Ey up, look aht, Rebecca’s abaht!

Address: Apperley Bridge, Bradford
Words: Irene Lofthouse
Audio & images: Tony O’Connell collaborator, photographer and audio
Actors: Irene Lofthouse, Eddie Lawler, Joshua Cunningham and Davie Jeffrey

Int: Dark smoky room: a massive tree trunk disappears into ceiling. Four men and a woman with tankards of ale are in the middle of a conversation.
Time: May 1753

Tha’s bletherin agin. Do summat, aye. Tis wat preacher sed wen e wer threw ere.

Man 1 By ek, it caps all. T’in’t jannock!
Man 2 Aye, tha’s reet. Owd Sobersock’s hissen thowt same wen e browt men ower Appley Bridge. Twere fer likes o’we e wor fightin.
Man 3 Thou hast truth o’it. E wor fer reets o’common man as us ar. Woman Dunt ferget reets o’common wimin!
Man 2 Wi’ bin tillin land, travellin o’a t’ bridge tekin apples, grains ‘n goods t’Orsforth, Keethla’ ‘n beyon’ wi’ noa payment o’taxes sin Sobersocks.’N ah’m not goan start payin naw.
Boy Thee seh t’roads’ll be betta. Ney mooar claggin i’ deep mood. Ney mooar brok wheels on’t stanes.
Man 2 Ist tha a trust spy? Ist tha on thea side? By ek, ahl deal wi’ thee as St George did, but wi’ t’red ot poka ere.
Woman Nay, nay. E means nowt; e’s gormless. We munt be fallin’ aht.
Boy Roads do be mashed wi mood. Ah herd tell it teked twenty hosses up Anne Gate t’pull a carrige aht.
Man 2 Aye, ‘appen. An oo of us as iver bin in a carrige? Or cud pay fer twenty  hosses? Tis ony gentry as can do it. Gentry, aye, oo mek more in a day than we doa fer a year. Gentry/
Woman /Shut thi noise. Dunt want fowks knawing us busniss. Wha’ we goan t’do abaht Appley Bridge toll ouse? We goan t’let landownas n trusts tek us livliood? Mek us pay t’moave on’t’roads?
Man 3 We mun do a St George. Slay t’dragon wat’s killin fowk. N weear int’reet place fer ‘is blessin’.
Man 2 Aye, n mebbes e cud do a miracle n mek ale areet t’sup n’all.
Man 1 We mun do wat Tykes do. Heer all, see all, sey nowt. Eet all, supp all, pay nowt. An’ weear doin’ this fer nowt, fer arssen. So we mun do summat t’reet frit em.
Boy Appen we cud pelt em wi apples? Ah’v sum reet bad uns in’t laithe.
Woman  Tha’s bletherin agin. Do summat, aye. Tis wat preacher sed wen e wer  threw ere.
Man 1 John Wesley sed? E’s a gradely soart. Reet then, wat’ll it be?
Woman Ah av a thowt. Yon’ll not be thinkin on wimin fietin. Wear frocks n ‘ats, tek tools, surprise ‘em, destroy toll ‘ouse, an mek a reet riot.
Man 3 D’ye knaw, tha cud fettle, Rebecca.
Boy A Rebecca riot! (laughter)

Ext: Night.
Time: June 18 1753
Trees hide ‘women’ holding axes, pitchforks, hammers and mallets.

Man 2 By ek, tha luks reet hansome! Niver thowt a frock ud luk so gradely on a body.
Man 1 Aye, but wor abaht face? Wudst tha feyant at seet ah mi?
Woman Rebecca, tha’s as acky as coil pits on’t Idle moar. Tha’d put fear inta God hissen.
Man 3 Tis reet enuf. Mind, so wud t’coney on’t bonnit. Naw, wheer’s t’other Rebecca?
Man 1 Ey, tin’t a coney. Tis boar o’Bratfud redy t’ravage toll ‘ouse.
Man 2 T’other Rebecca’s ere, wi her broom. Eee, dotter, is tha all set fer sweeping?
Boy Aye, but ah munt brek it or mam’ll bray mi.
Woman Eee, yer as daft as a brush thissen. Ah rekon it’ll av t’be fettled afore wor dun.
Man 2 Sush. Tis time. Wer fietin fer ar reets t’neet. Tolls is mekin gentry richer an us fowks poarer. Rebecca an er dotters sey No! Tis sed in Genesis “An they blest Rebekah an sed unto her, Thou art ar sister, be thou t’mother o’thousands, o’millions, an let thy seed possess t’gates o’them who hate him.’’ That seed be us. No tolls!
ALL No tolls!

