Shipley before 1800


Who first saw that this area next to the river Aire was suitable for sheep is unknown.  However the name ‘Shipley’ is connected as it comes from two Old English words scēp or scīp, a sheep and lēah, a clearing, hence a pasture for sheep[1]. There are Shipleys in various parts of England – this one in West Yorkshire, and others in Northumberland, Derbyshire and Sussex. The name’s origin in Old English suggests a settlement in Saxon times, though there are indications of earlier presence of human beings in the area.

In Crowgill Park is an example of rock art in the form of a Cup and Ring stone dating probably to the Neolithic or Bronze age (2800-c.500 BC) and similar to others found on Baildon Moor[2]. Certainly there are other similar markings in the surrounding area[3]. There is also a suggestion that another such boulder once graced Hirst Wood and was ‘discovered’ by a young Sir Mortimer Wheeler[4].  There are Iron Age fields on Baildon Moor[5] and a description of a “possible Iron Age Settlement” at Hirst Wood[6].  Archaeological finds from Bronze age and Roman period have been recorded[7].

The earliest written mention of Shipley is probably the Doomsday Book.  William I. became King of England, after the battle of Hastings in 1066. In December 1085 he ordered that a survey of his new kingdom should be made. The first draft was ready by August the following year and contained records of 13,418 settlements in England counties south of the border with Scotland (the rivers Ribble and Tees)[8].

 The entry[9] for the Manor of Shipley is

‘ In Scipleia, Ravenchil had three carucates of land to be taxed where there may be two ploughs. Ilbert has it, and it is waste. Value in King Edward’s time, ten shillings. There is a wood pasture a mile long, and half a mile broad.[10]

The Lord in 1066 (the time of King Edward the Confessor) was Ravenschil .There is a suggestion[11] that Ravenschil might be a Danish name; certainly there are others in this area (e.g. Thorkil, Gamel, Arnketil, Stenulf). Ravenschil must have been quite wealthy/important in the time of King Edward as he is recorded in the Doomsday book as being the lord of 15 manors, of which Shipley was one. Although Ravenschil’s fortunes took a dip after 1066, for in 1086 he is the Lord of only 4 manors, he did better than many of the Saxon lords.

In 1086, the Lord of the Manor is Ilbert (“Ilbert has it”). The taxable value is reckoned at 3 gelds though the land is described as “waste”.[12]   Ilbert de Laci (from Lassy in Calvados) was a companion of William the Conqueror.  There is evidence that Ilbert fought at William’s side at Hastings[13].  After the Conquest he became tenant-in-chief of a fief based on Pontefract, with lands also in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Ilbert built the first castle at Pontefract.  In the Doomsday Book in 1086 he is recorded as having 186 manors, spread over West and part of East Yorkshire.  Of these 81 were held as Tenant-in-chief (held directly from the King) and 105 as Lord (or mense lord, held from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy).  He died c. 1093/5 leaving a son, Robert, to inherit.

Although Shipley was a separate manor, it was within the Parish of Dewsbury which, according to Parsons was “one of the most extensive and important parishes in England comprising an area of four hundred miles and … extending in fact to the confines of Lancashire and the borders of the parish of Whalley.[14]”  Dewsbury had been founded by the preaching of Paulinus.[15] Just when the parish of Bradford was formed from that of Dewsbury is not clear, but it was still part of Dewsbury at the time of the Doomsday book survey[16]. It is probable that a small chapel of ease or oratory was erected in the manor of Bradford and it is suggested that shortly after the Doomsday Survey had been completed (1086) Bradford became a separate parish, endowed by the de Lacy’s with 96 acres of land[17]. Judging by later records, Shipley at that time became a part of the parish of Bradford.  By 1281 the Episcopal registers of York record the institution of a vicar of Bradford[18].

