SECRET worship, imposing Victorian villas, and a world renowned orchid nursery form part of the fascinating story of a historic area of Rawdon.

The Cragg Wood area was the setting for non-conformist worship stretching back hundreds of years. It became an up-market settlement for wealthy businessmen during the Victorian era. And it was also home to the world famous orchid nursery Mansell & Hatcher.

These photographs from the online archive of Aireborough Historical Society trace some of area's past.

Non-conformist worship in Rawdon has a long history - stretching back before the building of the first Baptist church in 1715.

At a time when non-conformism was outlawed secret services were held in the shadow of nearby Buckstone Rock. Worshippers risked breaking the law to worship in the style they chose rather than follow the doctrine of the Church of England.

Those early clandestine meetings were later commemorated each year with an annual open air service at Buckstone Rock, which is now overlooked by the club house at Rawdon Golf Club.

The first Baptist Chapel in Rawdon was built in Cragg Wood in 1715, but it was demolished when a larger building was needed.

Stone from the early building was used to build a second chapel- known as Buckstone Chapel- on Micklefield Lane in 1765.

This in turn was demolished and was replaced by a further chapel, on the same site, in 1892. Two years later an adjoining school room and assembly rooms were added.

Although the gateposts and walls were demolished during the Second World war the chapel continued to be used until the early 1970s when the Baptists, Congregationalists and Methodists combined to form Trinity Church.

The site of the original chapel went on to be used by the world famous orchid nursery Mansell and Hatcher.

In the 19th Century Victorians were gripped by “Orchidelirium” - as madness for the exotic blooms swept across Britain.

Collectors travelled to the furthest reaches of the globe to find as yet unknown varieties of the flower - and large amounts of money changed hands for rare species.

The lucrative trade became big business, and throughout the 20th Century in Rawdon one company established a worldwide reputation for itself.

One of the phe pictures, donated by Paul Metcalfe, show orchids being delivered to the nursery from Rangoon in Burma, now Yangon in Myanmar.

Nurseries existed on the site from the 1890s, and from 1909 until 2006 the land was occupied by the Mansell & Hatcher orchid nursery - now the site of a small housing development.

Fashionable homes in what is now Rawdon Cragg Wood conservation area began to be built in the mid 19th century.

The AHS website says: "Nathanial Brigg developed Cliffe Drive, Cragg Wood Drive, Woodlands Drive and Underwood Drive as four fashionable west/east carriage drives with lodge houses at their entrances. He had the woods landscaped and planted with trees and shrubs, many mature specimens of which remain today.

"The Cragg Wood area is located on the southern facing slope of a wooded valley. The valley follows the course of the River Aire, with land rising relatively steeply from the washlands on either side. The Leeds & Liverpool canal and railway have taken advantage of the valley bottom and add to the picturesque settings and views from and towards Cragg Wood. The villa development took advantage of the sloping topography. House were built on the varying terraces of the valley side, allowing each to benefit from open views across the valley.

"There was very little development before the coming of the Midland Railway to Apperley Bridge in 1846 which made it possible for Bradford textile barons to live in a deeply rural ambience yet commute daily to their mills and warehouses. In the 1881 census, of the 24 'big houses', 20 were occupied by textile magnates.

"Today some of those houses can still be found in Cragg Wood such as Summer hill, Daisy Hill, Cliffe cottage and Cragg Royd, plus cottages at Cragg Terrace (known previously as Cragg Bottom or Cragg Row)."