Walk 86: Bradford City Walk: Tikka moment to (Aloo) Go(bi) & have a look Bradford

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3 miles (4.83km)

Time to walk: Looking at everything there is to see & popping into a couple of places, a leisurely couple of hours

Difficulty: Easy & all on street paths. There are a few steps at the end leading up to the cathedral, but nothing too strenuous

Parking: We were working nearby so parked at our hotel, but there’s plenty of car parks & on-street parking

Public toilets: Cafes etc on the way

Map of the route: 

This walk comes courtesy of the Bradford Heritage trail with our own additions & slant thrown onto it.

Bradford in West Yorkshire, lies in the foothills of the Pennines, 8.6 miles west of Leeds. In Roman times it was a crossing point of a large stream on the road between Elslack & Castleford. The name therefore probably comes from ‘Broad Ford’ . The stream is now hidden under the city

Historically a part of the West Riding 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 & amongst the earliest industrialised settlements, rapidly becoming the “wool capital of the world”. The area’s access to a supply of coal, iron ore & soft water facilitated the growth of Bradford’s manufacturing base, which, as textile manufacture grew, led to an explosion in population & was a stimulus to civic investment

The textile sector in Bradford fell into decline from the mid 20th century. Since this time, Bradford has emerged as a tourist destination, becoming the first UNESCO City of Film with attractions such as the National Media Museum, Bradford City Park, the Alhambra theatre & Cartwright Hall

However, Bradford has faced similar challenges to the rest of the post industrial area of Northern England, including de-industrialisation, social unrest & economic deprivation. It’s a place that isn’t easy to like on a first visit & is somewhere you have to dig beneath the facade to get the true picture

It also has a very diverse community & some superb curry restaurants! In 2016 Bradford retained the Curry Capital of Britain title for six years in a row

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts in the vast square outside the City Hall…

On the right’s the Magistrates Court which was designed & built in 1972 using local Bolton Wood stone. Compared to the other ornate buildings which surround it, the Court building is more modern & feels somewhat out of place

As with any large city square there’s always something going on…

2. Walk down the right side of the building & use the underpass to walk under the road. It’s a little bit daunting & something we wouldn’t like to do after dark

There’s plenty of great street art in the underpass. On reaching the junction advertising the Media Museum take the right passage

3. The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television is at the top of the slope. It was in the news the day after we did this walk. It’s already part of the Science Museum & there is to be more focus on this element to try & stop falling attendance numbers

The museum has seven floors of galleries with permanent exhibitions focusing on photography, television, animation, videogaming, the Internet & the scientific principles behind light & colour. It also hosts temporary exhibitions & maintains a collection of 3.5 million pieces in its research facility. The venue has three cinemas, operated in partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas, including an IMAX screen, & hosted popular film festivals, including the Bradford International Film Festival until 2014

4. Outside’s a statue of playwright & novelist J.B Priestley who was born in the city & learnt his trade as a columnist at the local newspaper…

John Boynton “J.B.” Priestley’s Yorkshire background is reflected in much of his fiction, notably in The Good Companions (1929), which first brought him to wide public notice. Many of his plays are structured around a time slip, & he went on to develop a new theory of time, with different dimensions that link past, present & future

In 1940, he broadcast a series of short propaganda radio shows that were credited with strengthening civilian morale during the Battle of Britain. His left wing beliefs brought him into conflict with the government, & influenced the birth of the Welfare State. The programme was eventually cancelled by the BBC for being too critical of the Government

He is perhaps best known for his 1945 play An Inspector Calls

5. Walk over the busy road towards the impressive Alhambra Theatre…

In front of the theatre’s the large Victoria Memorial – it actually weighs 3 tons

The memorial was sculptured by Alfred Drury & unveiled by the future George V in 1904. It shows Queen Victoria in the attire she wore at her jubilee in 1887. The war memorial is next to it…

6. Let’s have a look at the Alhambra Theatre

Bradford Alhambra is named after the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, which was the place of residence of the Emir of the Emirate of Granada. It was built in 1913 at a cost of £20,000 for theatre impresario Francis Laidler, & opened on Wednesday 18 March 1914. In 1964, Bradford City Council bought the Alhambra for £78,900 & in 1974, it was designated a Grade II listed building. It underwent extensively refurbishment in 1986

