Abraham Dracup, Clogger, and the Dracup Clogging Dynasty


This is the story of Abraham Dracup (1805-72), an ordinary working man whose otherwise very ordinary life was marked by three life-changing experiences.

It describes the rise and fall of a small dynasty of Bradford cloggers, headed by Abraham and encompassing his brothers, sons and nephews.

Abraham was a contemporary of his slightly older cousin Samuel Dracup (1793-1866), mill owner and Jacquard loom manufacturer, and very slightly younger cousin Amos Dracup (1818-69), worsted waste dealer and defaulting tax collector.

All three were direct descendants of pioneer Methodist Nathaniel Dracup (1728-98) and lived close together in Great Horton, now a suburb of Bradford.

Whereas Samuel was the eldest son of Nathaniel’s youngest son George (1775-1851), both Amos and Abraham were grandsons of Nathaniel’s second son Thomas (1760-1817). I too am descended from Thomas, making Abraham a first cousin, four times removed.


Daniel Dracup at Solitary Farm

Abraham’s father was Thomas’s eldest son Daniel Dracup (1786-1854).

Whereas Amos’s father Richard was a shuttle maker who turned shopkeeper when Samuel’s power looms made his old calling moribund, Daniel persisted as a farmer and traditional hand loom weaver.

Daniel married Mary Brigg, daughter of George Brigg, at Bradford Cathedral on 3 June 1805, when both were aged 19. Both were illiterate, signing the marriage record with clumsy crosses.

George Brigg had been born in Wyke, Yorkshire in 1753 and had married Elizabeth Peel in 1779. Mary was their third child. Her christening record shows the family lived at Carr Lane, near Low Moor, a few miles south-east of Great Horton.

There is a land tax record dating from 1811 for ‘David Armitage, Daniel Dracup and others’. They are renting from one Benjamin Cordingley (1754-1818) a local worsted manufacturer. David Armitage went on to own considerable property around the area known as Horton Bank Top.

But Daniel’s young family soon settled at Solitary Farm, adjacent to Paradise Farm. The area is marked today by the Paradise Farm public house, located on Paradise Fold, off Clayton Road, a few hundred metres to the north-east of the Upper Green area of Great Horton.

The Great Horton Conservation Assessment  (2006) says:

‘As Upper Green becomes Greenfield Lane it descends slight before turning sharply in front of 44- 52 Greenfield Lane….. At the end of the row, the lane turns sharply northward and becomes a footpath which historically led through the fields and joined a network of rights of way leading to Paradise Green, Lidget Green and Beckside but today links the area with Brackenhill Park and Brackenbeck Road/Old Corn Mill Lane.’

The 1852 Ordnance Survey map shows Solitary Farm just to the south-west of Paradise Farm, at that time accessible only by footpaths, hence its solitariness. The foundations of Solitary Farm are still visible from the air.


1852 Ordnance Survey map (2)

Solitary Farm foundations Capture (2)


This was part of Ashton’s Dole.

In ‘Rambles Round Horton’ (1876), Cudworth explained:

‘What is known as the “Ashton Dole” is a charity, the proceeds of which are derived from property left under the will of John Ashton in 1712, to be distributed half-yearly among poor people of Horton above sixty years of age who are not in receipt of parish relief. The property originally comprised three cottages, a barn, and several closes of land in Horton…’

Thirty years earlier, in ‘The History and Topography of Bradford (in the County of York) with Topographical Notices of its Parishes’ (1841), James wrote:

‘The charity estates were vested in Joseph Barrans, as surviving trustee, under deeds dated the 1st and 2nd November, 1813, and consist of the following particulars: —

Three cottages, a barn, and certain closes of land at Horlon, let to Joseph Gomersal, as yearly tenant, at £30 per annum.

A blacksmith’s shop and shed let to John Garthwaite, as yearly tenant, at £7 per annum.

A farm at the Solitary, in Horton, consisting of a dwelling-house divided into two, a barn, and several closes, containing thirteen or fourteen days’ work, or about nine acres, let in different parcels to George Binns and Daniel Dracup, as yearly tenants, at rents amounting to £16 a year.

The property is all let at its full annual value.’

Cudworth repeats some of this detail, correcting ‘George Binns’ to ‘George Briggs’ [sic], Daniel’s father-in-law.

In ‘The Yankee Yorkshireman: Migration Lived and Imagined (2009), Blewett opines:

‘In the mill village of Horton in Bradford parish, Daniel Dracup, born in 1786…organized his household to support his hand loom weaving…Dracup had no idea that his snug little cottage and hard-working family was part of a “proto-industrial” system, doomed to oblivion.’


Daniel’s family

Daniel’s first-born child was a son, Abraham. There is a record of his christening on 10 November 1805 at Bradford Cathedral. His father is described as ‘Daniel Dracup of G Horton, weaver’.

Abraham seniors christening Capture

But an Abraham – also son of Daniel Dracup of Horton, weaver – was baptised at the Chapelry of Horton nine years later, on 25 December 1814. Was this the same child undergoing a baptism ritual for the second time, perhaps for theological reasons, or had the first Abraham died in infancy?

