This post traces the early history of Dracups resident in Great Horton, now part of Bradford in Yorkshire, England.

It covers a period of just over a century, beginning around 1730 with the arrival of John Dracupp (1688-1767) and his young family and ending as great grandson Samuel Dracup (1793-1866) establishes himself as a Jacquard loom manufacturer.

John Dracupp arrives in Horton

My last genealogical post ‘Nathaniel Dracup: Methodist Pioneer’ suggests that John Dracupp, his wife Mary Rodger (1695-1761) and their several children moved from Idle to Horton in 1729.

My authority is ‘Halifax Books and Authors’ (J H Turner 1906) which says that Nathaniel himself ‘left Idle, his native place, in 1729 to reside in Great Horton’. Since Nathaniel was a year old at the time it follows that the whole family relocated from Idle, some five miles away on the other side of Bradford.

An earlier post ‘Where the Earliest Dracups Lived’ cites evidence that John had previously inhabited Dunkhill House in Idle. Members of the Dracup family certainly lived there and a quotation I cannot attribute claims:

‘The earliest mention of the house I have seen was in a list of tax-payers, in which “John Dracup’s tenement” is associated with Dunkhill Syke. This John Dracup [born 1688] was the fourth generation of John Dracups who lived here though the first of them [b 1596] lived in Thorp.’

John had just turned 40 when he moved. His business must have been firmly enough established to survive this change of location. Another source, ‘The Yankee Yorkshireman: Migration Lived and Imagined’ (M H Blewett, 2009) tells us:

‘John Dracupp of Horton Village, born in 1688, was both a cloth dealer and an artisan joiner or furniture maker. Two succeeding generations of Dracups drew on this man’s carpentry skills to make wooden shuttles for hand looms used in household production as the West Riding slowly intensified cloth-making.’

John and Mary had several offspring, including Nathaniel (1728-98), the early Methodist and his older brother, John (1722-95), a Baptist Minister.

The manufacture of wooden shuttles clearly became the centrepiece of John’s business. Son Nathaniel is subsequently described as a shuttlemaker, though whether the family were involved with the manufacture of the notorious flying shuttle, invented by John Kay in 1733, is unknown.

My Ancestry family tree lists 11 children altogether, eight of whom were born at the time of the move to Horton, but there is some disagreement amongst researchers over the exact number, their identities and their dates.

There is also limited information about the subsequent generation. Only four of the children were male and only two of those – Nathaniel and John – are known to have fathered children. John is thought to have had two daughters, so the only definite Dracup line continues through Nathaniel.

He married Ann Judson in March 1752, at the age of 23. My family tree records six children born between 1752 and 1777. Four of them feature in Nathaniel’s will:

‘I give Hannah my Dresser and Pewter, Wilm. my little throw and Thos. and George all the rest of my tools to be divided betwixt them and I will that all of my children have a share of my books devided among them and that they deal every other thing in a friendly way and have no jar among them.’

Before recording what we know of Nathaniel’s descendants I want to turn to the early history of Horton.

The origins of Great Horton

In January 2006 Bradford Metropolitan District Council published a Conservation Area Assessment for Great Horton. There are parallel assessments for Little Horton Green and Little Horton Lane both published in 2005. Taken together they provide a valuable insight into the history of the area.

Horton was probably first settled in the Saxon period. It is likely to have been one of six unnamed outlying estates of the Manor of Bradford mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name is thought to mean ‘enclosure or farmstead on high land’.

The separate entity of Horton Magna is distinguished in Twelfth Century records. One Robert de Stapleton was associated with the area and his son Hugh was granted land in both Great and Little Horton by Robert de Lacy, Lord of Bradford. Hugh is believed to have assumed the surname de Horton.

Kirkstall Abbey’s monastery is known to have owned substantial parts of the area from 1153 until its dissolution in 1540. The Court Rolls indicate that there was a settlement at Little Horton by the 14th Century with its own corn mill. Coal was mined in the area as early as 1350.

Legend dictates that Bradford owes its boar’s head emblem to a medieval huntsman who claimed a reward offered by the lord of the manor to anyone who would kill a particularly ferocious animal. The reward was a piece of land called Hunt Yard, that name existing to this day.

