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William Cudworth

WIlliam Cudworth 1830 – 1906


William Cudworth was described by a contemporary as an ” interesting and well informed personage, whose knowledge of Bradford and the district, within a ten or twelve mile radius, is unique and edifying “

He was an ” animated encyclopedia of local lore of many kinds; personal, topographical, historical, municipal, political and religious “

He might well be surprised to find himself at the centre of so much attention, so many years later, in June 2019. He would surely have expected those about whom he wrote to be remembered rather then he himself.

Indeed an interview with him towards the end of his life suggested that ” like most journalists and literary men ” Mr Cudworth had been ” screened from the public gaze “

His life’s work was dedicated to preserving the history of Bradford, writing of those who played their own part in its development and the topography of the area surrounding the town.

Whilst he personally hadn’t played a prominent part in the events of the day, he had been concerned with most of what had happened in the evolution of the city. Indeed he said that he had seen Bradford rebuilt in his lifetime and could recall when some of it, Hall Ings, was green fields.

Biography / Career 

It’s quite possible that the family had once, many generations ago, lived in the village of Cudworth near Barnsley from which village they had taken their name.

However, by the time William Cudworth was born, on 16th September 1830 to John and Ann Cudworth who were deemed to be poor but respectable and honest, the family had apparently moved to Wakefield.  The 1851 census return would show William as being born in Bradford yet that of 1861 stated Wakefield. Certainly William was baptised in Bradford at Little Horton Lane Chapel.

By 1841 the family were living in Portland Street in Bradford. William had three younger siblings by now – Ellen, George and Alfred.

His father, John, was a printer and also well known as a deacon at Horton Lane Chapel.

There was little time for schooling and William would have been only just ten, if that, when he was apprenticed, in 1842, to Mr William Byles, the proprietor of the Bradford Observer.

William was a compositor for something like the next thirty years until the editor gave William what have been described as ” some minor duties of a journalistic nature “

William had found his vocation…..he took full advantage of the opportunities journalism gave him to witness public affairs and those involved in them.

Interestingly he had, nearly all his life, been a great collector of newspaper cuttings which have proved invaluable to many people, especially local historians.

In later years he would pay weekly visits to the villages surrounding Bradford and this lead to his first book Round about Bradford which was published in 1876. It took in forty two places within a radius of seven miles of Bradford. It was incredibly detailed and comment was passed in his obituary that much of what he had described had vanished in the past thirty years.

His second book was called Historical Notes on the Bradford Corporation. This contained invaluable information about Bradford both before and after Incorporation, and it was of especial value for containing portraits of the mayors and other municipal officials. It was said to be the recognised authority for those wishing to know about such matters.

A rather different book which he wrote was the Life and Correspondence of Abraham Sharp. He was a mathematician and astronomer, and assistant to Hamsteed, the first astronomer Royal. This was published in 1889, and it was said to be a monumental endeavour to do honour to one of the most distinguished scientists of his day, a native of Horton, Bradford. Mr Cudworth was fortunate enough to have the original correspondence which had passed between Hamsteed, Sharp, Halley and other astronomers of the period supplemented by his own researches at Greenwich Observatory and the library of the Royal Society. The work also contained accounts of contemporary families, with pedigrees, portraits and it attracted  attention in the London Press and in various scientific journals.
( This info was found in a copy article in the Bradford Archives  )

He also wrote:

Conditions of the Industrial Classes of Bradford in 1887 which received grateful recognition from Mr Gladstone and Mr Giffen, statistician to the Board of Trade.

Worstedopolis ( 1888 )  which was a sketch history of Bradford and its staple industry

Yorkshire Dialect Sketches (1884 )

Musical Reminiscences of Bradford ( 1885 )

In 1886 he published the first of a series of township histories. It was called Rambles Round Horton. A second volume concerned Bolton and Bowling and a third volume covered Manningham, Heaton and Allerton. In his obituary comment was made that his writing involved a vast amount of original research and it formed an invaluable resource for the future.

Antique terracotta lamps ( 1893 ) with illustrations from the author’s unique collection

He also wrote several  articles for the Bradford Antiquary of which he was for many years editorial secretary.

He gave lantern lectures showing his collection of views of Bradford before its transformation, These were published in an album during Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year which coincided with the Jubilee of the Bradford Corporation.

Mr  Cudworth would give talks such as the one given at the Eccleshill Mechanic’ Institute in December 1892 when he delivered a lantern lecture on Old Bradford and Round About.

Another lecture he gave was in February 1893 when, at the request of the Council of the Ilkley Museum and Antiquarian Society, he spoke at the museum on ” The Romans in Ilkley “

Desiring to be a Fellow of the Society Antiquaries in London, he sought testimonials from influential people such as:

John Maddocks Esq JP of Sir Titus Salt Bart Sons & Co of Saltaire praised his abilities as an antiquarian. He had come to appreciate Mr Cudworth’s abilities during his own term of office as Chairman of the Bradford Free Library and Museum. He was thoroughly worthy of the distinction of becoming a member.

