From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
West Riding
Bradford Town Hall.jpg
Bradford City Hall
Grid reference: SE163329
Location: 53°48’-0"N, 1°45’7"W
Population: 293,717  (2001)
Post town: Bradford
Postcode: BD1-BD15
Dialling code: 01274
Local Government
Council: Bradford
Bradford North
Bradford West
Bradford South

Bradford is a large, industrialised city of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is at the foothills of the Pennines, 9½ miles west of Leeds, and 16 miles north-west of Wakefield, both in the West Riding. It is a cathedral city, and one of the largest towns of Yorkshire.

Bradford rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture, particularly wool. It was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution, and amongst the earliest industrialised towns, rapidly becoming the "wool capital of the world".[1] The area's access to a supply of coal, iron ore and soft water facilitated the growth of Bradford's manufacturing base, which, as textile manufacture grew, led to an explosion in population and was a stimulus to spending on civic improvements; Bradford has fine Victorian architecture including the grand Italianate City Hall. The town received letters patent as a city in 1897.

The textile sector in Bradford fell into decline from the mid-20th century. Since this time, Bradford has emerged as a tourist destination with attractions such as the National Media Museum and Cartwright Hall. However, Bradford has faced similar challenges to the rest of the post-industrial areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire, including deindustrialisation, housing problems and economic deprivation. In the latter twentieth century, a large Indian Muslim population moved into Bradford, and today the city is cited as a prime example of 'parallel communities', where the population is effectively segregated along ethnic and cultural lines.

Name of the city

The name Bradford is from the Old English brad ford; "broad ford". This referred to a crossing of the Bradford Beck at Church Bank, below the Cathedral, around which a village grew in Anglo-Saxon times. It was recorded as "Bradeford" in 1086.[2]

Sights of the city

Bradford's oldest building is Bradford Cathedral, which for most of its life was a parish church. Few other mediæval buildings have survived, though Bolling Hall has been preserved as a museum.

The Wool Exchange, Bradford

There are some fine Victorian buildings: apart from the abundance of mills, there is the City Hall (with statues of rulers of England unusually including Oliver Cromwell), the former Wool Exchange, and a large Victorian cemetery at Undercliffe.

Little Germany is a splendid Victorian commercial district just east of the city centre which takes its name from 19th century German Jewish immigrants who ran businesses from some of the many listed buildings. Following decades of decay there have been successful conversions to office and residential use. In mid-2005 renovation began on the prominent Eastbrook Hall in Little Germany.

Bradford also has a number of architecturally historic hotels that date back to the establishment of the two railway lines into the city centre, back the Victorian age. The Victoria Hotel and the Midland Hotel were built to accommodate business travellers to the city during the height of the woollen trade.

Like many cities, Bradford lost a number of notable buildings to developers in the 1960s and 1970s: particularly mourned at the time were the Swan Arcade and the old Kirkgate Market. In recent years some buildings from that era have themselves been demolished and replaced: Provincial House, next to Centenary Square, was demolished by controlled explosion in 2002,[3] and Forster House was pulled down in 2005 as part of the Broadway development.


Bradford's main art gallery is housed in the grand Edwardian Cartwright Hall in Lister Park. The National Media Museum celebrates cinema and movies, and is the most visited museum outside London. It contains an Imax cinema, the Cubby Broccoli Cinema, and the Pictureville Cinema — described by David Puttnam as the best cinema in Britain.[4]

The Bradford Odeon, now closed

Also in the city is The St George's Hall - a grand concert hall dating from 1853 making it the oldest concert hall in Britain. The former Odeon cinema (originally the New Victoria Theatre) was the recent focus of protests by Bradfordians who did not wish to see the old building close. Adjacent is the Alhambra theatre, built in 1914 for theatre impresario Frank Laidler, and later owned by the Moss Empire group (Oswald Stoll and Edward Moss). The theatre was refurbished in 1986.


Within the city district there are 37 parks and gardens. Lister Park, with its boating lake and Mughal Water Gardens, was voted Britain's Best Park for 2006.[5] Peel Park is the venue for the annual Mela — a celebration of eastern culture, and Bowling Park in East Bowling is the site of the annual Bradford Carnival celebrating local African and Caribbean culture.


Bradford Cathedral

Two carved stones, probably parts of an Anglo-Saxons preaching cross, were found on the site of Bradford Cathedral. They indicate that Christians may have worshipped here since the earliest days of the Christian missions to convert the pagan English hereabouts. Tradition says that St Paulinus, who came with Augustine, preached in Dewsbury and it was from there that Bradford was first evangelised. The vicars of Bradford later paid dues to that parish.