The 1400 capacity theatre is a major touring venue & hosts a wide range of stage shows from ballet & opera to variety & comedy, musicals, drama &, of course, the annual pantomime. Regular visits are made from prestigious companies such as Opera North, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, the Royal National Theatre to complement spectacular West End musicals

7. Next door’s the former Odeon Cinema was completed in 1930 as the New Victoria & sits on the site of William Whittaker’s brewery & malting, which had closed in 1928. It’s a Renaissance Revival building designed by the architect William Illingworth, with copper covered cupolas on two corners complementing those on the neighbouring Alhambra theatre. The New Victoria combined a 3318 seat auditorium, ballroom & 200 seat restaurant

As a cinema it was the third largest in Britain when it opened, with only the Trocadero at Elephant & Castle & Davis Theatre at Croydon being larger. By 1930 cinemas had converted to screen sound pictures, which had been introduced in 1927, but the New Victoria was the first cinema in Britain to be purpose built for “talkies”. In 1950 the complex was renamed the Gaunt &, in 1968, was sold to Odeon Cinemas

It was also a distinguished venue for live music. The main auditorium was the largest concert venue in the north of England. Frankie Laine, Bill Haley & His Comets, Buddy Holly, Paul Anka, Count Basie, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran played there. In February 1963 Helen Shapiro headlined a concert there, with supporting performances by Danny Williams & Kenny Lynch. At the bottom of the bill was a new band called The Beatles, who were about to release their first LP record Please Please Me. In October The Everly Brothers headlined a concert with supporting acts by Bo Diddley & another new British band, The Rolling Stones

In December The Beatles returned, headlining a concert playing to two packed houses with supporting performances from The Barron Knights, Tommy Quickly, Billy J. Kramer & Cilla Black

The Rolling Stones returned in 1965, this time heading the bill. The building is currently under renovation & it’s hoped will once again be opened as a major music venue

8. Walk back across the road into Centenary Square…

Bradford City Hall is a quite magnificent building. It was designed by Lockwood & Mawson & opened in 1873. Winston Churchill gave his first speech after the Second Battle of El Alamein outside the hall in which he called for the people to ‘go forward together & put these grave matters to the proof’. In 1992 the bells stopped due to decay of the bell frame, but in 1997 were repaired with National Lottery funds

In 2007 the City Hall filled in for Manchester Crown Court for the duration of the trial of Tracy Barlow in Coronation Street. The bells have played “The Star-Spangled Banner” to mark the three minutes’ silence for those who died due to terrorism. At the memorial in 2005 of the 1985 Bradford City stadium fire, dozens of people broke down in tears as the City Hall bells played “You’ll Never Walk Alone” & “Abide with Me” in tribute to the victims

The bells can now be programmed to play any tune, subject to musical arrangement & technical limitations. The bells played “No Matter What” several times in 2001, when ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ was playing at the Alhambra – the operator of the bells was able to see the theatre steps from the bell tower & timed the peals with the audience’s exit

9. Walk across Aldermanbury towards the red building on the corner of Sunbridge Road…

This is the Prudential Assurance building & is the only one built out of red brick & terracotta. Built in 1895, it was designed by Manchester architect, Alfred Waterhouse

10. Walk up the side of the building along Sunbridge Road. There are many original Victorian buildings along this road in many different styles including Gothic

Queen Anne Chambers were built in 1880 probably in a Queen Anne style but with various amendments including the highly decorative windows…

11. Cross over the road & walk up the narrow Upper Millergate…

At the top of the street’s the Kirkgate Centre. This area is one of the oldest parts of the city & was originally the site of the Market Cross. In 1251 the city was granted market rights by the King. Prior to that date the market was held in the churchyard

12. Turn left & walk up Westgate…

…turning right at the top into Godwin Street

There’s more modern buildings in this area, but many of them have still been built from the same local stone used in Victorian times

13. Turn second left into the most interesting Rawson Quarter…

The domed building at the end on the corner with John Street is the Rawson Hotel. It was built in in 1899, but was severely damaged by bombs in World War II. The property once formed part of the frontage of the market. The dome is a local landmark known to all

14. Head straight over the crossroads to arrive at another lovely little square containing an impressive statue


This is Richard Oastler, “the Factory King” who was a “Tory radical”, active opponent of Catholic Emancipation & Parliamentary Reform & a lifelong admirer of the Duke of Wellington. However he was also an abolitionist & prominent figure in the “anti-Poor Law” resistance to the implementation of the “New Poor Law” of 1834

Most notably, he was at the heart of the campaign for a ten hour working day in its early years. Moved by pity & indignation at the long hours worked by young children in factories, he devoted his life to their emancipation & was a tireless champion of the Ten Hours Factory Bill

15. Walk back to the crossroads, turn left & then left again up the beautiful North Parade…

Yeah Man!!

On the left have a look at the “art deco” of numbers 15-17…

…whilst on the other side of the road is some of the finest architecture in Bradford, including Gothic, Jacobean & Dutch Renaissance

16. At the end of North Parade is the magnificent Yorkshire Penny Bank

The property was built in 1895 to Ledingham’s design & was then remodelled & redesigned in a French / Italian Renaissance style. Unfortunately it’s now a pub…

17. Walk round the Bank & then back down the other side along Manor Row

The buildings along here are rather grand. On the right’s a group of 19th century town houses

Opposite is the magnificent Kenburgh House which was built about 1820

Back on the right’s the former County Court which was originally built in 1859 & later added to

Finally at the bottom of Manor Row, on the left’s, the Register Office which was built in 1877 as Poor Law Offices

18. Time to move back into the less “eye-pleasing” areas of the city so turn right along Upper Piccadilly…

…turning left down the hill that is Darley Street which has fine Victorian buildings on both sides

At the bottom of Darley Street at the junction with Duke Street is the Bradford Library & Literary Institute. Originally built in 1827 as a two storey private dwelling, it was bought by the library in 1854 as a subscription library

19. Continue along Darley Street…

Pass the shops above to arrive at the junction with Bank Street. There’s some imposing buildings here. Firstly on the left’s the old Bradford Banking Company building, now a branch of Santander. It was designed by Andrews & Delauney & built in 1858 as a prestige bank for the city

Have a look inside at the beautiful interior

20. Across from the Bank’s the old Talbot Hotel…

Turn left past the Talbot Hotel down Kirkgate

About halfway down make a short detour up Piccadilly to have a look at the Exchange Rooms on the left. These were built in 1828 in a Greek revival style as a public newsroom, billiard hall & a ballroom. Later they became a wool exchange & then a post office

21. Walk back & continue along Kirkgate. At the bottom on the corner of Cheapside’s a gorgeous building with a combination of styles that was built in 1885 for Beckett & Co…

…& then over the road’s a Bradford institution…The Midland Hotel

The original Midland Hotel built in 1885 had 115 bedrooms & is of particular architectural interest. The quality ornate plasterwork in the Princes & French Ballrooms is rivaled only by similar examples in London. The high ceilings, glittering chandeliers & the architecture of the building is both breathtaking & inspiring, blending to make you appreciate the opulence of an era unfortunately long past

There’s a significant amount of history attached to the Midland Hotel due principally to the fact that it played host to the rich & famous during its heyday, including Laurel & Hardy, The Beatles & the Rolling Stones. In 1905, the famous Shakespearean stage actor, Sir Henry Irving died on the main staircase after his appearance at the nearby Theatre Royal. He was attended by his manager Bram Stoker, better known as the originator of Dracula. A small plaque erected in the reception records the stay of another great entertainer, George Formby who performed at the Alhambra Theatre from 23rd – 28th September 1940. Almost every Prime Minister up to Harold Wilson has stayed in the hotel

We’ve stayed there with work & you can feel the history – it is rather in need of an update though to return it to its former glory

22. Continue straight ahead along Cheapside…

…to arrive at Forster Square where ahead is the Cathedral which we’ll visit at the end of this walk. Turn right here to arrive at the Shopping Centre entrance…

The statue at the entrance to the centre is of William Edward Forster who was an English industrialist, philanthropist & Liberal MP for Bradford, as well as Minister for Education. His main achievement was driving through the 1870 Education Act to provide schooling for all children.  His staunch advocacy of lethal force against the Land League earned him the nickname “Buckshot Forster”

23. Enter & walk through the Shopping Centre…

…to emerge back on Market Street, turning left towards the Wool Exchange

The Wool Exchange Building was built as a wool trading centre in the 19th century. The grandeur of its Gothic Revival architecture is symbolic of the wealth & importance that wool brought to Bradford

The commission to design the building was given great importance in Bradford & John Ruskin was invited to give his advice. In his lecture, Ruskin famously declared “I do not care about this Exchange – because you don’t”. Ruskin argued that good architecture could only emerge from a pious, paternalistic society & that the Exchange represented the worst form of exploitative capitalism