Abraham juniors christening Capture

The 1814 baptism took place in the Old Bell Chapel which had been built after the 1805 christening. Cudworth says:

‘There being no Episcopalian church nearer to Great Horton than Bradford or Thornton, a movement was started for the erection of a church, and the Old Bell Chapel was built in the year 1806, and consecrated on July 1st, 1809, as a chapel of ease to the Parish Church of Bradford. It was a plain structure, without any attempt at architectural effect. The original cost was £200, which was raised by subscription, Mr. John Rand the elder being one of the principal contributors. The communion plate was presented to the chapel by Mrs. Lister, of Manningham. A record of the original erection and subsequent addition is preserved in the following inscriptions: —

This chapel of case, subject to the Parish Church of Bradford, was built by subscription in the year of our Lord 1806. This clock put up in 1808.

Joseph Beanland, John Blamires, Churchwardens.’

Did Daniel desire a second ceremony for his eldest son, or were there two sons called Abraham? Certainly later census returns suggest a date of birth of 1815 or 1816, closer to the 1814 baptism, which argues for there being two children of this name.

Aside from Abraham senior, and possibly Abraham junior, Daniel and Mary had a further ten or eleven children:

  • Elizabeth Dracup (1807-64), christened at Bradford Cathedral on 11 October 1807. She married John Hardaker (1807-68), initially a weaver, later a delver and banksman in coal mines, in August 1827.
  • Rhoda Dracup (1810-46), christened at Bradford Cathedral on 22 April 1810.She married Benjamin Rhodes (1811-78), a weaver and later a cotton warp dresser, in February 1831.
  • Squire Dracup (1812-71), born on 30 September 1812 and baptised on 27 December at the Chapel. He was a cordwainer, later a clogger and shoemaker, marrying Sarah Wilkinson (1815-71) in September 1834.
  • Thomas Dracup (1817-79), a stuff weaver and cotton warp dresser, afterwards a farmer and butcher, baptised on January 12 1817 at the Chapel. He married Martha Robinson (1817-47) in October 1839 and, after her death, Maria Shepherd (1821-95) in November 1848.
  • Sampson Dracup (1818-70), also a weaver and cotton warp dresser, baptised on February 21 1819 at the Chapel. He married Alice Harrison (1820-88) in February 1837.
  • Eunice Dracup (1821-21), baptised on May 6 1821 at the Chapel. She lived only a few months and was buried on 25 October 1821.
  • Esther Dracup (1822-99), initially a stuff weaver, later a worsted powerloom weaver, born on 15 October 1822 and baptised on 25 May 1823 at the Chapel. She married Henry Cawthra (1815-75), a miner, in July 1846.
  • Ezra Dracup (1825-97) – a dyer, later a clog and patten maker, then a carter, then a milk dealer, ultimately a farmer and dairyman – baptised on April 1 1825 at the Chapel. He married Martha Annums (1826-87), a power loom weaver, in March 1849.
  • Henrietta Dracup (1828-87) a spinner, then a power loom weaver. She married Luke Collins (1826-79), a quarryman, in December 1849.
  • Jane Dracup (1832-83), a dressmaker, late a servant and housekeeper. She married John Mortimer (1831-91) – a woolcomber, later a wool merchant – in November 1853.

Some family trees also attribute to Daniel and Mary an earlier Jane Dracup (1809-84) who married John Collins (1808-1881) in 1830. But she may have been the child of Richard Dracup (1788-1853) and Hannah, nee Bennett (1789-1852).


Dracups established at Solitary Farm

The contemporary trade directories list Daniel Dracup as a farmer rather than a weaver, suggesting that Blewett was somewhat off the mark in implying that he was wedded exclusively to old-style handloom weaving.

He is described as a farmer in the 1842 and 1847 Directories of Leeds and the Clothing District, the 1850 Ibbetson’s Directory of Bradford and the 1854 Directory of Leeds and Bradford.

The same is true of the censuses. The 1841 Census finds Daniel already aged 55 and, alongside wife Mary, living at Solitary Farm with children Esther, Ezra, Henrietta and Jane. Daniel is a farmer.

We know that the dwelling house is divided in two. Rhoda Dracup and husband Benjamin Rhodes occupy the other home with three of their children, so the Farm accommodated 11 people in all.

In the 1851 Census, Daniel, now 64, is described specifically as a ‘farmer of seven acres’. His side of the dwelling is also occupied by his wife Mary, also 64, plus daughter Jane (18), son in-in-law Luke and daughter Reta (aka Henrietta) Collins. The latter are described as lodgers.

Luke and Henrietta’s eldest daughter, aged two, is also present but is called Dracup and described as Daniel’s daughter. She was born on 21 August 1848. Her birth certificate gives Henrietta as the mother, but there is no entry for the father.

Either Luke had still to acknowledge her as his child, or she was really Daniel’s child, or someone else’s, or there was a mistake.

The other side of Solitary is now occupied by Daniel’s son Thomas, still a cotton warp dresser, and their three young children, plus son Ezra Dracup, now also a clog and patten maker, and his wife Martha.