Late medieval Great Horton consisted of scattered farmhouses spread along the old Bradford to Halifax Road. The location of the medieval manor house is uncertain.

The Sharp family eventually assumed the role of lords of the manor and built Horton Old Hall (now demolished) in 1675. Another prominent family, the Listers, built Little Horton Hall at about the same time.

Seventeenth Century Horton was still predominantly farmland, but textile manufacture was already gaining a foothold. Wool was collected from Leeds, spun and woven on farm-based looms and the finished cloth sold in Manchester.

A cottage industry began to develop. A prominent local cloth-maker built Hall’s House (634-636 Great Horton Road) in 1697, also giving his name to Hall Yard, a group of cottages near Low Green.

Horton at this period was known as a centre for religious dissenters. A Presbyterian meeting-house was built in Little Horton in 1688.

Great Horton Conservation Area’, a document published in 2007 by the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, says that:

‘By around 1722 settlement had developed in linear fashion to both sides of the main highway around the junction with South Field Lane. A large residence stood opposite this junction, on the western side of the route. On the eastern side of the road, the majority of dwellings were situated north of South Field Lane and along (unnamed) Paternoster Lane. Paternoster Lane connected with Southfield Lane, creating a triangular-shaped area of land that stood within/adjacent to an area known as Lower Green. Elsewhere, farmsteads surrounded the village, set within a landscape of enclosed fields.’

I have been unable to track down the contemporary map associated with this description.

Other sources refer to cottages located on two areas of common agricultural land, Upper Green and Low Green, at a location called Salt Pie (on Southfield Lane) and at Old Todley, also known as Smithy Hill.

I can find nothing to indicate the exact location of John Dracupp’s house, or indeed Nathaniel’s house, if he occupied a different one, though Old Todley is perhaps the most likely candidate.


The immediate descendants of Nathaniel Dracup

The chart below shows two generations of the Rev Nathaniel Dracup’s descendants (click on the chart to see the full sized version). This is still something of a work in progress.


Descendants of Nathaniel Dracup Final


These are the details I have for Nathaniel’s six children:

  • John Dracup (1752-1824) married Hannah Ramsden (1751-1780) in December 1771. Before her early death she bore four children: Priscilla (b.around. 1774) who married John Fox; Joseph (b. around 1774) who married Elizabeth Foster; Susanna (b around 1776) who married Samuel Myers; and John (1778-1841) who married Martha Smith.
  • Thomas Dracup (1760-1817) married Esther Holdsworth (1760-1826) in October 1779. My family tree records 10 children, four of whom died in their early childhood. The survivors were: Daniel (1786-1854) who married Mary Brigg; Richard (1788-1853) who married Hannah Bennett; Betty (1790-1870) who married Joshua Blagbrough; Nathaniel (1790-1871) who married up to four times; Eli (1799-1837) who married Mary Armitage and then Betty Mitchell; and Lydia (1803-1843).
  • Nathaniel Dracup (1767-1825) who married Mary Wright (d. 1819) in September 1787. I have five children: Jonas (1788-1851) who married Mercy Craven; Martha (b.1792) who married Samuel Kellet; Ann (b. 1795) who married Joseph Bartle; Hannah (b. 1797) and Jonathan (1799-1831) who married Betty Shackleton.
  • William Dracup (1770-1843) who married Sarah Broadbent in March 1788 (and also Hannah Haley in 1836). My tree includes seven children: Sally (b.1789); Ann (b.1791); Molly (or Matty) (b.1794); Joshua (1796-1868) who married Mary Milnes; Moses (1799-1870); Charles (b. 1802) who married Maria Nettleton and Simeon (b. 1805) who married Hannah Sowden.
  • Hannah Dracup (b.1773) who married Joseph Akeroyd.
  • George Dracup (1775-1851) who married three times but whose children were all born to Hannah Holdsworth (1769-1812) who he married in November 1792. I record five or six children: Samuel (1793-1866) who married Sarah Jowett; Edward (Neddy) (1796-1861) who married Sarah Shackleton; Hannah (Nanny) (1799-1877) who married William Barker; Henry (1803-1862) who married Mary Haley; David, who died in infancy; and a possible sixth child called Sarah.

Before recording what we know of these generations, I want to return to the history of the town in which they lived.


