Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Films online

The 4 films made last summer for Seven Streams will be available to view on the City Park website from the week beginning 24 January.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Courtroom Drama

The Seven Streams project included 3 illustrated lecture/performances based on my research into Bradford Beck. These took place in the City Hall Courtroom, chosen both for its historic atmosphere and for its suitability, since so much of the Beck's story concerns court cases and legal disputes.

I was joined by Worth Valley actor Julie McConnell and by composer/musician David Wilson, whose virtuoso saxophone and flute playing accompanied the proceedings.

My most dramatic story, perhaps also the least known, recounts the worst case of pollution recorded on the Beck. In December 1911 a pair of explosions wrecked a number of works situated on the Beck near Water Lane, downstream of a wool-scouring plant at Fieldhead Mills. 3 men were killed in the blasts and ensuing fires:

Jonathan Bartle, aged 60
John Lumley, 33
Francis Greenwood, 23

...and there were many injuries.
The Coroner’s Enquiry heard from Dr Fowler of Manchester University that...

...The effluent in the watercourse was very highly charged with petrol and was a source of danger to the public safety. Fieldhead Mills had various tanks containing over 56,000 gallons of mixed petrol and water used for the purpose of extracting grease from wool.

Dr Fowler: it has been stated that 900-1000 gallons of petrol taken into the building disappeared every week. Are you really saying this can all be accounted for in wool sediment and evaporation?

I don’t know, your honour. We have heard evidence that some 25 gallons may have entered the Beck all at once. It would be impossible to give the source of the petrol coming down the Beck, as there are so many pipes that have not been investigated.

Is the Beck itself liable to explode?

Yes, your honour. That is what caused the loss of life and damage. Several premises are built directly over the Beck.

Alright. I have heard enough. I grant an injunction restraining Messrs John Smith and Son from working, or permitting to be worked, a degreasing plant in which petrol is used, and from discharging into any beck, drain or sewer in Bradford any effluent containing petrol or other volatile spirit.

What happened next? Was there a prosecution?

I don’t know. There’s more research to be done. It sounds to me pure luck it didn’t happen all the time.

Source: Bradford Daily Argus

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Bradford Beck – The Album

The title track of Saltaire singer-songwriter Eddie Lawler's CD Bradford Beck gets the measure of the beck. At last it has a champion.


Stories of Bradford flooding

by Ted Maskell, former Leading Fireman

Picture: City centre floods 1947

During the winter of 1947, very heavy snow fell on Bradford. The vast amount of snow cleared from the city centre streets was moved using horse and carts, and tipped through open manholes into the Beck flowing under the city. Later in spring when the snow on the hills melted the Beck which had been so useful to get rid of the snow earlier, now overflowed and flooded the city.

2 July 1968: once again the city was flooded, following a violent storm which broke mid morning on what had earlier been blue cloudless skies. No doubt the beck was in flood after the storm but due to the vast amount of water cascading down the drains from upper levels it was impossible to know where the water, which flooded the city, was originating. The scene at Forster Square that morning was of 18 inches of water across the roads and the subways flooded. It was thought someone was trapped in the subway shop or toilets, and frogmen were sent down, but later all persons were accounted for.

The amount of water flowing out of the ramps at the Canal Road side of the subways was such that a 4 foot wave formed against the old station wall at the end of Valley Road, now the Post Office car park. It looked as though the rivers Aire and Wharfe had been diverted along Canal Road.

Early one evening in 1975 or 1976 a violet thunder storm broke over the Thornton area. The Shearbridge area of the city was hit by very heavy rain. Three teenage girls took shelter in the entrance to a tunnel through which the beck was quietly flowing. A sudden flood of water down the valley swept the girls away. Their bodies were subsequently found in the beck at the lower end of Thornton Road. (More detail probably available in T&A archives)

In more recent times, where the beck passes through Shipley at Low Well before draining into the river Aire, a range of old mill buildings was demolished to make way for the construction of a McDonald’s and Aldi store. The wall of the old mill, which was demolished almost to water level, formed a solid barrier to contain the beck in times of flood. A new wall was built much higher than planned when it was realized that the beck in flood would not be confined by the originally planned decorative feature.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Flooding and Water quality – the Council's perspective

by Kirsty Breaks PhD BSc, Senior Drainage Officer

Bradford District has a population of 477,800 (Office of National Statistics, 2003) and whilst two thirds of the District's 36,642 hectare area is rural, around 60% of the population live in the urban areas. The River Aire and the River Wharfe cut through the District and there are an abundance of other watercourses in the form of becks and streams; the most notable of these being Bradford Beck, which flows through Bradford city centre. Bradford Beck and its tributaries comprise a total stream length of 35km; 21 km of which is found within the urban area with a large proportion fully enclosed in culverts.

