Bradley Spout Taps, John William Street, Huddersfield

The Bradley Spout Taps were reportedly a pair of water taps mounted on the side of a retaining wall on John William Street.


The Bradley Spout water spring had been one Huddersfield's water supplies and was situated in a field by the side of a footpath leading from Swan Yard to Bay Hall, sometimes referred to as Bradley Spout Fields but marked on George Crosland's 1826 map as George Great Close.

In November 1844, a public meeting (chaired by Samuel Glendenning) was held to discuss various "sanatory improvements" that could be carried out in the town. One of the resolutions passed was was to authorise "the Board of Surveyors (if consent can be obtained) to bring the surplus supply of water from Bradley spout into the tank sunk in the Market Place for that purpose, some 15 years since."[1] However, this plan was likely soon abandoned when the decision was taken a few months later to build the town's new railway station across Bradley Spout Fields. In December 1845, the Leeds Intelligencer reported that "masons are dressing stone for the [railway] viaduct to pass over Bradley Spout fields."[2]

Rather than lose the water supply completely, a decision was made to lay a conduit to route the spring water to an outlet built into the new retaining wall on John William Street. In 1861, the Leeds Mercury described this as comprising "a metal cup that hangs from the fountain-side"[3] whilst the O.S. surveyors recorded it as "fountain" and "drinking fountain" on the 1851 and 1890 Town Plans respectively.

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".[4]

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."[5] By September, it had been resolved that "Bradley Spout Tank [...] be examined and cleaned out once a year in future."[6] 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.

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."[7]

In Discovering Old Huddersfield (1993-2002) by Gordon & Enid Minter, the authors give the following unreferenced description, although this may possibly be a description of Brook's Wells on Northgate:

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.


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."


Notes and References

  1. "Huddersfield: Sanatory Improvements" in Bradford Observer (14/Nov/1844).
  2. "The New Railways at Huddersfield" in Leeds Intelligencer (13/Dec/1845).
  3. "Huddersfield: Singular Attempt at Suicide" in Leeds Mercury (13/Jul/1861).
  4. Third Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Best Means of Preventing the Pollution of Rivers (Rivers Aire and Calder) Volume I, page 48.
  5. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Jun/1872), Yorkshire Post (15/Jun/1872) and "Huddersfield Town Hall: The Opening Ceremony" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (19/Oct/1881).
  6. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Sep/1872).
  7. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (23/Feb/1889).

Bradley Spout Taps, John William Street, Huddersfield


Wells, springs and troughs
This page was last modified on 11 August 2018 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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