Daniel died on 28 April 1854. His wife survived him by five years. She features, just a few weeks before her own death, in a piece carried by the Bradford Observer of 3 November 1859 about a court case to decide liability for repairing Paradise Lane, otherwise known as Pasture Lane:


Pasture Lane repairs Capture

Pasture lane 1908 Capture
Pasture Lane as it was in 1908


By 1861, Solitary Farm was divided into three dwellings, housing the families of Thomas Dracup, Henry Cawthra and Ezra Dracup respectively.

John Mortimer, who married Jane Dracup in 1853, was living nearby in Paradise House. Jane’s whereabouts are unclear, though some family trees suggest that she had died that year.

However, a niece of Thomas’s, Mary Elizabeth, aged seven, is living with his family. Ten years later, in the 1871 census, she is named Mary Elizabeth Mortimer.

Solitary remains divided into three dwellings, one occupied by Thomas and family, the second by Henry Cawthra and family, the third now by Miles Haley and family, who may be distant relations.

By 1881, the principal dwelling is in the hands of Israel Dracup, Thomas’s son, and his family. Next door, in what is described as an ‘adjoining cottage’, Henry Cawthra’s widow and two of her children. And, in another adjoining cottage, Maria Dracup, Thomas’s widow, a daughter and her grandson.

We know that the Ashton Dole trust property was sold in 1881. By 1891, Solitary Farm is inhabited by Dan Mortimer, John Mortimer’s younger brother, while father David Mortimer remains at Paradise Farm next door.

The 1891 Census shows Israel and family have moved to 25 Back Lane and Israel is no longer a farmer but a mill watchman. Esther Cawthera is at 61 Daisy Street and Maria Dracup at 172 Hollingwood Lane.

Electoral registers suggest that Dan Mortimer owned Solitary as early as 1889 and until at least 1913, but the dwelling seems to have disappeared from the 1901 Census, at least under that name. In both the 1901 and 1911 Censuses, Dan is farming at nearby Hillside Royd.


Abraham Dracup and his family

Abraham married Hannah Robertshaw on 24 September 1834 at St Wilfred’s Church in Calverley, some seven miles north-east of Great Horton. Hannah was aged 22, Abraham most likely a little younger.

He was already employed as a clogger and patten maker. He signed his name, perhaps a little laboriously, while Hannah was illiterate.

She had been born in Manchester but the records give no name for her female parent and her father is simply called ‘Robertshaw’.

Later, when Abraham’s elder sons Daniel and Lister are born, the birth records say that Hannah was the daughter of one William Bentley.

In the 1841 census Abraham gave his age as 25, so consistent with birth in 1816. He was living in Whetley Street, Manningham, with his wife Hannah, three young children aged 6, 4 and 2 respectively and a lodger called Mary Ann Nichol.

Whetley Street appears to run between Whetley Fold and Spring Street. Translating on to the present-day map, this is most probably the area bounded by Whetley Close, Whetley Terrace and White Abbey Road, to the South of Manningham.

Abraham’s household grew to include seven children:

  • Daniel Dracup, (1835-79) who later married Ellen (1838-71), born in Ireland.
  • Lister Dracup (1837-49), of whose untimely end more below.
  • Alfred Dracup, (1839-1904) who married Maria Sutcliffe (b 1838) in 1858.
  • Grace Dracup (1843-1928) who married Benjamin Denby (1843-1921) in 1861.
  • Sarah Ann Dracup (1844-1909), who married William Brear (1842-1907) in 1863.
  • Wilfred Dracup (1848-1906) who remained unmarried and
  • Mary Hannah Dracup (b. 1854), who married Jabez Smith (b. 1851) in 1875.


Squire Dracup’s bit part in the ‘Plug Riots’

Just as Abraham took on his own business as a bootmaker and shoemaker, his brother Squire Dracup – then aged 30 and already with a wife and five children – had been caught up in the Plug Riots, held to protest the failure of Parliament to accept the six points of the Chartist Petition presented to it in May 1842.

During the summer of that year, frustration and poverty boiled over into a series of protests, further fuelled by wage cuts imposed in the Lancashire mills. Action in Lancashire spread rapidly to Yorkshire, as workers closed down mills by removing bolts or ‘plugs’ from the boilers.

There was a large meeting of up to ten thousand people on Bradford Moor on the afternoon of Sunday August 14. Following a parallel meeting of magistrates, constables and mill owners at the Talbot Inn, a detachment of the 17th Lancers were assigned to Bradford Moor Barracks.

Early on Monday morning, large crowds assembled outside the Oddfellows Hall on the Thornton Road and, following the meeting, many marched on Halifax, stopping mills on the way. On the return journey they continued to do so, concluding their business at ‘Messrs Ackroyd’s Mill at Horton’.

On Tuesday 16 August, a crowd tried to stop Lister’s Mill out towards Manningham, but the 17th Lancers had reached it before them. However they stopped more mills at Frizinghall and Shipley, Bingley and Cottingley. Further disturbances continued the following day.

Along with John Greenwood and Jonathan Jowett, Squire was charged with ‘unlawfully conspiring to impede the carrying on of certain manufactures and preventing persons employed in them from following their occupations at Bradford on 15 August last.’ All three pleaded guilty.


squire dracup Capture (2)


They were among the 25 accused who received no prison sentence but who were ‘required to enter into their own recognizances, to appear and receive judgement when called upon; the understanding being that they would not be so called upon unless they were guilty of some similar offence.’