The Environment Agency’s flood maps show that many areas adjacent to the Aire and the Wharfe are at medium to high risk of flooding. Lengths of Bradford Beck are also shown to have a high risk, and the devastating effects of flooding were seen in September 1946, May 1947 and July 1968. The flood of 1968 was the final straw and triggered the construction of the Bradford Beck diversion tunnel, which diverts peak flows around the City centre. The diversion tunnel runs under Bradford from Preston Street to Queens Road and takes flows from Westbrook Beck as well as Bradford Beck. The tunnel's maximum depth is 60 metres between White Abbey Road and Manningham Lane.

Numerous areas in Bradford are also regarded as being susceptible to risk of surface water (flow over land and down roads) flooding and these are not just limited to the low, flatter areas of the District. Development reduces the space for water and reduces the natural drainage into the ground. The problem is further exacerbated in areas where ground permeability is naturally low; or the water table is naturally high, due to the geological make-up of the ground. Areas in Haworth, Oakworth, Keighley, Ilkley and Bradford have all been subject to surface water flooding.

Flooding also affects water quality. Where highways drain to watercourses, or Yorkshire Water have combined sewer overflows (CSOs), high discharge rates in storm weather can lead to an increase in the levels of pollutants entering natural watercourses.

Bradford Council (www.bradford.gov.uk) is striving to improve water quality and understand flood risk within the Bradford District. Some work is driven by current legislation (e.g. Water Framework Directive, (2000/60/EC), Floods Directive (2007/60/EC), Water Framework Directive, (2000/60/EC), Flood & Water Management Act, 2010); however, the Local Authority has been proactive in undertaking and continuing research through EU projects. For example, working with partner European nations via the Urban Water Cycle (UWC: www.urbanwatercycle.org ) project, Bradford established two natural pilot wetlands on tributaries of Bradford Beck that were subject to discharge from Highways drainage (Pitty Beck) and a CSO (Chellow Dean Beck – see lower photo). These wetlands were established to determine their effectiveness at removing associated pollutants from the water and results were compared to a more ‘high tech’ method utilising a vortex separator at the Bradford Beck inlet works at Preston Street (see top photo). The wetlands were a great success, not only for pollutant removal but also in providing attractive amenity areas for local residents. The sites are thriving, both ecologically and in the support they have from the local communities. They have demonstrated that urban areas can successfully incorporate multi functional water.

We are currently involved in two further projects: FloodResilienCity (FRC:
www.floodresiliencity.eu ) and Skills, Integration and New Technologies (SKINT: www.skintwater.eu ). The FRC project enables responsible public authorities in eight cities in North West Europe to better cope with floods in urban areas. This is being done through a combination of transnational cooperation and regional investments. Partners of the FRC project are learning from each others’ flood management and urban planning approaches, not only at the level of technological experts, but more importantly, at the level of the political decision makers and the general public. Bradford is developing new ways of modelling flood risk within the District and is seeking to determine and heighten the public's level of awareness through questionnaires and workshops.

The use of appropriate spatial planning processes can address many urban water management problems. The SKINT project aims to facilitate the implementation of sustainable urban land and water management by improving the integration of water management in spatial planning processes. The results from the project will be used for a permanent water web-portal and a web-based face-to-face training programme for water and urban land use professionals. The permanent portal for urban water and land use in Europe will be complementary to, and will interact with portals developed by other projects. After the completion of the SKINT project, the water portal will continue to be a dynamic user-driven website for multidisciplinary stakeholders and a source of communication about truly sustainable urban water management.

Flood risk cannot be entirely removed. It is hoped that through these projects, everyone in Bradford will improve their understanding of how the risk can be managed and what we need to do, now and in the future, to help minimise these risks and provide sustainable communities for future generations.

If you live in Bradford District and have experienced flooding; if you wish to contribute, as a resident, to these projects, or if you would simply like more information then please contact Kirsty Breaks on 01274 432507 or e-mail me at kirsty.breaks@bradford.gov.uk

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Bradford Canal

by John Allison, historian and writer, Bradford

What has Bradford Canal to do with Bradford Beck?

It was a marriage of convenience. Like many marriages it ended in an acrimonious divorce.

