The Creed Register

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Worn Stories volunteer researcher Tracey Williams has written our latest blog post. She has been using Bradford Local Studies Library and West Yorkshire Archives in both Bradford and Wakefield to continue research begun during project sessions. Thank you Tracey for this fascinating contribution.

‘I was first introduced to The Creed Register during a visit to Bradford Archives. Established in 1869 to record the religious creed of workhouse inmates, it also lists their occupations. I set myself the task of finding any rag sorters, pickers and gatherers living in Bradford during the years 1898-1915. The register is available on microfiche but I prefer the real thing.

A huge tome arrives wrapped in brown paper, tied with ribbon. Once released its dirty and crumbling binding rests upon grey foam, seeming at once out of place. I open the register carefully, stopping to admire the coloured end papers. Haddon Best & Co Printers and Publishers have done a magnificent job.

Turning the pages, I scan the list of occupations and begin to wonder what was involved – clay chopper, yeast hawker and harness cleaner among others. In incredibly small writing, “widow of Jason Egg & Batter Agent”, another “wife of William Lee Ogden (13 years apart) Mason” What was their story?

The writing is truly beautiful but I know how people must feel when they read my own hand, as one in particular is practically illegible. It is often very faint with blots, mistakes and crossings out, together with occasional use of red ink. I think back to handwriting lessons, seeing if, by working out the joins, I can decipher particularly difficult words.

The names of inmates crop up several times a year, others over many years. I start to care for them and wonder what their lives were like. Dates of birth vary and last known residences change with regularity. Patterns begin to emerge. Captain St, George St, Adolphus St – do they still exist? I make a note to look out for them on my travels. Religious denomination varies – Church of England, Wesleyan, Baptist, Salvationist, Congregationalist and huge numbers of Catholics.

In the column “name and address of nearest known relative” I am always sad when I read “no relations or friends”. Sometimes, there is another glimpse into their lives – orphan, mother unfit, mother deserted, parents unfit.

The last column is always very final. Inmates are either discharged, sometimes with a note “To Holbeck”, “To Settle”, “To Menston”, other workhouses and asylums but often it just says “Dead”.’

 

 

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Heading into Year 2

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Recycled cotton and acrylic fibre removals blanket (image by Paul Reece)

Our project has now been running for a year and as it heads into year two I thought I’d post an update about our progress so far. The Worn Stories project is based at Hive and in community settings in Bradford and District. We are offering participants opportunities to learn research skills and textile making skills while exploring the heritage of textile reuse and second-hand textiles in the city from 1880 onward.  A dedicated team of volunteer researchers has been investigating the histories of the workers, companies and locations involved in the second-hand textiles trades across the city from the 1880s using the facilities at Bradford Local Studies library and West Yorkshire Archives. The image below shows a mapping exercise undertaken in one of our sessions with historian Jennie Kiff. We are beginning to find patterns emerging through this research and in year two will be consolidating these stories for publication and display at our exhibition in November at Bradford Industrial Museum.

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Mapping session, Hive 

We have also been out in the community delivering sessions that offer an opportunity for participants to tell their own stories of textile reuse and repair during practical textile workshops. The image below is from a ‘Mending Stories’ workshop at Bradford Industrial Museum. Participants were encouraged to bring a textile that needed mending and were able to examine examples of repaired and heavily used garments for inspiration.

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Mending Stories workshop, Bradford Industrial Museum

Also in the community we have worked on longer-term projects including one with Creative Threads, a group based at SHINE West Bowling, and we delivered family learning activities at the same venue for Bradford Refugee Action. Both projects have used fabrics sourced from a Clothes Bank at the centre, for making activities and also as talking points about clothing poverty in the community.

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West Bowling Clothes Bank (image by Paul Reece)

At Hive our ‘Talking Textiles’ group meets weekly and have been learning creative textile recycling skills. Towards the end of 2017 we had an ‘Open Wardrobe’ session that gave group members an opportunity to share a textile story with an item from their wardrobe as a prompt. The photograph below shows the sleeve of a handmade Clothkits duffle coat made in the 1970s and being modelled by the maker (centre in the image). We also heard stories about a nineteen sixties playsuit, a snakeskin handbag, a smart tweed suit and some very colourful patchwork shorts.

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‘Open Wardrobe’ session at Hive (image by Paul Reece)

Responses to the project have been very positive both from our researchers and community participants:

‘[It has been] fascinating to find out about individuals in local companies and places and processes.  There have been unexpected learning points looking at 19th -21st century people innovating with textile recycling methods.’ Volunteer researcher

‘It changes the way I look at my surroundings. You build up a relationship with the people you’re researching. We’re crossing the centuries.’ Volunteer researcher

‘Talking about textiles – it makes us think about our elders coming to Bradford in the 1950s to work in the mills. It makes us appreciate their skill and contribution to the city today.’ Community participant, Roshni Ghar project.

During 2018 we will continue to work with community groups around the city, we will be working on a live brief with undergraduate textile students at Bradford School of Art who will be investigating global textile networks, we begin our oral history recording project connected to the 1980s work of Bradford Heritage Recording Unit, we begin a new project working on creative interpretation pieces for display and we will end the year with an exhibition and symposium at Bradford Industrial Museum.

If you are interested in getting involved in any aspect of the Worn Stories Project please contact me: claire@hivebradford.org.uk