‘Rebecca and her daughters’ march to the toll-house on the Rawdon side of the bridge, chanting ‘No tolls!’ Fade to black with flickering lights. Sound of a building being destroyed.
Ext: Apperley Bridge, leaders in day clothes.
Time:  Early morning June 19 1753

Man 3 Ey, did yer ear? Bratfud toll’s still standin.
Man 1 Wat? Wor duble numba o’fowks as ere. War abaht t’others?
Man 3 Still up.
Man 2 Dust tha mean weear t’ony ones/
Woman /Rebecca an er dotters ar t’ony ones/
Man 3 /Aye. Appley Bridge toll ‘ouse is furst t’go. Wunt be last ah’ll wager. Rebacca’s besom’s med a start, an/
Boy (panting) /Ah cudn’t mek mi way threw. Tis a huge throng.
Woman Wat is?
Boy Crowd.
Man 2 Wat crowd?
Boy Ower yonder, cumin dahn hills. Ist all Bratfud?
Man 3 Ah’d sey thears a few Leodians from up Rawdon way. (shouts) Cum, rejoice! Rebecca’s rahted t’enemy. Tek up thy besom an’ join er!
Man 1 Eee, ah’m fair med up we wor furst t’strike a blow. I dunt wunda’s fowks’ll chunter abaht it fer years.
Boy Dust tha mean weear heros? Like St George?
Woman Nay soft lad. Rebecca an er dotters! Yer mun remember twere lasses oo swept. Lasses oo sent fire fra theear een in acky black faces, oos ‘ands ad t’stength o’oxen, oo shift abaht like spirits and oo came t’soart t’gentry an all oo werk at tolls.
Boy Tha’s fritin’ me. Ah dunt want ter meet eny o’em.
Man 2 Dunt wurry daft lad. Tha’ll niver see em ere. Bin an gone.
Man 1 An so should thee be, lad. Off laiking wi yer naw. (Boy lopes off)
Man 3 What’s thee avin at Inn?
Men 1, 2 &
Same as allus. Appley Ale.

After the success at Apperley Bridge, ‘Rebecca’ rioters spread across Bradford and other areas demolishing toll-houses. There were huge riots in Wales almost a hundred years later.

The action eventually led to tolls being scrapped.

Source: William Croutons: Pen and pencil pictures of Old Bradford 1889
William Croutons: Pen and pencil pictures of Old Bradford 1889


Hello, look out, Rebecca’s about!

Int: Dark smoky room: a massive tree trunk disappears into ceiling. Four men and a woman with tankards of ale are in the middle of a conversation.
Time: May 1753