Sir Henry Mitchell JP and ex mayor of Bradford wrote that William Cudworth was known to him as a man of high literary ability and an enthusiastic antiquarian.

George Ackroyd Esq JP, the late manager of the Bradford Banking Company wrote that he had much pleasure in bearing testimony to the success of his topographical and antiquarian researches in connection with the district

Sir Francis Powell Sharp Bart MP of Horton Old Hall  had no hesitation in saying that William Cudworth had eminent claims for admission to the Society from his diligent studies and original investigations and also from the books he had published, including the Life of Abraham Sharp the astronomer, and historical descriptions of Bradford and others in the immediate neighbourhood.

He considered that Cudworth had given valuable assistance to the Ilkley museum where many Roman remains were found and were in great danger of being hopelessly dispersed or even destroyed

( Copies of the above testimonials may be found in the Bradford Archives )

In Late April 1892 Mr Cudworth completed a connection of fifty years with the Bradford Observer and celebrations were held to mark the occasion.

The first celebration to mark his contribution to local history and archaeology was held in the Mayor’s parlour at the Town Hall on 27th April. A large number of subscribers had gathered together to see the presentation to Mr Cudworth of a gold watch and a cheque for £150
These were the subscribers whohad donated towards the cheque and some, especially the Mayor and his fellow councillors, had their donations listed in a programme printed to record the event.

The gold watch which was of a handsome make was supplied by Manoah Rhodes & Sons. It bore the inscription ” Presented to William Cudworth, together with a a cheque for £150 as a jubilee offering, by Alderman Priestley, Mayor of Bradford, on behalf of subscribers, April 27th 1892 “

The parlour table was decorated with bouquets sent as a jubilee tribute from the managers of the five public parks in Bradford. A fine collection of orchids was also sent by Messrs Charlesworth, Shuttleworth & Co of the Orchidry in Heaton.

Mr Butler Ward made a speech saying that when it became known that Mr Cudworth would be attaining his jubilee in connection with his literary work in Bradford, a few friends got together to find some way of recognising the event.

An influential committee was formed and received contributions ” of a most spontaneous character  from all sorts and conditions of men, and without applying the least pressure “

The presentation was made by the Mayor, Mr Thomas Priestley. Whilst acknowledging Mr Cudworth’s impartiality and accuracy as a member of the press, he went on to say that on this occasion they were more interested in the work he had done of a historical  and biographical nature. Mention was then made of the various books written by Mr Cudworth, praising his original research and commenting that his Notes of the Corporation which was now the recognised authority on that subject.

The Mayor, Thomas Priestley, then made the presentation. He said he hoped Mr Cudworth would be long spared to enjoy the esteem in which he was held.

He added that he had done a great service with his appreciative articles on the Bradford Parks and that the park managers were very aware of this and so had sent the bouquets as a tribute

Mr George Ackroyd spoke next. He said that the work of the committee had been a labour of love. No one rejoiced more than himself at the handsome tribute paid not only to the intelligence and industry but also to the good intentions of Mr Cudworth,

Mr Suddards spoke of the hearty and unselfish work done by Mr Cudworth for the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.

Mr James Parker expressed the thanks of the inhabitants of the Great Horton Ward to Mr Cudworth for his book on ” Rambles Round Horton “

Mr John Maddocks praised Mr Cudworth’s interesting and valuable local history, inspired by the love of the place in which he was born.

Then came Mr Cudworth’s response.

He was almost overwhelmed with the kindness  which had been shown to him that afternoon. He wished to express his thanks for the great honour which had been done him. He thought it very unusual for a person to remain with the same employer for such a long period. A period for him which had been most amicable with not a single cross word.

The watch with which he had been presented would be amongst his most treasure possessions  and it would remind him of the generous deed done to him that day.

He went on to say how his literary work was inspired and stimulated by that love of home and that feeling of loyalty to his native town which he wanted to commend to younger men.

He had a great desire for the prosperity of old Bradford. In the last fifty years the social and industrial life of the town had gone through many phases, and the trade through periods of adversity and prosperity. He felt the latter had outweighed the former. He did though recall distress of the severity of which the present generation could have no concept. He remembered men patrolling the streets and drawing plugs from the boilers, and congregating  for the manufacture of pikes and bludgeons and the casting of bullets. Those were not the days to which one would want to return and he thought they were gone for good.

Mr Cudworth then referred to some of the improvements made in Bradford and reminisced about bygone days.

He concluded with once again expressing his thanks for the gift which had been made to him.

The above details were taken from a lengthy newspaper article in the Bradford Archives.