Many others were less fortunate.


Disaster strikes the emerging Dracup clogging dynasty

The 1830 Directory of Yorkshire, Leeds and Clothing Districts listed only two clogging businesses in Horton, neither owned by a Dracup. The same was true of the 1838 White’s Directory.

Pigot’s 1829 Directory included only nine patten and clog makers based in Bradford, none called Dracup. By the time of Pigot’s 1841 directory this had increased to 19 businesses, suggesting rapidly expanding demand as the population grew. Still none was run by a Dracup.

We know that Abraham had been working as a clogger – no doubt for one of these men – since at least 1834, and he remains a clogger in the 1841 Census.

Within a few years he had taken over his own business, only for disaster to befall him.

At 5:00am one Friday morning in August 1846 a fire was discovered on the Silsbridge Lane premises shared by Abraham and Henry Beanland.

The building was owned by Hannah Bowes, a shopkeeper living next door. It was midway along Silsbridge Lane and comprised Abraham’s clogger’s shop on the ground floor and Beanland’s joiner’s shop on the first.

The fire began in Abraham’s shop where, the evening before, he had been drying old shoe leather. Another neighbour, John Waddington, saw smoke coming from the ground floor and raised the alarm. The door was broken down, releasing flames and intense heat. The walls of the building soon collapsed.

Local people used water from a ‘fire plug’ in the street to fight the fire and try to save the adjoining buildings. This they managed with assistance from the fire engines which, according to the Bradford Observer, was ‘tardily given’.

As well as the premises she owned, Hannah Bowes also lost significant property ‘hurriedly and indiscreetly dragged from her house into the street’. Neither she nor her tenants were insured.

Abraham’s shop contained a large stock of clogs stored for the approaching winter season. He estimated his loss as some £26 to £30 – equivalent to about £3,500 today.

The Bradford Observer’s report commented that Beanland would sustain his own loss, though estimated at £50. Whereas of Abraham it said:

‘He is a poor man: it is said that he came, beheld his ruin, and wept.’



The loss of Abraham’s son Lister

Worse was to follow. On 20 January 1848, less than 18 months after the fire, Abraham lost his second son.

The Leeds Mercury of 22 January broke the story.

A group of between eight and ten boys were skating on the reservoir, known as the New Dam, belonging to the Old Corn Mill in Brick Lane, operated by Ellis and Priestman.

The boys were taking it in turns to slide across the ice in rapid succession, but then one fell, causing several others to fall on top of him. The resulting pressure caused the ice to break and six of the boys were plunged into the water, about eight yards from the dam’s edge. Only two managed to escape.

The alarm was raised immediately and a search was conducted ‘by means of planks nailed together, boat hooks and well creepers’, causing four bodies to be found some two hours later. They were taken to the New Miller Dam Inn – landlord Thomas Bates – pending the coroner’s inquest.

They were:

  • William Smith (11), son of John Smith of Brick Lane
  • John Townley (12), son of Francis Townley of Thornton Street;
  • John Whalley (13), son of Charles Whalley of Chain Street; and
  • Lister Dracup (11) son of Abraham Dracup of Silsbridge Lane.

The report praises the efforts of those conducting the search, naming our old friend ‘Henry Beanland, joiner and builder’ amongst them. He others were a book-keeper called Mr Bird and a machine maker called George Garth ‘all of whom jeopardised their own lives’.

It concludes:


Lister 1 Capture


The same story was carried later in the day by The Leeds Intelligencer, which added that one of the two survivors was helped by someone skating on the ice, while the other:

‘…as the poor little fellow expresses it, by laying his hand on the head of one of his drowning companions, and by that means he rose himself to the surface of the water and got out‘.

The story was also repeated by the Bradford Observer five days later, alongside a report on the inquest.

This added some further details: New Miller’s Dam had become frozen over a few days previously and, on 20 January ‘a considerable number of boys and some men’ were skating there. The dam was eight to ten yards deep in some places.

The accident happened at about 5:30pm when seven boys were sliding on the ice near the footpath. When the first fell, the others crashed into him breaking the ice. All seven were thrown into the water but three escaped.

‘As the alarm spread, the greatest anxiety was manifested by fathers and mothers and sisters in the neighbourhood, and during the search for the missing bodies the embankment was thronged with a large crowd, among whom were numbers upon whose countenances doubt and anguish were depicted…’

As Beanland, Bird and Garth recovered the bodies, a small group of policemen arrived under the command of the chief constable, Mr Leveratt, ‘who gave his able assistance and advice in the painful emergency’.

The initial piece concludes that, on Thursday evening and Friday morning, several reports were circulating about the accident and the number of lives lost, some of them grossly exaggerated.

The summary of the inquest says that it was conducted on Thursday 25 January at the New Miller’s Dam public house, before the coroner, George Dyson, and ‘a respectable jury’.

The testimony of Robert Smith (11) is reported: the accident happened around 5pm. There were seven boys on the ice at the lower part of the dam. He had watched them for about half an hour – from about eight yards’ distance – since leaving the ice himself when he ‘heard it crack and rock’.

The other boys heard this too but said ‘it will not break in yet a while’ even though an unidentified ‘man in a greatcoat’ had told them some time before that the ice would break.