Man 1 Blimey, that tops everything. It isn’t fair!
Man 2 You’re right. Cromwell thought the same when he brought men over Apperley Bridge. It was for the likes of us he was fighting.
Man 3 You have the truth of it. He was for the rights of the common man.
Woman Don’t forget the rights of the common woman!
Man 2 We’ve been tilling the land, travelling over that bridge taking apples, grain and goods to Horsforth, Keighley and beyond with no payment of  taxes since Cromwell. And I’m not going to start paying now.
Boy They say the roads will be better. No more getting stuck in the mud. No  more breaking our wheels on the stones.
Man 2  Are you a Trust spy? Are you on their side? Blimey, I’ll deal with you as St George did, but  with this red hot poker.
Woman No, no. He means nothing; he’s a bit slow. We mustn’t fall out.
Boy The roads are messy with mud. I heard it took twenty horses up Anne  Gate to pull a carriage out.
Man 2 Perhaps. But which of us has ever been in a carriage? Or could pay for  twenty horses? It’s only the gentry who can do it. Gentry, who make more in a day than we do in a year. Gentry/
Woman /Shut up. We don’t want people knowing our business. What are we going to do about Apperley Bridge toll house? Are we going to let the  landowners and Trusts take away our livelihood? Make us pay to move  on the roads?
Man 3 We must, like St George, slay the dragon that’s killing the people. And  we’re in the right place to get his blessing.
Man 2 Yes, and maybe he could do a miracle and make the beer OK to drink as  well.
Man 1 We must do what Yorkshire people do. Hear all, see all, say nothing. Eat all, drink all, pay nothing. And we’re doing this for nothing, for ourselves. So we must do something to really frighten them.
Boy Perhaps we could pelt them with apples? I’ve got some really bad ones in the barn.
Woman You’re talking nonsense again. Do something, yes. It’s what the preacher said when he went through here.
Man 1 John Wesley said so? He’s a good sort. Right then, what’ll it be?
Woman I’ve had a thought. They won’t be expecting women to fight. Wear dresses and hats, take tools, surprise them, destroy the toll house and really make a riot.
Man 3 D’you know, that could work, Rebecca!
Boy  A Rebecca riot!


Ext: Trees hide ‘women’ holding axes, pitchforks, hammers and mallets.
Time: Night. June 18 1753

Man 2 Blimey, you look handsome! Never thought a dress could look so good on a person.
Man 1 Yes, but what about the face? Would you faint at the sight of me?
Woman Rebecca, you’re as dirty as the coal pits on Idle Moor. You’d put fear into God himself.
Man 3 That’s right enough. Mind, so would the rabbit on the bonnet. Now, where’s the other Rebecca?
Man 1 It’s not a rabbit. It’s the Bradford Boar, ready to ravage the toll house.
Man 2 Here’s the other Rebecca with her broom. So daughter, you all set for sweeping?
Boy Yes, but I mustn’t break it or mum will punish me.
Woman You’re as daft as a brush yourself. I think it’ll have to be mended before we’re done.
Man 2 Quiet. It’s time. We’re fighting for our rights tonight. Paying tolls means the gentry get richer making us poorer. Rebecca and her daughters say No! It’s said in Genesis, ‘‘And they blessed Rebecca and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands, of millions, and  let thy seed possess the gates of those which hate him.’’ We’re that seed. No tolls!
ALL No tolls!

‘Rebecca and her daughters’ march to the toll house on the Rawdon side of the bridge, chanting ‘
No tolls!’ Fade to black with flickering lights. Sound of a building being destroyed.

Ext: On Apperley Bridge, leaders in day clothes, staring down the road.
Time:  Early morning. June 19 1753

Man 3 Hey, did you hear? Bradford toll’s still standing.
Man 1 What? There were double the numbers of people as we had here. What about the others?
Man 3 Still up.
Man 2 Does that mean we’re the only ones/
Woman Rebecca and her daughters are the only ones/
Man 3 /Yes. Apperley Bridge’s toll house is the first to go. Won’t be the last I’ll bet. Rebecca’s brush has made a start, and/
Boy (panting) I couldn’t make my way through. It’s a huge throng.
Woman What is?
Boy The crowd.
Man 2 What crowd?
Boy Over there, coming down the hills. Is it all Bradford?
Man 3 I’d say there’s a few Leeds people from up Rawdon way. (shouts) Come, rejoice! Rebecca’s routed the enemy. Pick up your brush and join her!
Man 1 Do you know, I’m really pleased that we were the first to strike a blow. I think they’ll be talking about it for years.
Boy Do you mean we’re heroes? Like St George?
Woman No, idiot. Rebecca and her daughters! You must remember it was women who swept. Women who sent fire from eyes in their dirty black faces, whose hands had the strength of oxen, who move about like ghosts and who came to take on the rich and all who work at the tolls.
Boy You’re scaring me. I don’t want to meet any of them . . .
Man 2 Don’t worry lad. You’ll never see them here. Been and gone.
Man 1 And you should be too, lad. Off you go and play. (Boy lopes off)
Man 3 What are you having to drink at the pub??
Man 1, 2 & Woman Same as always. Apperley Ale.