BCAFC programme feature: vs Bolton Wanderers 6th March, 2021

Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1995/96 when Bolton Wanderers were the visitors to Valley Parade for a Third Round FA Cup tie.

The cover of the programme in 1995/96 was one of the most distinctive to have been used in the history of the Bradford City publication, incorporating half a dozen archive images from preceding decades. It was nonetheless a throwback to the traditional way of producing a programme with the cover remaining unchanged – other than the name of the opposition – for each issue. The motive for this was once again that of economy and the bright cover disguised the fact that the content was minimal.

In February, 1994 the Bradford printer Wheeldens had been displaced by the in-coming chairman, Geoffrey Richmond. From the outset his motive was to minimise the cost of the programme whilst also increasing its financial contribution and there was a high advert content in the 36 pages of that produced in 1995/96. Whilst the new heritage cover represented an improvement, by contemporary standards the match programmes between 1994 and 1996 were still mediocre. It was not until 1996/97 that Richmond made a concerted effort to improve the publication and the era of ‘match day magazines’ at Valley Parade began.

There have only been 50 first team competitive fixtures between Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers with 15 games having been won by City and 18 by Bolton. Of those there have been two FA Cup ties, both won by Bolton (including a 3-0 win in January, 1996) and four League Cup games of which two resulted in a City victory and one in favour of Bolton. In the Football League Trophy in 2019 there was a draw. It means that in League competition, Bolton have the edge with 15 wins compared to 13 for the Bantams whilst there have been 15 draws.

Despite defeat by Bolton in the FA Cup in 1995/96 we still made it to Wembley that year and history was made on 26th May, 1996 when Bradford City played at the stadium for the first time in the club’s history, winning the League Division Two (third tier) Play-Off Final.

Our last League victory over Bolton was in April, 1993 when we won 2-1 at Valley Parade. Possibly our most memorable victory in modern times was on 6th May, 1985 when our 2-0 win at Burnden Park secured the Division Three Championship.

Meetings between the sides were relatively commonplace before the last war but subsequent to the 1934/35 season when Bolton won promotion to Division One, we did not meet again in League competition until 1971/72. The cover of the programme from the game between the sides in February, 1935 (a 1-1 draw) is reproduced on this page, an eight page issue that was typical of the era and indeed, until the 1960s.

Even with the emergence of ‘match day magazines’ the basic content of a programme has continued to revolve around the same ingredients: statements of club health by the team manager and/or club chairman; detail of fixtures and results; supporters’ club announcements; a brief background to the opposition club including pen pictures of its players; team line-ups; and advertisements. One feature that no longer exists is a section to record half-time scores. Both the 1996 issue and that from 1935 provide a unique insight into social and economic trends, an invaluable record for future historians.

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.

BCAFC programme feature: vs Mansfield Town 2nd March, 2021

Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1992/93.

The cover of the programme is a reminder of the diagonal design shirts that were worn between 1991-93 with the distinctive two-tone blue away shirts. The striking kit design accompanied the restoration of the official ‘bantams’ identity with the current club crest having been introduced in 1991.

The new crest incorporated the traditional shield and the BCAFC monogram that had featured in earlier versions. On top of the shield sits a bantam. Unfortunately, the depiction of the bird in white overlooked the fact that when the nickname had originally been introduced in 1908, emphasis was given to claret and amber plumage!

As a publication, the 1992/93 match day programme looks very dated by today’s standards and at the time it compared poorly with those of other clubs. The kindest observation to be made is that it was economical in content. A distinguishing feature however was the colour action photograph on the cover that was changed with each issue

The meeting with Mansfield on 2nd January, 1993 resulted in a dour 0-0 draw. Having been relegated from the second tier in 1990 there had been little promise of a serious challenge at promotion but by the end of 1992 there were hopes that the outlook was brighter. The point from the Mansfield game left Bradford City in 6th position behind leaders Stoke City, Leyton Orient, West Bromwich Albion, Hartlepool United and Rotherham United.

Other sides in our division that season included Bolton, Brighton, Swansea, Burnley, Fulham, Reading, Hull, Bournemouth, Wigan, Blackpool and Huddersfield (NB bottom placed on 2nd January, 1993) all of whom subsequently played in the Premier League which was then in its inaugural season.

