EDWARD Tong was six-years-old when he was sent to the big orphanage at Horton Park. His father had died suddenly, three days before his birthday. “I remember someone coming to see me, telling me what I’d be doing in the orphanage,” says Edward. “I don’t think I was frightened. I don’t have bad memories of the place, and I don’t have happy memories.”

Now 89, Edward has been prompted by the recent demolition of Joseph Nutter House to look back on his childhood there. The Victorian building, originally an orphanage, later a nursery and Bradford College premises, had stood empty since 2016.

Born in Pellon, near Halifax, in 1779, Joseph Nutter came to Bradford an illiterate 13-year-old orphan. He learned to read at Horton Lane Chapel Sunday School and became an apprentice cabinet-maker in Darley Street, later setting up his own business in Market Street, with a £200 loan from Bradford Quakers. In 1840 he moved to premises in North Parade. After he retired the business was taken over by his former apprentice, Christopher Pratt.

Nutter had no children but was, say historians, “an enthusiastic supporter of institutions devoted to the instruction and elevation of the young”. He funded prizes for local schools and when he died, in 1884, he left £10,000 to build an orphanage for boys. Bradford Corporation provided land and a foundation stone was laid by the Mayor of Bradford, Alderman John Morley, on May 30, 1888. In 1939 the building was handed to the Government and its various uses included tax office and driving test centre. To Edward Tong, it was home.

Born in St Luke’s Hospital, Edward lived in Manningham with his mother, brother Kenneth and sister Jean, and went to Lilycroft School. Then life changed. “For some reason, unbeknown to me, the family broke up,” he says. “I went to my great aunt’s boarding house on Hallfield Road, with my dad. My brother stayed with my mother and my sister lived with our grandmother.”

Edward was “well looked after” at Joseph Nutter House. “It was the 1930s, times were hard, but we had three meals a day and two outfits a year - for school and Sunday school,” he says. “That carried on through the war. I got my last outfit, a pair of long pants, from OS Wain (now Britannia House).”

He remembers the matron - “Mrs Mundy, Scottish and like a grandmother” - and the cook, Mrs Mooney. “The place seemed enormous,” he says. “We all had jobs; in the main hall we each had to clean two of the big stone flags. We got one-and-a-half-pence spending money, and went to the Plaza Cinema for free. In the hall was a stage, I remember a children’s entertainer, and sometimes the governors took us out in cars to cricket matches, and fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s. At Christmas we chose a present from a catalogue, we had a meal at the Emporium on Sunbridge Road then panto at the Alhambra. We got a shilling to spend at the shop on Cross Lane; we all returned with toy swords and the matron sent us back to get something else,” smiles Edward.

In September 1939, when the Second World War started, the boys were evacuated. “I knew something was happening because I saw knapsacks being packed. We went to Forster Square Station, it was an adventure going on a train.”

They stayed with families at Upper Mill, Saddleworth. Edward recalls fresh air and open spaces; exploring woods and caves, sledging in snow. “”But there was bombing in Manchester, we saw the sky ablaze, so they moved us to Linton Camp,” he says.

The ‘holiday camp school’, near Grassington, was for city children, including many from Bradford. During the war it housed evacuees. “It was rough in winter but I enjoyed it. I was there till I was 14,” says Edward. “We had schooling there, the teachers lived with us, it was like a family. We played football; the only camp we didn’t beat was Clitheroe. There were four of us left at Linton Camp in the end; Michael Lapping, who I got into trouble with (we were the ‘Nutter Boys’) Derek McQuaid and Harry Marshall.”

At 14, Edward went to live with his aunt and uncle, a T&A van driver, in Manningham, and was an apprentice baker until the flour gave him dermatitis. In 1948 he joined the RAF, and over eight years was stationed in Rhodesia, Germany, Malta and Northern Ireland. “The orphanage and Linton Camp were good standing for the forces,” says Edward.”I never turned a meal down.” He later worked at English Electric, then Lucas, and he and wife Jean had a son and daughter. Now living in Cottingley, the couple have been married 65 years and have three grandchildren.

Edward returned to Joseph Nutter House in 1989. “Someone saw me looking around and invited me in,” he says, his eyes filling with tears for a moment. He’s keen to know what happened to the foundation stone, buried with a Bradford Telegraph and Observer, and a wooden plaque bearing names of boys who died in the 1914-18 war. “Have these things been rescued?” asks Edward. “That building meant a lot to me, and many others. There should be a memorial to Joseph Nutter. He was one of us.”