Records of Bradford Friends First Day School

Scope and Content

Minutes, 1850-1941 (7 vols.) [N 120-126]; Minutes of Sabbath School evening reading meetings, with programmes, 1870-1873 (1 vol.) [N 130]; Jubilee souvenir history, 1850-1900, 1900 [N 119]; Correspondence of First Day School Association Fund, 1942-1943 [N 151/1-7]

Administrative / Biographical History

A Friends First Day School opened in Bradford in March 1850, on the initiative of mill owner John Priestman. He and his partner James Ellis had already established a Ragged School in a building near the Soke Flour Mill. Children from a neighbouring street were taught there on weekdays. The First Day School used the same premises on Sundays to teach reading, spelling and scripture knowledge. 69 children from very poor families in the local area were admitted. Writing was not taught until 1854, and evening classes began a few years later. A Juvenile Temperance Society (later known as a Band of Hope) and a Savings Fund were both established. John Priestman was the first superintendent of the school and on resigning in 1859, he was replaced by George Holt. In 1862, the school moved into purpose-built rooms at Bradford Meeting House in Wakefield Road. By 1865 the majority of scholars came from less deprived working class families and classes for young men were offered. In the 1870s attempts were made to introduce meetings for worship for scholars (this work was devolved to a Mission Society in 1883). A branch of the school opened in an eating house in Bolton Road, but met with local opposition and did not survive many months. A separate Adult School was established in 1875. When the new Meeting House in Fountain Street opened in 1877, the First Day School moved into a new schoolroom there. Its work was assisted by a donation of 459 from the Bradford Friends School Association the following year. Membership and attendance tripled over the period to 1883, with 424 scholars on the school register at its peak. Branches at Whetley Lane Board School and Otley Road Board School opened in 1885 and later affiliated to the Adult School. On the death of George Holt in 1890, Frederic Spinks and Charles Binns were appointed joint superintendents. By 1900, membership had declined to 158; by 1930 it stood at 87 and by the date of the last recorded teachers' meeting in April 1941, had reduced to 15. The school was closed soon after that date.


The records are numbered and arranged according to the system used when they were in Carlton Hill Meeting House

Access Information

The conditions of deposit include a clause requiring written prior permission from a Friend Custodian for access to consult current legal documents and any material less than fifty years old

Acquisition Information

The collection of archives of the Society of Friends formerly held at the Friends Meeting House at Carlton Hill, Leeds


In English

Other Finding Aids

Contents listed in Handlist 99, Inventory of the records of Brighouse, Knaresborough, Leeds, and Settle Monthly Meetings of the Society of Friends formerly preserved at the Friends Meeting House, Carlton Hill, Leeds, 2nd edition, 1997

Conditions Governing Use

As with access, the photocopying of current legal documents and any material less than fifty years old requires the permission of a Friend Custodian

Related Material

Related material in Leeds University Library: Records of Bradford Preparative Meeting, Bradford ("Heaton") Friends Adult School and Bradford Friends Band of Hope


See Jubilee souvenir history of Bradford Friends First Day School 1850-1900 (1900); N. B. Roper, "The contribution of the non-conformists to the development of education in Bradford in the 19th century" (unpublished M.Ed. thesis, University of Leeds, 1967)

Additional Information

The records are deposited and remain the property of the Society of Friends