But then:


Bradford observer 28 January 1848 detail 1 Capture


However, the testimony of Harriet Smith, who lived near the Dam and had watched from some 100 yards distant, was that there were over 100 boys and only one man on the ice at the time of the accident. She saw a boy with a white smock escape the water.

Samuel Bird, then spoke – the book-keeper from Green Place, Manningham. He arrived a few minutes after the accident, at around 5:30pm. The ice was about an inch thick. There was a circular hole in it about two yards wide and some six to eight yards from the edge.

Three bodies were recovered from the ice in about three-quarters of an hour and the fourth body about an hour later.

He added that the dam was not fenced off and there was a much-used public footpath alongside, leading from Bradford to Clayton.

Another boy, Alfred Collinson (9), son of Joseph Collinson, said he was on the ice at the time of the accident. The first boy, sliding in, fell when the ice broke, causing the boys following to land on top of him. They were not holding on to each other and all fell into the water as more of the ice gave way.

Alfred was ‘standing aside’ but still fell into the water. He seized a piece of ice, but it broke, so he got hold of a second and managed to pull himself out.

The coroner remarked that he didn’t want to see the dam fenced off ‘because the walk alongside was a source of health, pleasure and recreation’.

However, one juror called for the owners to erect notice boards warning off bathers and skaters, while a second suggested that rescue equipment – ‘drags, creepers etc.’ – should be stored nearby.

The jury made these recommendations while returning a verdict of ‘Accidentally drowned’.

The story was carried in several other newspapers, including the Observer, the London Evening Mail, the Manchester Courier, the North Devon Journal and the Reading Mercury.

This contemporary map shows the location of the accident, and the distance from Lister’s house in Silsbridge Lane.


1850 ordnance survey site of accident Capture


The New Miller’s Dam Inn was located at 328 Thornton Road, now converted into flats. Part of the Dam is also still there, apparently in the grounds of the Listerhills Warehouse, now part of the Freemans Grattan company.


the dam now Capture


Several more lives have been lost at this place, often in the summer. A piece in the Leeds Mercury of 15 June 1839 complained that there were no public baths in Bradford:

‘The becks are improper on account of the impurity of the waters…and the only place where the waters are suitable is New Mill Dam; but this is a dangerous place, particularly to those who are not good swimmers, and many have lost their lives while bathing there.’

A quick newspaper search reveals that two bathers were drowned in 1779, one in 1819 and one in 1825.

There were also several suicides by drowning in 1825, 1844, 1846 and 1851. In 1857 Samuel Charlton savagely murdered a widow, Hannah Holroyd, when she preferred a much younger man, and then drowned himself at the Dam.



The art of Clogging

Clogs were the footwear of choice for Victorian mill workers. They comprised a shaped wooden sole and stretched leather upper.

Cloggers often took delivery of sole blocks, bought in bulk from itinerant workers called block cutters, who cut them from logs, working out amongst the trees. A variety of woods was used, including alder, sycamore and birch.

Sole blocks were allowed to season for several weeks before being used by the cloggers. They were typically available in four standard lengths, for children, boys, women and men respectively. The clogger would shape the soles and attach the uppers.

There is evidence that Charles operated in this fashion. This newspaper report dates from 1867.


Charles dracup court case 1867 Capture


Larger companies would provide their wares wholesale as well as retail, but smaller local tradesmen would sell exclusively to their own customers, sometimes following personalised paper patterns.

The further shaping of the blocks would typically involve three distinct stages: cutting to size, then shaping the outline and the underside of the sole; shaping the top of the sole into the hollow curve necessary to fit the foot; and cutting a shallow groove around the top of the sole to take the upper, before final smoothing and finishing.

Irons were often fitted to the sole at this stage, held in place by specially tapered tacks with blunt points designed to prevent the wood from splitting. The irons were often hand-forged by local blacksmiths.

The soles would finally be blacked around the edges with a mix of lampblack and turpentine before the uppers were fitted. Children’s clogs fastened with a button could be fashioned from a single piece of leather, typically cowhide. Clasped clogs for women or laced clogs for men could be manufactured from two pieces – the front and tongue from one piece and the back and sides from another.

The pieces were cut out against the pattern, some parts being ‘skived’ so they were thinner and more comfortable. The upper was then stitched together with thread often made by the clogger himself.

The uppers were heated and stretched over a last. At the toe the join between wood and leather was secured by means of brass tacks, while sometimes a brass ‘toe tin’ might be added. Then a strip of leather was used to cover the join between sole and upper, normally secured by iron tacks.

Clasps might be fitted with the clog already on the foot.




A good pair might last up to 20 years. Sometimes workers might also own a pair of fancy clogs for Sundays with additional brass fittings and/or designs tooled into the leather.

Pattens were much more workaday overshoes, normally made from wooden slats with thongs or straps and used outside to lift the feet above the mud and faeces in the streets.


Cloggers at work


Abraham’s business recovers quickly; the clogging dynasty grows

Abraham quickly overcame these first two setbacks.

Several directories list Hannah Bowes as a grocer and provision dealer operating out of 78 Silsbridge Lane in the 1850s. We know that Abraham was at 76 Silsbridge Lane from 1850 to 1855 and a different clogger, Charles Shackleton, was at that address by 1856. Were the premises rebuilt immediately after the fire?

