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.

Photographs from Aireborough Historical Society show Mansell & Hatcher - a company which grew orchids in Cragg Wood in Rawdon on the site of the first Baptist Chapel and burial ground.

The 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.

According to the Orchid Review the precious flowers were already being imported to the Cragg Wood in the 19th Century- and Mansell and Hatcher continued to do this, even employing its own collectors. During the 1920s and 1930s the thriving company is said to have employed 20 growers.

The site is seen as being of archaeological significance because of its association with the early years of Baptist worship in West Yorkshire. The small non conformist burial ground is known to have been in existence since at least 1712.

Aireborough Historical Society archives include a drawing of the first Baptist Church to be built in Rawdon. The church, at Cragg Wood, was built in 1712.