Bradford Cathedral is the most prominent church of the city. It was originally the Parish Church of St Peter. The parish was in existence by 1283, and there was a stone church on the rock shelf above Bradford Beck by 1327. The Diocese of Bradford was created in 1919, carved out of the Diocese of Ripon, and St Peter's was raised to cathedral status.

The city has churches of many denominations: the industrial growth brought new churches, both of the Church of England and Methodist and others of the non-conformist denominations bursting from the Victorian Revival. The great Irish immigration of the nineteenth century brought Roman Catholic churches too.

Bradford and its area have a tradition of nonconformity which is reflected in the number of chapels erected by Congregationalists, Baptists and Methodists. The city was a centre of the House Church movement in the 1980s, and the Christian charity Christians Against Poverty was founded in the city. Other house churches in the city include El Shaddai International Christian Centre and the World Outreach Church. Bradford is also home to the Abundant Life Church, a large nonconforming Church, that has around 3,000 members.[6]

Other religions

  • Islam has become prominent particularly in inner city areas such as Manningham and Bradford Moor, where the majority population is Muslim; the result of mass immigration from Pakistan. There are a substantial number of mosques, some converted from churches or other buildings but several purpose-built.
  • Hinduism: amongst the city's sizeable Indian Hindu are a number of Hindu temples and community centres.
  • Sikhism: there are six gurudwaras in the city.
  • Judaism: The Jewish community was strong in the middle to late 19th century and built Bradford Reform Synagogue in Manningham, the oldest reform synagogue outside London,[7] established by German Jews who had moved to Bradford for the wool trade. In 2005 however the Jewish population was 356.[8]

In the 2001 census the percentage of the population identifying as Christian was 60.14% whilst 16.08% identified as Muslim, 1.02% Sikh and 0.95% Hindu. 13.3% identified as having no religion and 8.1% did not state a religious affiliation.[9]


Middle Ages

Bradford was settled in Anglo-Saxon times and by the Middle Ages had become a small town centred on Kirkgate, Westgate and Ivegate.[10] After William the Conqueror's Harrying of the North, the manor of Bradford was described as waste in the Domesday Book of 1086. It became part of the Honour of Pontefract given to Ilbert de Lacy for service to the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. There is evidence of a castle in the time of the Lacys. In 1316 there is mention of a fulling mill, a soke mill where all the manor corn was milled and a market. During the Wars of the Roses the inhabitants sided with House of Lancaster. Edward IV granted the right to hold two annual fairs and from this time the town began to prosper.

Early modern period

In the reign of Henry VIII, Bradford exceeded Leeds as a manufacturing centre.[11] Bradford grew slowly over the next two-hundred years as the woollen trade gained in prominence.

During the Civil War the town was garrisoned for the Parliamentarians and in 1642 was unsuccessfully attacked by Royalist forces from Leeds. Sir Thomas Fairfax took the command of the garrison and marched to meet the Duke of Newcastle but was defeated. The Parliamentarians retreated to Bradford and the Royalists set up headquarters at Bolling Hall from where the town was besieged leading to its surrender.[11] The Civil War caused a decline in industry.

After the accession of William and Mary in 1689, prosperity began to return.[10] The launch of manufacturing in the early 18th century marked the start of the town's development while new canal and turnpike road links encouraged trade.

Industrial Revolution

At the turn of the 19th century, Bradford was a small rural market town of 16,000 people, where wool-spinning and cloth weaving was carried out in local cottages and farms. The Industrial Revolution led to rapid growth, with wool imported in vast quantities for the manufacture of worsted cloth in which Bradford specialised, and the town soon became known as the wool capital of the world.[12] Yorkshire had plentiful supplies of soft water, which was needed in the cleaning of raw wool, and locally mined coal provided the power that the industry needed. Local sandstone was an excellent resource for building the mills, and with a population of 182,000 by 1850,[13] the town grew rapidly as workers were attracted by jobs in the textile mills.[12]

Blast furnaces were established in about 1788 by Hird, Dawson Hardy at Low Moor and iron was worked by the Bowling Iron Company until about 1900. Yorkshire iron was used for shackles, hooks and piston rods for locomotives, colliery cages and other mining appliances where toughness was required. Low Moor also made pig iron and the company employed 1,500 men in 1929.[14]

A major employer was Titus Salt who in 1833 took over the running of his father's woollen business specialising in fabrics combining alpaca, mohair, cotton and silk. By 1850 he had five mills. However, because of the polluted environment and squalid conditions for his workers Salt left Bradford and transferred his business to Saltaire in 1850, where in 1853 he began to build the workers village which has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.[15] Other major employers were Samuel Lister and his brother who were worsted spinners and manufacturers at Lister's Mill (Manningham Mills). Lister epitomised Victorian enterprise.

