WEST BRADFORD HISTORY
The village derives its name from its situation at a broad and shallow fording point of the Ribble. Over the centuries the descriptive name of Broadford became Bradford. The prefix West was added in the late 19th century when postal services needed to differentiate the village from its much larger Yorkshire neighbour to the east.
Originally part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, the village was recorded as Bradeford in the Domesday Book of 1086. Administratively, the parish became part of the historic West Riding of Yorkshire and remained so until the boundary changes of 1974, when it became part of Ribble Valley and in Lancashire.
Medieval records show that 32 men from the village paid Poll Tax in 1379, and that men from the village fought in the armies of King Henry V111 that won victory against the Scots at Flodden Field in 1513.
By the middle of the 19th century, the village had developed into a thriving agricultural settlement. Research by village historian, Herbert Holgate, reveals that, as well as farming, villagers were employed as joiners, chair makers, blacksmiths, stonemasons, hand loom weavers, lime burners, hatters and nail makers. There were also three inns. The Fisherman’s Arms and the Shepherd’s Arms no longer exist but the Three Millstones continues as a popular restaurant with rooms. All very different to the late 19th Century when the part of the latter was used as the village mortuary and the landlord’s wife was also the village midwife!
The conversion of the village corn mill into a cotton weaving mill by John Holgate in 1864, brought more employment and led to the construction of a new of a new Keystone footbridge over the brook for workers, and a new road to Clitheroe parallel to the original route along Strait Gate. The bridge remained in place until 1960, when heavy floods brought down felled trees from Eaves Wood that damaged the keystone.
In 1864, Eaves Hall, a large Victorian house was built for John Burton, a wealthy cotton mill owner. The Burton family later remodelled and enlarged the hall in the early 1920’s to create the lovely Neo-Georgian facade that is a feature of the building which is now a hotel.
In 1887, the village school was opened and in 1898 the small but lovely parish church of St. Catherine was constructed, largely funded by Edward Burton of Eaves Hall. Its beautiful stained glass window was designed by Edward Burne Jones. A new Methodist chapel ( now a private house ) was built in 1904 to replace a much smaller chapel of 1797 near Eaves Wood. Both graveyards still remain.
The growth of the village meant that the original footbridge over the Ribble to Clitheroe was no longer suitable. A stone cart bridge was constructed in 1888, funded by public donations at a cost of £662 9s 11d. It is the iconic West Bradford Bridge that spans the Ribble today. In 1894, a Parish council was elected for the first time, and a Post Office arrived soon after.
The twentieth century brought more developments. The village was greatly affected by the loss of 9 young men who fought for their country in the First World War. Their names are commemorated with that of a Second World War airman, on the village war memorial. Replacing a wooden cross erected in 1919, a new granite memorial was dedicated in 2018 to mark the centenary of the Armistice. Next to a small garden of remembrance and with benches for quiet contemplation and rest, it is in the centre of the village.
In 1931, Mahatma Gandhi stayed for 2 nights at Heys Farm while visiting the Lancashire cotton mills during the depression. New housing developments of Westfield, Hillside, Eastfield and Southfield were constructed in the 1960s and 70s and the conversion of the mill into homes in the 1980s saw the population of the village rise considerably.
In 1976, the Parish Council purchased land on Grindleton Road to create a playing field and children’s play area with beautiful views of Pendle Hill. A splendid village hall financed by village fund raising and grants opened in 1994. It is at the centre of village life and a venue for clubs, dances, weddings and antique fairs. Its very active Village Hall Committee and Sports Sub Committee provide social events, children’s parties, Sports Day and a Senior Citizens’ Christmas party.
Proud of its long history, West Bradford thrives and is well set for the future!