On 30th April 1892 a dinner was held at the Alexandra Hotel to celebrate William Cudworth’s fifty years connection with the Bradford Observer.

The editor Mr WP Byles presided over the occasion.

Mr Cudworth’s health was proposed by Mr W Harrison who also had a long association with the newspaper. He spoke of Mr Cudworth’s  qualities of industry, thoroughness and patience in research and singleness of purpose which had led to his success as a journalist and local historian.

Mr Cudworth was then presented with a gold watchguard, with pendant, and a handsome epergne* for Mrs Cudworth. Mr Harrison commented that the watchguard would go well with the valuable watch already presented to Mr Cudworth by his other friends in the town. There was also a substantial cheque from the proprietors of the Bradford Observer. ( details obtained from an article in the Bradford archives )

* an ornamental centrepiece for a dining table, typically used for holding flowers or fruit.

Margaret Cudworth died 16th May 1902

William Cudworth died aged 75 on 20th March 1906.

His obituary in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph described him as the oldest Bradford journalist.

” Mr Cudworth was for over half a century a member of the staff of the Yorkshire Daily Observer, and was the leading local historian and antiquary, his books on Bradford and the district being considered standard works of their kind. “

He was buried in Undercliffe Cemetery, in the company of many of those whose lives he had immortalised in his book Historical Notes on the Bradford Corporation.

He had married Margaret Stephenson in 1853. They would have eight children all of whom survived to adulthood but one

By 1861 William and Margaret lived at Denton Hill Cottage, 19, Killinghall Road in Eccleshill.

They now had four children:

Clara, Arthur, Lucy and Jane.

Another ten years saw the birth of Frank, Ernest, Emily and Alice.

In 1871 the Cudworths lived at Belgrave Street in Manningham.

In 1879 a most grievous blow befell the family.

Frank Cudworth, aged only 16, was an apprentice with Charles Mills & Co, upholsterers.

One Wednesday afternoon he was assisting a sawyer called John Pratt to pile up some boards near the shafting in the cellar. Pratt told him not to pile the boards too high, as enough space should be left for the belt on the drum to be thrown on and off. Frank apparently said  ” Oh, it’s all right, there is plenty of room, ” .
and he threw the belt off the drum

In about half a minute the belt broke, and on turning round Pratt saw Frank being whirled around the shafting. Pratt shouted to turn off the engine, lifted Frank from the shafting and helped take him to the Infirmary.

It was to no avail. Frank died at half past five that same afternoon.

The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death and recommended that the shaftings, drum and belts in the cellar, should be properly protected.

Frank Cudworth became the first of the immediate family to be buried in Undercliffe Cemetery.

By the time of the 1881 census they had moved to 167, Undercliffe Street Bradford. For the first time, at the age of fifty, William gave his occupation as that of journalist rather than compositor.

In 1882  Dr Maffey who had been secretary and Vice President of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society was presented with an illuminated address to thank him for all he had done as he prepared to leave Bradford for Melbourne, Australia.  A report of the meeting appeared in the ……and mention was made that William Cudworth was going across the sea in company with Dr Maffey. He hoped it would be the means of restoring him to health. Dr Maffey remarked that he hoped he should be able to send back Mr Cudworth to them in renewed health and vigour. He felt certain that that gentleman would derive great benefit from the change. It may well be that he had not recovered from the dreadful shock of Frank’s death.

When Mr Cudworth sailed to Australia in 1883 he made notes on the voyage which are available to read in the Bradford Archives.

The outward voyage took three months and five days and the return journey just four months.

He later wrote a paper about his voyage. In his opening remarks he commented that sailing to Australia was the most enjoyable of all holiday excursions provided one was a fair sailor and had made up one’s mind to a state of existence altogether to life on shore.

The 1891 census showed William was a newspaper journalist, surrounded by his family, including his grandson  Oscar Silverwood aged four – his daughter Clara had married John Henry Silverwood in 1876 and would eventually have thirteen children, one of whom would die in the First World War.

By 1901 William had retired. He was living with Margaret in Little Horton Lane, Sawrey Place, together with two of his daughters, Jane and Alice and Oscar now 14.

Margaret Cudworth died 16th May 1902

William Cudworth died aged 75 on 20th March 

He was buried in Undercliffe Cemetery.

As mentioned, William and Margaret Cudworth had eight children.


  1. CLARA SILVERWOOD 1854 – 1936

She was born in 1854. She married John Henry Silverwood in 1876.

John Silverwood died 18th May 1917 at Bradford Town Hall which suggests a sudden death. He left £150

Clara lived on until 1936. Both were buried at Heaton.

They had thirteen children. Their youngest son, Alan, died in the first world war and is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal.

Another son, Vivian, had one son, William Cudworth Silverdale 1904 – 1942. He was a Corporal in the RAF Volunteer Reserve and he is buried in a Military grave at Scholemoor.


