Historic Buildings of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Historic Buildings of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK

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Some views of Bradford.

During the course of its rich 200-year history, Bradford has seen some major changes. Indeed, it could be said that Bradford has been pulled kicking and screaming into the new Millennium. The closing decades of the 20th Century and the opening years of the 21st have seen the city totally transformed as old buildings have been either completely refurbished or pulled down and replaced by new ones. This entry looks at the growth of the City Centre from the mid-1800s.

The Town Hall

Bradford Town Hall is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Bradford Corporation was founded in 1847 at the Fire Station House in Swain Street. This was to be the centre of business until 1873, when it was decided that new premises were needed.

In 1869, the Council selected the current site. The new building (designed by the architects Lockwood and Mawson) was built in the Neo-Gothic style that was fashionable at the time. The new structure provided Council Chambers, administrative offices, and even police cells. In later years, the building was changed to serve as just the town hall. It was renamed City Hall in 1965.

Centenary Square

Centenary Square lies in front of the City Hall. This is a paved area where large-scale outdoor events are held, such as the 'Welcome Home' concert for Gareth Gates (after he came second in television's Pop Idol in 2002), and when the glamour of Bollywood arrived in Bradford1. Across the square are bars and coffee houses, namely the Moritz Arabic Restaurant, Starbucks, the Turls Green (Lloyds Bar), Fusia Noodles Bar, and the ChinoThai cocktail lounge. A large seating area is outside the bars and restaurants at which the visitor can sit and relax, watching the big screen while enjoying a drink.

Centenary Square was opened officially by Her Majesty The Queen on 27 March, 1997, and the big screen television was installed for the 2006 Football World Cup. The screen is on from early morning until late at night. A variety of programmes are shown including news, sport, and special one-off events such as the opera or ballet.

St George's Hall

To the right-rear of the town hall and across the street lies St George's Hall. The hall was designed by Lockwood and Mawson, and was opened to the public in 1851. Even if its acts have changed over the years, the Hall still looks much as it did back in the 19th Century. On Wednesday nights it used to be possible to see Jackie Pallo, Les Kellet, or Jim Breaks wrestling. It is no longer possible to see those kinds of amusements; these days, the Hall is host to many other forms of entertainment though, including music and stand-up comedy.

Museum of Photography

The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (later named the National Media Museum) opened in 1983. The eight-storey building was designed by Austin Smith Lord and can be found at the bottom of Little Horton Lane.

  • The ground floor is the main entrance, with the Pictureville Café, Museum Shop, The White Room, and a picnic area. The main feature on this floor is the Kodak Gallery.
  • The first floor is home to Gallery One, Cubby Broccoli cinema, and the Simulator (which offers 'the ride of a lifetime').
  • The second floor hosts Gallery Two, where special exhibitions are held.
  • The third floor holds Experience TV, where the visitor is invited to 'discover the past, present and future of television'.
  • The fourth floor accommodates the Magic Factory, a place to 'play with light, lenses and colours.'
  • The fifth floor has an Animation Gallery, where the visitor can watch a real animator at work.
  • The sixth floor is the Profiles Gallery, which features a real Oscar IMAX projection box.
  • The seventh floor is the Action Zone, where the educational workshops are held.

The Alhambra Theatre

Across the way from the Museum of Photography is the Alhambra Theatre. A triangular piece of land more than 1,500 square yards in extent had been left-over after Bradford corporation had bought a large area for street improvement and the construction of a new highway. In 1897 the corporation then sold it for nearly £8,000 to wool merchant William Horsfall Greenwood, who presumably wanted it for private development, but it was still a hideous eyesore. When prolific pantomime producer Francis Laidler took a lease on it for 98 years and six months, so began the building of the Alhambra Theatre.

It was built under the supervision of Chadwick and Watson of Leeds by general contractor JT Wright, also of Leeds. The Alhambra Theatre was completed on schedule and officially opened at 2pm on 18 March, 1914, with a ceremony at which Annie Laidler (the wife of Francis) performed. A small assembly of friends and colleagues gathered at the main entrance to the theatre to witness the historic event.

The word Alhambra is derived from the Arabic kal'-at al hambra, which means 'the red castle'. Following refurbishment, it is now white and cream, as any picture will show; but in 1914 it had red domes, hence the name. The Alhambra was a two-tier building in advance of its time. The accommodation consisted of orchestra stalls and pit stalls, on the ground floor, and the dress circle and balcony.

