Drama Built From Drama

The Navvies Trilogy – Bramhope ©

Navvies – Bramhope – By The Will Of Men  ©

CBM Book & Production Partner Broadcast Project

Story Origin & Synopsis:

There are few who deny it takes an incredibly strong will to see through a daunting task.

History is littered with illustrious names of those who made their mark. From the notorious to those victorious, and from the visionaries to the extraordinarily outrageous who beat all odds to succeed.

James Bray is not a name to easily reference, more especially in civil engineering terms. But James Bray, a back-street iron and brass-founder based in England’s heartland City of Leeds, West Yorkshire, has indelibly cast his name in the annals of British railway folklore.

Historic documents record James Bray as an at-all-costs megalomaniac. An insensitive man whose driving ambition sent many a young worker to an early grave.

‘Bramhope – By The Will Of Men’ provides a fascinating insight to how more than 4,000 men, women, and children descended on the tiny West Yorkshire village during the mid-1800s.

Scenes of workers’ families crammed into temporary accommodation in a Bramhope field surrounded by a sea of mud, and of the heartbreak endured by mothers of young children whose lifeless fathers were carried from the tunnel’s shafts, are described in a book chronicling the exploits of James Bray’s  obsession to succeed.

Bramhope – By The Will Of Men deals with real-life stories of tragedy, human endeavor, and of one man’s single-minded quest to drive his army of willing men through a two-mile ridge of solid rock dividing the valleys of Aire and Wharfedale at depths of 300 feet (90 meters).

On the eve of its grand opening, James Bray was reported to have resembled a broken man tearfully lamenting the deaths of so many. History also records curious flashes of compassion from the all-controlling contractor Bray.

It was his instigation to persuade the company’s directors to grant the General Infirmary at Leeds, the princely sum of £100 – to purchase a ‘spring cart’, one which would help to carry casualties the seven miles from Bramhope’s work site to the hospital.

The Navvies Trilogy is a collection of stories of hardened Irish labourers who escaped the worst of the potato famine to find work in the British Isles.

Drama engulfed all those who built a monument to workers’ ingenuity, and to James Bray’s ultimate tunnel vision.

A scaled copy of the tunnel’s entrance was built in nearby Otley’s cemetery. Those who died building Bramhope’s tunnel are laid to rest beneath the Navvies’ Monument.



Concrete Butterflies Media ©
Photography: Nigel Ibbotson ©
The Navvies Trilogy – Bramhope ©
Malcolm R Fane  ©