Great Horton between 1740 and 1840

A new turnpike road was established in 1740, which became Great Horton Road, called the High Street where it passed through Great Horton. Dwellings began to spring up along this thoroughfare.

The opening of the new turnpike contributed to the industrialisation of Great Horton, easing travel between Bradford and Halifax and improving connections with commercial centres such as Liverpool, Manchester and York. It helped to support both the textile and coal-mining industries.

Extensive building was undertaken along Great Horton High Street. Early examples include Brooksbank House (670-670a. Great Horton Road) built in 1746 and the Kings Arms, built in 1739.

In 1766 the Rev. Nathaniel established a Wesleyan School in the Old Todley buildings behind the former Four Ashes Inn.

He was also one of the trustees of the old Octagon Chapel, also located at Old Todley, which opened in the same year but was used for this purpose only until 1810, becoming too small for the growing congregation. A new Methodist Church, known originally as Hunt Yard Chapel, was built in 1814.

The Old Bell Chapel (now Bell House) was built by the Vicar of Bradford in 1806 next to Southfield Lane. The mine workings beneath the chapel prevented the addition of a tower or spire.

Cottages were being built at Upper Green throughout the Eighteenth Century. The oldest surviving example dates from 1752 (724-728 Great Horton Road). Coal miners’ cottages were built at Low Green from 1800-1830 or thereabouts.

Development continued along the Great Horton Road. By 1830 most of the cottages in these three locations had been built, and also in Ramsden Court, Blacksmith Fold, Knight’s Fold, Ebenezer Place and Hunt Yard.

There was extensive mill construction during this period. In 1803 a textile mill was built by John Rand on the site now occupied by the Alhambra Theatre. A cotton mill was established in 1806 by the Knight family on the site of Harris Court Mill in the vicinity of Old Todley. Many of the workers lived in cottages at Knights Fold owned by the same family.

Worsted mills were also established during this period including Cussons Mill (1820s), Cross Lane Mill (1821) and Cannon Mill (1826).

John Knight built a substantial property called Great Horton House next to his mill and this is now occupied by the Great Horton Working Men’s Club. According to the Conservation Area Assessment:

‘..by 1826 all of the Knights’ land and property was forfeited when the principal bank of Bradford, Wentworth, Chaloner & Co collapsed, wiping out the brothers’ credit during the 23rd week of a ‘Bradford Union’ combers’ and weavers’ strike which had already placed the business under considerable strain.’

Blewett records that:

‘In Bradford several thousand woolcombers, 3,000 factory workers and 13,000 handloom weavers were on strike within a six mile radius.’

After the strike mill-owners began to install steam-powered looms ‘including some jacquard looms for fancy patterns’. The industry relied heavily on women and children, so adult male unemployment was rife.

Many of the textile workers had become avid Chartists. The Conservation Assessment notes that:

‘…when Fergus O’Connor, head of the National Charter Association, visited Great Horton around 1840 he was rapturously received by a large crowd…In 1842 the Chartist and trade unionist Plug Rioters marched into Bradford along Great Horton Road, filling the width of the street, but few from the village joined the march, which sought to improve the worker’s lot through physical rather than moral means.’

There is evidence to suggest that one of Daniel Dracup’s sons was involved in the Plug Riots.

The population of Great Horton was 3,459 in 1801, but had increased threefold to 10,782 by 1831. These maps (two parts) show the layout of the township in 1834.


1834 map of GH Capture LHS Capture

1834 map of GH RHS Capture









Nathaniel’s children and grandchildren

There are brief references to these two generations in the surviving literature:

  • Nathaniel Dracup (1767-1825) and brother George (1775-1851) were also both prominent Methodists, both being named as trustees of the Hunt Yard Chapel. In ‘Rambles Round Horton’ (1876), Cudworth informs us that:

‘Many interments having been made on the Todley site, the remains were removed to the burial ground adjoining the new chapel. The old school-room was afterwards used as a shuttle-making shop by Nathaniel Dracup, a noted bass singer.’

Curiously, Methodist Nathaniel was a member of the choir at the Bell Chapel.

