Book Review

(First published in 1989 in volume 4, p. 87, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)

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Victorian Bradford. The Living Past

Ian Beesley (Introduced by David James). Ryburn Publishing, 1987. £5.95

This excellent book will appeal to many people. It provides an introduction for those who want to learn something of nineteenth century Bradford; it is a starting point for those who want to study Bradford architecture and is sure to give nostalgic pleasure to all Bradfordians who are proud of their city's past as the worsted capital of the world.

Mr James's introduction and captions give a clear and succinct account of Bradford's rise to fame and Mr Beesley's collection of admirably clear photographs include most of Bradford's great buildings of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It may surprise those who think themselves familiar with the city to see the fine architectural detail of mills and warehouses so clearly illustrated, and this should make us all 'look up' and be more observant. The magnificent, even grandiose nature of some buildings, commercial as well as civic, show how proud the city was of its success.

But humbler places also have a tale to tell: the Tradesmen's Homes, now refurbished where, in a garden suburb under the shadow of Lister's Mill, it is still possible to lead the quietest of lives; and Bradford's first Board School, Bowling Back Lane, which in 1874 proudly displayed the effects of Mr Gibbs's high-pressure system of small bore pipes, used both to heat the rooms and supply hot water to the washbasins. In the same neighbourhood, crowded with public houses, stood the Moulders Arms, like many another pub, a place of refreshment and culture, for here in 1835 was established only the second branch of
"The Association for the Mutual Acquisition and Communication of Knowledge and for Asserting and Protecting the Political Rights of the Labouring Classes."

The book also shows rows of tidy terraces and back-to-backs, shops, churches and, last but by no means least, Joseph Smith's lone memorial in Undercliffe Cemetery. As land agent for the Cemetery Company this prime site was written into his contract.

The authors do not shrink from illustrating present scenes of decline and inner city dereliction but, as the title suggests, the main emphasis is on the heritage of splendid buildings which still survive.


© 1989, A.M.B. and The Bradford Antiquary