All posts by Bonner and Hindley

“Hidden Histories” at Bolling Hall

This summer, Bradford Museums and Galleries were delighted to be able to host ‘Hidden Histories’ with Mind The Gap at Bolling Hall, sharing some of the stories from Bradford’s past.

Daniel Foulds, who wrote and directed the pieces, agreed to write this blog for us.

Photo credit MTG and Mark Bickerdike. Daniel Foulds at Bolling Hall.

He writes:

“Way back in 2017 when the research and development period for Hidden History took place, my intention was to use a space in a local area to bring its history to life through theatre. Bolling Hall was the perfect choice given that I am a local writer and wanted to explore the stories of people from Bradford that were less known. From 2017 to 2021 the relationship between Bradford Museums and the Hidden History team has been open and keen to create this piece.

In the summer of 2021 myself and the Hidden History team. Deborah Dickinson (Producer), Madeleine O’Reilly (Director Mentor), Mary Cooper (Writing Mentor) along with an acting company and stage manager endeavoured to bring to life stories from Bradford’s past to life.

Beginning with the famous ghost story of Bolling Hall, putting a different spin to the classic tale by saying that the ghost was actually a servant trying to scare the Earl of Newcastle  from not killing the inhabitants of Bradford which was under siege and seeing how that turned out.

Photo credit MTG and Mark Bickerdike. Telling the ‘Bradford Ghost’ story by the medieval wall.

We also told the tale of an honest apothecary who had to decide on the choice of giving free medicine to a workhouse patient or not due to it being a very expensive medicine.

Photo credit MTG and Mark Bickerdike. The apothecary mixing his medicines.

Finally, we look at the case of Susan Bentley, a widow from Thornton who had money stolen by two men, she had been falsely claiming Parish relief (an early form of benefit) and asking her neighbour to testify as she was an eye witness, who has no idea of her false claim on Parish Relief, Susan has to make the hard decision on to tell the court the truth about the money that was stolen.

Photo credit MTG and Mark Bickerdike for photos. Difficult decisions had to be made: the Susan Bentley story.

Before we could perform it we had to do all the research, which thanks to the rigorous support of Bradford Museums, originally we were due to have written and performed this in 2019 but due to other commitments we all agreed that it was good to postpone it to 2020, which due to the pandemic meant we had to postpone again.

Photo credit Heather Millard. A site visit earlier in 2021.

Though it sounds odd it was a blessing in disguise. The original plan was to perform the piece indoors, but due to restrictions we decided to use the fantastic scenery outside Bolling Hall instead, using the building as a backdrop to set the stage. Even with two postponements Bradford Museums was keen and kept with us and supported us whenever it was possible.

One of my favourite memories of the piece was having local schools come and see the piece and really get into the action in the piece. Watching them creep with the actors down to the canopy trying to keep quiet unless they woke up the earl was really heartwarming to see and gave me as a writer a sense of pride that the piece was being enjoyed.

Again it was thanks to the continuous support and help from Bradford Museums that we could engage the schools so that this could happen.

For the Ghost of Bolling Hall we used the medieval wall near the entrance to the building and built a canopy to use as the Earls headquarters using great sound effects such as cannon fire to get us into the feeling like Bradford was still under siege.

During a number of public performances we even had a thunder storm to give even more of an eerie atmosphere and even the storm helped when cannons went off a peal of thunder rolled on cue. Though the ensuing rain didn’t help as we had to move rather antique furniture and props from the elements. At one point while a storm was raging and a performance was being set up, I was on air for radio to promote the show and as I was talking the rest of the team was running for cover with various items and furniture in tow. Looking back it sounds funny but it certainly was more hectic at the time.

The other scenes were helped as well using the side of the Hall and its doors to show it as inhabited by regular folk from Bradford with an apothecary doing his rounds before we meet Rachel that runs to see Dr Warburton from Wibsey to come quickly to the workhouse and he has to work out rationally if he should listen to his conscience or his practical work to be paid for his services.