  • Eli Dracup (1799-1837), son of Thomas, was also a musician. Cudworth says:

‘Long ago Great Horton was famous for its band of instrumentalists, a revival of which has been set afoot within recent years. The name of the earlier society was the Horton Old Band, its meeting place being Pickles Hill Top. As it may be interesting to learn the composition of this famous band, we append the names of the players in the year 1820, and the instruments they used, viz : — Leader, Pklward [sic] Topham, who played the clarionet; 2, Isaac Rawnsley clarionet; 3, Richard Swaine, do.; 4, John llartlc [sic], do.; 5, William Swaine, serpent; 6, Jos. Blamires, do.; 7, Eli Dracup, do….’

A serpent was a bass wind instrument, an antecedent of the tuba.

Eli is of personal interest since he is my great-great-great grandfather. Two of his sons travelled south, establishing a branch of the Dracups in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.


Serpent in case courtesy of secretlondon123
Serpent in case courtesy of secretlondon123


  • Daniel Dracup (1786-1854), Thomas’s son, was clearly not part of the shuttle-making fraternity, since he is cited by Blewett as an old-style hand-loom weaver:

‘In the mill village of Horton in Bradford Parish, Daniel Dracup, born in 1786…organized his household to support his handloom weaving… Hand loom weaver Daniel Dracup relied on the spinners in his family, including his wife, Mary Briggs [sic]’

Daniel is also recorded by Cudworth as occupying Solitary Farm, next to Paradise Farm:

‘Paradise Farm belonged to John Haley, a calico weaver, who attained his ninetieth year. It was purchased from Mr. Joshua Pollard and Mr. Paley, of Bowling Ironworks. David Mortimer, a respected townsman and octogenarian, has since acquired the property, and still resides upon it. Solitary, the name of an adjoining farmstead, formed part of the Ashton dole land, Daniel Dracup being for a long time the occupier.’

He later clarifies:

‘What is known as the “Ashton Dole” is a charity, the proceeds of which are derived from property left under the will of John Ashton in 1712, to be distributed half-yearly among poor people of Horton above sixty years of age who are not in receipt of parish relief The property originally comprised three cottages, a barn, and several closes of land in Horton, let to Jas Gomersall for £30 per annum ; a blacksmith’s shop, let to Jabez Balmforth and afterwards to John Garthwaite for £7 a year ; a farm called Solitary, with about nine acres of land, let to George Briggs and Daniel Dracup at £16 a year.’

George Brigg was Daniel’s father-in-law. Both the 1841 and 1851 censuses show Daniel resident at Solitary Farm, which no longer stands, although the foundations can still be seen.


 Solitary Farm foundations Capture


  • We know the Dracup shuttlemaking business continued. Pigots Directory of 1829 identifies Thomas’s son Richard (1788-1853) and George’s son Edward (1796-1861) as pursuing this profession. The Directory of 1834 also names Thomas’s brothers George and William, as well as his son Nathaniel (1790-1871).

But the most prominent member of the Dracup family at this period was Samuel (1793-1866) and he was clearly attracted by a newer technology.


Samuel Dracup establishes his business

Samuel Dracup was baptised in Bradford St. Peter (Bradford Cathedral) on 31 March 1793. He married Sarah Jowett on 8 January 1815 in the same location.

The marriage record describes his own employment as ‘shuttlemaker’, so he also began in the family business. Elsewhere he is described as a ‘joiner and cabinet maker’ (see below).

Interestingly, Samuel, Sarah and even the vicar performing the ceremony sign the marriage record with a cross annotated ‘their mark’, suggesting that none of the three could read or write. Contrast this with grandfather Nathaniel’s confident manipulation of the language at this time (he was still alive at this point).

The exact chronology of the development of Samuel’s business is somewhat disputed:

In ‘Silk and Innovation: The Jacquard Loom in the Age of the Industrial Revolution’ (J-F Fava-Verde, 2011) the author says that:

‘The firm was established in 1825 as a manufacturer of jacquard card cutting machines before it expanded into the making of jacquard machines in 1838.’

In ‘Yorkshire Past and Present’ (Thomas Baines, 1871) it is said that:

‘In 1829 to 1830 an ingenious joiner and cabinet-maker of the name of Samuel Dracup, of Great Horton, commenced making numbers of “two-lift” Jacquard engines, for which he had a rapid and prolonged sale. He supplied the firm of James Akroyd & Son with these engines for several years.’