Unprecedented growth created problems with over 200 factory chimneys continually churning out black, sulphurous smoke, Bradford gained the reputation of being the most polluted town in Britain. There were frequent outbreaks of cholera and typhoid, and only 30% of children born to textile workers reached the age of fifteen. Life expectancy, of just over eighteen years, was one of the lowest in the country.[16] Like many major cities Bradford has been a destination for immigrants. In the 1840s Bradford's population was significantly increased by migrants from Ireland, particularly the rural counties of Mayo and Sligo, and by 1851 about 10% of the population were born in Ireland, the largest proportion in Yorkshire.[17][18]

Lister's Mill

During the 1820s and 1830s there was immigration from Germany. Many were merchants and became active in the life of the town. The Jewish community numbered about 100 families but was influential in the development of Bradford as a major exporter of woollen goods from their textile export houses, mostly based in the quarter which became known as Little Germany, and the civic life of Bradford. Jacob Behrens (1806–1889) exported woollen goods and his company developed into an international multimillion-pound business.[19]

To support the textile mills, a large manufacturing base grew up in the town providing textile machinery, and this led to diversification with different industries thriving side by side.[12] The Jowett Motor Company founded in the early 20th century by Benjamin and William Jowett and Arthur V Lamb, manufactured cars and vans in Bradford for 50 years.[20]

Recent history

Morrisons's headquarters in Bradford

Wm Morrison Supermarkets was founded by William Morrison in 1899, initially as an egg and butter merchant in Rawson Market, operating under the name of Wm Morrison (Provisions) Limited.[21]

The textile industry has been in decline throughout the latter part of the 20th century. A culture of innovation had been fundamental to Bradford's dominance, with new textile technologies being invented in the city; a prime example being the work of Samuel Lister. This innovation culture continues today throughout Bradford's economy, from automotive (Kahn Design)[22] to electronics (Pace Micro Technology).

The grandest of the mills no longer used for textile manufacture is Lister's Mill, the chimney of which can be seen from most places in Bradford. It has become a beacon of regeneration after a £100 million conversion to apartment blocks by property developer Urban Splash.[23]

After Second World War migrants came from Poland and Ukraine. After the 1950s came a great wave of immigration from the Indian subcontinent, in particular from Pakistan, which changed the face of the town dramatically.[24] Bradford soon had, and has, the highest concentration of Muslims in Britain.

In 1989, copies of Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses were burnt in the city, and a section of the Mohammedan community led a campaign against the book. In July 2001, ethnic tensions led to rioting, and a report described Bradford as "fragmented"[25] and a city of segregated ethnic communities.[26]


Thomas Cook Head Office, Godwin Street

Bradford's textile industry has been in decline for many years and the city has suffered from de-industrialisation. It has some of the poorest levels of social deprivation in the UK,[27] with widespread pockets of exclusion, and rates of unemployment in some wards exceeding 25%.[25] However the economy is worth around £7 billion, contributing around 8.4% of the region's output, and making the district the third largest (after Leeds and Sheffield) in Yorkshire & Humber. The economy has diversified and the city is home to several major companies, notably in finance (Yorkshire Building Society, Provident Financial), electronics (Pace Micro, Filtronic), engineering (NG Bailey, Powell Switchgear), and manufacturing (Denso Marston, BASF, Bailey Offsite). Supermarket chain Morrisons has its head office in Bradford.[28]

One of the city's biggest employers is Provident Financial plc. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The company was established in 1880 by Joshua Kelley Waddilove to provide affordable credit to families in the West Riding. It has moved into a 250,000 square feet, £45 million, flagship headquarters building in the city centre creating hundreds of jobs for the city. The building also houses a 200-bed Jurys Inn hotel.[29] Thomas Cook has its Tour Operators Head Office, which employs about 1,000 staff in the city.


"City of Film"

The National Media Museum, Bradford

Bradford International Film Festival is held each March.

In June 2009 Bradford was designated the world's first UNESCO City of Film for its links to the film-making and distribution, its media and film museum and its "cinematographic legacy".

The Bradford Animation Festival - the UK's longest-running animation festival, held each November sees an array of screentalks, workshops and special events. The festival culminates in the annual BAF Awards which celebrate new animation from around the world.[30]

The city has a heritage in films and many films and television shows have been filmed in the city including Room at the Top, Billy Liar and The Red Riding Trilogy.[31] Bradford was the location for the films Yanks, starring Richard Gere, and The Railway Children, a 1970s classic about Victorian children whose father goes missing. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and the controversial hit Rita, Sue and Bob Too, about a married man who cannot choose between two teenage lovers, were also filmed in the city.