And Finally we come to the gardens at Bolling Hall and we meet Grace Robinson someone that works at the Hall as a gardener. She is found by her neighbour Susan Bentley who needs her to testify in court on her behalf. Using the gardens as a clandestine place was marvellous as we see the ensuing battle for Susan to persuade Grace to testify with real fear and tension from both of them.

Photo credit MTG and Mark Bickerdike. Director and Cast outside Bolling Hall.

Through all of this Heather (Community Curator of Bradford Museums) was absolutely fantastic at problem solving and giving space where we needed it. Being a grade 1 listed building meant that there was a lot we had to be careful with, especially around artefacts around us. As well as that in mind, we were still during lockdown restrictions and ventilation was an issue given how the building was built. Even with that in mind, Heather even offered for us to use the Hall (the largest space) if the weather kept up to show a few scenes.

Thankfully we didn’t need to change plans and even though the weather was not the best it was certainly a memorable and fantastic experience. With a lot more people coming to Bolling Hall and some audience members even came dressed up in historic outfits to go with the piece, it was heartwarming as well as great to see audience members enjoying theatre after such a tumultuous year.

Photo credit Heather Millard.  Smiles of satisfaction, if slightly soggy, after a wonderful run of performances.

Daniel Foulds (Lead Artist, Co-Writer and Director of Bradford Hidden History)

“Bless the” “I’le crosse the”: Medieval and Early Modern Superstitions, and the Bradford Witch

One of our Assistant Curators, Dr Lauren Padgett, has recently installed a display which showcases some objects in Bradford Museums’ collections that relate to Medieval and Early Modern superstitions, and presents the case of Mary Sykes, an accused Bradford witch with a link to Bolling Hall. For Halloween, this display has been adapted into this blog. 

Medieval and Early Modern Superstitions

In Medieval Britain, 500 to 1500 AD, superstition filled the gap between the known and unknown, the explained and unexplained. This belief in the supernatural was encouraged by strong religious beliefs about good and evil which continued into the Early Modern period, 1500 to around 1800 AD. The witch-craze during this time caused some people to cling to ‘magic’, or ‘counter-magic’, for protection against witchcraft. Many of our superstitions today can be traced back to these times. Some brought good luck and fortune, whilst others were for protection against evil spirits. The local historian William Cudworth tells us that the people in Bradford were still superstitious in the late 1800s; “the locality, however, has until comparatively recently had its believers in witchcraft, and bottles stuffed with needles, besides horse-shoes and other safeguards against influences, have been found upon the premises” (William Cudworth, Histories of Bolton and Bowling, 1891, p. 102). 

The display in the Housebody at Bolling Hall showcases some of the objects that Bradford Museums and Galleries has in its collections which relate to these Medieval and Early Modern superstitions. 

Salt cellar: In the Medieval period, salt was expensive, used to preserve food and thought to have precious medicinal properties. Spilling salt was believed to be a bad omen. Spilt salt was thrown over the left shoulder into the eyes of lurking evil spirits to blind them. 

Witchstones or Hagstones: These stones, with natural centre holes, were protective talismans hung above entry points of buildings to stop evil spirits from entering. They were also hung over beds to aid restful sleep. Two of the stones on display were found in the cellar of a house in Keighley.

Horseshoe: From the 900s, it was believed that Saint Dunstan nailed a horseshoe onto the Devil’s foot causing him pain. Dunstan removed it on the condition that the Devil would not enter homes with horseshoes on their doors. People would nail horseshoes onto their doors to keep the Devil out, or hang them above or at the foot of their bed to prevent bad dreams.

Witch bottles: These protective charms date back to the 1500s in England. Some contained: urine, hair or nail clippings of the person needing protection against witchcraft; vinegar or wine was used to drown evil spirits; and metal nails or pins to prick them. The stoneware bottle on display was found under the floor of a house in Colne, Pendle – it contained an unknown liquid, a ball of hair and metal nails. Others contain thorns, threads or puzzles, like the glass one on display, to attract and then trap evil intentions. 

