The 1904 Bradford Art & Industrial Exhibition


Graham Hall




            Back in the mid 1980’s I put together some articles about the exhibition, which at least gave a concise picture of the event, but did not tell the whole story. For one thing there were no illustrations, and after all whilst other forms of ephemera are undoubtedly collected, postcards are surely amongst the most popular. Therefore we shall use them scattered amongst our story and in future articles delve into them in more depth.


            In approaching the subject yet again I felt I had to literally go back to the roots and try to answer a few questions on the way. A viewpoint I’ve taken is to try and put myself in the shoes of a total stranger to the subject who would quite rightly not have a clue about the event and probably come up with the following,


            A.        Why was the event held ?


            B.         Over what period ?


            C.         What was the significance of it being held in Lister Park ?


            D.        Why was the magnificent new public art gallery round which the exhibition centred                       called “Cartwright Hall” ?


            There will be others but these will do for now, and we will try and answer them as we go along, but first I thought it may give us a clearer beginning to relate how I first came across the subject.


            I’m now going back around 45 years to early school days when in the early 1950’s most schoolboys seemed to collect everything and anything. Yes I must admit I was one of them, although before I had reached my ‘teens postcards had already began to run through my veins. Admittedly at that time it was usually holiday postcards acquired from family and friends. Occasionally I would be given something ‘exotic’ like a Spanish embroidered card or a fancy pull-out novelty card. Ah those were the days !


            Then we come to September 1963. By then I was working but postcards were not forgotten, far from it. Thoughts turned to trying to contact others in the area having similar interests. The easiest way was to write to the local paper in the hopes that they would publish a letter. So off it went to the “Bradford Telegraph & Argus” and I never thought anymore about it, until a reporter and photographer turned up at the door.


            The results of the publicity were astounding and I will never forget it as long as I live. Letters poured in not just from those having similar collecting interests but from lovely kind generous people who sent cards, albums you name it. I spent weeks replying to them all.


            What came of it all ? Well certainly mountains of cards, and many I’m sorry to say were passed on to others in the immediate period afterwards. I was naive, young and ignorant ! Never the less I did retain all the local material - which was the nucleus of the ‘Bradfordiana’ collection. I also gathered together a band of local enthusiasts which by April 1964 formed The Bradford & District Postcard Society, now the oldest provincial club surviving. Amongst the local postcards were a number which at the time puzzled me, views of strange buildings and what was obviously views of an ‘event’ bearing the words ‘Bradford Exhibition’. I hadn’t a clue what they referred to but it rapidly became an obsession to find out !



The Official Programme for the Royal Visit at the

Opening of the 1904 Bradford Exhibition.

The cover, a magnificent example of the printers art combining line and screened photogravure

printing, by Armitage & Ibbetson Limited, Bradford, in black, blue, green, red and gold.


            Over the years since, business well and truly got in the way of research, and what should have taken weeks tended to run into years. Very frustrating, but at least I have been fortunate in not only piecing the story together, but also in acquiring several hundred postcards along with several drawers full of ephemera, anecdotes from people who had relatives or friends visiting the exhibition, newspaper articles about it and goodness knows what else.  

            So without more ado let’s embark on our journey and delve into a provincial exhibition which was not unique by any means but none the less important. Nor was it the first to be held in Bradford, and I’m grateful to both Andrew Brooks and Stanley Hunter for bringing that fact to my attention.


In the Beginning


            I feel it is important to relate something of the lives of two of the most important people without whom the exhibition would never have taken place, Samuel Lister and Edmond Cartwright. The following will answer questions C and D in our introduction.


            Samuel Cunliffe Lister was born in Manningham Hall, Bradford, on the 31st of December 1815, and he lived there until his family moved to Farfield Hall near Addingham in 1870. Initially Samuel Lister was trained for entry into the church, his grandmother having left him the family living of Addingham. The vocation was not for him though and he was sent by his father, Ellis Cunliffe Lister, to the offices of Shand Turner & Co., Merchants, in Liverpool for a year.