City finished 1992/93 in 10th position whilst Mansfield Town were relegated (22nd). Huddersfield Town meanwhile escaped the drop and finished 15th. The early 1990s was something of a doldrums period for Bradford City, finishing 7th in 1993/94 and 14th in 1994/95 before that memorable Play-Off victory at Wembley in 1996 and our return to the second tier. The prospect of playing in the Premier League however was then still something beyond our wildest dreams.

Subsequent to our meeting in January, 1993, Bradford City did not play against Mansfield Town again until 2007/08. Of course, that followed our relegation to the basement division which came only six years after our two season spell in the Premier League.

In total there have now been 65 first team contests between the sides, of which City have won 25 and lost 23. Ten of those have been cup games with City undefeated against Mansfield in the FA Cup (winning four and drawing one) and of meetings in the League Cup, City have won three and lost just once whilst Mansfield can boast victory in the Freight Rover Associate Members Cup in 1985. In league competition therefore Mansfield have the edge with 21 victories against City’s 18.

Despite securing four points from Bradford City in the 2007/08 season it was insufficient to prevent Mansfield Town finishing second to bottom and losing its League status. The Stags subsequently spent five seasons in the National League, winning the championship in 2012/13 and hence last season was the first encounter between the sides since 2007/08.

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.

BCAFC programme feature: vs Leyton Orient 23rd February, 2021

Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1969/70 – the last visit of Barrow AFootball programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1984/1985 when we played Orient during our Division Three Championship winning season.

The cover of our programme for the 1984/85 season was crude to say the least and appears to have been drawn by tracing the outline of an action photograph. It is highly unlikely that a design agency had been engaged for the purpose.

I doubt that I am the only Bradford City supporter delighted to see Leyton Orient back in the EFL after a two year exile in the National League between 2017-19. Relegation from the third tier in 2015 was followed by relegation from the basement two years later but the manner in which the club collapsed after the disappointment of a play-off defeat in 2014 is something that we can relate to.

Our fixture with Leyton Orient last March never took place due to the Covid emergency and so today is the club’s first visit to Valley Parade since the meeting in November, 2014 that ended with a 3-1 home victory and this is only the second season that the two clubs have been rivals in the basement division. Of the previous twenty-one seasons that we have been matched at the same level, twelve have been in the third tier, eight in the second and one (last season) in the fourth.

All of the meetings in the old Division Two were before the war with the first game between the sides in December, 1905 (a 3-0 home win in Bradford) and the last in September, 1926 (a 1-3 home defeat). Before World War One we defeated Clapton Orient (as the club was then known) four times and lost only once in six meetings between 1905/06 and 1907/08. Bradford City finished as champions of Division Two in 1908 and achieved a double over the London side in that season.

During the 1920s Clapton Orient was something of a bogey side for City who lost five and drew five of the ten games between 1922/23 and 1926/27. Following the Paraders’ relegation to Division Three (North) in 1927 it meant that our paths did not cross again until September, 1969. Since then the results have been pretty even with City winning ten games compared to nine by Orient / Leyton Orient.

In aggregate City have won 14 and lost 15 league games and 12 have been drawn (including that last season in London). The one meeting between the sides in the FA Cup was at Valley Parade in November, 2008 which the visitors won.

Our highest victory, 4-0 was achieved in March, 1991 (the programme of which is featured). This was the third home game in succession that the Bantams had scored four goals against the O’s with the two preceding meetings at Valley Parade in February, 1985 and January, 1984 both ending 4-1. The game in 1984 is remembered as the ninth game in a run of ten successive victories that saw the club rise from the relegation zone in meteoric fashion. The programme for the game in 1985 – the season when Bradford City finished as champions of Division Three – is also featured. When the clubs had met the previous September in London there was little indication that City might top the division after a disappointing 0-1 reverse.

The programme for our meeting in December, 2013 which finished 1-1 had Jon McLaughlin (now at Rangers) on its cover and is also reproduced below. 

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.

History makers?

Under the new management team of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars, Bradford City’s points haul of 27 from the last 12 games is consistent with promotion form. Over a 46 game season on a pro-rata basis it would yield in excess of 100 points and the uplift in performances has lifted the club from 22nd on 12th December to 11th. Whereas in December the talk had been of a possible relegation battle, now there is credible discussion about reaching the play-offs. Given that only five points and a game in hand separates BCAFC from Salford in 7th position it is entirely possible.