In the early years, the Alhambra rang with the sound of laughter as Jimmy Clitheroe, Arthur Askey, and Ken Dodd performed in front of delighted audiences. Each year, stars from television, film or soaps appeared in the Christmas pantomimes. In the 1980s, it was decided to redecorate the theatre. 30 October, 1986 saw the official reopening of the now beautifully refurbished building. Jacques Delours, President of the Commission of the European Communities, told the assembled glittering gathering that the Alhambra was now a little part of Europe.

The Central Library

The Central Library was the first major civic building to be erected in Bradford since the end of the Second World War. It was officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra on 17 July, 1967. The library provided a quiet refuge where members could take up to five books out on loan, or simply relax in the library with their book or newspaper. If refreshment was required after all that reading, a cup of tea could be bought from the café on the second floor. There isn't such a long walk now to the café as it is now positioned to the right of the front doors as you walk into the library.

It is now possible to borrow up to 25 books from the library. When the library won a lottery grant, CDs, DVDs and videos became available for hire. The grant also provided 50 computers which can be used free of charge by members for up to eight hours a week. Visitors are also allowed to use these computers by arrangement with the library staff.

The ground floor holds the main reception, the café, the children's section and the music section. The learning zone and signpost service can be found on the first floor. The second floor has meeting rooms and public washrooms.

The third and fourth floors provide information services and the fifth and sixth floors are for local studies and archives. However, the seventh and eighth floors are closed to the general public.

The Telegraph and Argus

In 1853, a five-storey wool warehouse was built on a plot of land behind St George's Hall. The architect was Robert Milligan of the firm Messrs Milligan, Forbes and Co2. In the 1920s, this same building was acquired by The Yorkshire Observer/Telegraph and Argus, which was later named The Telegraph and Argus. The new owners employed the architects Andrews and Delauney, who could not resist splashing architectural icing all over their cake, encrusting both open facades of the building with pediments, balconies, and quoins, in the style of a neo-mannerist palazzo. The design was also used extensively in the area known as 'Little Germany' in Bradford.

The Telegraph and its then stablemate the Yorkshire Observer moved into the new building in 1925. Lord Leverhulme, of soap fame, was the man who flicked the switch which started the printing presses rolling for the very first time. Over the years, the presses were continually renewed as the years wore on and the presses wore out. In the 1980s, the old building was no longer able to cope with the new style of press equipment that was required and so new premises were needed. The architectural firm of Robinson Design Partnership, of Bradford, designed the full smoked-glass building that can be seen today, adjacent to the old building. The original structure is still used as the paper's offices.

Their new Press Hall was officially opened on 22 July, 1981 by the Duchess of Kent. To coincide with the Festival at the start of 1984, a series of building awards were announced within the region. On 7 June, 1984, the architect Mr Arthur Griffin of Robinson Design Partnership, was granted one of 50 awards by the Royal Institute of Architects for the Telegraph and Argus Press Hall.

It is the aesthetic rather than the planning design that the Telegraph and Argus press hall is deserving of its award. Faced with an existing building of architectural importance and listed Grade 2, the problem of the extension wasn't an easy one.

The planning of the new extension splits into two, and shows the differing construction used. The light and airy glass box of the two-storey Press Hall to Hall Inges, and the heavier four-storey stone and clad dispatch and publishing section to Drake Street.

The building cleverly makes use of the change in level of Drake Street to allow heavy newsprint to be delivered at the lower ground level, and be fed upwards through the presses to be printed and folded. Discharging into the roof space via conveyor to descend to the dispatch area to be speedily packaged and delivered to waiting vans at the higher ground level of Drake Street, was a difficult circulation problem solved with careful planning.

If you stand outside the glass frontage when the presses are rolling, it truly is a sight to see all the activity taking place. The workers race about to get the next issue out to the loading area. The newspapers are put onto the vans, the vans deliver the papers to the shops and the street vendors, who will finally sell the papers to the customers.

Bradford Law Court

In June 1963 plans where put forward for a £1.4 million scheme for a new Bradford Law Court by the then city architect W Clifford Brown. Although, it wouldn't be until 1969 that the first stone would be laid, and finished on time in 1972. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham officially open the building on 16 June 1972, being greeted by a fanfare of trumpets. He unveiled a stainless steel plaque to commemorate the occasion. Also, he handed to the city justices a key originally presented by the magistrates in 1910 to the then Lord Mayor Ald W Land when a new court was opened at the City Hall.