Certainly Abraham is listed again as the owner of a clogging business as soon as the following year, suggesting that the fire was not his ruin, but perhaps the reverse. He was likely in his early thirties by this point.

Indeed, Ibbetson’s Directory of Bradford for 1850 gives two addresses for Abraham – 76 Silsbridge Lane and 18 Broadstones. Perhaps he diverted himself from his son’s death by working even harder.

The 1851 census shows Abraham living at 98 Silsbridge Lane. He gives his age as 36, consistent with birth in 1815. His 15 year-old son Daniel is now a clogger too, and he has two lodgers, also cloggers, who are most probably working for him.

Slater’s Directory for 1855 lists 43 Bradford cloggers and patten makers, more than double the number a decade earlier. Abraham continued working at 76 Silsbridge Lane, while brother Ezra senior had taken over at Broadstones.

Meanwhile, Abraham’s other brother Squire had also established himself as a bootmaker and shoemaker. He had his own business in Horton by 1842. His marriage record describes him as a cordwainer, the 1841 census as a shoemaker and the 1851 census as a cordwainer once again.

By the early 1850s he was based at 239 High Street, Great Horton and by 1856 he also had a shop at 34 Ivegate, in the centre of Bradford.

But, despite his elevated status as a shoemaker, we know that he also dealt in clogs. A newspaper report in the Bradford Observer of 16 October 1856 refers to a young man who exchanged a stolen pair of shoes with Squire for a pair of clogs and some money.

The next generation of Dracup men were by now reaching working age. By 1856, Abraham’s son Daniel already had his own business operating out of 96 Silsbridge Lane (though the 1857 Post Office Directory lists an A Dracup, most likely his father, at that address.)

The 1861 Census sees further movement along Silsbridge Lane, as Abraham and family are now occupying numbers 110 and 112, presumably one being their home and the other the shop.

Abraham was still a clogger but also had a second string to his bow, operating as a ‘milk seller’, perhaps utilising cows kept at Solitary Farm. The entry adds what I think is ‘master employing son and one boy.’

As well as his wife, he lives with Grace (now 15), an apprentice straw bonnet maker, Wilfred (aged 13) an apprentice cabinet maker and Mary Hannah (6) still at school.

Oldest son Daniel was, for reasons unknown, lodging at the Woolpack Inn in Wolverhampton. Perhaps his wife-to-be lived nearby. He was still working as a clogger.

Sarah Anne was a servant at the house of Henry Simonett, an ivory comb manufacturer living at 14 East Parade in Bradford.

Abraham’s younger son Alfred was living with his young wife at number 3 Turk Street, Bradford, close to Silsbridge Lane. He too was working as a clogger.

But Ezra senior has now left clogging to become a carter, perhaps involved in carrying milk from the farm to Abraham’s shop.

According to the 1861 census, Squire Dracup remains a shoemaker, but his sons Charles (23), Ezra (17) and Eli (14) are all now cloggers. Ezra looks to be heading a shop at 532 Little Horton Lane.

So, by 1861, the Dracup clogging fraternity comprises Abraham, his two sons Daniel and Alfred, and his nephews Charles, Ezra and Eli. Six in all; seven if we include Squire. 

This dynasty thrived for the next decade. 

The 1871 Census finds Abraham back simply to ‘clogger’. He and his family live next door to their former property, at 108 Silsbridge Lane. Abraham and his wife have Wilfred and Mary Hannah living at home, also Grace, her husband Ben and their three children. Wilfred is also now employed as a clogger.

But, meanwhile, Daniel is living elsewhere in Bradford with his wife Ellen and has left clogging behind, becoming a musician instead.

Squire Dracup was living at 40 Great Russell Street, no longer a shoemaker but now explicitly a clogger employing one man. He seems to have been working out of 19 Silsbridge Lane. Eli was living at home but had now become a cotton warp dresser.

I cannot find Alfred and his family in the 1871 census, though we know that two of his children were christened in Batley in 1868, both records describing him as a clogger, while White’s Directory for 1870 also lists him as a clogger, located at ‘108 Silsbridge Lane and Batley’.

Additionally, the Bradford Daily Telegraph editions of 3 and 6 September 1869 carry an advertisement showing Alfred wanting to sell or let his Batley premises:


Batley advert Capture


Ezra senior is located at 13 Beckside Road, now fully occupied as a milk dealer.

Charles is now based at 532 Little Horton Lane, working as a clogger employing one man and one boy. Ezra junior is living at 19 Grafton Street, still employed as a clogger.

So, by 1871, the fraternity comprises Abraham and Squire (though both will be dead within a year), Alfred and Wilfred (Abraham’s sons) and Charles and Ezra junior (Squire’s sons). Six in all.

The 1870 White’s Directory also refers to a clogger called Edward Dracup working from Ezra senior’s premises at 13 Beckside Road, but this may be a misprint for Ezra junior.


