Harald Bruff

Harald Bruff

Harald Bruff with his wife Charlotte
Harald & Charlotte Bruff

Harald Bruff was born in Agra, India c1874, and came to England as a draughtsman on the India Docks in London.13,14 After working with the Great Western Railway, he joined the North-Eastern Railway, becoming bridge engineer. He was also a pioneer of structural welding using acetylene. In 1936 he visited Germany as the representative of the L.N.E.R. and, while there, the German Government offered him a job, which he refused. He retired in 1938 and was presented with a silver tray, but during World War Two he worked for the Ministry of Supply in London, checking and overlooking welding plans in connection with tank design.

Bruff married Charlotte Sofie Rosenkilde, a Norwegian, in 1903 and they had a daughter, Ruby. She in turn married Ulf Barkman, who worked at the Swedish legation in New York. Bruff’s love for Greenhow Hill and its inhabitants began around 1907, when the mines had been closed for nearly 20 years and many younger people had left. The few remaining miners split their time between work on farms, road repairs and small time mining. The community was in a decline which was not really halted until the 1970’s, when many properties were renovated and used as homes by commuters. The desire for a “pied à terre” is not new, however, and in *1914 Bruff bought Kell House, near Craven Keld, as a gift to his wife. She had only seen Greenhow once, and then at its very worst, so her reply was that “if he liked to live in that godforsaken place, he could. I certainly would not.” By 1915, however, they were using the house for week-ends and holidays.

Bruff’s interest in the purity and diversity of dialect, especially that spoken by the folk of Greenhow Hill, was reflected in the publication of two books. These were about well-known characters who worked and lived on “The Hill”.15,16 He was also secretary of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, which published his two papers on Greenhow mining terms.17,18 His interest in mining, and his desire to find employment for the people of Greenhow, led him to promote the formation of a company known as the Greenhaugh Mining Company Ltd, which began work in 1914 at Jamie Shaft. This was Bruff’s name for Pratt Shaft at the Craven Moor Mining Company’s Jamie Mine.19 Bruff’s company had great intentions, but these were curtailed by the shortages of materials etc., caused by World War One and the fall in prices after it. Bruff was managing director until 1919, when he returned to the railway, having created some employment for the villagers.

The Bruff’s interest in the village continued and they supported any functions at the village school. Likewise, Kell House was often used for fund-raising parties. He took the leading role in erecting the War Memorial on Greenhow and, in 1928, he proposed the establishment of a village institute. This ambition was realised in 1937, when it was opened. The institute, a large wooden building, which had been used during construction of the Angram and Scar House dams in Nidderdale, was near the Miners’ Arms.

Speaking of her husband during the period 1919 to 1937, Mrs Bruff said:

“Nobody knows better than I who shared all my husband’s joys and troubles, how heartbroken he was after his failure. He thought that all was lost and that life in the village would go back to its old conditions. He did not then realise until later that his enthusiasm had sown into the mind of the villager a small seed: the wish to carry on, not go back to inertia, but to make a success of life, making it worthwhile by individual efforts and initiative. He had shown them the way; he was a great idealist.”

“My husband had planned much, and hoped for the time being there was nothing to do. Then, after a few years, came the work for the village Institute or Hall. It was long in realising. The villagers came together, there were disagreements, disappointments and even great resentment, but the Institute got erected and here it has proved a great blessing to the village, and I hope it will continue to do so for many years. I am sure I am right when I say that the women in the village have been the backbone in keeping it going.” 20

Bruff died on January 29th 1946 and, after a service at St Mary’s Church, Greenhow Hill, his ashes were scattered on the hill he loved so much. A year later, his life was commemorated at the Institute, Greenhow Hill, where between 60 and 70 people met for a valediction. The Rev T. Garnett-Jones, Vicar of Winksley, also unveiled a portrait painting and a plaque, which were hung on the wall of the Institute. The portrait was painted by a Belgian artist friend, a refugee during the 1914-18 war, who had stayed with Mr and Mrs Bruff at Greenhow. The plaque in bronze, set on an oak mount, was inscribed:
“In remeberance of H.J.L. Bruff who died January 29th 1946, from Greenhow Hill parishioners in appreciation of voluntary services rendered.”

Mrs Bruff left England soon afterwards to live with her daughter and son-in-law in New York.

Transcribed with permission of Mike Gill from
British Mining No 55. Memoirs of the Northern Mine Research Society 1995.

* A mortgage deed dated 14th October 1915 stated that Bruff, along with his wife Charlotte Sophie had taken out a mortgage on Keld House, buildings and garden, which was formally owned and occupied by Ann Hodgson, and subsequently by Albert Redwood, and later, Sarah Lavina Lax.
He also purchased a plot of land which adjoins the house formally owned and occupied by George Pratt and afterwards by his daughter Hannah Hall, and then by Joseph Hall.


References 1-12 refer to a general intoduction to Yorkshire Mining in the 20th Century, not reproduced here

13. Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale Herald, (February 8th 1946). Report on the Funeral Service and Obituary.

14. Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale Herald, (February 1947). Report on the Memorial Service held at the Greenhow Village Institute.

15. Bruff, H.J.L. T’ill an’ T’oade uns upuv Greenho’ (York: Waddington 1920)

16. Bruff, H.J.L. T’Miners, Character Sketches of Old Yorkshire Lead Miners (York: Waddington 1924)

17. Bruff, H.J.L. “A Glossary of the Mining Terms in common use among the Miners of Greenhow Hill in Yorkshire” Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society Vol IV Part XXIV (1923), pp23-54.

18. Bruff, H.J.L. “Some further Mining Terms from Greenhow” Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society Vol IV Part XXVII (1926), pp40-43.

19. Northern Mine Research Society Records – Copies of Bruff’s Diaries.

20. Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale Herald, (February 1947).

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