Witch balls: Dating to the 1600s in England, they were hung in or near windows. The bright colours were thought to attract and trap evil spirits. It was believed that witches do not like to see their own reflection so the reflective balls would repel them. 

Horse brass: From the Medieval period, horse brasses provided protection to working horses. Attached to the horse harness or cart, they were designed to reflect the evil eye or bad luck that might cause the horse harm. 

Mary Sykes: The Witch of Bowling, Bradford

On 18 March 1650, Mary Sykes of Bowling was brought before the Justice of the Peace, who at the time was Henry Tempest of Bolling Hall, accused of witchcraft. Dorothy Rhodes had claimed that her daughter Sara woke up one night distressed saying that Mary had appeared at the end of her bed and attempted to choke her. This attack left Sara unable to speak and having fits as though she was bewitched. Richard Booth of Bowling testified that Mary had cursed him by saying “Bless the” “I’le crosse the” after which his livestock died. Henry Cordingley of Tong accused Mary of cursing him by saying “Bless the” “I’le crosse the” which caused some of his livestock to die. He even claimed that he saw Mary fly off on one of his cows one night! Henry Tempest ordered Isabella Pollard and five other women to search Mary’s body for ‘witch marks’ – marks where witches fed the devil or their familiars (witches’ assistants in animal form). The women reported that they found two suspicious warts or lumps on her body. Mary was sent to York Assizes for trial but she was later acquitted and was free to go.

Do you think Mary was a witch tormenting her neighbours? Or a victim of false and malicious accusations? 

If you are brave enough to see it, ‘Medieval and Early Modern Superstitions’ display is in the Housebody of Bolling Hall Museum and runs into 13 March 2022. 

World Photography Day 2021

Our Photo Archive Assistant John Ashton has selected some very exciting images to celebrate World Photography Day. 

He says: “We have selected this collection because it is new (very new! Still coming in) to our archive. Also, it is the work of young people in Bradford responding to the pandemic (see below). Also it is the first native digital work to be part of Bradford Museums Photo Archive. Not yet available to the public, it is due to be so this Autumn.”

About the Project

Through Our Lens – Self Isolation Project was set up by artist and photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn in April 2020 as a response to the Covid19 Pandemic at the start of the first lockdown . After receiving funding by a Response grant from Bradford Council, Carolyn called out to young people in the Bradford District aged 12-20 to work with her to tell their story of this time. This pilot project took place online on Zoom, where Carolyn ran workshops, master classes, set briefs and mentored each of the young participants. Many had never taken a photograph before, but all were familiar with their mobile devices. 

Through Our Lens is ongoing – and has received Arts Council funding to continue and extend the work. 

The photographs of the young people taken during the pandemic are being archived as a collection by Museums and Galleries as a Bradford photographic project of significance and to enable people in the future to see the experience of young people at the time of the pandemic. 

Some of the works from Through Our Lens are currently on display in the Garden Wall Gallery, next to Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, and will be further exhibited in 2022. 


Selected Photographs 

Self Portrait by Harry Berry 16. 

Date April 2020

 “I wanted to try and convey the stressful feeling of having to learn by myself in isolation with the looming fear of A level exams next year. It seems like my bedroom turned into my classroom before I knew it. A “work-life balance” topples over when your life is put on hold.” Harry Berry 16

Hand on Window by Hamza Saraj aged 14  

May 2020 

This stark photograph is how it feels in lockdown by Hamza Saraj age 14.

Flowers in Ice by Amilah Majid aged 14

June 2020 

“The best way to describe how I feel in this situation is that we are the flowers and the ice is lockdown, if you allow the ice to melt the flowers will come out in one piece but if you break the ice the flowers will break to. I think that although I want everything to return to normal it is happening too soon and the government is breaking the ice due to their greed and allowing us to suffer” – Amilah Majid 14 June 2020

David Hockney – Fashion Icon

When you think of David Hockney an image of him may spring to mind fairly easily. This image may include his bright blonde hair, round thick rimmed spectacles, a bold clash of colours, or maybe a cardigan and a pair of brightly mismatched socks. Whichever iconic fashion choices spring to mind I bet you see them all worn with a such a casual ease that looks so natural on him.