In 1770 Bradford Beck was a very pleasant, clean stream running down Bradford Dale through the town and down the valley to join the River Aire at Shipley. None of it was covered except by a few bridges. For many years it had powered local corn mills along its length. It must have been very pretty and have had a good stock of fish.

The canal was planned and built in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Originally it used water from Bowling Beck, a tributary of Bradford Beck that joins it in the city centre. This soon proved insufficent. The canal owners decided to dam Bradford Beck where it passed the side of the canal basin below the Cathedral ( then St. Peter`s Parish Church). This would raise the beck`s level to that of the canal basin.

In the nineteenth century Bradford became the centre of the wool textile industry. As first water powered mills used the beck water to drive water wheels to power machinery, later using water to drive the engines when steam power was introduced. The textile processes involved washing and dyeing the wool prior to spinning and weaving, and used vast quantities of water. The waste water went back into the beck. A nineteenth century map shows one corn mill, a brewery, two woolcombing mills (using water to wash the wool before combing it), and five dyeworks,all adjacent to the beck, from Cemetery Road to Norcroft Street. Besides this industrial pollution the population of Bradford grew very rapidly between 1800 and 1850. There were no proper sewers and the beck was the only way to dispose of human waste.

By 1850 the beck was known as "The Mucky Beck" and the canal was called "River Stink". The best way to hide the sewer that the beck had become was to put it underground and virtually all of it in the town centre was culverted.

The foul state of the town`s watercourses caused much concern. In those days it was thought that diseases were caused by bad smells. By 1849 many regarded the canal as a public nuisance. Mills along it used canal water to feed their boilers and the hot waste water was returned to the canal. 406 people died in 1849 of cholera. Letters in the papers called for the canal to be closed. Nothing was done as many businesses relied on the canal, either for transport or water. Eventually some industrialists in the town, not dependent on the canal for transport (the railway came to Bradford in 1844), formed a committee to force some action. They suggested that the use of Bradford Beck's water by the canal was illegal. Eventually the council went to Court and in 1865 the case was heard at the Yorkshire Spring Assizes. The Canal Company defended themselves on the grounds that the problem was the Beck, which should be cleaned up They lost the case. An appeal was made to the House of Lords and on March 22nd 1866 Vice Chancellor, Sir W. Page Wood, granted an injunction against the canal from taking water from the Beck. The divorce was complete.

The Bradford Canal was resurrected in May 1st 1872 under new owners. It was shortened, with a new terminus at North Brook Bridge. No water was taken from the beck. it was fed by water pumped back up from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal junction at Shipley. That canal closed in 1922.

But in the 21st century there are proposals to rebuild the third Bradford Canal. Maybe Bradford Beck`s water will feed the new canal again!

Bradford Beck – A rejuvenated stream

by William Varley, geographer, Addingham

Gathering its tributaries on the uplands to the west of the city centre Bradford Beck initially flows to the east before taking an abrupt turn and flowing in a north-north-westerly direction towards Shipley and the Aire Valley.

Flowing north from the city centre the Beck occupies a valley that has only in part been formed by the actions of the stream itself. Glacial action in the Pleistocene ice age also helped to form this valley. During the Pleistocene ice spread down from the north covering the whole area and a large glacier occupied the Aire Valley. Water became bound up as land ice and sea levels fell. This lowering of the base level gave renewed energy to ice and water and the Aire Valley was over-deepened by the moving glacier. The valley was eroded to a much lower level than the current valley floor. A tongue of ice also pushed up the Bradford Beck valley eroding the valley as it went.

As the ice retreated glacial till (boulder clay) was left behind. The flat land on which the city centre is built, the floor of the valley to the north and the Aire Valley are underlain by this material. As ice melted the stream was ‘rejuvenated’. Its capacity to erode renewed by the lowering of base level, it cut down through the earlier glacial deposits deepening its valley. The Aire Valley was occupied by lakes of glacial meltwater held back by a series of terminal moraines, for example at Tong Park, Hirst Wood and Marley. Huge thicknesses of sands and gravels were deposited in these lakes. At Bingley there are 130 feet of sands, gravels and glacial till filling the present valley.

Although Bradford Beck was never large enough or reliable enough to sustain large-scale water-powered industrial development, it did provide the water supply for the Bradford Canal. The canal served as a link from the city to the Leeds Liverpool Canal. It is interesting to note that the development of the Leeds Liverpool Canal was led by Bradford merchants. A Bradford entrepreneur John Stanhope paid for the first survey in 1766. The initial propose of the canal was to bring limestone from the Craven district which could be burned with local coal to make quicklime. The quicklime made the mortar used to build the growing city.