Maryport shoe shop


Silsbridge Lane, Broadstones, Ivegate and Horton Lane

Silsbridge Lane, originally Syllbrigg Lane followed the same route as the present-day Grattan Road – it was renamed when widened at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

In ‘Phases of Bradford Life’ (1871), Burnley wrote:

‘During my saunterings about town, my curiosity has often tempted me to explore what are regarded by dwellers in spacious street and commodious habitations as forbidden regions; but these explorations have seldom led me into localities of more uninviting aspect than the Irish colony of Silsbridge Lane, and its dirty tributaries. I have trodden the lane’s uneven, puddly way, under various circumstances and at various hours ; in the company of policemen, of devout Catholics, of believers in Fenianism, of Irishmen blunderingly jovial, and Irishmen intelligent and communicative, and, many a time, alone. I have inhaled its sickly atmosphere — fragrant of red herrings, onions, and steaming potatoes — by night and by day. I have sniffed those offensive exhalations which, though unknown to residents in salubrious districts, and also (the continuance of the nuisance would lead us to infer) to sanitary inspectors, are wafted about the narrow streets that lie here about, and amongst their poverty-stricken denizens like noxious clouds.’

He describes the shops in the locality:

‘The shops, we observe, are characteristic of the people, dingy and dilapidated. The lights they burn are either very feeble, or the windows so thickly crusted with dirt that their rays are impotent to strike through them. It must be the latter, I think, for when we come to the windowless shop of the greengrocer, it is like passing into a gleam of sunshine in comparison. No; I hold the Gas Company guiltless; for here are revealed as distinctly as if they were exposed in Darley Street or the Green Market, vast heaps of potatoes, onions, and herrings, with all their dirt and greasiness clearly visible.’

Silsbridge Lane was supposedly demolished in 1879. But the 1883 post office directory still has Ezra junior as a clogger at 108 Silsbridge Lane.

However, the Bradford Daily Telegraph of 29 December 1884 refers to an auction of tenements on Silsbridge Lane including number 19, used by Ezra Dracup.


sale of 19 Silsbridge Lane 1876 by Charles Capture


Broadstones was a short thoroughfare running west to east between Church Bridge and the Cathedral, located somewhere near where Lower Kirkgate joins Bolton Road today.

According to Through Airedale – From Goole to Malham by J Gray (1891):

‘Three other important tributaries, coming from Thornton, Eastbrook and West Bowling, unite in the town, and form what is commonly called the Bradford Beck, which then flows on  to the Aire at Shipley…Many other minor streams and watercourses fretted the hill sides around the town, and these after heavy rains so augmented the main body of water in the centre of the town (the present Forster Square) that in order to ascend Church Hill from the west the stream had to be forded, a method of passage which doubtless originated in pre-Roman days. Following or co-eval with the original ford was a long line of stepping stones, and this particular spot was known up to the recent street improvements as Broadstones, a name that will be found in any late directory of the town.’

Both locations are shown on this part of the 1852 Ordnance Survey map


Map showing Silsbridge lane and Broadstones Capture


Ivegate was part of the original medieval town, the old market cross standing at the junction of Ivegate and Kirkgate. It is curved and runs steeply downhill. According to the Bradford City Centre Conservation Assessment:

‘Ivegate is unusual within this zone: its intimacy contrasts with the predominating grandness of the surrounding areas. The small, eclectic shop frontages of this narrow street contribute to its lively and dynamic atmosphere. The development of its unusual image was the result of a quirk of history. Although it was one of the three early streets of the settlement, by 1850 its status as a main Bradford thoroughfare had deteriorated and it became an unfashionable part of the city: shops and retailers tended to overlook it due to its steep and narrow nature.’

Assuming street numbers are unchanged, Squire’s premises would have been the left hand side of the present Cancer Research Charity shop.




Top of Ivegate Capture
Part of Ivegate

Little Horton Lane is described in its Conservation Area Assessment (2005) as follows:

‘Little Horton Lane itself is typified by large, detached villas that were generally built between the 1840-1860s. The area’s dignified character was further complemented by the construction of a number of ecclesiastical buildings during the 1860/70s. The construction of these grand and somewhat ornate places of worship further raised the profile of this part of the conservation area, rendering Little Horton Lane as one of the most prestigious addresses in the locality…

… By the time Little Horton Lane had become an established middle class suburb, its setting and context had changed almost beyond recognition. The open fields around Little Horton had disappeared under the thousands of back-to-back dwellings that characterised the working class suburbs of Bowling and Great Horton, while Manchester Road was lined with mills, warehouses, factories and chimneys. Generally, between 1880 and 1890, the middle classes deserted Little Horton in favour of more rural areas and the area lost some of its prestige.’

Abraham’s place in electoral history

Towards the end of his life, Abraham suffered one further life-changing event, as he became heavily implicated in allegations of electoral malpractice.


William Forster by Henry Tanworth Wells


The 1867 Reform Act significantly increased male suffrage in the UK, with over a million votes cast in the 1868 General Election, three times as many as in the previous election of 1865.

This coincided with increased concern about the impact on voters of bribery and corruption. In 1865 some 50 petitions challenging election results were lodged with the House of Commons, 13 of them leading to the unseating of the victorious MP.

Consequently the 1868 Parliamentary Elections Act transferred responsibility for hearing electoral petitions from the House of Commons to High Court judges. In 1868 even more petitions were tried in this way, two of them in Bradford.

