Bradley Spout was once one of the main water supplies for the town of Huddersfield.
White's Directory of 1837 states that the spring was accessed by walking though Swan Yard off Kirkgate, with Crosland's 1826 map showing "spouts" next to the foot path leading from Swan Yard to Bay Hall in an area known as George Great Close.
In September 1836, the Leeds Mercury carried a notice referencing the spring:
TO BE SOLD BY PROVIDE CONTRACT, ONE RASP and ONE CHIP, with a regular Set of Gearing, for the Purpose of Cutting Dye Wares. The above Rasp and Chip and nearly New, and of the Best Construction, and each may be seen by applying to the Owner, Mr. David Howard, Bradley Spout, Huddersfield.
In June 1843, the Leeds Times advertised that the lion tamer Van Amburgh would soon "exhibit his wonderful performances with his trained lions and other wild animals" in a marquee at Huddersfield in "Mr. Wigney's field, Bradley Spouts".
By March 1845, plans to build the railway station were discussed at a public meeting where it was noted that it would cut across "the footpath from Huddersfield to Fixby, and also endanger the supply of water from Bradley Spout." In December 1845, the Leeds Intelligencer reported that "masons are dressing stone for the [railway] viaduct to pass over Bradley Spout fields."
During the building of the railway station in the late 1840s, a conduit was built to route the water from Bradley Spout to a trough or fountain built into the viaduct wall on John William Street, which was marked as a "fountain" on the the 1851 Town Plan and as a "drinking fountain" on the 1890 map. According to The Place-Names of Huddersfield (2008) by George Redmonds, excavations in 1937 uncovered the conduit.
From later newspaper reports, it is known that a further pot pipe ran from Bradley Spout to troughs on Northgate — known as Brook's Wells, situated on the eastern end of Wells Mills — and also to a water trough on Leeds Road that was opposite the town's pinfold.
The principal supply [of water] was Bradley Spout, and every afternoon might be seen dozens of cans borne by all classes, from the lowest and degraded of both sexes to the respectable servants, the worthy and frugal housewife of even the middle ranks of life. Strange scenes were not unfrequently to be witnessed at and about the well, a squabbling for their turns was one of these, then fighting frequently followed, both of women and men. The the turning over of the full cans of one party, which now and then ended in the complete rout of the other party...
At the June 1855 meeting of the Improvement Commissioners, it was suggested that water might be taken from Bradley Spout "for the purposes of watering [i.e. washing] the streets."
...the inhabitants are compelled to carry water from springs at some distance from the town, particularly from a place called "Bradley Spout", at which during last summer there have been on an average, at all hours of day and till a late hour at night, upwards of ten persons collected together, WAITING for their turn, and until their cans were filled.
In their coverage of an attempted suicide in July 1861, the Leeds Mercury described Bradley Spout as comprising "a metal cup that hangs from the fountain-side."
A 1867 Parliamentary report into preventing river pollution described the water from the spout as "beautifully bright and pleasant to drink, and we were informed that it is much esteemed for that purpose" before noting that it "contains a high proportion of solid residue per gallon".
In June 1872, Huddersfield Town Council were given a report by Dr. Buchanan in which he "attributed a great deal of disease which occurred in Union Street and that neighbourhood to the people drinking the water from Bradley's Spout" and that at some point the spring had been contaminated with sewage — reportedly from the Huddersfield Infirmary, which had been dumping waste into a former coal pit, which then "flowed into the people's source of water supply — Bradley Spout — with awful effects." By September, it had been resolved that "Bradley Spout Tank [...] be examined and cleaned out once a year in future." At this point, it was reported that the public water supply from Bradley Spout was via a tap in the wall on John William Street.
During the summer of 1873, it was reported that conduit which filled the water troughs at Brook's Wells had failed and that the supply "is at the present moment running to waste". A pipe had been laid from one of the Longwood Reservoirs to the troughs, but the water was "constantly so dirty that even the horses accustomed to drink at the 'well' refuse to take it."