But ‘The History of the Worsted Manufacture in England’ (John James, 1867) has a slightly different version:

‘The beautiful contrivance of Jacquard does not seem to have been imported into the worsted trade until about the year 1827, when Mr. James Ackroyd, Jun., of Old Lane, Halifax, purchased a Jacquard engine of Mr. Sago, of Manchester, for the purpose of weaving damasks. Mr. Ackroyd afterwards had some of these engines made at his own establishment, but they did not succeed, and the great cost of the machine when purchased from the French agent, checked its use. About the year 1832, however, they began to come into more extensive use, and some parties in the locality having succeeded in making good working engines, henceforward they progressively spread throughout the whole district.’

James adds:

‘Among those in this neighourhood who deserve to be especially named for their services in improving and rendering the Jacquard engine applicable to the worsted business, may be mentioned Mr, Dracup, of Horton. He commenced making these engines in 1833; they had been introduced into Horton in 1832, and were used at first with two treadles on plain ground, and could only be worked by hand. Soon afterwards the figures began to be woven by the engine upon twilled goods. It is stated that Mr. Thomas Ackroyd, of Horton, set the first Jacquard engine to work by power in the neighbourhood of Bradford. It is worthy of note connected with this subject, that Mr. Dracup made the first card cutting machine in the year 1833, and in the succeeding year he produced his Repeater, a kind of stereotype for designs.’

Cudworth’s version is that:

‘Sammy Dracup, whose family was originally from Idle, was a most ingenious and persevering man. His family acquired a considerable reputation as shuttlemakers and makers of harness, also in rendering the jacquard engine applicable to the worsted business, Mr. Dracup commenced making these engines in 1838. When first introduced into Horton they could only be worked by hand. It is stated that Mr. Thomas Ackroyd, of Horton Bank Top, set the first jacquard engine to work by power in the neighbourhood of Bradford. In connection with this subject it is worthy of note that Mr. S. Dracup also made the first card-cutting machine in the year 1833, and in the succeeding year he produced his repeater, a kind of stereotype for designs. The family acquired considerable property in Horton, which they still hold.’

So it seems that Samuel established his own company in 1825, at the age of 32, and began manufacturing:

  • Card-cutting machines between 1825 and 1833
  • Repeaters in either 1833 or 1834
  • Unpowered Jacquard looms at some point between 1829 and 1833
  • Powered Jacquard looms from 1838

Within a period of 13 years he has transformed himself from shuttlemaker to power loom manufacturer.


More about these machines

The History and Principles of Weaving by Hand and by Power’ (Alfred Barlow 1879) says:

‘Joseph Marie Jacquard was born at Lyons on the 7th of July, 1752…He first turned his attention to the machine which now bears his name in 1790. At first he did not succeed, but in 1801 he had completed it, and it was exhibited in the National Exposition, Paris, when he received the reward of a bronze medal for the invention. Although he had a patent for the machine, he made little by it; but Napoleon granted him a pension of 60l (1500 francs), and the right to a premium of 2l for each machine sold.

In the introduction of the machine he met with the greatest opposition. His machines were pulled down and destroyed, and the model publicly burned. A ” Conseil des Prud’hommes ” also opposed him. But after some years had passed, the machine proved to be of the greatest value, and on the spot where the model was burned a statue to Jacquard now stands. He died August the 7th, 1834.’

Jacquard did not invent the use of perforated cards to control the woven design, but rather incorporated this earlier invention into his own. Patents for an English version of the loom and for a card cutting machine were awarded in 1820 and 1821 respectively.

The basic principle is straightforward:

‘The Jacquard machine is simply a frame containing a number of wire hooks, which are connected direct to the healds of the loom. These hooks are raised according to the pattern to be woven—the pattern being first transferred from the design paper to the cards, which operate upon the hooks through the medium of needles.’

The best detailed description of Jacquard looms I have found dates from 1892: ‘The Jacquard Machine: Analyzed and Explained’ by E. A. Posselt.

Here is his diagram of a loom


Posselt 1 Capture

He also describes the evolution of card-cutting or card-stamping machines:

‘The oldest method for stamping cards, now only occasionally used, consists of two perforated steel plates between which the blank cards are placed, and the required holes stamped by hand by means of punches.’