The three-storey building was to have parking for 50 cars. The main entrance into the Tyrls with three smaller entrancies around the building, was to contain magistrates courts, the juvenile court rooms for magistrates, the recorder, the coroners court, probation offices, administration offices for the payment of fines, fees and maintenance, a caretakers flat, and a unique underground walkway for the new police headquarters adjacent to the courts. But as the police station was only just being built, it would be 1974 before the walkway to move the prisoners from the Bridwell cells to the law courts could be utilised.

The Police Station (The Bridewell)

In 1963, a project to build a large central police station was begun. The building was completed in 1974, when Her Majesty The Queen opened the Tyrls Building, the Bridewell. The front part of the building, or podium is three floors, with a basement, and an eight-storey block attached. The main building is linked by a corridor with the new law courts.

In January, 2007, the Bridewell and the outdated Odsal Top police station were closed. They have been replaced with an entirely new and up-to-date structure on Nelson Street, within a few minutes walk of the town centre.

The Police Station (The Trafalgar House)

On Thursday 24 May, 2007, Her Majesty The Queen officially opened the new police station, Trafalgar House, on Nelson Street. The architects Rance, Booth and Smith (of Saltaire, Shipley), designed the new police headquarters to accommodate more than 700 officers and staff. This contemporary, four-storey headquarters boasts a variety of modern facilities, all of which provide a vastly improved working environment for officers and staff. It is in a more accessible location for members of the public. The building was fully designed and built in line with the Secured by Design Standards and the Disability Discrimination Act.

There are a number of conference and training rooms, two of which have been named as follows:

  • The Beshenivksy Room was named after PC Sharon Beshenivsky, who was shot and fatally wounded at a robbery in the city on 18 November, 2005.
  • The Hawcroft Room honours Sergeant Michael Hawcroft, who was stabbed to death while on patrol, 12 March, 1981.

The Hilton Bradford Hotel

All major centres of commerce have a need for quality accommodation where weary travellers can rest. Along Hall Inges is the Norfolk Gardens Hotel, also known as the Hilton Bradford Hotel. Designed by William Waler and Partners, it was completed in 1972. Contrary to other local edifices, it is not covered with Bradford stone, but rather with stone-coloured concrete blocks. It might be said that the quality of the material matches the quality of the architecture.

Although there is no in-house parking, there is a multi-storey NCP car park next door to the hotel. This six-storey grey concrete car park was built in the 1960s. If you have a large car (or are very tall) - watch out as the headroom is just six feet six inches tall! Although it may look drab and grey, this building has a colourful and tragic history; during the 40-odd years it has been open, several people have fallen or jumped from the top floor.

Westfield's Bradford Broadway Shopping Centre

Just after the millennium, it was announced in The Telegraph and Argus that a new shopping centre for 75 shops, costing £275 million, would be built in the Forster Square area. Named Westfield, this would be located from the end of Market Street, across from the Telegraph and Argus building, the start of where Hall Inges and Leeds Road begin. Many shops and the local radio station were expected to vacate the area for two years, and in 2002 work on demolishing the area began but later that year work stopped and the area remained fenced off. A few years later work briefly resumed on the underground section, but again work stopped, leaving the area an eyesore nicknamed the 'Hole in the Ground'.

In April 2010 the area was made into a temporary Community Urban Park, incorporating footpaths, seating, grass, and urban allotments. On 28 August, 2010 the park was used to contain a march by the English Defence League and in 2012 the group known as Occupy stayed in the park for over 25 days.

In early 2014 work on rebuilding the shopping centre, to a modified plan for 70 shops at a cost of £300 million, resumed, with an estimated completion date of 2015. The architects are Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson for the Westfield Group. Who will officially open Westfield's Bradford Broadway is still not known.

And the town continues to grow...

There are other buildings in Bradford that are new: the Multi-Cinema, the Stakis Casino and the shopping complexes in the Canal Road area - not to mention many more buildings outside the city centre.

All this development and regeneration demonstrates that Bradford truly is looking to the future, building on its industrial past to provide inhabitants and visitors alike with a truly 21st-Century city experience.

1The International Indian Film Academy Awards are the Indian equivalent to the Oscar awards. In June, 2007, Yorkshire hosted the awards with events held at a number of locations.2Robert Milligan served as the first Lord Mayor of Bradford (1847 - 1848), and then as MP in the House of Commons. Henry Forbes served as Lord Mayor from 1849 to 1850.

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