It was said, that on any morning of the week, every European language could be heard on the floor of Bradford’s Wool Exchange, such was the importance of the city as the centre of the world trade in textiles in the early 20th century.
Bradford Wool Exchange
Bradford had an international population of merchants and traders, many of whom had made Bradford their permanent home. The grandeur of the merchant’s offices, warehouses and residences in Little Germany and across the city tell their own stories of affluence, success and the range of nationalities represented.
A European war presented challenging dilemmas for many families and businesses. “All trade with Germany is at an end,” declared the Bradford Daily Telegraph but hoped the city would pick up new business from foreign lands which no longer traded with Germany. Army contracts were also won and helped delay the decline in the worsted cloth trade.
The city had close links with Roubaix, the centre of the French wool trade and many Bradfordians found themselves stranded there when war began. Two ladies wrote, “One does not know what to do for the best. To be at the mercy of the Germans is no little matter: they are such brutes and savages. A lot of English wounded were being brought to Lille yesterday.”
There were many Bradfordians taking holidays abroad in August 1914 and letters appeared in the press describing adventurous return journeys and varied accounts of the German invasion of Belgium. 14-year-old Teddy Fleming managed to make his own way home from Ghent where he had been improving his language skills. He was to serve in the Artillery in Salonika in 1918.
Pack horse with sacks of wool, Bradford
The attitudes of local residents towards the German community rapidly changed. Attacks on pork butchers’ shops became commonplace and, in Keighley, led to all-out riot with police making a baton charge up Spring Gardens Lane. “It was like a battlefield,” Mrs Jones told a reporter. “The police, without any warning, made a mad rush out of the gates and struck savagely out at people. People were being felled in lumps.”
Over 100 arrests were made and the ring leaders, “D’Arcy and his army”, were jailed. Many were workers from the foundry of Prince Smith and the breaking of shop windows became confused with their labour dispute.
The Bradford Daily Telegraph reported, “much sympathy for the Schulz family. Mr Schulz was born in England and married an English lady. He cannot speak even a word of German.” This was typical of most of the victims, many of whom, like Charles Hoffmann and the Andrassy family, had become naturalised British citizens many years previously.
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The Bradford WW1 Group is based at the Bradford Mechanics Institute Library.
Bradford Mechanics Institute Library
Bradford, West Yorkshire
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