The purpose of the repeating machine is to rapidly produce duplicates of a card containing a given design.

Looms, card-cutting and repeating machines continued to evolve throughout the Nineteenth Century and Posselt’s book records the progress made by the 1890s.


Samuel established

By 1840 Samuel was well established as a local entrepreneur. The Conservation Area Assessment tells us that he built Lane Close Mill in 1839, leasing it initially to John Bartle, a worsted manufacturer. Cudworth adds:

‘Messrs. W. Bunting & Co. were subsequently tenants, and on the retirement of Mr. Bunting his partner, the late Mr. Henry Snowdon, took the business.’

The mill was extended in 1841 and again in 1847. The Assessment says:

‘The Grade II Listed three-storey 1847 element was recently demolished along with the later corridor which linked this building to the remaining two storey element which faces onto Bartle Lane. The datestone of this demolished element can be found in the boundary wall to the new factory car park. The surviving element consists of two parallel two storey ranges built by Samuel Dracup, inventor of the card cutting machine, as a worsted mill in 1841. This date, with the initials of Samuel Dracup and his wife Sarah, can be found inscribed on the keystone of the archway which runs through the ranges and formerly led to the mill yard. This voussoired basket archway contains modern but sympathetic iron gates which bear the name of the mill’s current occupier, Eltex….12- 14 Bartle Lane are almost surrounded by the mill site. These houses appear to have been built contemporarily with Lane Close Mills by Samuel Dracup, whose descendants have occupied the houses to this day.’

In 1858 Samuel also bought the old corn mill, a farm and mining rights from Charles Horton Rhyss, who also sold the manor house at the same time. Cudworth says:

‘Joseph Beanland also built the original portion of Beckside Mill for the purposes of corn-milling, the premises, however, being subsequently purchased by Samuel Dracup, and adapted for a worsted factory. The premises were occupied until recently by the firm of Messrs. George Turner & Co., and now by Messrs. Benn & Sons, spinners and manufacturers.’

He adds later that Beckside was:

‘…purchased for an “old song” by Samuel Dracup, after the mill had stood unoccupied for some time’

As early as 1839, Samuel is listed as one of the principal land and property owners in the area. Cudworth reports that in 1840 he was one of several local worthies appointed to a board ‘for the repair of the highways of Great Horton’. His address at this time is given as Pickles Lane, as it is in the 1841 Census.

By 1851 he is living at 23 Upper Green and is described as a ‘machine maker’. A note says he is employer of 26 men and what looks like ’86 boys’.

In 1861 he is living in ’35 Lane Close House’ and is described as a ‘Jacquard mechanic employing 6 (?) men and 6 boys’. A note adds that ‘he owns 6 acres’.

It is interesting to see from other entries on this page of the 1861 Census that a Dracup Road already existed by this date, though only two houses are identified.

The George and Dragon pub is now located on the corner of Dracup Road, but in the 1851 Census it is listed next to properties on Upper Green. The Conservation Area Assessment says that the George and Dragon dates from 1800-1820, as do several of the other houses on Dracup Road, so it appears that this road was renamed in the 1860s, probably shortly after Samuel’s death.


George and Dragon, Dracup Road, courtesy of Tim Green
George and Dragon, Dracup Road, courtesy of Tim Green


Samuel died on 22 October 1866 at the age of 73. The National Probate Calendar records that his will was proved at Wakefield and he left ‘effects under £9,000’. Estimates vary of how much that is equivalent to today, but a reasonable assumption would be something over £700,000.

This photograph of Samuel Dracup was sent to me by one of his direct descendants. It hung in the boardroom at Lane Close Mill until the 1980s.



Last words

I have been unable to find photographs of early looms produced by Samuel Dracup and Sons, but this line drawn illustration is clearly contemporary with the founder. It comes from ‘Jacquard Mechanism and Harness Mounting’ (F Bradbury, 1912).


Samuel Dracup advert Capture


Some mid-20th Century examples can also be seen in ‘The Art of Loom Tuning’ (J W Hutchinson, 1948). Here is one of them


Hutchinson 1 Capture


I understand that the Dracup and Sons business survived as a separate entity until 2006 when it was absorbed into Macart Textiles (Machinery) Ltd., another Bradford company.



March 2016