The original 1868 Bradford General Election had seen three Liberals contesting two available seats. They were William Forster (1818-86), Henry Ripley (1813-82) and Edward Miall (1809-81).


Edward Miall


According to Miall’s obituary in the Bradford Observer:

‘Mr Ripley demanded a poll, and on the day of election the greatest excitement prevailed, the hourly returns being watched for with great eagerness by enthusiastic crowds. Mr Ripley headed the poll until half-past ten, when Mr Forster gained a slight advantage. At noon the figures stood thus: – Forster, 7291; Miall, 6884; Ripley, 6818. During the ‘dinner hour’, however, there was a great influx of working class supporters of Mr Ripley at the polling booths, and Mr Ripley was then seen to be in second position. From that time to the close of the poll he continued to distance Mr Miall, and the official declaration gave the following as the result: – Forster, 9645; Ripley, 9347; Miall, 8768. The Liberal party were much dissatisfied with the defeat of Mr Miall, which, from evidence that was afforded them from all parts of the borough, they concluded had been brought about by unfair means. Prompted by the evidence thus obtained, the Liberals presented a petition against Mr Ripley, in retaliation Mr Ripley’s friends presented one against Mr Forster.’




Both petitions were heard early in 1869 before judge Baron Sir Samuel Martin. Abraham Dracup featured prominently in the second case, though he did not himself give evidence.

Although the judge found neither candidate guilty of corruption, Ripley was found to have engaged in extensive ‘treating’, giving his agent an unlimited bank account from which he drew over £7,000 to provide free alcohol in committee rooms located in over 100 pubs across Bradford.

Abraham was also accused of ‘treating’ voters in the counter-petition from Ripley’s supporters, though not on such an industrial scale. Several witnesses placed Abraham in the position of paying for alcohol for prospective voters.

For example, a hawker called John Hollan(d):


Hollan testimony 1 CaptureHollan testimony 2 capture


In his summing up for those making the petition, their barrister argued that:

‘There was no mistake about Dracup being an active agent for Forster and Miall, and he had been clearly shown to have treated.’

However, Baron Martin concluded that there was no evidence to support the argument that Forster corruptly reimbursed Abraham for these expenses  and all eight of his committee chairmen – so presumably including Abraham – swore an oath that they followed the instructions of Forster’s agent not to do anything that would cause the election result to be voided.

Martin asserted that buying a few glasses of beer for a man did not constitute bribery but was: ‘something which naturally and in the ordinary course of life is always being done…’ and so Abraham escaped censure.

Perhaps his business even benefited from the publicity, though he no doubt felt deeply the ordeal and stress of the court proceedings.



Decline and fall of the Dracup clogging dynasty

Squire Dracup died on 14 September 1871, aged 58, his wife soon after on 3 December that year.

Abraham Dracup died just nine months later on 9 June 1872, most probably also in his late 50s, but his wife outlived him by 20 years.


Hannah Dracup
Hannah Dracup (nee Robertshaw)


Following the deaths of the older generation, the 1875 Bradford Street Directory records 67 cloggers’ businesses, three of them still in the hands of Dracups:

  • Alfred at 108 Silsbridge Lane.
  • Charles at 530 Horton Lane.
  • Ezra junior at 19 Silsbridge Lane.

By 1879, the situation is little changed, except that Alfred is also a milk dealer, Charles has moved to 483 Little Horton Lane and Ezra’s home address is given as 123 Hollings Road. There are now some 120 cloggers’ businesses in the area.

By the time of the 1881 Census, Alfred has returned exclusively to clogging. Charles and Ezra junior are also cloggers, but Wilfred has become a joiner and Eli remains a warp dresser. None of the succeeding generation is a clogger.

The 1883 Post Office Directory confirms the situation of 1879, but there is a mysterious fourth Dracup, Henry/Harry, working out of 90 Silsbridge Lane. The number of shops is still rising: over 120 cloggers are in business all told.

By 1887 though, White’s Directory mentions only two Dracup businesses: Charles, still at 483 Horton Lane and Ezra junior at 125 Hollings Road. Charles died the following year, in 1888.

The 1891 Census has Ezra still a clogger, now living next door to his old property at 123 Hollings Road, while Alfred is also still working as a clogger and living at 23 Finchley Street.

The 1891 Post Office Directory confirms this but adds that Alfred has his own shop at 550 Horton Lane. His business is one of 89 listed.

Alfred is also the only Dracup entry in the 1894 White’s Directory. Then suddenly there is a complete change of direction. Kelly’s Directory of 1895 describes him as a fried fish dealer at 1 Massey Street in Burnley.

In 1896 another directory gives the address as 1 Church Street, while his home is at 46 Temple Street. The latter is confirmed in the 1901 Census. Alfred died three years later, in 1904.

Meanwhile Ezra was still clogging according to the 1901 Census, now living at 11 Tennant Street, and even in the 1911 Census, aged 67, now living at 12 Chislehurst Place in Little Horton. Ezra died in 1914.

But he must have been working for someone else in these final years. The 1898 Bradford Post Office Directory lists 43 clogging businesses, roughly a third of those operating 15 years earlier, none of them owned by a Dracup.

Twenty-five years after Abraham’s death, the dynasty had almost run its course.



September 2019




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