BRADFORD, ENGLAND, a city, and municipal, county and parliamentary borough, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, 192 m. N.N.W. of London and 8 m. W. of Leeds. Pop. (1891) 265,728; (1901) 279,767. It is served by the Midland and the North Eastern railways (Midland station), and by the Great Northern and the Lancashire & Yorkshire railways (Exchange station). It lies in a small valley opening southward from that of the Aire, and extends up the hills on either side. Most of the principal streets radiate from a centre between the Midland and Exchange stations and the town hall. This last is a handsome building, opened in 1873, surmounted by a bell tower. The exterior is ornamented with statues of English monarchs. The council-chamber contains excellent wood-carving. The extension of the building was undertaken in 1905. The parish church of St Peter is Perpendicular, dating from 1485, and occupies the site of a Norman church. Its most noteworthy feature is the fine original roof of oak. There was no other church in the town until 1815, but modern churches and chapels are numerous. Among educational institutions, the grammar school existed in the 16th century, and in 1663 received a charter of incorporation from Charles II. It occupies a building erected in 1873, and is largely endowed, possessing several scholarships founded by prominent citizens. The technical college, under the corporation since 1899, was opened in 1882. A mechanics' institute was founded in 1832, and in 1871 the handsome mechanics' hall, close to the town hall, was opened. Other establishments are the Airedale College of students for the Independent ministry, and the United Independent College (1888). The general infirmary is the principal of numerous charitable institutions. The most noteworthy public buildings beside the town hall are St George's hall (1853), used for concerts and public meetings, the exchange (1867), extensive market buildings, and two court-houses. The Cartwright memorial hall, principally the gift of Lord Masham, opened in 1904 and containing an art gallery and museum, commemorates Dr Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) as the inventor of the power-loom and the combing-machine. The hall stands in Lister Park, and was opened immediately before, and used in connexion with, the industrial exhibition held here in 1904. The Temperance hall is of interest inasmuch as the first hall of this character in England was erected at Bradford in 1837. Some of the great warehouses are of considerable architectural merit. Statues commemorate several of those who have been foremost in the development of the city, such as Sir Titus Salt, Mr S.C. Lister (Lord Masham), and W.E. Forster. Of several parks the largest are Lister, Peel, and Bowling parks, each exceeding fifty acres. In the last is an ancient and picturesque mansion, which formerly belonged to the Bowling or Bolling family. A large acreage of high-lying moorland near the city is maintained by the corporation as a public recreation ground.
As a commercial centre Bradford is advantageously placed with regard to both railway communication and connexion with the Humber and with Liverpool by canal, and through the presence in its immediate vicinity of valuable deposits of coal and iron. The principal textile manufactures in order of importance are worsted, employing some 36,000 hands, females considerably outnumbering males; woollens, employing some 8000, silk and cotton. The corporation maintains a conditioning-hall for testing textile materials. A new hall was opened in 1902. Engineering and iron works (as at Bowling and Low Moor) are extensive; and the freestone of the neighbourhood is largely quarried, and in Bradford itself its use is general for building. It blackens easily under the influence of smoke, and the town has consequently a somewhat gloomy appearance. The trade of Bradford, according to an official estimate, advanced between 1836 and 1884 from a total of five to at least thirty-five millions sterling, and from not more than six to at least fifty staple articles. The annual turn-over in the staple trade is estimated at about one hundred millions sterling.
Bradford was created a city in 1897. The parliamentary borough returned two members from 1832 until 1885, when it was divided into three divisions, each returning one member. The county borough was created in 1888. Its boundaries include the suburbs, formerly separate urban districts, of Eccleshill, Idle and others. The corporation consists of a lord mayor (this dignity was conferred in 1907), 21 aldermen, and 63 councillors. One feature of municipal activity in Bradford deserves special notice - there is a municipal railway, opened in 1907, extending from Pateley Bridge to Lofthouse (6 m.) and serving the Nidd valley, the district from which the main water-supply of the city is obtained. Area of the city, 22,879 acres.
Bradford, which is mentioned as having belonged before 1066, with several other manors in Yorkshire, to one Gamel, appears to have been almost destroyed during the conquest of the north of England and was still waste in 1086. By that time it had been granted to Ilbert de Lacy, in whose family it continued until 1311. The inquisition taken after the death of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, in that year gives several interesting facts about the manor; the earl had there a hall or manor-house, a fulling mill, a market every Sunday, and a fair on the feast of St Andrew. There were also certain burgesses holding twenty-eight burgages. Alice, only daughter and heiress of Henry de Lacy, married Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster, and on the attainder of her husband she and Joan, widow of Henry, were obliged to release their rights in the manor to the king. The earl of Lancaster's attainder being reversed in 1327, Bradford, with his other property, was restored to his brother and heir, Henry Plantagenet, but again passed to the crown on the accession of Henry IV., through the marriage of John of Gaunt with Blanche, one of the daughters and heirs of Henry Plantagenet. Bradford was evidently a borough by prescription and was not incorporated until 1847. Previous to that date the chief officer in the town had been the chief constable, who was appointed annually at the court leet of the manor. Before the 19th century Bradford was never represented in parliament, but in 1832 it was created a parliamentary borough returning two members. A weekly market on Thursdays was granted to Edward de Lacy in 1251 and confirmed in 1294 to Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, with the additional grant of a fair on the eve and day of St Peter ad Vincula and three days following. In 1481 Edward IV. granted to certain feoffees in whom he had vested his manor of Bradford a market on Thursday every week and two yearly fairs, one on the feast of the Deposition of St William of York and two days preceding, the other on the feast of St Peter in Cathedra and two days preceding.
From the mention of a fulling mill in 1311 it is possible that woollen manufacture had been begun at that time. By the reign of Henry VIII. it had become an important industry and added much to the status of the town. Towards the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century the woollen trade decreased and worsted manufacture began to take its place. Leland in his Itinerary says that Bradford is "a praty quik Market Toune. It standith much by clothing." In 1773 a piece hall was erected and for many years served as a market-place for the manufacturers and merchants of the district. On the introduction of steam-power and machinery the worsted trade advanced with great rapidity. The first mill in Bradford was built in 1798; there were 20 mills in the town in 1820, 34 in 1833, and 70 in 1841; and at the present time there are over 300, of much greater magnitude than the earlier factories. In 1836 Mr (afterwards Sir) Titus Salt developed the alpaca manufacture in the town; mohair was shortly afterwards introduced; and the great works at Saltaire were opened (see Shipley). Later, Mr S.C. Lister (Lord Masham) introduced the silk and velvet manufacture, having invented a process of manipulating silk waste, whereby what was previously treated as refuse is made into goods that will compete with those manufactured from the perfect cocoon.
See John James, History of Bradford (1844, new and enlarged ed., 1866); A. Holroyd, Collectanea Bradfordiana (1873); Victoria County History - Yorkshire.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)