Historically, around 75 points has been sufficient to guarantee a play-off place and 85 to secure automatic promotion from the fourth tier under three points for a win. This season it seems far more open such that 70 and 80 points respectively may suffice. To reach the play-offs this season means that City would need at least 30 (and surely no more than 35) points from the remaining 18 games – hardly a massive stretch based on current form.

Parallels have been made with the 1983/84 and 1986/87 seasons when Bradford City lifted themselves from the bottom of the table (third and second tiers respectively). In 1983/84 for example, City finished 7th having been 23rd on 12th November, 1983 when they looked doomed with only eight points from 15 games. In 1986/87 there was a similar transformation. On 3rd January, 1987 the club was bottom of the table, three points adrift from safety – with 20 points from 22 games – yet finished the season in 10th place.

In neither 1983/84 or 1986/87 did the club mount a realistic promotion challenge, in the main due to the fact that the turnarounds came too late. In 1983/84 the side came within touching distance of promotion but by Easter in 1984 it was accepted that we had only an outside chance. In 1963/64 however City went from 22nd on 9th September, 1963 (when they had just six points from nine games based on three for a win) to finish 5th. The 1963/64 campaign was one of the most dramatic in the club’s history even though it did not end in success. Had the team (pictured above) not stumbled in its penultimate game that season it seems pretty certain that promotion from the fourth tier would have been achieved.

Back in 1963/64 the recovery had started much sooner and by the end of 1963 City were already in a midtable position (15th). Over the new year there was a similar period of peak form as now with 27 points from 12 games that lifted City to 6th by the end of February, 1964. Between 25th January and 18th April, 1964 there were only two defeats in a 17 game spell that yielded 41 points and which included five consecutive wins.

The fate of the club was determined by a 0-2 defeat at home to promotion rivals Workington on 22nd April, 1964 in the penultimate game of the season which attracted a bumper crowd of 17,974 to Valley Parade – a defeat that was attributed to nerves and big match pressure. The outcome of that game meant that the club’s hopes depended on other promotion rivals, Exeter City failing to get a point in their final match at Workington and City winning their game at York City.

A 0-0 draw at Borough Park rendered the result at Bootham Crescent academic and, given that the evening kick-off at York came after the finish of the Workington v Exeter match (which was played on the same day but in the afternoon), the City players went into their game in the knowledge that promotion had been denied. Of course, had City beaten Workington and then drawn at York it would have made their position unassailable and there could have been a party to remember in York that night. To add insult to injury, City suffered a second consecutive defeat for the first time in seven months and the season ended in disappointment.

The outcome of the 1963/64 season was cruel after the club’s revival under manager, Bob Brocklebank. To have come so close to promotion was a remarkable achievement, all the more so considering that Bradford City had finished 23rd in Division Four twelve months before.

The recent transformation at Valley Parade has drawn comparison with the 1983/84 season when there was a similar turnaround, in that case one inspired by the return of Bobby Campbell from Derby County. That campaign is best remembered for the record-breaking ten consecutive wins between 26th November, 1983 and 3rd February, 1984 and whilst the next ten games yielded only 16 points, the club was defeated just twice. Thereafter some of the momentum was lost with only five points in the last six games (which included consecutive defeats in the last two games) and the club’s cause was not helped by fixture congestion that required nine games to be played in a three week period between 21st April and 12th May, 1984. Exhaustion was therefore probably a factor for the drop in form. Nevertheless, had the transformation come sooner there is little doubt that the club would have challenged for promotion.

In 1986/87 the transformation in the second half of the season was less marked but nonetheless in the last ten games the team was defeated just once and won seven times. The significance of the 1983/84 and 1986/87 seasons however was that they provided a springboard to promotion challenges the following campaign. In 1984/85 for instance City finished as champions of the third tier and in 1987/88 finished fourth in the second tier, narrowly missing promotion through defeat in the play-offs. (By contrast, in 1964/65 City finished 19th in Division Four, explained primarily by the failure to replace Rodney Green – scorer of 29 goals during the 1963/64 campaign – who was sold in the 1964 close season to meet financial pressures.)

The graph below shows that after 28 games and 40 points we are narrowly tracking behind the 1963/64 and 1983/84 seasons when we had secured 43 points in each at this stage. By contrast we are well ahead of 1986/87 when we had only 28 points. (NB In the 1986/87 season there were only 42 games played in the old second division.)

In 1963/64 the club managed 12 wins and two draws from the final 18 games, equivalent to 38 points and to repeat that (which would give us a total of 78 points) would most certainly secure a play-off place this season, maybe even put us within touching distance of promotion. To put this into context, in the last twelve games the club has had eight wins and there have been three draws.