Shipley is mentioned in a grant of rights to the monks of Rievaulx in the 1100s. The Birkin family were generous benefactors of the monasteries and were feudal tenants of the de Lacy family[19]. Peter de Birkin married Emma, daughter of John de Lascelles (a Norman). Peter died by 1143 and passed his lands to Adam who, in 1166, held one knight’s fee from Henry de Lacy (grandson of Ilbert)[20]. Adam, who made several grants to the monasteries, promised to Rievaulx “all the dead wood and the whole minerals rights in Halton and Shipley, and in Heaton and in Chellow, so that nobody in these above said places should build forges, except the said monks.[21]

The specification of ‘forges’ suggests that iron smelting took place there, presumably using the dead wood or charcoal as fuel for wrought iron.

There is an apparent connection of Shipley with one of the ancient religious orders. The Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (the ‘Hospitallers’) was founded in 1119, in connection with the great crusades of the middle ages, which sought to wrest the Holy City from the Muslims.  The Manor of Shipley belonged to this Order by 1316[22]. By an Inquisition in the time of Henry VI. 1422, at Pontefract, following the death of a William Gascoigne, it was declared that he had held the manor of Shipley of  the prior and convent of the hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England[23].  It was said that at the top of the old house that used to be called Dixon’s Old Hall, which stood at the junction of Manor Lane with Kirkgate, were the stone lanterns which were symbolical of this Order[24].

The early 1300s were a trying time for the north of England. After the Scottish victory at the battle of Bannockburn (1314) there were raids by the Scots into northern England for several years.  They sacked Ilkley in 1314 and a Scottish army spent the winter of 1318 in Otley. From there they could raid the local towns and villages of Wharfedale and Airedale. They raided Bradford and so damaged the parish church that it had to be rebuilt.  The raids by the Scots got fewer after the 1320s. In the early 1300s, harvests in the Bradford area were poor, especially in 1316. Black Death ravaged England in 1349, 1362 and 1369, reducing the population.[25]

By the mid 1300s the village of Scheplay (i.e. Shipley) in the wapentake of Morley and the parish of Bradford had grown somewhat over time.  In the Poll Tax levied in 1379, Shipley was assessed as owing 9 shillings and 4 pence (about 47p).  There were three poll taxes levied between 1377 and 1381 which, in principle, taxed the whole adult population, both male and female at a basic 4d each, though rich people, knights, etc. paid more.  Only beggars were exempted and a man and his wife were considered as one unit. Shipley, for tax purposes, consisted of 24 men, 16 wives & 4 named women = 44 people, all taxed at the basic rate.[26]  There are few specific jobs recorded so it is probable that the inhabitants mainly worked on the land.  The two possible work-related names are “Souter”, a Scottish name for a shoemaker and “Walker” = someone who does fulling of cloth, the cleaning and trampling of cloth to make it thicker. Fulling was performed by treading or ‘walking’ the cloth in a trough of water to which had been added a simple detergent such as stale urine or fuller’s earth This might be an early indication of cloth making in the area. However, by about 1300 AD water-powered fulling mills were in use. A 1285/6 survey of the lands of one Theobald le Boteler shows the Manor of Shipley included  ‘. . . two mills, one for corn, the other a fulling mill’.[27]

The Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe who held Shipley and died in 1422, regranted Shipley and his other manors to his wife Joan and his son William[28].

Shipley is described as occupying the north-western angle at the junction of Bradford dale with Airedale, basically at the junction of the river Aire with the Bradford Beck. It is sheltered on the east by the lofty crags of Windhill and Wrose, and on the north by the early-inhabited moors of Baildon and Hawksworth[29]. On old maps is it shown with a bridge over the Aire.[30] Early maps also show the houses clustering between the Aire and the Beck, where there were some natural springs[31]. Before the common lands were divided amongst the various freeholders of the town (enclosures), Shipley was mainly farmland in the north and eastern parts of the township.  There were two large woods – Hirst Wood and Northcliffe Wood – and two large areas of waste[32]. The Shipley Low Moor stretched between the Shipley to Bingley road (Saltaire Road) and what is now Kirkgate, from Crowgill up to the junction with Moorhead Lane.  The High Moor continued up to High Bank Lane and to New Brighton and Noon Nick (above Cottingley).  Both these were common land where grazing was permitted free, and each inhabitant could use the common land for horses and cattle.  They were, though, poor quality and unsuitable for the farming of the time[33].

