A Brief History of Bradford, West Yorkshire

Bradford mill

Bradford‘s intriguing history dates back to Saxon times and by the middle ages had grown into a small town. The town really began to prosper after Edward IV granted the right to hold 2 annual fairs, and during the reign of Henry VIII the town had overtaken Leeds as a manufacturing centre. The launch of manufacturing in the early 1700’s and the new canal and turnpike road links meant that the town continued to grow steadily.

At the beginning of the 19th Century, Bradford was a small market town but it boomed during the Industrial Revolution, becoming a somewhat polluted metropolis with vast quantities of wool being imported for the manufacture of Worstead cloth. There were 38 worsted mills in Bradford by the middle of the 19th century and it was thought that two-thirds of the country’s wool production was processed in in the town. Less than ten years later, Bradford was named as the wool capital of the world.

The downside of the growth of industry in the town was the pollution. Over 200 chimneys continually churned out black sulphurous smoke leading to Bradford gaining the reputation as being the most polluted town in England. Cholera and typhoid were rife and only 30% of children were said to reach the age of 15.

The city expanded with an influx of immigrants, and as a result many new buildings were constructed. Examples of these Victorian buildings can be seen throughout the city but for a real treat, head to the area known as Little Germany.  Home to the German merchants who had come to Bradford in the late 1850s, this unique area is a collection of 85 buildings constructed between 1855 and 1890, of which 55 are listed.

Today, while the textile industry has been in decline, this innovative city has invented new textile technologies, along side automotive design and electronics.  The grandest mill, Lister’s Mill, has been converted into apartment blocks, a project that cost £100 million! This prosperous city is working hard to break its reputation of urban dereliction, with plans in place for a re styling of the city centre and various regeneration projects.