To sustain the current form would be truly remarkable but it is unrealistic to believe that there won’t be setbacks with the occasional surprise result in the next three months. We can expect more difficult games like the one last night against Leyton Orient with visitors coming to Valley Parade and adopting similar tactics. What counts in our favour is that we have a rejuvenated squad and you sense that some of the teams that were among the leaders in the first half of the season are beginning to tire. The congested fixture list is a potential risk but on the face of it the size of the squad allows for player rotation. The confidence and self-belief in the team is also another massive advantage. In other words, the prize is there for the taking.

The two seasons – 1963/64 and 1983/84 – are the only ones where the club has recovered in spectacular fashion from the foot of the division to within touching distance of promotion places. In those years there was no play-off at the end of the season which gives more chance that 2020/21 could yet be a promotion season. If we did achieve that goal, the mid-season transformation would be unprecedented and 2020/21 could rightly be described as history making. However, irrespective whether promotion is achieved or not there is already a strong platform upon which to build for next season.

POSTSCRIPT – The season 1961/62 was another where the club had a turnaround in the second half of the season. During the first 27 games of the season there were just seven wins and seven draws (28 points) but the last 19 games brought 15 wins and two draws with just two defeats (47 points). The club finished 5th, just outside the promotion places. Strictly speaking it managed 75 points under three for a win but of those, the three derived from games with Accrington Stanley were expunged arising from the club’s liquidation mid-season. I didn’t include the season in the analysis because strictly speaking the bulk of it was spent in midtable and there was only one weekend when the team came close to the re-election zone. For the record refer graphs below.

John Dewhirst

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. The menu above gives access to content published in the BCAFC matchday programme, features on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

You can also find content about the history of BCAFC , archive photos of Valley Parade as well as features about the origins of sport in Bradford.

My Twitter account is @jpdewhirst – followers can expect a variety of stuff but in the main my photographs, archive images, Bradford sports artefacts and BCAFC / BPA memorabilia.

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. (Available only online from the link.)

Mean Old Scene: Lumb Lane, Bradford 1987

The following images were taken in February, 1987 with an Olympus OM40. I rediscovered them recently whilst having a tidy and found it fascinating to see how things had changed, not least with the disappearance of Drummonds Mill which burned down in January, 2016. They are not excellent photographs but I have uploaded them as an historical record.

As the photographs show, the area was badly run down with undisguised poverty but clues remained of the fact that it had once been a prosperous and fashionable part of Manningham.

Around this time initiatives were starting to get underway to refurbish many of the properties, in particular on Southfield Square but considerable work was left to be undertaken. Peel Square which dated from 1851 is featured in the images but had yet to be renovated.

Speedy Tyres stood at the corner of Southfield Square and Lumb Lane.
The gothic building in the centre of the above photo was the old Bradford Grammar School (latterly Hanson GS) which was by then derelict and burned down shortly after.
A mosque now stands on this area near Westgate which then served as a car park.
The Perseverance was nearby Speedy Tyres but was closed down in 1985 following a drugs bust.

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. I am interested in local history and in particular industrial, sporting and railway history but you will also find content about my favourite band, The Stranglers. The menu above gives access to content published in the BCAFC matchday programme, features on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

I have unearthed other old photographs that I took of Bradford as well as my travels in the Soviet bloc around this time and will upload those also on an ad hoc basis.

My photos of Salt’s Mill at the time of closure in 1986

For something else completely different, you can find my photographs of the DPRK from this link.

Refer to the menu above for links to other blog features.

My Twitter account is @jpdewhirst – followers can expect a variety of stuff but in the main my photographs, archive images, Bradford sports artefacts and BCAFC / BPA memorabilia.

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. (Available only online from the link.)

Copies of my other books in the bantamspast History Revisited series can be purchased online as well as in Waterstones (Wool Exchange) and the Salts Mill bookshop when they reopen after lockdown.

Why is Bradford City AFC known as the Bantams?

A lot of visitors find this blog after asking that question in Google. The following page provides links to features that tell the story of the different identities that have been adopted during the history of the club and its predecessor, Manningham FC:

About BCAFC colours, crests and nicknames – Wool City Rivals

The principal identities have been the civic boar and the bantams nickname and you can discover the origins of both. You can also discover the various monogram badges that have been used.

