Little Horton

Little Horton

WardName=Little Horton
1stCouncillor= Ian Greenwood| 1stParty= Labour Party| 2ndCouncillor= Sher Khan| 2ndParty= Labour Party| 3rdCouncillor= Naveeda Ikram
3rdParty= Labour Party

Little Horton (population 17,368 - 2001 UK census) is a Ward in Bradford Metropolitian District in the county of West Yorkshire, England, named after the de -Horton family,who were once Lords of the Manor.

As well as the area of Little Horton, the electoral ward includes the area of West Bowling, Marshfields and the Canterbury housing estate.


Little Horton is located on gently sloping land to the north west of Bradford. The area has an ancient history and is a pre-industrial settlement. It was originally an area of farm land, but the soil was so poor that arable crop farming was nearly impossible and as a result the people in the settlement had to find other means of making a living from the earliest times through manufacture and trade.

There are different ideas about what the name Horton means. The word ‘ton’ probably means farm or enclosed farmland and ‘hor’ is thought to mean grey or dirty. The ‘Little’ part of the title only refers to the fact that ‘Little Horton’ covered a smaller area of land than ‘Great Horton’. The two areas together made up the Manor of Horton.

Little Horton has a ‘multi-cultural history’ dating back to the 11th Century and perhaps even earlier. The area known as Horton has been populated in the distant past by the Angles, Norse, Danish and Norman French, as well as possibly before this by people of Celtic origin. The de - Horton’s became Lords’ of the Manor of Horton about 1294. Robert – de - Stapleton took the name Horton, when King Henry II granted him the land as a reward for services to the Crown. The title Lord of the Manor passed to several eminent Bradford families over the years, finally returning to the Horton family in 1640. The last of the Horton family to have the title ‘Lord of the Manor’ was Charles Horton Rhys in the early 19th Century.

In more recent times there is evidence of German cloth merchants coming to the area. People from the rural areas of Britain and immigrants from Ireland were drawn to Bradford and the Little Horton Area in the mid-nineteenth century, during the Industrial Revolution, to work in the growing Industries.

In the 20th Century people from the former ‘Eastern Block’ countries for example Poland, Latvia, Serbia and Russia, as well as people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Caribbean Countries, settled in Little Horton. Some of these for example the Serbs, came as refugees and asylum seekers, others came solely to achieve economic advancement by working in the mills and related industries.

Pre-industrial Little Horton

In the area known as ‘Little Horton Green’ there are still a number of farm houses and out buildings, which serve as a reminder that this was once a rural, farming district from which the name Horton was probably derived.

Typical three story weavers' cottages may be seen opposite the farms. These were used not initially to weave wool but cotton, by a man called Samuel Swaine in the 18th century. Likewise the house and the barn with the date stone 1755 were used for the manufacture and sale of cotton by a Mr Kay in the late 18th and very early 19th century.

In the pre - industrial age each Manor had a poorhouse where the destitute could go for poor relief. The poorhouse at Little Horton was one of the first buildings in the area and can still be seen today. It is now a house and was replaced by the much larger Bradford Workhouse (now Saint Luke’s Hospital) in 1855.

There were two Manor houses in Little Horton, Horton Old Hall and Horton Hall. The two Halls existed, because the Sharp family who had ownership of Little Horton for many years, were on different sides during the English Civil War (1642 – 1655) and as a result erected a second major dwelling in the area, divided from the ‘Old Hall’ by a huge wall.

In the early twentieth century Horton Hall was used as the residence of the Bishop of Bradford. Both Halls were situated opposite All Saint’s Church and were demolished among much public outcry in the 1960s.

All Saints’ Church was built in 1864, by the local Landowner and MP Sir Francis Sharp-Powell, who once lived in Horton Hall.

Prior to the 19th century Little Horton was still a very rural area and a place where wealthy merchants and entrepreneurs chose to live to escape the increasing industrialisation of the city centre. However by the end of the 19th Century most of the fields had disappeared and the area was surrounded by rows upon row of back to back terrace housing, for the people who flocked to Bradford to work in the manufacturing industries.

Little Horton in the Industrial Age

The population of Bradford increased from 13,264 in 1801 to 103,771 in 1851. This huge increase in numbers brought with it disease, hardship and a short life expectancy for most of the population. Young children in particular had a terrible time, few survived infancy and those in the poorer families who did, were sent to work long shifts in the mills as soon as they were able to do so, which was usually around four years of age. Conditions were terrible, fifteen hour days were common, no food breaks and little rest. Many children suffered from deformities caused by hard labour in the mills. Education was not an option for the majority of children. The mill owner John Wood of Little Horton was exceptional among employers in the district, in that he provided health care, basic schooling and limited the hours a child could work, in his factories. Richard Oastler stayed at Horton Hall with John Wood in September 1830 and Wood made Oastler (who was also instrumental in the fight to abolish slavery) swear on a bible, that he would campaign for better conditions for children and other employees in the mills and factories of industrial Britain. This Oastler duly did, campaigning under the banner of ‘Yorkshire Slavery’. As a result eventually the Factory Act of 1844 was passed, which limited the hours that could be worked by children in the mills.