The Gascoignes retained the lordship of the manor of Shipley well into the reign of Elizabeth I. The various contracts recorded as ‘Feet of Fines[34]’ in the Tudor period give a view of a growing and busy village. There are several messuages (a dwelling house with its adjacent buildings and the lands appropriated to the use of the household) and cottages and in a deed of 1559 William Gascoigne coveys (probably leasing) to Thomas Pollard “Messuage and 2 fulling mills with lands in Shipley.”[35]  This suggests a growing woollen industry.  In a Fine of 1567, William Gascoigne conveys, ‘Manor of Shypley and 7 messuages, 3 cottages, a watermill, and a fulling mill with lands in Shypley, Heyton, Heyton Roodes, and Bayldon  to two Trustees William Paslewe and Thomas Feylde to be held in trust  for Rosamonde Rawson, wife of Robert Rawson of Shipley for life . . . and then for William Rawson (son of Robert Rawson and Rosamonde) and of his heirs for ever’[36].  This may be how the manor passed into the Rawson family, though other writers suggest that it was also via the marriage of William Rawson to Agnes daughter and heiress of William Gascoigne[37].

Quite how Shipley fared in the English Civil wars of the 1640s is not well known, but it could not have been unaffected by local events.  With Bradford and district being more Puritan, there was support for the Parliamentary cause. Bradford itself was first occupied by Royalist troops and their brutal behaviour caused inhabitants to flee from the town in fear[38]. 

The Royalists having withdrawn, defences were built. As a Parliamentary town in a largely Royalist North, Bradford was besieged in Dec 1642.  It is noted that local towns and villages were aware of the situation but, regarding it as hopeless refused help.  Again people fled Bradford.[39] With Royalist garrisons  at Skipton and Parliamentary at Keighley, the Aire valley was not immune from the troubles. Bradford, several times the base for Sir Thomas Fairfax, was besieged again in July 1643 and taken by the Royalists and many valuables were stolen[40]. In March 1644 the town was retaken by Parliament, but came under attack from the Royalists. A surprise rout of Royalist Cavalry might have taken place at Baildon Hall. The Parliamentary victory at Marston Moor (June 1644) and their surrender of Skipton Castle (1645) brought an end to the Civil War in the West Riding[41].

In what was as much a religious war as a political one, Bradford parish, of which Shipley was a part, was affected.  Before the Civil War, King Charles I had installed one Francis Corker to the living of Bradford.  Rev. Corker was a High-Church royalist and did not meet approval of the Puritans. Despite his efforts he was unable to win over his parishioners to the King’s cause and had to seek safety in a Royalist garrison. He became chaplain to Pontefract Castle and during its siege was sent to Oxford to request relief. He was used as a spy and narrowly avoided execution by escaping from Lincoln gaol. On the defeat of the  King he then changed sides, but on the Restoration in 1660 was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. As a recognition of his previous service to the Royalists, he was set free and returned to his living in Bradford until his death in 1667[42].

Later, the Rawson family built for their residence what was called the Upper Hall or Manor House at Shipley, which had over the door way the inscription WR 1670.[43] This was where the Town Hall now stands.[44]  Certainly the Hearth Tax records of 1672 show Mr William Rawson as having 6 hearths on which to pay the twice-annual 1 shilling (5p).[45] That Shipley is growing is shown by the 32 people taxed on 79 chimneys between them. By 1688,  there is a record of an assessment of lands recorded in the Shipley Township Book, of 46 oxgangs (about 550 acres) at 69s, which is equal to about 11/2d. an acre.[46] The 35 landowners are listed.  John Brooksbank, born c.1640 in Shipley, was constable of Shipley in 1691, 1692 and 1698, and in 1693 he collected the Shipley tax for the war with France – £52 15s 2d.3.   On the 24th June, 1699, the “vigorous war with France” being over, John Brooksbank, together with Jeremy Dixon, was an assessor, and the collector of “An Assessment of £44 3s 7d Charged Upon Shipley for Disbanding the Armie, Providing for the Navi, and other Occasions!”[47]

There is a curious entry in the Shipley Township Book for 1709. A group who could be regarded as the principal landowners in Shipley at the time signed the following agreement:

We whose names are undersigned, being freeholders of the township of Shipley, and owners of cottages, do hereby agree that we will not let any of them without the good will or major consent of the freeholders, and likewise will not build any new cottages or convert any houses into cottages without the like consent.”