Cinemas have been replaced by vast entertainment complexes with multi-screen cinemas. The Leisure Exchange in the city centre has a 16 screen Cineworld and at Thornbury, on the outskirts is the Odeon Leeds-Bradford with 13 screens which replaced the old Odeon next to the Alhambra. The University of Bradford also has a cinema run by the Students' Union, operating from the University's Great Hall.[32]


St George's Hall

St George's Hall is a concert hall dating from 1853 making it the oldest concert hall in Britain. Bradford Festival Choral Society was founded to perform at the inaugural Bradford Musical Festival that took place in August of that year,[33] and the choir is still a part of the musical life of the city.

The Hallé Orchestra have been regular visitors over the years, as have a wide range of popular musicians, bands, entertainers, comedians and theatrical performances.

Bradford is the hometown of several successful rock bands too: New Model Army, Anti System, Smokie, The Cult, The Scene, One Minute Silence and others.

Outside links


  1. "History of Bradford". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  2. Mills 1998, p. 49
  3. "". Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  4. "Making The Thing – A filmed introduction by John Carpenter". National Media Museum. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  5. "City park voted best in Britain". BBC News (BBC). 2006-08-04. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  6. "Ship of Fools: The Mystery Worshipper". Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  7. European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage, 5 September 2004, leaflet issued by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage
  8. "JCR-UK - Bradford Jewish Community, Yorkshire". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  9. Office of National Statistics. "Neighbourhood Statistics". Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "History of Bradford". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lewis, Samuel (1848), "Bradford (St Peter)", A Topographical Dictionary of England (British History Online): pp. 326–331,, retrieved 2011-07-03 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Bradford's History - Bradford University School of Management". Bradradford University. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  13. "Bradford - Hutchinson encyclopedia article about Bradford". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  14. The Basic Industries of Great Britain by Aberconway: Chapter VI, Graces Guide,, retrieved 2011-01-26 
  15. Jamews, David (subscription required), Salt, Sir Titus, first baronet (1803–1876),, retrieved 2011-07-08 
  16. "Bradford". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  17. RICHARDSON, C. (1968), IRISH SETTLEMENT IN MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY BRADFORD. Bulletin of Economic Research, 20: 40–57.
  18. Binns, Katie (2011 [last update]). "BBC - Bradford and West Yorkshire - Around West Yorkshire - Against the odds?". BBC. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  19. The Jewish connection!, BBC,, retrieved 2011-08-03 
  20. Ken Baker. "British Motor Manufacturers 1894-1960, Jowett". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  21. "Welcome To Morrisons" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  22. "Kahn Design | Alloy Wheels - Car Conversions - Watches". Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  23. "Getting Ready To Raise Roof At Mill!". Telegraph & Argus. Newsquest Media Group. 18 August 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  24. Bradford Libraries. "Destination Bradford". 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  26. Herbert, Ian (2001-07-10). "'Unacceptable segregation' in Bradford - This Britain, UK". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  27. "Indices of Deprivation 2004" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  28. "Contact Us - Morrisons". Morrisons. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  29. "Provident Financial: History". Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  30. "The Bradford Animation Festival". Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  31. "Bradford City of Film". Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  32. "Bradford Students Union - The Home for Bradford University Students". Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  33. G. F. SEWELL, A History of the Bradford Festival Choral Society, 1907


  • Mills, A. D. (1998). Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford. ISBN 0-19-280074-4. 

Further reading

  • C. Allen (2003). Fair justice: the Bradford disturbances, the sentencing and the impact. London: Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism. 
  • Derek A. J. Lister (2004). Bradford's Own. Sutton. ISBN 0750938269. OCLC 56460838. 
  • Gary Firth (1997). A History of Bradford. Phillimore. ISBN 1860770576. OCLC 44633113. 
  • Elvira Wilmott (1987). The Ryburn Map of Victorian Bradford. Ryburn. ISBN 1853310042. OCLC 63989031. 
Cities in the United Kingdom

AberdeenArmagh • Bangor (Caernarfonshire) • Bangor (County Down) • Bath • Belfast • Birmingham • Bradford • Brighton and Hove • Bristol • Cambridge • Canterbury • Cardiff • Carlisle • Chelmsford • Chester • Chichester • Colchester • Coventry • Derby • Doncaster • Dundee • Dunfermline • Durham • Ely • Edinburgh • Exeter • Glasgow • Gloucester • Hereford • Inverness • Kingston upon Hull • Lancaster • Leeds • Leicester • Lichfield • Lincoln • Lisburn • Liverpool • City of London • Londonderry • Manchester • Milton Keynes • Newcastle upon Tyne • Newport • Newry • Norwich • Nottingham • Oxford • Perth • Peterborough • Plymouth • Portsmouth • Preston • Ripon • Rochester • Salford • Salisbury • Sheffield • Southampton • St Albans • St Asaph • St David's • Southend-on-Sea • Stirling • Stoke-on-Trent • Sunderland • Swansea • Truro • Wakefield • Wells • Westminster • Winchester • Wolverhampton • Worcester • Wrexham • York