Today we embarked in a massive trip, that started very early in the morning so we would have lots of time to go round all three cities in the county of West Yorkshire, Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield. We left from Preston, and headed towards Bradford first of all. As it happened this trip fell on St George’s Day, the day of the patron saint of England.
Status: City of Bradford District, West Yorkshire, City, England
Travel: Northern Rail (Preston – Bradford Interchange), Northern Rail (Bradford Interchange – Leeds), Northern Rail (Leeds – Wakefield Westgate), Northern Rail (Wakefield Kirkgate – Leeds), Northern Rail (Leeds – Preston Via Bradford Interchange)
Eating & Sleeping: National Media Museum Cafe
Attractions: Bradford Cathedral, City Hall, Grosvenor Square, National Media Museum, Alhambra Theatre, Wool Exchange, City Park Mirror Pool, Cenotaph, St George’s Hall, Cartwright Hall, Bradford 1 Gallery
We left the station and started heading towards the City Hall. Just outside it was a small square with these cute little wooden donkeys, which thankfully nobody has ruined them with graffiti. They are located at the back of the City Hall, so we moved round into Centenary Square, and then into the City Park.
Bradford City Park is centred on the City Hall, along with the oval basin in front of it. There are shops and cafe’s around both sides of the oval. In the centre is the mirror pool, where water pools around a Y shape that is slightly raised between them. Small fountains create the pool, and in the centre (although it’s not always activated) is the largest fountain out of all the UK cities, that sprays water up to 100 ft in the air. The area was pedestrianised in 1997, and the park is split up into sections:
Norfolk Gardens – Where the Wooden Donkeys are located, behind the City Hall
Centenary Square – Outside the main entrance to the City Hall
North Western – Containing the Mirror Pool
I genuinely believe this is the best photograph I have taken on our travels, and it is certainly my favourite. I took three pictures and stitched them together as a panoramic, to take in the whole park. It was a beautiful day, the sun reflected off the mirror pool and the City Hall looks fantastic, comparable to the amazing City Halls we have seen in other cities such as Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds, and a similar Town Hall in Middlesbrough.
At the far left (the ochre coloured building) is the Bradford I Gallery, which has various exhibitions on around the year celebrating Bradford and showcasing a selection of modern art. You can find out more at their website here. Elsewhere in the city you could visit Cartwright Hall which is the city’s main Art Gallery, along with the Bradford Industrial Museum and Cliffe Castle Museum (Historic mansion of Henry Isaac Butterfield) which is on the outskirts of Bradford.
We passed through the park and on towards the National Media Museum, via a few places of interesting. The first is the ornately decorated Alhambra Theatre, shown above. It is named after the Alhambra palace, the official residence of the Emir in the Emirate of Granada.
Construction began in 1913, and it opened in 1914. It was made for Francis Laidler who owned two other music halls in the city. It was bought by Bradford City Council in 1964, and renovated in 1986. The front of the building is instantly recognisable in Bradford with the dome sat atop a series of columns, and inside there is a Proscenium Arch around the outside of the stage (rectangular in shape).
We kept moving towards the Media Museum, and passed through the memorial gardens, which is made up of two areas:
It consists of two areas, and at the back you can see the memorial to Queen Victoria which was unveiled in 1904, by the then Prince of Wales (King George V). In the centre is the pedestal where Victoria herself is stood, along with a wide balcony with steps up at each side. The top of each set of stairs is marked by a lion, which were carved by Alfred Broadbent of Shipley. The rest of the structure was designed by John William Simpson (1858 – 1933), who also designed the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. The Bronze figure of Victoria stands 12 feet high and is depicted as she would have looked back in 1887 (she passed away in 1901).
At the front is the Bradford Cenotaph, the cities War Memorial. It was erected after World War I, and stands as a memorial to everyone who lost their lives in the Two World Wars.
As Gloucester has the National Waterways Museum, York has the National Railway Museum and Manchester has the Museum of Science and Industry, Bradford was chosen to house the National Media Museum. There are seven floors overall in the building, with a cafe and a shop on the ground floor. Each floor has a different exhibit, including a cinema named in honour of Cubby Broccoli, the late producer of the very successful James Bond 007 Movie Franchise.
The museum was opened in 1983, and is one of the most visited museums in the north of England. We had a good look through the different floors, from contemporary art to a whole area on old televisions and broadcasting equipment where you could even stand in front of a green screen and get yourself put into a scene.