This agreement is signed by 12 people.  It seems likely that it is an attempt to avoid poor people becoming a burden on the town.[48]

The highway surveyor, Will Thornton, spent £28 in 1755 on such items as “to bringing the water down to Shipley  £3 3s” and “paid towards building Baildon Bridge £20 4s 6d.”  Other expenses for the town included  “Stairfoot Road (the old road to Bingley) £7 5s and mending Hall Well 8d”, though what “Two coffins 4s” and “Four hens and a chicken of Sarah Brogden  2s 6d” were for is a matter of speculation[49].

Worried by the recent Jacobite rebellion in Scotland (the ’45), troubles in Ireland and fear of French invasion, the government in 1757 passed the Militia Act.  This in effect created a national military reserve in England and Wales enabling the regular army to be deployed abroad. Militia units were raised by requiring all parishes to make lists of adult males and ballots were held to choose which of them should be compelled to serve.  Any who did not want to serve was allowed find a substitute to serve in their place. This Act was widely unpopular.  So in 1767, at a meeting of Shipley freeholders and tenants regarding this allotment to the militia it was resolved to exempt any who might be allotted to serve on paying “from time to time” into the hands of the churchwarden  the sum of two and sixpence.  With the sum realised substitutes were to be hired[50].

In the mid-1700s travel was not easy with only a few roads and those having to be maintained by each parish who appointed a Highway Surveyor to compel his neighbours to provide free labour to mend the road. (for example, Samuel Dennison of New Hirst  Mill was Surveyor of the Highways for Shipley in 1724-25 and 1736[51])   Many roads were thus in a poor state.  A bridlepath led from Shipley to Bradford, leaving the Market Place and running into Manningham Lane. To reach Bingley, one travelled by the present Saltaire Road (then called Moor End Road) and Nab Lane, and so into the old Bradford and Bingley Road.

In 1768 the survey for a canal linking West Yorkshire to Liverpool was completed and a company founded. The appropriate Act was passed in 1770 and work commenced. By 1774 the canal stretched from Skipton to Thackley. At Shipley there is a key junction with the Bradford Canal (completed the same year.)[52]  The effect of the opening of the canal was the easier transport of goods both in and out of the Shipley area.

The Rawsons held the Manor of Shipley until the middle of the 18th century. The last of the Rawson family, another William, married one Judith Prescot, the daughter of an apothecary of Halifax.  When this William died childless in 1745 he left the Manor of Shipley to his wife.  She married again, to Cyril Jackson MD who thus inherited the title of Lord of the Manor from his wife. He was succeeded in 1797 by his son, Rev. Cyril Jackson, dean of Christ Church, Oxford[53].  As Lord of the Manor, Rev. Jackson owned much of the land.  A petition was presented to Parliament, 1814, by “several owners” of estates in the Manor and Township of Shipley showing that there were in the manor several commons and waste ground which might he improved if enclosed. In 1815, Rev. Cyril Jackson, D.D., Lord of the Manor of Shipley, procured the passing of an Act to enclose the waste or common lands[54], amongst the freeholders of the township, reciting that there were, “within the manor and township of Shipley, in the parish of Bradford, in the West Riding of the county of York, several commons or parcels of waste ground called High Bank and Low Moor, and several other parcels of waste ground, containing in the whole, by estimation, 280 acres, or thereabouts.”[55] As part of the act, Mr. Bower, the Commissioner, granted the land at Crowgill to the town’s surveyors for stone for building, and to overseers and churchwardens for common rights.[56]

Following the death of Rev. Jackson in 1819, the Manor was purchased by Mr. John Wilmer Field, of Heaton Hall for £24,000.


