Friday, 9 September 2011

On this day 9th September 1873...

Bradford Town Hall opened with great procession but was it the right location?

“Opening by the Mayor, Mr M W Thompson, of the Bradford Town Hall, erected at a cost of £100,000 exclusive of land. A procession, representing more than forty trades, assembled in Manningham Park, and marched through the principle streets to the Town Hall. The procession, which has been described as “perhaps the most remarkable trades procession that has been seen in England for centuries” contained a large number of costly trophies, and took 2 hours to pass a given point. The opening ceremony was performed in a heavy downpour of rain,”
The day had been declared a general holiday to enable all classes to participate in the opening.
Town Hall Square, Bradford - c1905
However there had been controversy over the location of the Town Hall. The Leeds Mercury reporting in 1867 that:
“The proposal to erect the new Town Hall at Bradford on a narrow piece of land, bounded by chapel lane and Market Street, has been much debated, and opinions vary as to the desirability of erecting a long narrow building as the principle structure of that borough.”
Advocates stated it had advantages in that it would be very light and would enable separate entrances for the various corporation departments. The main grounds for objection were “that the shape is ugly, and that when a Town Hall is erected it ought to stand out conspicuously, and, while being useful, it ought at the same time be an ornament and a credit to the Town of Bradford, and a monument of the taste and enterprise of the present generation”
The objectors favoured an alternative site at Bowling Green and maintain that this site “is one of the finest in Europe. Bounded on all sides by streets which lead to every part of the borough, it is in the heart of the town, and the roads radiate from it like the arteries of the human body, converging on the Bowling Green site, as the mayor expressed it at a recent Council meeting, like rivers flowing into the ocean.”
The location of the Bowling Green site is difficult to pin down the description at the time said “supposing the Town Hall erected on the Bowling Green site, the old block of buildings between it and the Exchange removed, Hustler –gate opened out, Market Street widened and the land between it and the exchange covered either by a handsome hotel, or fine buildings.” A later report in 1873 stated it was the site of the new covered market at Kirkgate.
The Bowling Green site had 3 drawbacks “the cost of the site, the heavy expense that would be entailed in placing a suitable structure on the land, and the diverting of the direct route between the Leeds Road and Thornton Road.” They hoped that the building could be made to pay for itself by the inclusion of a portion of the structure for private offices.
When the decision was made in favour of the former site in 1865 the newspaper reported “the general talk is that it is never too late to mend, it is to be hoped that our Town Council will, even at the eleventh hour, have the grace of repentance conferred upon them and rescind their determination in favour of the ugly narrow piece of land in Chapel Lane.”
The decision was not reversed and in 1869 a competition was launched for architects to design the building. What do you think about the location and design of Bradford’s Town Hall?
Leeds Mercury 27th September 1867
Leeds Mercury 1st October  1867
Bradford Observer 19th August 1873
Leeds Mercury 10th September  1873

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