2. ARTHUR CUDWORTH 1856 – 1903

According to his obituary in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle of 14th May 1903, Arthur’s early years were spent in the woollen industry. Eventually he left to become a journalist and for some time he was a member of the staff of The Darlington and Stockton Times. Later he joined the Sunderland Press. Eventually his health had failed him and he was confined to bed for sometime. He died at his residence, 11, Hylton Road, Millfield. He was described after his death as an able and versatile journalist.

He married Matilda Mary Hannah Firth 1861 – 1837  with whom he had four children.

Mervyn Arthur Cudworth  1883 – 1896

Reginald Cudworth ( 1885 – 1969 )  Like his father he too was a journalist. In 1916, a member of the Durham Light Infantry, he was reported wounded. Prior to joining the colours he was on the staff of the London “ Star “. He married Christina, living in Cheshire, until their deaths within a few weeks of each other in 1969.

Edith Cudworth 1888 – ??

At the time of the 1911 Census she was a probationer nurse at the poor Law Hospital in Halifax. No more known

Rosalind Cudworth 1892 – 1950

In 1939 she was a professional nurse, specializing in Occupational therapy.
She died in 1950.


3. LUCY ANN CUDWORTH 1858 – 1940

She was born 12th July 1858.

She was a dressmaker.

In 1939 she was living with her sister, Jane Cudworth, and a widow, Jane Hardman ( nee Fearnley )

She died on 17th May 1940, at 1, Sawley Place, Bradford. Her funeral service was held at Horton Lane Congregational Chapel, followed by burial at Undercliffe.

Her will appointed Jane Cudworth and Alice Carter as her Executors. Her estate was valued at £223 11s 3d


4. JANE CUDWORTH 1860 – 1943

She was born 2nd October 1860

In 1939 she was living with her sister, Lucy Ann, an a widow, Jane Hardman ( nee Fearnley )

She died, suddenly, according to the funeral notice in the Bradford Observer, on 8th February 1943.

The funeral service was held at Horton Lane Congregational Chapel, followed by burial at Undercliffe.

She left a Will. Probate was granted to her sister, Alice Carter. Estate £413 1s


5. FRANK CUDWORTH c1863 – 1879

Frank Cudworth, aged only 16, was an apprentice with Charles Mills & Co, upholsterers.

One Wednesday afternoon he was assisting a sawyer called John Pratt to pile up some boards near the shafting in the cellar. Pratt told him not to pile the boards too high, as enough space should be left for the belt on the drum to be thrown on and off. Frank apparently said ” Oh, it’s all right, there is plenty of room ” and he threw the belt off the drum

In about half a minute the belt broke, and on turning round Pratt saw Frank being whirled around the shafting. Pratt shouted to turn off the engine, lifted Frank from the shafting and helped take him to the Infirmary.

It was to no avail. Frank died at half past five that same afternoon.

The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death and recommended that the shaftings, drum and belts in the cellar, should be properly protected.

Frank Cudworth became the first of the immediate family to be buried in Undercliffe Cemetery.


6. Ernest Cudworth 1864 – 1911

He was another son who failed to make old bones. He was born in 1864, was an executor of his father’s will, dying in 1911. He was buried in the family grave at Undercliffe


7. EMILY CUDWORTH 1869 – 1949

She married Charles Henry Shaw, a cabinet maker

She was the last surviving child of William and Margaret Cudworth.

In 1939 they lived in Grassington.

Four children:

Arthur Enoch Shaw 1894 – 1973

John Cudworth Shaw 1897 – 1977

Bessie Shaw 1904 – 1972

She married Joseph Arthur Head

Katherine Shaw 1900 – 1951

She died 10th January 1951 at Ashfield House, a nursing home, in Thornton, Bradford.
She left £966 0s 7d


8. ALICE CUDWORTH 1869 – 1946

She was a teacher, who, on 1st March 1894 was appointed headmistress of Marshfield Board School  ( an Infant School ) in Bradford. She was to hold this post for thirty years.

She resigned her post on 31st October 1924, when she married James Carter.

in 1939 she was living at 257 New Hey Road in Bradford with her husband, James, a master sheet metal worker.

He died on 25th October 1944. Probate was granted to Maurice Carter, a manufacturing engineer. The estate was valued at £3406 13s

She was still living at  New Hey Road,  at the time of her death, on 7th August 1946.

 Her funeral, a cremation, was held at Scholemoor.

 No Will. Administration was granted to her sister,      Emily  Shaw, and her nephew, William Silverwood.    Her estate was valued at £2770 5s.


So, of his eight children, three of his four daughters had no children and nor did two of his sons.

You can find William Cudworth’s monument using the what3words App and website. Follow this link and select satellite view.  Click Here.    If you are using the App on your phone type in coast.dream.deal in the search box.

Research by Helen Clappison – March 2019

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