[1]     Referenced in several places, e.g. Mills, A. D., 1991, revised  2011, A Dictionary and English Place-Names, Oxford, OUP, p.417.  According to Armitage Goodall, Place Names of South West Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1914, the name underwent change from the Doomsday Book’s Scipeleia (1086), through Schippeley (1287), Schepelay (1328) to  Shipley by 1554. The Yorkshire Subsidy Rolls (Poll Tax) for the year 1379 has SCHEPLAY

[2]     Cup marked rock 60m south west of the War Memorial at Crowgill Park, National Heritage list for England, List No, 1015617

[3]     On Ilkley and Rombolds Moor and wider. See “Ilkley Moor & Rombald’s Moor: Rock Carvings, Stone Circles, Enclosures and Cairns” 

[4]     See “Mortimer Wheeler” in Wikipedea, citing Jaquetta Hawkes, 1982.

[5]     City of Bradford MDC, Baildon & Station Road CONSERVATION AREA ASSESSMENT , December 2005, p.10.

[6]     HIRST WOOD Pastscape MONUMENT NO. 616566  ROM:¬id=616566

[7]     See the ARCHI UK Archaeological Sites Database, 

[8]     The Doomsday Book online:  The Doomsday Book is currently housed in The National Archives in Kew, London.

[9]     The Domesday Book was written in a form of Medieval Latin which was highly abbreviated.  This makes it quite difficult to read/translate.

[10] It is actually unclear whether the wood was 1 by half a league (3 miles) or 1 by half a mile. Both translations have been used. I have accepted mile as 3 miles would take the wood as far as the middle of Bingley.

[11] Also in Turner, J H, 1897 Ancient Bingley: Bingley, its history and scenery, online copy, p.61

[12]    A ‘geld’ is a Anglo-Saxon land tax continued by the Normans. Some think that ‘waste’ just means that no tax was actually paid. However, descriptions of the “harrying of the North” and lack of any people/animals might mean it was unproductive at least.

[13]  In  Adalae Comitissae (To Countess Adela), by Baudri, abbot of Bourgeuil,

[14]  Parsons, E. 1834, The Civil, Ecclesiastical Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley, Leeds, Frederick Hobson, and London, Simpkin & Marshall, p. 317.

[15]    Ibid

[16]    James, J. 1841, The History and Topography of Bradford, London:  Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans & Bradford: Charles Stanfield, p.187.

[17]    Ibid, p.188.

[18]    Ibid, p.189.

[19]    Jamroziak E. M., 2001, RIEVAULX ABBEY AND ITS SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT, 1132-1300 Ph. D. Thesis, The University of Leeds School of History,

[20]    Burton, J., 1999, “A Case Study: Adam son of Peter de Birkin”, The Monastic Order in Yorkshire, 1069–1215, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp 210-212

[21]    Jamroziak, RIEVAULX ABBEY, p.128 

Halton is either a lost village in Bingley or may be the village of Harden. In another charter he granted Faweather  to the Monks of Rievaulx Abbey. Faweather is an area of Baildon Moor just beyond the Sconce campsite. It would seem that Adam granted mineral rights as there is evidence of iron ore digging near there. “It is known that in the 13th century, monks from Rievaulx Abbey held the mineral rights in the vicinity of Faweather, which is about ½ mile up Sconce Lane from the Camp and that workings and smelting was carried out by them in that area.” About Old Sconce Village, Researched by Colin & Margaret Wilson – 1984,

[22]    Ian Watson, Shipley – The Early History,

[23]    Mapping the Medieval Countryside, Writ. ‡ 26 November 1422. [Wymbyssh]

[24]    ILLUSTRATED HANDBOOK with an Historical Account OF THE PARISH CHURCH (St Paul) SHIPLEY, 1926, p. 5.

[25]    Alan Hall, 2013,  The Story of Bradford, The History Press.  This was common over Europe in the period.  In England there were wet summers in 1315, 16 and 17 with consequent poor harvests and famine..

[26]    The Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journals. At this time the whole of  Bradford Parish comprised 506 adults and was assessed at £6 8s 4d (£6.42p)

[27]    Bill Hampshire, 2000, The Water Mills of Shipley, Shipley, Shipley Local History Society, p.3.  This give an excellent description of how these mills worked.

