted districts consists in combing wool. In Bradford I
was told, on good authority, that there are about 15,000 woolcombers.
These men sometimes work singly, but more often three, four, or five,
club together and labour in what is called a shop, generally consisting
of the upper room or "chamber" over the lower room or "house".
Their wives and children assist them to a certain extent in the first
and almost unskilled portions of the operation, but the whole process
is rude and easily acquired. It consists of forcibly pulling the wool
through metal combs or spikes, of different lengths, and set five or six
deep. These combs must be, kept at a high temperature, and consequently
the central apparatus in a combing room is always a "fire-pot",
burning either coke, coals, or charcoal, and constructed so as to allow
three, four, or five combs to be heated at it; the vessel being in these
cases respectively called a "pot o' three", a "pot o' four",
or a "pot o' five". When coals are burned, the pot is a fixed
apparatus, like a small stove, with a regular funnel to carry away the
smoke. When charcoal is used, the pot is a movable vessel, without a funnel,
the noxious fumes too often spreading freely in the room. Scattered through
the chamber are frequently two or more poles or masts, to which the combs,
after being heated, are firmly attached, while the, workman drags the
wool through them until he has reduced it to a soft mass of filament-when
he educes the substance as it were, draws it by skilful manipulation out
of the compact lump into long semi-transparent "slivers", which,
after certain minor operations, are returned to the factory to be subjected
to the "drawing machines". The general aspect of a combing-room
may therefore be described as that of a bare chamber, heated to nearly
85 degrees. A round fire-pot stands in the centre; masses of wool are
heaped about; and four or five men, in their shirtsleeves, are working
Supplement to the Morning Chronicle, 22 Jan 1850
The Babbage Report into conditions in Haworth found:
- That 41.6 per cent of the people born die before attaining the age
of six years.
- That the average age at death is 25.8 years,which corresponds with
that of some of the most unhealthy of the London districts.
- That 21.7% of the population die without receiving any medical assistance,
and that this fact offers great facilities for the commission of crime.
- That the number of privies [lavatories with no drainage] is unusually
small, averaging only one to every four-and-a-half-houses.
- That no sewerage exists to carry off the refuse and decomposing matter,
and that the exposed cesspools are very offensive and injurious to health.
- That the present water supply is extremely limited in quantity, and
that in the summer,much of it is deleterious in quality.
- That the parish churchyard is so full of graves that no more interments
"Truly horrifying. There are two privies within six feet of the
dwellings from whence the excrement overflows. Ashes, refuse and filthy
water accumulates with this and sends forth an intolerable stench.…
Various diseases have afflicted (the) parties….”
1845 Report of the bradford Sanitation Committee