So strong and positively received are David Hockney’s fashion choices that he has been a significant influence to the world of design. Sir Paul Smith and Christopher Bailey have both designed collections around Hockney’s strong sense of style. When the David Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford first opened in 2017 we were delighted to have some of the outfits that Christopher Bailey designed for Burberry on display within the gallery. These outfits included a bright red trench coat paired with a white and green striped rugby shirt and a pair of canary yellow jeans, shown alongside a cerulean silk artist jacket that was paired with a turquoise shirt, red tie, forest green linen trousers and red shoes.

Meanwhile Yves Saint Laurent, Michael Kors, Osman and Kym Ellery have all been influenced by the bright saturated colours that cross over from Hockney’s wardrobe into the colour palette of his artworks. Bill Gaytten even named his catwalk collection Big Splash in homage to Hockney’s 1967 painting A Bigger Splash.

With the David Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery having a unique collection of early works by the artist hung alongside more contemporary pieces we are unique in showing the development of his colour palette which features both in his fashion choices and his artworks.

An early self-portrait collage in the collections of Bradford Museums and Galleries shows a young David Hockney, aged 16 years, who was still living in Bradford. You can definitely tell that it depicts Hockney, but this early portrait was created before he developed some of the distinctive features that we associate with the artist today. Here he has a mop of dark brown hair and a pair of indistinctive NHS glasses. However, even at this early age you can see that he has already started to add the bold pops of colour to his wardrobe with the bright blue coat, red scarf and yellow necktie.

The rest of David Hockney’s iconic style developed outside of Bradford. Whilst in America Hockney and a friend saw a Clariol television advert that declared that Blondes have more fun.  After they saw this advert they went straight out to buy hair dye, and for Hockney the style stuck. Then in 1964 Hockney saw a pair of horn-rimmed glasses in an optician in Iowa City, and in a desire to appear more professional his first pair of round spectacles were purchased. This fashion choice has become such a recognisable feature of Hockney that we even used it as the branding for our David Hockney Gallery.

This summer we have seen a combination of Hockney’s artworks and his own fashion style become inspiration for another designer. Tracey Samuel, designer and founder of the brand Bonnie Mob created her 2021 summer collection titled Pool Party around the bright Californian colours and motifs of Hockney’s works. This children’s line is full of fun characters including Hockney’s dachshund dogs peeking their heads out of pockets, happy little cactus plants, his infamous swimming pools and some bananas mirroring the bright yellow of Hockney’s palette which have been Hocknified by giving them each a pair of iconic round spectacles to wear!

Tracey has been kind enough to gift us some of these pieces to display in the David Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall where they mirror many of the works around them. Tracey says:

For me, Hockney is a magician with colour. His combination of creativity, eccentricity and ability to adapt to the next new thing makes him a true genius and an amazing role model for our future little artists and makers. For Spring Summer ’21. We’ve immersed ourselves in all things David Hockney. You’ll find gentle nods to Hockney’s style and his use of colour. From the iconic Californian pool paintings to the bright fun iPad drawings, the polaroid photo collages, his adored dachshund dogs, his signature round specs and of course, his charming fashion sense and iconic cardigans!

On your next visit to Cartwright Hall Art Gallery have a look at this new display and see which of the motifs you can see in the works currently on display.

Check out our website for Cartwright Hall Art Galleries current opening times

90th Anniversary of the 1931 Bradford Historical Pageant

A few weeks ago, one of our Assistant Curators of Collections Dr Lauren Padgett was auditing a box of souvenirs when she fortuitously came across two souvenir books relating to the 1931 Bradford Historical Pageant. As it’s the 90th anniversary of it taking place this month, on the 13th July, Lauren has written a blog to tell us more about it.


Historical pageants were staged in towns and cities up and down the country, mostly in the first half of the twentieth century. At these pageants, historical scenes relating to that particular place were re-enacted. It was a chance to rally and revel in civic pride. 1931 was an odd time for Bradford to be hosting an historical pageant. In the inter-war years, Bradford was feeling the global financial crisis; textile mills around the district were going bankrupt and closing causing unemployment and hardship. This may well have been one of factors that influenced the decision and impetus to host a pageant. It was hoped that the pageant would attract tourism, showcase what Bradford had to offer and give Bradford a much-needed boost, economically and in terms of morale.  

Bradford had the famed Frank Lascelles, ‘the pageant master’, as organising director. Pupils at Bradford College of Art and Crafts produced the scenery and back-drops for the scenes. According to research by Ayako Yoshino, Bradford’s pageant was quite technologically advanced, being ‘one of the first major pageants to use electricity extensively. Telephone lines were set up to carry messages more quickly to the large number of participants and microphones were used to make the outdoor drama easier to hear. . . twenty large electric floodlights extended the finale of the pageant into the evening.’  

Just a few days before the pageant was due to start, it was announced by the Woolcombing Employer’s Federation that there would be a wage reduction affecting 8,000 workers. In response to this, workers decided to go on strike from the 13th July, the day the pageant was opening. Organisers and the Mayor of Bradford were worried that this would overshadow the pageant and hoped a settlement could be negotiated to avoid strike action. As it happened, Bradford workers did not strike, but Shipley workers did. The pageant ran for one week, from 13 to 22 July, hosted in Peel Park. The opening performance was inaugurated by H.R.H. Prince George and his speech can be viewed in the British Pathé film: . As we have come to expect of a British summer, it was marred with rain on the first day which persisted most of the week. The pageant performance was split into episodes made up of several scenes covering different periods of Bradford’s history in chronological order. While the episodes were performed in Peel Park, some pageant activity took place in other spaces around Bradford, including the grounds of our Bolling Hall Museum – the postcards below show photographs of Pageant Queen outside Bolling Hall. Performers wore costumes made from locally made fabrics – like live manikins, they showcased and advertised Bradford’s textile industry. It was thought that 30,000 people participated with pageant and a healthy profit was donated to local hospitals. 

In Bradford Museums and Galleries’ collection we have some objects relating to the pageant: souvenir badges, books and postcards. The postcards, some showing photographs of the performances and others reflecting historical people who made an appearance in the episodes, give an illustrated insight into which aspects of Bradford’s history were reenacted. 

Episode 1 ‘The Coming of the Romans’ depicts the fighting between the Brigantes tribe (which occupied Bradford) and the invading Romans – a snippet of this can be seen in the British Pathé film on Youtube. Episode 2 ‘Paulinus in Bradford Dale’ represents the conversion of Anglo-Saxons to Christianity in seventh-century Bradford. Episode 3 ‘Bradford in Norman Times’ features individuals who were bestowed land and property in Bradford (including Bolling Hall) by William the Conqueror, such as the de Lacey family. It also includes Robin Hood, who ‘is supposed to have been associated with many exploits in this part of Yorkshire, and to be buried at Kirklees’, and the legend of the Bradford Boar. Episode 4 ‘Bradford in Plantagenet Times’ recounts the sacking of the North, including Bradford, by the Scots. Episode 5 ‘Bradford in Stuart Times’ covers the English Civil War, focussing on the Battle of Adwalton Moor, the Second Siege of Bradford and Bolling Hall’s ‘Pity Poor Bradford’ ghost. Episode 6, the final episode, about ‘Bradford of the Industrial Revolution’ acknowledges the opening of Bradford’s Piece Hall, showcases Bradford’s tradition of the Bishop Blaise Procession on St Blaise’s Day, covers child labour in mills and the local Luddite activity and the local election of 1832.    

Interestingly, other cities and towns opted to stage sanitised or whimsical versions of their history, whereas Bradford dared to touch on the subjects of the divisive English Civil War, controversial child labour and corrupt politicians and politics. 

90 years on from this, Bradford is again positioning itself to showcase what the Bradford District has to offer as it enters the competition to host City of Culture in 2025.  


For more information about the ‘The Bradford Pageant of 1931’, please read Ayako Yoshino’s article on the Historical Pageant’s website:


Blog by Aamta – Our Street Gallery Volunteer

Aamta, one of our amazing Our Street Gallery Volunteers,  is an arts graduate and has been doing all the amazing social media on this project over the last few months.

In this blog, she tells us all about her creative work, and her journey to becoming a volunteer. Aamta is now on maternity leave but hopes to rejoin us with our first volunteer baby!

My name is Aamta Tul Waheed, I am British Muslim female visual artist — based in West Yorkshire, Bradford. I work with a variety of media, often explored through relational & concept art. My practice involves exploring the stigma surrounding Muslim women within the South Asian community. I explore topics such a shame, honour and culture and effects of this on Muslim women. My practice mirrors my experiences as a British Muslim woman. Throughout my work I delve deeper into the deep-rooted issues within my community such as gendered stereotypes, the female
body, cultural tensions, and the perception’s and expectations of the Muslim women.

Since leaving my Top Up degree in July 2018, myself and my friend launched Kaur & Baleem Creatives that specialised in creative events. We have successfully organised and executed a spoken word, art and music exhibition/showcase called ‘All of the World is a Stage’ at Left Bank Leeds March 29th, 2019, and a book launch event for ‘Coffee, a Notebook and Self Love’. We also organised exhibits, workshops, artist talks and spoken word throughout August 2019 at the Yorkshire Hub sponsored by Leeds City College.

We are both South Asian women, which gave us another opportunity to help open the doors for more ethnic minorities to feel confident in sharing their passion for
their crafts. Through our events we aimed to help expose artists, writers and musicians in Yorkshire and the North of England, and to engage new audiences and demographics. Our aim was to bring exposure and create a platform for artists that belong within ethnic minority and create an equal and diverse platform.

Since COVID-19 my business was put to a halt, and unfortunately could not continue. I felt depressed and upset by this as I felt as a recent graduate I was on a role! And suddenly I did not know what to do and had to start all over again. I then applied to volunteer through Bradford Museums and Galleries and joined the Our Street Gallery social media team.

Joining Our Street Gallery exposed me to how many opportunities Bradford has for the arts and culture, compared to when I was a student through 2011-2018. Our Street Gallery gave me the motivation and inspiration to get my fingers in all the pies once again and helped me see how much I can contribute to Bradford’s art and culture. I will be shortly going on maternity leave and being a volunteer helped distracted me from all my pregnancy aches and pains.

Whilst on maternity leave, I plan on keeping in touch with Bradford Museums and Galleries with the possibilities for ‘Mummy and Baby workshops’ in the gallery; going on power walks through Lister Park, holding baby sensory workshops and mummy and baby coffee mornings.

Blog by Niamh – Our Street Gallery Volunteer

Niamh has been volunteering on the Our Street Gallery project.

Whilst doing some social media for the project, Niamh is also assisting with installations of the huge billboard banners and posters which can be seen now around the district, including Lister Park, outside Cartwright Hall Art Gallery. These are her thoughts on the challenges of graduating and beginning her career during lockdown.

This time last year seems like life a lifetime ago. I was living at Uni, had just handed in my dissertation and was prepping for my degree show, all whilst turning my nose up at the prospect of a national lockdown.

If I’m being honest, graduating in such a difficult time and being forced to move back up north left me, like so many, feeling very down, isolated and displaced.

My friends and family have been utterly amazing in supporting me throughout, but it didn’t solve the issue of having little to no work, or purpose. When I left Wakefield I had no interest in returning- I thought it was redundant in providing creative opportunities. 

Fast-forward past an email graduation, a lot of realisations, learning, connecting, volunteering and engaging with my local arts community, as well as many, many tiers (and tears) later, I’m finally getting paid work. It feels amazing to finally be beginning my career, and to be able to really start looking forward.

Getting to my point, as cheesy as it is, if you keep going, you will get there. Persistence, a little leaning on those around me, and a lot of hard work has done me well.