[28]    Mapping the Medieval Countryside, Writ. ‡ 26 November 1422

[29]    JOHNNIE GRAY, (Harry Speight), 1891, Through Airedale from Goole to Malham, Bradford, G. F. Sewell, Printer, p.137.

[30]    E.g. Map of Yorkshire by Christopher Saxton, 1577.  Roughly at the position of the current Baildon Bridge.

[31]    Watson, Shipley – The Early History

[32]    Ibid

[33]    Watson Ian,  2006,  In the Shadow of the Rosse, p.1

[34]    Feet of fines are court copies of agreements following disputes over property. In reality, the disputes were mostly fictitious and were simply a way of having the transfer of ownership of land recorded officially by the king’s court. The agreements were normally written out three times on a single sheet of parchment – two copies side by side and one copy across the bottom (the foot) of the sheet, separated by an indented or wavy line. The purchaser kept one copy, the seller the other and the final copy – ‘the foot of the fine’- was kept by the king’s court as a central record of the conveyance. Using one piece of parchment separated in this way gave protection against fraud or forgery as only the genuine copies would fit together – like a jigsaw.

[35]    BHO, Yorkshire Fines: Feet of Fines of the Tudor Period [Yorks]: Part 1, 1486-1571.

[36]    ‘Yorkshire Fines: 1567’, in Feet of Fines of the Tudor Period [Yorks]: Part 1, 1486-1571, ed. Francis Collins (Leeds, 1887), pp. 329-350 [accessed 29 October 2015].  Also Hampshire, The Water Mills of Shipley, p.4

[37]    John James FSA, 1841, The History and Topography of Bradford, Pub: London; LONGMANS GREEN READER AND DYER,  BRADFORD;  CHARLES STANFIELD, pp. 372-3.

[38]    James,1841, The History and Topography of Bradford, p.126

[39] David Fell, Dec 1642 – 1st  Siege,

[40]    Fell, July  1643 – 2nd SiegeIbid

[41]    Fell, March 1644, Ibid.

[42]    Scruton, William, 1889, Pen and Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford, reproduction pub: Mountain Press, Queensbury, 1968, pp. 30-31.

[43]    John James FSA, 1866, The History of Bradford and Its Parish: With Additions and Continuations to the Present Time, Volume 1, Pub: London; LONGMANS GREEN READER AND DYER,  BRADFORD;  HENRY GASKARTH, pp. 300-302

[44]    There are photos of the Manor House taken in 1903 by Francis Frith.

[45]    Hearth Tax Online.   Information taken from volume V of the British Record Society Hearth Tax Series; Hey, D., Giles, C., Spufford, M. & Wareham, A., eds., (2007) Yorkshire West Riding Hearth Tax Assessment Lady Day 1672.  The transcription says “Ramson” but this is likely to be Rawson.

[46]    Illustrated Parish Handbook 1926, p. 5 See also ‘SHIPLEY’, The Bradford Observer 29 April 1875.

[47]    Clan Barker website;  CLANBARKER  The site contains a digitised copy of a book, Brooksbank, Yeoman of the Dales by E M Shepherd, from which this information is taken (p. 4). The war was the ‘Nine-years War’

[48]    ‘SHIPLEY’, The Bradford Observer 29 April 1875

[49]    Ibid

[50]    Ibid

[51]    Hampshire, The Water Mills of Shipley, p.11 citing the Shipley Township Book.

[52]    ‘History Timeline’, Leeds and Liverpool Canal Conservation Area assessment The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council p.8.  The completion of the canal was in 1816.

[53]    James, John.  2013, Continuation and Additions to the History of Bradford, and Its Parish. London: Forgotten Books. p. 300. (Original work published 1866)

[54]    Illustrated Parish Handbook 1926, p. 6

[55]    Morrison, R. S. (2013). pp. 398-9. The Mining Reports, 1886 (Vol. 10). London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1886)

[56]   The Tithe Map of Shipley for 1848 shows the area that became Crowgill Park as belonging to the “Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of Shipley” and describes it as “Quarry and Waste with Cottages”.  The area is nearly 4 acres. See 

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