PAUL Jennings has written some fine pieces for this page about Bradford’s old pubs. But here he looks at a temperance campaign targeting city folk from an early age.

Paul, author of Bradford Pubs and The Local: A History of the English Pub, writes: “I have written hitherto about some of the hundreds of pubs that once served Bradford. But we shouldn’t forget that excessive drinking was a real social problem in Victorian and Edwardian England and a vociferous temperance movement campaigned tirelessly to remedy it. The West Riding of Yorkshire was a great centre of the movement and the first Temperance Society in England was founded in Bradford in 1830, originally just anti-spirits but soon alcoholic drinks of all kinds. One way it sought to achieve its aims was through children and the Band of Hope was set up in 1847 at the instigation of the Reverend Jabez Tunnicliffe of Leeds.

It took as its motto words from the Book Of Proverbs: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ By 1900 the movement claimed to have enrolled nationally over three million children. Weekly meetings involved prayers, hymns, songs, lectures, often illustrated with lantern slides, and there were excursions, picnics and tea parties. No wonder so many children attended. There were also parades, as shown in my photo of a float crammed with children. The slogan attributes poverty to drink. But by this time it was becoming increasingly appreciated that it was poverty itself which pushed many into heavy drinking.

Sunbridge Road Mission originated in the early 1880s as an offshoot of Kirkgate Chapel, which stood near the market, where the Arndale Centre was later built, ministering to the poor of the White Abbey, Sunbridge and Thornton Road districts. It was led by John Bertram Sleight, a delicate child, whose parental wealth enabled him to devote his life to religious and charitable causes. Meetings were in temporary premises but in 1889 a permanent Mission was built at the corner of Sunbridge Road and Gaynor Street.

The Band of Hope was still going strong into the 1920s and 1930s. Its meetings were Wednesday evenings and children were still urged to sign a Pledge Card, resolving to abstain from intoxicating liquors. My mum was a member and recalls singing the chorus: ‘Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone; Dare to pass a public house and take your money home’, an adaptation of the 1873 hymn by American evangelist Philip P Bliss.

By this time heavy drinking was in decline as was nonconformist religion, which had provided solid support for the cause of temperance. This continued apace in the 1950s and 1960s. But whilst many other chapels closed down, often converted to other uses, even in one case, that of Dovesdale Baptist Church, off Smiddles Lane, to become a working men’s club, the Mission continued to thrive. It survived a disastrous fire in 1969, to reopen the following year, with an extension. It held the loyalty of long-standing adherents, including members of my own family, and attracted newcomers to the city, for example with its Chinese fellowship. It is both a link with the city’s past and an example of adaptation to changing times.”