I occasionally get questions from people who have inherited or discovered old Bradford badges and I am happy to assist as best I can. You can contact me via this site or by Twitter DM to @jpdewhirst

BCAFC programme feature: vs Barrow 30th January, 2021

Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1969/70 – the last visit of Barrow AFC to Valley Parade.

A welcome back to Valley Parade

Barrow AFC first played at Valley Parade in January, 1906 in an FA Cup tie. Bradford City were then members of the second division having been elected to the Football League less than three years before whilst Barrow was a non-league side, members of the Lancashire Combination. City defeated the visitors by 3-2 and progressed to the second round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. It was reported that it was a narrow victory with ‘wretched play’ by the home side and according to the Leeds & Yorkshire Mercurymiskicking, hesitation and bad shooting spoiled one opportunity after another in a way which really merited defeat.’ The Barrow players on the other hand were credited with a plucky display.

The two sides did not meet again until the 1927/28 season following City’s relegation to Division Three (North) of which Barrow had been founder members in 1921. Prior to the outbreak of war there were eight games between them in two separate spells of which City won five and lost only once that included a record 8-0 win in March, 1929.

With the resumption of football competition in 1946 they were again fellow members of the northern third division. Prior to the formation of the national four division structure in 1958 there were 24 meetings between them in which honours were even with nine wins apiece.  

In 1958 City became founder members of the new Division Three whilst Barrow joined Division Four. With City’s relegation in 1961 the rivalry was renewed and there were twelve games between the sides up to and including Barrow’s only promotion season in the Football League in 1966/67. Of those games, City won five – which included a double against Barrow in that last season – and lost four.

Following City’s promotion in 1969 the two were fellow members of Division Three in 1969/70. At the end of that season Barrow AFC was relegated and in 1972 lost its membership of the Football League with Hereford United being elected in the club’s place.  Prior to this season therefore our last meeting had been in April, 1970 and the programme of that game is reproduced for today’s issue. For the record, the game was drawn 3-3 in front of 4,451 whilst the fixture at Holker Street the previous December had resulted in an away win with a crowd of just 2,836.

The cover of the programme in 1970 featured the City Gent, a caricature of the then chairman, Stafford Heginbotham. The 1966 World Cup tournament had a major impact on the emergence of new identities among English clubs and the World Cup Willy character inspired the City Gent at Valley Parade. It was introduced to Valley Parade in November, 1965 (the month after Stafford Heginbotham and George Ide had taken control of the club) where it was used on posters advertising forthcoming games. The character appeared on the cover of the club programme from March, 1966 and continued to be used until 1974.

At the time of its introduction, Heginbotham was only 33 years old which explains the fresh face of the City Gent. Beyond any doubt the City Gent character proved popular with supporters and it was the unanimous choice of title for the supporters’ magazine when we launched it in 1984. The City Gent was a common choice for a tattoo design among a good number of fans but there was an alarming inconsistency as to how the character was depicted.

The City Gent character symbolised modernisation and change at Valley Parade and the portrayal of a character with bowler hat and briefcase also implied that Bradford meant business (a slogan later adopted by the local chamber of commerce in conjunction with Bradford Corporation, to promote the city). It is quite possible that Stafford Heginbotham saw himself as the personification of a modern entrepreneur and hence the City Gent was something a narcissistic expression. Even Geoffrey Richmond did nothing similar.

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.

BCAFC programme feature: vs Port Vale 29th December, 2020

Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1998/1999 when we were promoted to the Premier League.

The fixture with Port Vale at Valley Parade was particularly memorable that season and the game on 29th September, 1998 finished with a 4-0 home victory with a brace of goals scored by Lee Mills against his old club. At this day 22 years ago we were positioned fourth in the second division behind Sunderland, Ipswich and Birmingham whilst Port Vale were fourth from bottom. At that time Morecambe were members of the Conference Premier having been promoted from the Northern Premier League in 1995 (and gained EFL status in 2007).

In 1998 the standard of the Bradford City publication improved considerably having previously been a very basic affair. Between 1996-2002 it assumed the title Claret & Amber, then Bantams World between 2002-11, The Bantams in 2011/12 before resorting to The Parader from the start of the 2012/13 season which continues to this day.

The title of The Parader is not new having originally been used between 1932 and 1940, in 1978/79 and then for part of the 1981/82 season. It had also been applied as the title of supporter yearbooks in 1951 and 1952. The title of The Parader has thus been the most used whereas The Bantams has been the least, for the second half of 1981/82, 1982/83 and in 2011/12 only. To date these are the only titles that have been adopted for the match day publication and as far supporters are concerned it has always been known simply as ‘the programme’.

A collection of programmes from the last twenty odd years attests to the variety of opposition at Valley Parade, a reflection of City’s movement through the divisions. What is also notable about programmes of the modern era is the standard of the publication compared to prior periods. In the last twenty years it became more appropriate to describe it as a ‘match day magazine’ than a traditional programme per se and this has been a phenomenon at most clubs, Port Vale and Morecambe included.

By contrast programmes from earlier seasons seem distinctly primitive. Nevertheless, what older programmes lacked in layout, colour and design they were arguably more distinctive and far more unique between different clubs. Nowadays, match day magazines are far more similar from one club to the next although what distinguished the Port Vale publication quite recently was the adoption of old cover designs and the use of historic imagery – much the same as the initiative at Valley Parade this season.

Collectors will also highlight the fact that the match day publications have become much bigger in size and content as well as bulkier through the use of thicker, better quality paper. Whereas previously you could store the issues from around four complete seasons in a single shoebox, now you’d be lucky to fit the first half of a season in the same space.

A combination of reasons has caused the decline in the number of programmes being sold at football grounds despite the improvements in quality. Of course, the biggest factor behind the trend has been the impact of the internet and availability of online news and media content.

Around twenty years ago football memorabilia (including programmes) became highly collectable as investments in their own right. Whereas you could previously accumulate a collection of old programmes at relatively low cost, the prices became prohibitive and I am sure that this was a factor in the decline in the popularity of programme collecting. Despite a subsequent drop in values, the interest among younger fans in collecting is now much diminished. Not only are fewer fans buying current issues, so too there is now less interest in collecting historic programmes.

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.

Lockdown photos of Saltaire and Salt’s Mill

During lockdown I have been tweeting my photos of Saltaire which is within walking distance of home and hence a regular focus of my photography. In response to requests from a number of people I have selected my favourite shots of those taken recently of the mill and the village. I use a variety of lenses and occasionally revert to old fashioned film (which is as refreshing as casting aside digital music for the sound of vinyl albums).

Also on this blog… my photos of Salt’s Mill from 1986

The VISIT BRADFORD and Saltaire Village websites provide background information about Saltaire and its attractions.

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. I am interested in local history and in particular industrial, sporting and railway history but you will also find content about my favourite band, The Stranglers. The menu above gives access to content published in the BCAFC matchday programme, features on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

I have unearthed other old photographs that I took of Bradford as well as my travels in the Soviet bloc around this time and will upload those also on an ad hoc basis. For something else completely different, you can find my photographs of the DPRK from this link.

Refer to the menu above for links to other blog features.

I tweet photos from @jpdewhirst many of which feature Saltaire. Once lockdown is over I am looking forward to taking photographs further afield. For now I can’t exactly complain at what is on my doorstep and from that perspective at least it is not onerous to comply with the lockdown requirement of remaining local. (I suspect that many people have rediscovered the fact that the Bradford district has much to offer a photography enthusiast, as highlighted on the VISIT BRADFORD website.)

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. Copies of my other books in the bantamspast History Revisited series can be purchased in the Salts Mill bookshop when it reopens after lockdown.

New Mill by the River Aire
New Mill by night, 27th January 2021

The end of textile manufacture at Salts Mill, 1986

In 1985 I bought my first SLR camera, an Olympus OM40 and quite recently I came across prints of my early photography. On this blog are photos from when I worked in Salts Mill helping to count the stock pending sale to Drummonds in around April, 1986 which preceded the closure of the mill.

Whilst most were of the spinning sheds there are also shots of the area that currently accommodates the Hockney Gallery, diner and retail units. It is a long way removed from the environment of The Diner at Salts, a favourite haunt of my family for Sunday breakfast or lunch. [Link here to the Salts Mill website]

Back in 1986 I got into trouble for wandering off taking the pics but I am glad that I did. It was a poignant experience to witness the closure of the business and the end of a chapter in the history of the mill. It was also a massive privilege to be able to see the final workings of textile manufacture in Saltaire. The financial burden of Illingworth Morris (who owned Salts of Saltaire) was the upkeep of the mill and for all we knew, it was destined either to be demolished or left to rot. Indeed, maintenance of the physical infrastructure of Salts Mill had already been cut back to minimal levels of upkeep. No-one could imagine that someone like Jonathan Silver might revitalise it in a new creation.