There was a competition to design the building. Entries included one from Norman Shaw, but it was won by the local architects Lockwood & Mawson. The foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston. The architectural style employed is Venetian Gothic with some Flemish influence in the tower. Ruskin was dismayed by the use of a Gothic revivalist style in that it imitated the aesthetic, but not the spiritual conditions of Medieval society. He had expressed similar displeasure after the construction of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in a Gothic revivalist style in 1861

The trading on the Exchange was by verbal contract only, each party keeping a separate note of the price, quantity & delivery date. Members only (holding tickets authorised by the Committee, usually sponsored by an employing firm) were allowed on the trading floor, but there was a walk around the floor where freelance salesmen & independent traders were allowed to wait in an attempt to catch a member’s eye & close a deal “off floor”. “Off floor” you took your chance on the wool delivered being up to sample. All “on floor” deals involved the wool being delivered via the conditioning house on Canal Road where the wool was checked for quality (staple length) & dry weight, since adding water was a favourite swindle. To be a member & to “have a ticket” was a social distinction in the old wool trading Bradford

The building has not been used for trading wool since the 1960s. Waterstones uses the ground floor area for book sales. The best views of the interior are available from the coffee shop on the mezzanine floor – pop in & have a look. Modern plate glass windows on this side of the building let in plenty of natural light, something that was lacking in the old days of wool trading

24. Having past the Exchange, turn right up the side of it…

…& then left into Hustlegate

Hustlegate was another of Bradford’s commercial districts, based in Victorian buildings. Pass under the archway to arrive in Ivegate where we turn left…

25. At the bottom of Ivegate stands a gate known as The Ivegate Arch. This fabulous structure represents various aspects of the history & character of Bradford. Take time to have a look at the details on it…

26. Cross Market Street & turn down Bank Street to Hall Ings

Ahead are the Telegraph & Argus buildings. The modern extension can be seen above, but look to the right to see the original offices that were built in 1853 as a warehouse for merchants Milligan & Forbes. It was built in the style of an Italian Palace. Past that is St George’s Hall that’s built in the style of a classic temple – another example of how this city’s architectural styles sit side by side

 27. Cross over Hall Ings & up the hilly Bridge Street

At the top, built on the site of the former Exchange Station is the Crown Court

Have a walk around the square as there’s some amazing sculptures…

28. Once finished having a look around walk down the left side of the court building…

…& down the steps to reach Vicar Lane aka Leeds Road…

Across this road is an area of Bradford known as Little Germany. The buildings within this area date back to the 19th century & are the legacy of Jewish merchants from mainland Europe who spent large sums of money constructing imposing warehouses for the storage & sale of their goods for export

A large proportion of the merchants came from Germany hence the name ‘Little Germany’. This area is still one of Bradford’s busiest commercial areas, with over 110 businesses & organisations with 3,000 workers

29. Cross the road & make a brief diversion up Vicar Lane. The impressive building standing on the corner of Aked Street’s the old American & Chinese Export Warehouse, built in 1871 in an Italian ‘palazzo’ style

Walk back down, turn right & then right again up Well Street…

Most Well Street properties were designed by Eif Milnes around 1865. Before reaching the shopping centre again turn right up Church Bank

 On the right there’s a great little mural – the stone is real

30. Climb the steps on the left up to the Cathedral Church of St Peter. The first church on the site was built in Anglo-Saxon times & fell into ruin during the Norman invasion in 1066. The Norman Lady of the Manor, Alice de Laci, built a second church that 300 years later would be destroyed by raiding Scots. It stood in a forest & was known as the ‘Chapel in the Wood’

During the 14th century the church was rebuilt & some of the older masonry may have been used in the reconstruction of the nave. The nave arcades, the oldest parts of the present building, were completed in 1458. A clerestory above them was added by the end of the 15th century. Chantry chapels were founded, on the north side of the chancel by the Leventhorpe family, & on the south by the owners of Bolling Hall. The tower in the perpendicular style was added to the west end and finished in 1508

So our walk ends in Cathedral Close which gives a fine view across the rooftops of the city.

As we said at the start, on first impression Bradford’s not the prettiest of cities, but once you get under the skin & start to appreciate the buildings it’s well worth a look

Now…about that curry!