Bradford

Bradford Interchange station – not a great way to enter a city, particularly after trundling through railway cuttings pasted with litter. Shades of Bletchley market circa 1976 with its tented white canopies. It might have worked at the Munich Olympics, but on a small scale it looks like toytown. And while I’m at it – who on earth decided to dissect Bradford centre with urban highways?

Did all Yorkshire mill-owners visit Italy? The same question arises as in Leeds: did they see themselves as heirs to mediaeval Tuscan or Flemish wool merchants? Was Bradford to be a city state with its own palazzo and Florentine tower?

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Bradford City Hall, Lockwood & Mawson, 1873. I rather liked the magistrates court next door too.

A digression. It’s noticeable that the quality of postcards has declined in the last few years – for obvious reasons. So Bradford tourist office had a poor quality photograph of City Hall completely unreflected in the choppy mirror pool. Couldn’t someone have taken the photo on a calm day with a bit of sunlight? Would that have been so difficult? After all, it’s a city hall to boast about.

I went to Bradford to visit the National Media Museum, but – despite the variety and presentation of exhibits – I realised it wasn’t quite what I wanted, so I went for a walk before catching the train back.

There’s potential for a comparative study of individual towns’ takes on the Alhambra idiom. This is Bradford’s:

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Alhambra, Chadwick & Watson, 1914

And the Wool Exchange is straight out of Venice. Apparently (thank you, Wikipedia), John Ruskin was consulted but was dismayed by the industrialists’ focus on profit.

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Wool Exchange, Lockwood & Mawson again, 1867

Waterstones now now occupies much of the interior – a bookshop in a pseudo-mediaeval hall.

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I headed up one of the horrible highways to Little Germany, where German merchants settled in the wool capital of the world. I vaguely recall J B Priestley writing about his memories of their descendants in English Journey. But I don’t think they left these behind:

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Chapel Street, Bradford

Oh, the power of art! If these had been a real armchair and a broken fridge, neighbours would have been straight onto Environmental Health.

And, going back to the station, I found this building more congenial than the neighbouring St George’s Hall:

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Britannia House, Hall Ings. Art Deco.

Bradford hasn’t had the shot in the arm that Leeds has had, and it shows. But it’s still interesting and well worth visiting.

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