In February 1889, the London and North-Western Railway wrote to Huddersfield Corporation, "stating that they were intending to rebuild part of the retaining wall on John William Street, which was considered to be dangerous, and that in the work they proposed to discontinue the two taps called Bradley Spouts". It seems no objections were raised and the council resolved, "That permission be given to the company to discontinue the two spouts, subject to their not interfering with the rights of those persons who at present make use of the water below the road."
During the August 1891 meeting of the Town Council, a plea was heard to not close a water well adjoining Flemming House Lane, Dalton:
Alderman Hirst reminded the Council that a considerable time ago a like plea was put in for Bradley Spout. The Hotel keepers of the town used to get this water for the purpose of mixing whisky, but it was condemned as the worst water in Huddersfield.
At some point in the early 1800s, a scheme was devised to build a stone-walled underground reservoir under the town's market place, consisting of multiple chambers with arched roofs and four water pumps — one at each corner of the square. According to one probable apocryphal account, the original intention had been to route water from Bradley Spout to fill the reservoir but, when it had been built, "they made the astounding discovery that water would not run up-hill."
A report of a public meeting held in November 1844 implies that the reservoir was constructed in the late 1820s, possibly to act as a secondary storage tank for water from Lower Longwood Reservoir (completed 1829), but it was not until the 1844 meeting that attempts were to be made to "bring the surplus supply of water from Bradley Spout into the tank sunk in the Market Place [...] some 15 years since." It seems likely that the building of the railway station led to these plans being abandoned. The market place wells were rediscovered in the 1906 and then again in 1927 during excavations, causing much local interest.
Discovering Old Huddersfield (1993-2002) by Gordon & Enid Minter:
St. George's Square was once part of a huge field called George Close and it was somewhere here, beside a footway to Bay Hall, that the Bradley Spout once bubbled to the surface. This everlasting spring was one of the town's most important water supplies and it continued in use well into the nineteenth century. It was always in great demand, with several people waiting at all hours of the day and until late at night for their turn to fill their cans.
Because of its unfailing supply the demand for spout water was even greater during a drought. In 1844, for instance, when other supplies had dried up people from the outlying districts brought carts loaded with barrels which they filled and carried away, much to the displeasure of frequent users. Scuffles and fights broke out between out-of towners and townees and the police had frequently to be summoned to restore order.In 1848, when the spring was overlapped by the new railway, the water was piped to a convenient place for public use in the newly built John William Street. The trough which held the water was set in a recess in the railway retaining wall and was a foot or two below the road surface. It is tempting to think that an arched cavity to be seen in the wall under the railway viaduct is a remnant of this important water supply, but Woodhead in his "History of Huddersfield Water" says that the trough was opposite Brook Street. There is no sign of a cavity of trough there today so it seems likely that it was lost during road lowering works earlier this century.
History of the Huddersfield Water Supplies (1939) by T.W. Woodhead:
Bradley Spout : This spring was overlapped by the railway (opened in 1848) and a new and convenient place for public use was made in John William Street opposite the George Hotel stables (now the Empire Cinema). The over-flow from the spring was conveyed to a reservoir at Wells Mills, and on to a drinking trough formerly in Northgate. In lowering the road under the railway arch in October, 1937, the tunnel was found which was to get to the arrangements for passing the Bradley Spout water from the original source to the new location in the wall of the railway in John William Street. It was approached by a descent of three steps to the water taps. Later the water was condemned as unfit for use and walled up. The site may be located by a difference in masonry, but at present obscured by a hoarding.
James Bottomley in his memoranda of conversations with Joseph Byram of Storthes, Moldgreen, published in the "Huddersfield Examiner," May 30th, 1912, says, "For washing water people used to go to the river or to Bradley Spout. I have fetched water in a can on my head from Bradley Spout many a time."
The approximate original location of Bradley Spout (based on George Crosland's 1826 map) is shown here: