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Changes to the Village.

About Bailiff Bridge

Changes to the Village.

Changes to the village is perhaps no different to many other small northern villagers? Early information seems to suggest the village was heavily mined with deep coal mines and some areas to the edge of Bailiff Bridge were used for open cast quarries to abstract Yorkshire stone, sandstone and clay for use by the quarry giants and brick manufacturers at nearby Hove Edge and Wyke.

In the seventeenth century and eighteenth century many of the original mills were built or converted (some of which were connected to the woollen industry for blending weaving of wools and cotton) and one of the biggest early changers occurred in 1860 when Thomas Freeman Firth & his wife’s brother J. W. Willans formed a partnership Firth Willans & Company of Heckmondwike building a successful carpet mill in nearby Heckmondwike, so in 1867 decided to expanded their carpet weaving empire from Heckmondwike to include several mills in Bailiff Bridge.

Clifton Mills a former Worsted mill becoming their main mill, in the early years that Firth’s took over mills in Bailiff Bridge they Purchased the disused former Toll House (for the princely sum of £70) that stood on the opposite corner of Birkby Lane to their main factory Clifton Mills along with a former Working Men’s Institute, not only did the build a huge multi storey office block Clifton House but they built an overhead enclosed bridge across the Birkby Lane so the bosses could walk to the mill without the need to go outside.

Willans for some unknown reason left the partnership in 1875 and the new name became T. F. Firth & Company were it went from strength to strength specialising in unique heavy duty carpets mainly for transport sector supplying fine woven carpets for Trains, Ships, Cars and Hotels along with special one off carpets for some of the richest people in the World.
All this extra work led to a vast increase in the workforce and to accommodate all these extra workers there was a huge building program that saw the houses in the village double in numbers to reach in excess of 400 dwellings.

Although T. F. Firth & Company were by far the largest employers in the village there were quite a few more mills, factories along with an assortment of shops and service suppliers to cope with the ever increasing number of people now living in the village.

Things went on in the village even through the second world war, where many local people became drafted to serve their country, many of these mills and factories was also seeing a slowdown in their order books and at the same time a reduction of the workforce was forced to divert some production through the war years and many were to make things to help the war effort.

The years following the second world war not only saw an increase in the population but also a vast building programme (Bailiff Bridge Became part of this building boom with additions to include a small Council estate Summerfield and later in the 60s Devon Way and Cornwall Crescent )which led to many factories and mills including T. F. Firth & Company working full shifts around the clock to cope with the increased orders, the next big change to effect the village came in the early 70s with the big increase of imported cheap printed carpets that flooded the market and knocked for six the more traditional expensive woven carpet making companies like Firth’s, this caused an ever decreasing market.

Also around this time with a reduced share of the market and a substantial smaller workforce T. F. Firths saw several takeovers by the Readicut Group in 1968 then again by the large Interface Group in 1997 who also had a more modern factory in nearby Shelf and despite moving and diverting most of its production to cheaper alternative carpets like moulded latex backed carpets for the car sector, artificial grass for sport ground and indoor playing areas along cheap non-woven carpets it still struggled and its workforce decreased and decreased until the final nail in the Firth’s coffin all final production was switched to nearby factories in 2000, all the last remaining workers were offered work at the mill in nearby Shelf in 2001 or made redundant.While all this was going on some of the other Mills in particular the Branxholme Mill was closed and pulled down in 1980 making room for a small industrial estate, all these changers also had a knock on effect in the village with most house owners now having a car the local small service sectors and small shops were double hit with many closing their doors as more and more people started to shop further afield and the village footfall became less and less with more people using their cars even the village Co-op closed that had been in the village since 1887.

The next big change in the village came with the demolition to most of the village mills and factories and the big house building programme that followed that not only saw the house numbers in the village double to over 1000 dwellings with more on the way, not only did this have a staggering effect on the wildlife in Bailiff but for a time caused havoc in the village, now the village although more like a small town is gradually getting back to some kind of acceptable normality and recently we have seen a gradual return of much of our wildlife.

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