The plant and machinery was antiquated and much would have been at least fifty years old, probably more. By then the most recent capital investment and renewal would have been at least ten years’ old. Tellingly, the bulk of that constituted Italian or German machinery whereas it was the older equipment that carried the names of textile engineering companies in Bradford, Keighley or Halifax.

(*I have another selection of images from around the same time of a spinning mill in East Ardsley which will be uploaded shortly and these show the antiquated machinery.)

Salts Mill in June, 2020
The front of Salts Mill from Victoria Road, Saltaire in June, 2020
Salts Mill 1986

I am sharing these old images as a record of local history. Whilst I have no objection to them being circulated on social media I would ask that I am credited and a link provided to this site. More of my photos from the era will be uploaded to Twitter (@jpdewhirst) and to this blog also. Anyone wanting to see a far better standard of Bradford mill photographs, including of the final days of Salts Mill as a textile factory, should look for the work of Ian Beesley and in particular his compilation Through the Mill.

My apologies for the condition of my photos. Although I have been able to scan from the original negatives, some are discoloured by streaks of light shading which I assume arose from the roll of film being prematurely exposed to light.

Being sentimental about the mills…

It is tempting to glamorise the old mills and mourn their loss. Indeed, the demise of the textile industry wiped out much of the character and tradition of places such as Bradford, Huddersfield or Halifax like other northern towns across the Pennines. Hence the sentimentality for the old mills like that for old football grounds or railway stations of a long gone era. These photographs serve as a reminder of how decrepit they had become and, as with football grounds such as Valley Parade, they were probably also unsafe.

It is now difficult to imagine that in a past life the mills were loud and often inhospitable places. Many of the old mills that survive offer such sanitised environments – such as Salts Mill – with urban living, chic dining and boutique shopping. Others have similarly been converted to new trendy offices. Yet the working conditions for textile manufacturing were altogether different and frankly unpleasant with the noise, airborne particles and humidity to contend with. In earlier decades those conditions would have been even worse.

The expansion of third world competition from the 1960s meant that textiles became a race to the bottom with low wage rates and short-termism. By the 1970s many businesses were clinging on to survive another year and few had a long term vision. The industry was much contracted by the end of the 1980s but economies of scale proved elusive and by the end of the 1990s it had virtually disappeared. Twenty years ago I worked in one of the last remaining textile firms in Bradford and saw for myself the final demise of the industry as major UK retailers opted for foreign production to keep prices low. All that remains now is the physical footprint of how they shaped northern towns and cities such as Bradford.

It is frightening to think what could have become of Salt’s Mill had not Jonathan Silver rescued the estate and replicated what had been achieved at Dean Clough, Halifax. In 1986 for example Salt’s Mill had a very uncertain future with no guarantee of survival. Indeed, by the mid 1980s old mills were being demolished at an accelerating rate and others were disappearing through arson and falling apart through disrepair or abandonment. What was lacking was the imagination to find alternative uses for the structures – once demolished it was too late and it is difficult to argue that the sheds or brownfield sites that stand in place of old mills have necessarily enhanced the urban environment.

I believe that the above photograph was taken where The Salts Diner is now situated.

The final images are of Saltaire in 1987 by which time the mill was standing empty prior to its re-incarnation…

Thanks for visiting my blog, the content of which is mainly – although not exclusively – about Bradford City AFC. I am interested in local history and in particular industrial, sporting and railway history but you will also find content about my favourite band, The Stranglers. The above menu at the top of the page gives access to content published in the BCAFC matchday programme, features on local history as well as my reviews of sundry sports books that have local coverage.

I have unearthed other old photographs that I took of Bradford as well as my travels in the Soviet bloc around this time and will upload those also on an ad hoc basis. For something else completely different, you can find my photographs of the DPRK from this link.

Refer to the menu above for links to other blog features.

I tweet photos from @jpdewhirst many of which feature Saltaire. During lockdown I am remaining within walking distance of home in Moorhead and hence my photography will be of local sites. Link here to my lockdown photos of Saltaire village and Salt’s Mill.

*** Details of my new book (2020) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals – A History in Colour which tells the story of the rivalry of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League, 1908-70. Copies of my other books in the bantamspast History Revisited series can be purchased in the Salts Mill bookshop when it reopens after lockdown.

Saltaire station in 2020.