            In 1817 his father erected Red Beck Mill at Shipley for his elder son John. Power looms were not in use at the time and all manufacturing had to be done by hand in the cottages of Shipley and the surrounding district. The yarn was spun at Red Beck Mill and used for making shawls. In 1832 Samuel Lister became commercial traveller for his brother and embarked on a trip to the United States to sell shawls. Before he was 21 he had travelled to America six times, and this was at a period when each outward and return journey took at least three months.


            By 1837 Ellis Cunliffe Lister had erected Manningham Mills in Bradford for his two sons. He also entered into partnership with Mr James Ambler and the mill was stocked with spinning and weaving plant. Several members of the Lister family were involved with the business but it was to be James Ambler and Samuel Lister who hit it off together. Both were highly gifted and extremely inventive, working together for a number of years to perfect the combing of wool by machinery. Manningham Mills were eventually totally equipped with the wool combing machines they developed and Samuel Lister in particular nurtured what was to become a vast industrial empire with mills not only in Bradford, Halifax and Keighley but extensive production sites in both France and Germany. Lister and Ambler were not the inventors of the wool combing machine, this was the work of the highly gifted Edmund Cartwright whom we will deal with later, but they did perfect it, and make it highly successful on a commercial basis.


            Samuel Lister developed his engineering skills and inventiveness over a wide spectrum, far beyond the bounds of textiles. In a two volume Victorian tome published in 1884, ‘Fortunes Made in Business’, Samuel Lister has a whole chapter to himself. He invented and patented the vacuum air brake used eventually by the railways but he never made money from it. When his patent ran out Westinghouse of America took up the idea and needless to say made a fortune. Lister developed the velvet loom spending over £360,000 of his own money in the process, something which brought him close to financial ruin. This again had originally stemmed from the genius of Edmund Cartwright who had invented the power loom.


            His whole lifetimes work almost came to nothing when on the 25th of February 1871, a disastrous fire virtually destroyed Manningham Mills causing over £70,000 of damage. In a way it proved to be a blessing in disguise for it gave Samuel Lister the opportunity to build something even finer, the second great Manningham Mills creating the largest silk weaving mill in Europe. Still standing it covers over 18 acres of land with the two main sections five floors high. In total over 50
acres of working floor space with the frontage alone being 350 yards long. The chimney, 250 ft high, stands as one of the great industrial monuments and at the height of production the mill used 50,000 tons of coal a year, provided by coal mines in Pontefract owned by Lister.


            He rapidly became one of the most powerful and richest industrialists in the country, and was created a Peer in July 1891, taking the title of Lord Masham, from Masham village in North Yorkshire near where he had his country seat, Swinton Castle. In 1875 a statue of Lord Masham was erected in Lister Park, the only one (of many) in the city to be erected during the lifetime of the person it represents. He was also made a Freeman of Bradford in 1896.


            His philanthropy stretched far and wide. On the 17th of May 1870, he offered the corporation the chance to purchase Manningham Hall and its grounds, which cover 52 acres, for the then ridiculously low figure of £40,000. This was under the provision that the corporation made it into a public park for the benefit of all Bradfordians. It was by the way, estimated to be worth at least £60,000. A few years later he set up an unemployment relief scheme putting many to work building a lake within the park, a feature which was used to great effect when the exhibition came along in 1904.


            We can see by this brief description of his life that he owed much to Edmund Cartwright, and he never forgot this. By the late 1890’s Bradford’s cramped Public Library and combined Art Gallery in Darley Street was becoming a problem and this set old Sam Lister’s mind working. What finer monument to the great inventor Cartwright than a Public Art Gallery named in his honour ? The die was cast.



