Roads are key to the growth of cities, towns and villages.

Alongside railways and waterways they open up areas to habitation, bringing goods, trade and, vitally, people.

They evolve over time, some barely changing, others unrecognisable from days of old.

A decade ago Thornton Antiquarian Society published the booklets ‘Market Street’ and ‘Thornton Road’ by society treasurer Michael Smith.

Demand was high and they were soon out of print. Over the years enquiries were frequently made to see if copies could be obtained, and now the society has decided to issue a reprint, combining the two booklets into one stronger, more accessible book

Thornton Thoroughfares charts the history of the roads that have been vital to the development of this thriving community and have helped the Bradford village to grow and become what it is today.

The book includes a fascinating look at who lived where and when, the growth of industry, trade and housing.

Thornton Road stretches all the way from City Park to the edge of wild moorland near Odgen Water. It runs through landscapes that range from inner city warehousing to semi-detached suburbs, rural communities and open countryside.

Its importance, in particular the retention of its rural characteristics, cannot be underestimated, as, writes Michael: ‘In these days of heavy traffic congestion and the general speed of life it is all too easy for travellers to disregard the assets of Thornton Road and its historical development. The greenery which separates Thornton from other built-up areas and the broad tree-lined approach from Bell Dean are priceless possessions and long may they remain out of the hands of grasping developers.’

Thornton, along with Clayton, Heaton, Allerton, Horton and others, are all villages of Anglo-Saxon Foundation, he explains. ‘These settlements are all about two miles apart due to early economic requirements and would all have been interconnected through a road and pathway system as well as all being linked to Bradford, which was to become the cultural, social, ecclesiastical and economic centre.’

Of particular interest are the lists of homes, people who lived there and their occupations. There’s the detached stone dwelling at number 283 Thornton Road, where, in the first half of the 18th century, music teacher Marion Hainsworth resided.

The occupations are fascinating, with many householders employed in the textile mills. Living with Marion was Spencer Hainsworth, who worked as an overlooker, supervising operations in the mill.

Marion died in September 1997 aged 102 in Rose Cottage Residential Home, the book divulges.

Over the same 18th century period, 285 Thornton Road was home to a succession of mill managers, with William L Bunting - listed only as ‘gentleman’ - living at 287.

Other professions listed include watchmaker, draper, blacksmith and wheelwright, confectioner and cabinet maker.

This meticulously-researched book, which includes photographs and maps, family trees, old adverts and memorabilia, is a mine of information, with fascinating recollections from people’s memories.

Of the Motor Services business at 329 Thornton Road, Jessie Harker recalls: “On the garage site before 1900 there was a shed and a joiner’s yard and the area was known locally as ‘Carter Yard’. At the bottom of the yard was a slaughter house for Joe Bates’ shop. The slaughterer was called Fritzy Lunn and I remember he later emigrated to New Zealand. A bit further up the road Fred Drake had a monumental mason business at the top of the Kipping graveyard”.

The important role of ‘the Beck’ in the development of the textile trade, and the devastating impact upon the small waterway, is described: ‘In the first half of the 19th century textile entrepreneurs saw ‘the Beck’ running alongside Thornton Road as a valuable resource for wool washing, cleaning, fulling and for ‘filling the boilers’ as well as an easy way of removing both industrial and human waste.

‘In spite of bitter opposition to the introduction of steam power into Bradford, ‘The Holme’ area at the bottom of Thornton Road saw the birth of steam powered factory spinning with the construction of Ramsbotham, Swaine & Murgatroyd’s mill in 1800. This enterprise was later to lead to a ‘scramble’ for factory sites alongside Thornton Road - each manufacturer trying to obtain a ‘higher up the road’ site in order to secure purer water than the mills below. The condition of the Beck water running alongside the mills and houses at the very bottom of Thornton Road in the 1820’s defies description - it is not surprising the death rate around Silsbridge Lane (Grattan Road) was amongst the highest in the country.’

In the early years of the 19th century Bradford was one of the fastest growing towns in the country

‘It needed a quality route to obtain Thornton’s valuable stone, coal and iron ore deposits. It also needed Thornton’s milk and agricultural produce to feed its ever-increasing population’ writes Michael, going on to chart the development of such a route and also of Thornton’s own industrial base including quarrying, mining and textile production.

A Victorian time-traveller would recognise Thornton's familiar road system but would be amazed at the housing expansion of recent years, he writes. ‘In vain would his eyes have searched for Thornton's textile mills and industrial activity such as coal and stone production and wondered what sustains this expanding population. Market Street in particular still retains its original Pennine village character of stone-built houses with stone-flagged roofs - this central area with its connecting streets forms the backbone of the village conservation area.’

*Thornton Thoroughfares, People and Places is published by Thornton Antiquarian Society and costs £12. For further information contact them at 13 South Square, Bradford BD13 3LD or email: