The Creed Register


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”.’



Heading into Year 2

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.

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.

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.

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.

‘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:


West Yorkshire Archives visit


Our Worn Stories researchers visited West Yorkshire Archives this week in Wakefield. Our research programme is now working on three distinct themes: the workers in the rag businesses of Bradford in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the businesses (including wool extractors, rag merchants, shoddy and paper manufacturers) and their owners and the geography and location in the city of these businesses and workforces.


We were able to explore deed registers related to some of the businesses we are researching and also examined probate documents for some of the business owners. We also looked at valuation maps from 1910.


‘We enjoyed deciphering all the different styles of handwriting in the quarter sessions (court) documents and the eureka moments when we found someone we were researching in the records.’ Ann, project volunteer.

The Polyester Project

Our Hive based Talking Textiles group meets weekly and have recently been busy investigating polyester. The Worn Stories project is investigating the period 1880-2015 and this particular project is addressing some of the issues connected to contemporary fibres and how we use and dispose of them. Polyester, a synthetic fibre, is popular but problematic as it could take 200 years to decompose in landfill. It is cheap to buy and is often disposed of quickly despite being hard-wearing and easy to wash. Inspired by the Top 100 project, and the work instigated by Rebecca Earley at the Textile Environment Design centre at Chelsea College of Art, the group has been challenged to upcycle a collection of polyester garments sourced from local charity shops. Many of the garments, mostly shirts and blouses, had been deemed too poor quality to sell. Disperse dyes, printed and painted onto recycled paper and then ironed onto the garments, embroidery and other embellishments have been used to transform these items. As a group we have been thinking and talking about how we can give ordinary garments more longevity.

Project participant Lynda commented about her project, a school shirt for a small child:

‘I used transfer paint on paper with discs from the honesty plant pressed under an iron, to create the design on this little shirt. I added gold couching [stitches] to give some definition – and a bit of majesty – to this humble, everyday garment.’ 

Recycled yarn


Our weekly Talking Textile group based at Hive has been working with recycled and donated materials. They have been converting old T-shirts into yarn for reuse in weaving, knitting and crochet projects having learned a technique much like this one for turning a garment into a continuous length of yarn. Using this most common garment to make something new has offered opportunities for conversation about what happens to our discarded clothes and how they might be given a second life. One of our volunteers who also works in a local charity shop was able to tell us about the huge volume of T-shirts that arrive in charity bags each week and the limited number that are suitable for resale. Many of these garments are later shredded for use in industry as wiper cloths.


Our group has been challenged to make useful and beautiful things with their new collection of materials, we will post an update about what they made here soon. These items will be part of an exhibition of our research and items made by our community-based projects at Bradford Industrial Museum in November 2018.


Out Talking Textiles group meets at Hive on Monday afternoons 1-3pm. If you are interested in learning textile recycling crafts in a relaxed and friendly environment please get in touch with us at

the community scrap bag




The Roshni Ghar project for women is based in Keighley. We have been running a Worn Stories project with their Suhoon E-Dil group for older women of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage. The focus of the sessions is textile story telling and zero-waste crafting using discarded fabrics and old clothing donated by project participants. A call for materials also led to donations of shalwar kameez offcuts from a local traditional dressmaker and donations of fents from a market trader.

As a group we go through the scrap bag identifying partial sections of outfits: ‘this is a border’, ‘…part of a headscarf.’ There are conversations about the to-and-fro of fabrics bought in the UK – different categories – ready-made, part-sewn, uncut. These are often sent out to Pakistan and Bangladesh to be made up by tailors into shalwar kameez suits then brought back to the UK to be worn. The use of ordinary texiles like ones found in the scrap bag, items from everyday use – clothing, domestic projects, mass produced fabrics is described by artist Francoise Dupre as a textile-based ‘global reminder’ (Hemmings, 2014).

The activity shown in the above images involves using scraps from our community scrap bag. We are piecing small squares onto heat-activated interfacing to create a ‘new’ fabric. Collating materials together, piecing, patching, reconstructing into a new whole has a heritage that goes back centuries. Our activity has offered an opportunity to use fabric as a reminiscing tool and for learning new textile skills. A participant commented, ‘ We have made beautiful things out of stuff that would have ended up in the bin.’

Our research project begins

Learning more about the history of textiles in Bradford can uncover some surprising stories. A group of volunteers, working with HLF Consultant Jennie Kiff, have come together to look at historical records and to collect oral histories that will form part of a new insight into the history of rags in Bradford. These local volunteers are currently working on discovering hidden histories related to the rag business and those who collected rags in Bradford. By exploring original records from the archives they hope to piece together the lives and communities that made their living working with rags. 


They will be looking at the families of the rag workers, where they lived, came from and at their personal histories from the 1880s up to 1930s. Many of the rag workers faced hardships with some having to enter the Bradford Workhouse or the infirmary. They lived in close communities, often living and working together.


The project aims to look at how these workers lives may have been intertwined. The fabric of families, woven together by their work and shared culture.

 The volunteers are also looking to create another, more recent, historical legacy for later generations. Working together they aim to collect a series of oral histories from people whose lives have been linked to rags and to Bradford. These unique memories will be preserved at the Bradford Local Studies Library and add to older collections linked to the Bradford textile trade.


 Both of these projects reveal new dimensions to the overall knowledge and awareness of Bradford’s place in the history of textiles. They are innovative and creating new resources that can be used by researchers in the future to learn even more.

Images above from our workshops at Hive and at Bradford Local Studies Library/West Yorkshire Archives. Many thanks to Jennie Kiff for writing this post. 














Piecing and patching


The Worn Stories project has started community based engagement sessions working with a group called ‘Creative Threads’ based in West Bowling, south of Bradford city centre. We have been thinking about cloth, clothing and reuse through conversation and through learning a traditional patchwork technique, English paper piecing. We are working with a collection of fabric squares donated to the project.


The fabrics date from the early 1960s to the 1980s and had been cut into squares but never used. The variety of prints and patterns have given the group an opportunity to reminisce about clothing and fabrics in our own lives alongside discussions about the value of cloth and how this has changed in our lifetime.

Bradford is a textile city, famed in the nineteenth century for the production of worsted cloth, a fine woollen fabric used to make high quality clothing. At the start of the 20th century there were 350 mills in the city and almost 300,000 people worked in the industry. The communities working in Bradford included many immigrant workers from across the UK, Europe and South Asia. The industry declined rapidly from the 1970s. Worn Stories offers an opportunity to explore some of this heritage, encouraging interaction between communities and ongoing opportunities to relate the heritage of recycling to modern day practices.

Talking about textile memories in the context of the history of the city is introducing a wide range of stories to our group sessions. These include memories connected to the industry, for example, a participant recalled collecting the house key after school from the mill where her mother was working as a cap spinner and pushing her brother into a bobbin skep [large woven basket on wheels]. Another participant reminisced about the sound of textile machinery being ‘as loud as a railway station’. We have also shared stories about our domestic textiles; 1970s flowery curtains in brown and yellow, a party dress cut from another larger dress using a newspaper pattern.

IMG_0546Engaging with the history of Bradford through making activities and conversations about cloth offers an opportunity to share personal stories linked by textiles. It will also contribute to another part of Worn Stories, an oral history recording project that will eventually add to the work done in the 1980s by Bradford Heritage Recording Unit.

Get involved


We are looking for volunteer researchers to take part in Worn Stories. If you are interested in learning research skills and oral history recording skills then we have two upcoming sessions at Hive with historian and archivist Jennie Kiff introducing the themes of the project. These are on Monday 27th February and Monday 27th March 10-12 at Hive. If you are interested in taking part then please contact