Cartwright Memorial Hall


            Lord Masham lived not only to see his dream of a permanent memorial to Cartwright, he performed the opening ceremony, but he also lived to see the exhibition. He died on the 2nd of February 1906, after catching influenza at his home, Swinton Castle, he was 91. His influence on Bradford and its staple trade was immense and the Lister company remained a major force in the area long after his death. The mill employed over 4,000 people in its hey-day, but the company owned mills in many other parts of the country. He was held in such high esteem by the workers that they themselves chose to have the mill closed on the day of his funeral, and lose a day’s wages. Lord Masham is buried in the family vault at Addingham. Thankfully we still have his mill, although more about that later in our story, and Lister Park along with Cartwright Hall to remember him by.

            The Rev. Edmund Cartwright D.D., also lived to a ripe old age, he was 81 years old when he died in 1823 having been born in 1743 in the village of Marnham, Nottinghamshire. A Yorkshire connection came fairly early in life when his education began at Wakefield Grammar School. At the age of 14 he went to university College, Oxford, where he trained as a classics scholar. He entered the church after university, moving back to Marnham. In 1772 he married Alice Whitaker of Doncaster and shortly after became curate of Brampton in Derbyshire. In 1779 he became Vicar of Goadby Marwood in Leicestershire.  The Ferris Wheel

            It was a visit to Matlock in 1784 that set him off on a new path in life. Overhearing a conversation about Richard Arkwright’s newly invented spinning machinery he began to take notice. It seems that the locals, hand loom weavers, were now unable to keep up with the rapid production of spun thread, so why not a powered loom ? Within a year Cartwright had drawn up a patent for a crude powered loom which was far from perfect, but this was the seeds of greater things to come. Whilst still working on improvements he turned his skills to woolcombing, and a patent was drawn up in 1785, followed by a further patent in 1792. All the machines he worked on were crude, but the very nucleus on which the great Victorian textile industry is based. Unlike Lister he never became rich with any of his inventions, far from it because with the work on textile machinery alone he spent £40,000 of his own money. Parliament eventually realised the importance of his work and granted him the sum of £10,000 !


            What must be remembered is that Edmund Cartwright had such an inventive brain, years ahead of his time, and he drew up many, many patents. At one period in his life he worked as Farm Manager at Woburn Abbey, between 1801 and 1807. Here he spent time on a number of agricultural inventions and gained a silver medal from the Society of Arts for his invention of the three furrowed plough. In 1805 he was made an honoury member of the Board of Agriculture, receiving a gold medal from them for his work on fertilisers and the plough. During a time spent in London he became a friend of Robert Fulton both of them working on designs for a steamboat, which continued at Woburn. Cartwright brought out designs for fire-proof bricks and he did work on a steam engine. There were lots more inventions too numerous to mention here.


            Finally at the age of 66 he retired to a small farm at Hollanden near Sevenoaks. He died on the 30th of October 1823, at Hastings after suffering a long illness and he is buried at Battle Church in Sussex.


            Postscript. Should anyone wish to read about Samuel Lister and his business I would recommend ‘A Fabric Huge’, by Mark Keighley published in 1989. It was published in conjunction with Lister & Co. PLC, who hold the copyright. Also, if you can obtain it, ‘Illustrated History from Hipperholme to Tong’ by James Parker published locally in 1904. Sadly there has never been a reprint of this fine book which contains much information both on Lord Masham and his family, Edmund Cartwright and details of the opening of the Bradford Exhibition which had taken place only weeks before publication date. Lister & Co. also produced volumes of a house magazine in hard back form throughout the 1920’s which are a mine of information, and cover the life of Samuel Lister in serial format.


            In relation to Edmund Cartwright, ‘A Memoir of Edmund Cartwright’ was republished, verbatim, from the original of 1843. Whilst written in the flowery language of the early Victorian era it is still a fascinating volume and an eye-opener to the work of this genius. Believe me I have only sketched out the life of the man !


To be continued....


   © Exhibition Study Group 1999