There were many business people and land owners in the Little Horton area, who as well as employing Oastler's 'Yorkshire Slaves' also traditionally had links with the transatlantic slave trade. Mary Skelton of Little Horton left her share in a plantation, Yorkshire Hall, in Demerara. along with all its negroes and slaves, to her three sons, This was in 1823, ten years before an Act was passed that outlawed slavery in the British colonies.

Next to All Saints Church on Little Horton Green is All Saints School. This is an early church elementary school, which was established as a result of Forster’s 1870 Education Act. The Act encouraged both the Church of England and local councils to provide schools for all children of elementary age (under fourteen years of age) Forster was MP for Bradford and his efforts to make education compulsory for all children, helped make Bradford a pioneer in education.

Bradford Council formed a School Board which had the task of establishing ‘Board Schools’ to supplement the schools provided by the church authorities. School Boards were elected by people in the local area. One of the elected members of the School Board in Bradford was a woman called Margaret McMillan.

Margaret McMillan was responsible for setting up a system that checked the health of children in the elementary schools, she was also instrumental in encouraging physical education to be included as part of the curriculum and in convincing the local School Board to provide school meals for children in their care. Margaret McMillan was committed to promoting the benefits of nursery education and established the first nurseries in the country in Bradford. She argued that the early years of a child’s life were the most important in education.

Today the Initial Teacher Training College, situated in Little Horton on Trinity Road, is named in memory of this pioneer of education and is known as the Margaret McMillan Building.

Religious diversity in Little Horton

Even in the pre - industrial age, Little Horton had a reputation for religious diversity and there were many Presbyterian and other non-conformist chapels and churches in the area, for example the Methodist Church and Baptist Church on Little Horton Lane. An old Church now houses the YMCA and the Methodist church has become the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Anglican (Church of England) church of All Saints was built in 1894, with the money of F.S. Powell who lived at Horton Hall. This elaborate building is an example of the wealth and success of Bradford’s Victorian industrialists.

Today the history of religious diversity continues. There are masjids (mosques), mandirs (Hindu temples), a Moravian church, black Pentecostal churches, Eastern European Churches, an Orthodox Church, Unitarian Church, Quaker Meeting House and a range of chapels in the Little Horton area.

Population changes

The changes in the population during the late nineteenth and twentieth century have had a major impact on the character of Little Horton. The area is home to a very diverse, multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi - faith community

Distinct, close knit communities of Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians and Lithuanians settled in Little Horton during and after the Second World War. Some were refugees, others European Voluntary Workers, who though they came initially as temporary workers, soon made their home in Bradford.

The first migrants from South East Asia also arrived after the Second World War. A group of Pakistani men who had been merchant seamen were amongst the first in 1944 and they initially lodged with Eastern European migrants in Howard Street.

Gujarati Indian, Pakistani, East African and African Caribbean migrants also settled in the Little Horton area from the mid fifties onwards. The initial migrants tended to settle in areas within close proximity to one another, living with people who shared a common culture, heritage, language and often religion. These migrants filled the post war labour shortages in the mills and factories in the city. Typically most were young men who expected to earn money and then return home. For many this became a ‘myth of return’ they were joined by wives and families and like earlier migrants made Bradford their home.

All these migrant groups established places of worship, often taking over old buildings. The Polish Catholic Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Jamia Masjid for example, were all established in buildings that had once had other uses.

Food shops and restaurants in Little Horton reflect the diverse nature of the people presently resident in the area. The close proximity of the University and College, with their international student populations also has an influence on the area: e.g. the emergence of a student quarter at the bottom of Morley Street and Great Horton Road.


Little Horton has a long and distinguished history. It has a unique multi -cultural heritage and people connected to the area have been at the forefront of social reform.

Little Horton continues to evolve and change. As the early migrant groups which settled in the area have become established and economically successful, many have moved out to the suburbs. In recent years once again new migrant workers from Europe have been drawn to the area, particularly from Poland (with the result that the Polish Church and Social Club are once again experiencing an increase in congregation numbers and use) Likewise Black African Ethiopian Christians studying at the University, currently use the Serbian Orthodox Church and are a welcome addition to the congregation that worships in this building.

The youth culture of the University Quarter continues to flourish and evolve with new bars, shops, restaurants and clubs, being developed to serve the needs of an ever changing population.


Sixth formers from Bradford schools, Education Bradford and Carlton Bolling CLC, have researched and made a DVD of a trail of Little Horton. This is accompanied by a GPS satellite trail of the area. Both will be available September 2007 and are aimed at Upper Key Stage Two and Key Stage Three children.



Bradford Metropolitan Libraries, Local Studies Department, Central Library, Bradford. Telephone: 01274 – 433688.


Cudworth (1886) Rambles Round Horton Mountain Press

Education Bradford (2006) Bradford’s Religious Communities Education Bradford

Firth. G. (1990) Bradford and the Industrial Revolution Firth. G (1997) A History of Bradford Philimone and Co

Fieldhouse. J (1972) Bradford Longman

Hanson. A. (2000) Sharp to Blunt Bradford Arts Museum and Library Service

Wright.D.G & Jowett.J.A (Eds) (1982) Victorian Bradford Bradford City Libraries


* [ BCSP] (Internet Explorer only)
* [ BBC election results]
* [ Council ward profile] (pdf)

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