The view from the top floor of the museum gives a great panoramic look over the city, with the clock tower of the City Hall visible on the right. Bradford skyline is a lovely colour, no dull grey buildings in sight, and it’s kept that fantastic Yorkshire feel.
We picked up lunch in the cafe and moved on, with somewhere in mind to have a mini picnic…
Today was also St Georges day (Patron Saint of England) and there were festivites in the city park with ladies dancing around with the English Flag, and people dressed in Knights Armour and a Dragon Costume doing battle, as well as the City Hall playing Rose of England on the tower bells. Rose of England is a song about the national flower of England, the Tudor Rose, and was written by Welshman Ivor Novello in 1937. This was a lovely unexpected twist and we really felt patriotic as we sat there with our lunch on one of the various benches that line the outside of the oval, watching the events and listening to the bells.
There is also an annual parade through the city for St Georges day, but we were in the wrong area of the city at the time to see that.
As we moved through to the shopping streets, we stopped in front of the main entrance to City Hall to gaze in awe at this magnificent building. It dates back to the 19th century and one of its most prominent features is the tall bell tower in the middle. It was officially opened as Bradford Town Hall in 1873, but Bradford was granted city status in 1897 and the name was finally changed to Bradford City Hall in 1965 to reflect the significance of the city.
We left Centenary Square and entered the warren of streets around the main Shopping Centre, the Kirkgate Centre (elsewhere in the city is the other Shopping Centre, Forster Square Retail Park, which opened in 1995 and is located near Forster Square Railway Station.
The above building is actually owned and run by Waterstones, who always seem to find the most beautiful buildings for their stores, such as in Stoke-on-Trent. The building itself is the old Wool Exchange, which was built between 1864 and 1867, to a design by local architects Lockwood and Mawson.
The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston (1784 – 1865) who served as PM twice from 1855 – 1858, and 1859 – 1865 (due to his death in office). He resigned in 1858 due to circumstances abroad, but he was asked to resume the office when no other individuals could agree on a new government.
The style of building is known as Venetian Gothic, and is almost a smaller version of City Hall, and together they make Bradford City Centre a wondrous place to explore. It’s original purpose was, as the name suggests, for wool trading, however this function ceased in the 1960’s, sometime after 1963. Wool was widely traded in Bradford and brought great wealth to the city.
A Waterstones store now occupies the ground floor, whilst the Waterstone Coffee Shop, Cafe W, is on the upper floor, the Mezzanine Floor. The inner roof space is cavernous and you can gaze up at the arches high above the floor of the store. There are a few smaller shops located in the building as well, such as a newsagent and a panini shop, so it’s almost a small shopping centre now.
Originally, when Bradford was only a small medieval village, there were only three streets, Kirkgate, Westgate and Ivegate. That makes these three streets the most historic in the city, so to commemorate this, a metal arch was put up in 1988. Each side contains 15 panels, with pictures of history and culture from the city. It was designed by Peter Parkinson, and through it you enter the very oldest sections of Bradford.
We kept going from here to find Bradford Cathedral, and could see in the distance.
We didn’t quite make it to the cathedral as we had three cities to do during the day and we had a strict schedule of trains, but it was easily visible from the main shopping streets which we were exploring. The city centre is full of old buildings making Bradford a beautiful period city.
Bradford Cathedral is dedicated to St Peter, and in 1458 the oldest surviving parts of the current building were built. It used to be covered in diocese by Ripon Cathedral, until the diocese of Bradford was created and it was granted cathedral status in 1919.
Bradford is a lovely place to visit, with easy access links by road to the M62 motorway which heads on to Leeds, Hull and back towards Manchester and Liverpool, where it connects up with the M6, M60 and M61 motorways towards London, Scotland and Preston. By rail there are direct links to Leeds, Preston and Manchester locally, with two stations in the city, Forester Square and Bradford Interchange. The nearest airport is Leeds Bradford International, located around midway between Leeds and Bradford, offering both local and international flights.
I would definitely recommend Bradford as a place to visit, and it is certainly very high up the list of cities to revisit at some point in the future. The architecture is beautiful, the atmosphere amazing and it’s such a great place to relax in the heart of Yorkshire. This was just the start to a truly epic day, as we moved onto the city of Leeds next…