The Richardsons

0f Bierley Hall



The Richardson family were extremely rich local gentry, having intermarried with the Currer, Ferrand, Hopkinson, Kaye, Kirshaw, Midgley, Pollard, Savile, Sharp, some of the wealthiest families in the area.  Their estate covered a large area surrounding Bradford. Bierley Hall was built in the village of Bierley in the 17th century, originally by Richard Richardson (the elder) in the Dutch Renaissance style, as their family home. It was remodelled by his son Richard (the younger) during the 18th century. By the 19th century the house had been leased to tenants, and later became an isolation hospital which was replaced by a modern building in 1968, sealing the fate of the now demolished Bierley Hall.


There is however still a tale to tell because the Richards Richardson were both botanists and antiquarians and have left us, although dilapidated, a story in stone and foliage that is still worth investigation. Doctor Richard the elder (1663-1741) was one of the most notable botanists and authorities on mosses in the country. Educated at Oxford University, he was a natural historian, antiquarian, and botanist as well as a physician.


Richard the elder had a daughter, Jane, who married Edward Ferrand of Bingley St Ives, and his son Richard the younger (1708-1781) who was overshadowed by his famous father, but was actually responsible for major changes and improvements to the Bierley Estate. He had the house completely remodelled, by John Carr a local leading architect, one wing being removed and the new parts built in classical style. He also had a private chapel built at the top of Bierley Lane in 1766, now the second oldest Anglican church in Bradford.


The younger also took it upon himself to do major structural landscaping on the estate, whilst formal gardens were laid out to the front of the house to Bierley Lane, to the back of the house was a valley with a stream flowing through. By damming the stream half way down an artificial fish pond was created which cascaded down the valley via a short section of canal into two further ponds lower down the valley before flowing out of the estate under the road.


To embellish these he created a Druidic circle of standing stones, now totally destroyed, a stepped waterfall cascade, and a subterranean grotto with an entrance formed by black boulders from Wibsey Slack. It can be no coincidence that the Druids feature both here and at Bingley St Ives where Richardson's influence was very strong on their estate!


During the first half of the 18th century formal gardens were in vogue, but as the century moved on new trends were towards landscaped parklands with woods, lakes, water and architectural features, such as temples and follies, which gave view points appealing to the eye. This culminated with the work of Lancelot Brown towards the end of the century. Bierley Estate was a leading example of these changes, and Temple Newsam near Leeds was one of the first to introduce natural woodland features on its approach to the house.


It is a real shame that little exists now to demonstrate the importance of the estate, for within forty years it has been reduced to a couple of angling lakes and a woodland walk, when with a bit of foresight and attention it could have been restored and utilised similar to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.





Britain Tour


Bierley Hall


Remnants of the Buildings


The Bottom Pond


The Grotto


Clapper Bridge Over the Cascade


Heron Fishing in the Pond


St John's Church Bierley


The Richardson's Arms