1 Welcome to Bradford

Welcome to Bradford. Bradford is one of Britain’s most multicultural cities but it wasn’t always so large or diverse. Two things drove Bradford’s development – industry and immigration.

On this walk we will discover how these two factors have changed Bradford from a provincial town to an international city. These international connections tell a story about the people, trades and goods that built this city.

This walk was originally created in 2012 as part of a series that explored how our towns and cities have been shaped for many centuries by some of the 206 participating nations in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games


Bradford city centre from inside the National Media Museum
© Lynne Kirton via Creative Commons licence at Geograph.org.uk


Remain outside the front of Bradford City Hall so you have a good view of the building.

2 Italian inspiration

Bradford City Hall is the physical and administrative heart of the city. When this building first opened in 1873 it was actually known as Bradford Town Hall because Bradford didn’t receive city status until 1897, nearly 25 years later.

The new status of being a city reflected Bradford’s growing importance as a centre for the textile industry, specifically the wool trade. The elaborate architecture of the Town Hall is a reflection of the wealth and status of the city at the time.

Take a look at the building. It is made of sandstone, a distinctive pale brown rock. You will see many buildings throughout this walk made of the same type of stone. The intricate carvings on the walls of the City Hall include statues of all the kings and queens of England up to Queen Victoria. See if you can spot the only one who is not a monarch: Oliver Cromwell.

Bradford City Hall is a good example of gothic revival architecture. This was a style popular in Victorian Britain during the 1850s and 1860s. The term ‘gothic’ comes from thirteenth century buildings of southern Europe. The Victorians admired these and reproduced the style in towns and cities throughout the Empire, hence the term 'gothic revival' or 'neo-gothic'.

Another example of neo-gothic architecture in Bradford is St George’s Hall, which we will pass shortly. St George’s Hall also has Italian influences. To celebrate the fiftieth birthday of the Hall in 1903 a new mosaic floor was unveiled which was laid by Venetian artists.

At about the same time as City Hall and St George’s Hall were built in Bradford, an Italian community grew here. In the 1880s there was high unemployment and overcrowding in Italy so many migrated from their native land. Those who settled here in Bradford found work in textile mills and shops. Some became street performers.

By the time escapologist and illusionist Harry Houdini appeared at St George’s Hall in February 1905 he was far from the only Italian entertainer in the city. The Italian community in Bradford is one of many immigrant groups that have been welcomed here and we'll see evidence of many more throughout the walk.


Bradford Town Hall
Courtesy of Jon Farman via Wikimedia Commons


Around Centenary Square in front of City Hall are a number of raised grassy areas. Just behind one of them is a metal sculpture with some human figures on top. Once you have found it stop there.

3 United nations

This metal sculpture is a memorial to the Bradford City Football Club fire. In May 1985 Bradford City were playing their last home game of the season when a fire broke out in the stadium. Unfortunately 56 people died and 265 were injured.

The tragedy had a deep affect on the city. There was a memorial service at the football ground and this was given partly in Urdu and Punjabi as well as English to thank all the local South Asian people who had helped injured supporters.

This sculpture was created by an artist named Joachim Reisner from the German town of Hamm. Look around the base of the sculpture you will see the name Hamm alongside Bradford. Bradford is twinned with Hamm and there is a road called Hamm Strasse behind Forster Square railway station.

An identical sculpture to this one stands in Hamm to symbolise the relationship between the towns. There’s more to the story too.

The sculptor’s wife, Joyce Reisner, grew up in Bradford and first met Joachim in Hamm when she was a school exchange student. Joyce was at the Bradford City stadium on the day of the fire and after the tragedy she suggested that there should be a memorial.

Her husband’s two sculptures became not only memorials to the tragedy but also symbols of Bradford’s historical and cultural links with Germany.


Bradford City fire memorial
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Facing City Hall make your way round the left of the building and along Bridge Street. Remember to look at the spectacular St George’s Hall on the left hand side. Turn left immediately after St George’s Hall into Drake Street. Stop at the silver plaque at the entrance to Exchange Square.

4 Twins and sisters

Besides Hamm in Germany, Bradford is also twinned with other towns. Town twinning is a way to create economic and social links with other countries. Often a twinning relationship is based on something shared – a common trade, a similar geographical feature or a sporting connection.

Town twinning also helps to promote international understanding at a local level, particularly through business and school exchange visits. Four of Bradford's twin towns are named on this plinth.

Roubaix in northern France was twinned with Bradford in 1969 after an approach from their mayor. Like Bradford, Roubaix is famous for producing cloth, in particular a type of lightweight cloth used in sports clothing and cycling equipment.

Both Roubaix and Bradford are twinned with Monchengladbach in Germany. Monchengladbach was originally an abbey founded in 974 AD and in the Victorian era it was part of Prussia. The town twinned with Bradford in 1971.

Verviers in Belgium is another textiles hub. In the early twentieth century it matched Bradford’s claim to be the world’s wool capital. The town’s textiles industry began in the fifteenth century and, like Bradford, the town’s fortunes were made by this industry. Part of the industry’s growth was down to a Lancashire entrepreneur, William Cockerill, who established a textile machinery business in Verviers in 1799.

Another town twinned with Bradford is Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. Like Bradford, Skopje is also twinned with Roubaix. It also has a textiles industry although it relies on various other trades too. Skopje has been twinned with Bradford since 1987.

Bradford also has Sister City Friendship Agreements with two other towns that are not shown on the plaque – Mirpur in Pakistan and Galway in Ireland.


Stone Bridge in Skopje, one of Bradford's twin towns
© Svilen Enev via Wikimedia  Commons 


Go to the large metal leaf-shaped sculpture towards the centre of the square.

5 Composing a journey

This is a memorial to one of Bradford’s most famous residents, the composer Frederick Delius. Delius was born in Bradford in 1862 and christened Fritz Theodor Albert Delius. His parents were Germans of Dutch descent.

His father Julius was one of Bradford’s wealthy German wool merchants who had moved to the city in 1850; we will hear more about these German wool merchants at the next stop.

Delius’s parents intended him to follow a career in business but Fritz had a passion for music. In 1884 he was sent to Florida to manage an orange-growing plantation but he didn’t like the job and spent most of his time enjoying American music, including the songs of black plantation workers.

After 18 months he moved to Virginia and began to teach music before studying it formally at the Leipzig Conservatorium in Germany. After graduating, Delius moved to Paris and began his professional composing career. He drew inspiration for his works from many international sources, including literature, music and various landscapes he visited, including Florida and the Scandinavian mountains.

In 1903, he married Helene Jelka Rosen, a German painter, and the couple settled in France. As his reputation grew, Delius anglicised his name from Fritz to Frederick. When failing health meant he could no longer compose, his last works were completed by dictation to Eric Fenby, a young musician from Delius’s native Yorkshire.


Quatrefoil for Delius, Exchange Square
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


From the Delius sculpture, head towards the corner of the square at the right hand corner of the Law Courts building. Follow the path with the law courts on your left and the car part on your right. Turn left onto Vicar Lane. Cross the busy Leeds Road at the pedestrian crossing and continue straight up Vicar Lane. Stop by the second building on the right – Bradford Chamber of Commerce

6 Little Germany

This area of Bradford is known as ‘Little Germany’. The name comes from the German textile merchants who developed this district in the late 1850s. Many of the buildings around us were originally mills and wool warehouses.

Imported wool would have been stored here before use in the mills and finished cloth would have been stored here before export overseas. Between 1875 and 1914, 193 wool warehouses were built in Bradford. Today 85 of them remain and, due to their historic importance, 55 of them are Grade II listed.

Many of the merchants who established Little Germany were Jewish. As a result Bradford’s Jewish community became quite prominent in the nineteenth century. In 1881 some of the German merchants established a Reform synagogue in the district of Manningham. An Orthodox synagogue was also established in Manningham in 1906. Bradford is unusual for having a Reform synagogue established before an Orthodox one.

In recent years Bradford’s Jewish population has largely migrated to Leeds and the Orthodox synagogue building closed in 1970. Little Germany though remains a business district. There are an estimated 110 businesses here, though these are very different from the Victorian era and many of the former warehouses are now open-plan offices.

Over the coming years there are plans to regenerate this area. Original building facades will be restored while insides will become shops, hotels and even luxury flats. The Little Germany district is already becoming a historic attraction with an estimated 100,000 visitors each year.

Do take time to explore these streets. The impressive buildings are full of intricate details in the stone work. Many have green plaques on their walls indicating the companies that were located there. Look out for a building that once belonged to Delius’s father, Julius, who we mentioned at the last stop.

Also keep an eye out for the name Behrens. We'll hear more about this company a little later.


Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Little Germany
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


From the Bradford Chamber of Commerce on Vicar Lane, make your way up to Peckover Street. Turn right along Peckover Street to the end where it meets the busy dual carriageway. Look at the large building on the corner.

7 From Sion to Sikh

At the last stop weheard how the Jewish community has declined here in Bradford. Other religious communities however have grown. Bradford is home to a prominent number of Sikhs and this building on the edge of Little Germany is a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship.

The word gurdwara means ‘House of God’. Gurdwaras serve as both places of worship and cultural community centres. Sikhs originate from the Punjab, an area now partly in India and partly in Pakistan. The UK has the second largest Sikh community in the world after India.

Many of Bradford’s Sikhs arrived in the city after the Second World War, often after service in the British Indian Army. The first gurdwara in Bradford was founded in 1964 in Garnett Street. During that time local Sikhs raised funds for a purpose-built gurdwara.

There are now six gurdwaras in Bradford. Every year there is a Sikh festival called Vaisakhi. Sikhs from across Bradford travel to each gurdwara in the city in a procession called a ‘nagar kirtan’.

Look closely at the top of the building and you will see that it was originally Sion Jubilee Chapel dating back to 1873. Change in the uses of religious buildings is not unusual. Remember the Orthodox Synagogue mentioned at the previous stop? It has since become the Al’ Mumin Primary School, an Islamic school.


Gurdwara Singh Sabha
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Cross the dual carriageway using the pedestrian crossings and make your way up Leeds Road. A short distance on the left is a road called Gobind Marg. Turn left here and another gurdwara is on the right.

8 A community landmark

We heard earlier that Bradford has six gurdwaras for the Sikh community. Three are in this Leeds Road area. This is the largest and oldest in Bradford, Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara.

At the previous stop we saw an existing building converted into a Sikh temple. Here we are now at a purpose-built gurdwara. This gurdwara is named after the tenth guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh.

Gobind Singh was born in 1666 in Patna in India. He was a warrior, a skilled horseman, a poet and a philosopher. He was responsible for forming Khalsa, the religious order of baptised Sikhs. At the side of the building, alongside Leeds Road, you will find a special monument to the Khalsa.

This gurdwara opened in 1972 and was extended in 1983 – look for the dedication stones. This side road past the gurdwara was originally called Malvern Street but it was renamed Gobind Marg in 1999 – 'marg' means path or street in the Sanskrit language.

Purpose-built buildings like this are landmarks, both physically and historically. They show how a community has settled, bringing their beliefs and customs to the city. The gurdwara is open to visitors though you will need to observe Sikh customs. Please remove your shoes, keep your head covered – this applies to men and women – and be prepared to sit on the floor.


Gobind Marg street sign
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Continue along Leeds Road for some distance as far as the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir on the left. You can go up the steps to the car park and main entrance.

9 From families in front rooms to monarchs in mandirs

Here is another building belonging to one of Bradford’s more recent immigrant communities, the Hindus. Hinduism is a religious and cultural system originating in India. Around 80 per cent of the world’s Hindus live in India with other significant populations in Nepal, Bangladesh and Bali.

There are about 600,000 Hindus in the UK some of whom live in Bradford. Bradford’s Hindu community started from a small number of families who settled in the Gladstone Street area in the 1960s. Religious ceremonies were held in family homes on a small scale.

Forty years later Bradford’s Hindu population had expanded to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. This temple – the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir – is the largest Hindu temple in northern England. Like the Sikh gurdwara that we saw at the previous stop, this new temple was purpose-built to accommodate the growing community.

This mandir is named after the Hindu deity Lakshmi who is associated with wealth and prosperity. The temple is unusual in that it contains many different Hindu deities rather than just one as is the norm in India. This reflects the diversity among the Hindu community in Bradford.

In 2007, before it officially opened, the Queen and Prince Phillip visited. So Hinduism in Bradford has grown from families gathering in front rooms to monarchs visiting mandirs!


Lakshmi Narayan mandir sign
Jenny Lunn © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Retrace your steps back down Leeds Road to the dual carriageway. Cross over the road in front of Sing Sabha gurdwara where we stopped earlier and retrace your steps along Peckover Street. Where it meets Barkerend Road, the back of the cathedral should be diagonally opposite. Go straight across into Stott Hill and enter Cathedral Close through the gate. The entrance to the cathedral is on the left hand side.

10 Arctic and Anti-Bolshevik circles

From one of Bradford’s newest religious buildings at the previous stop, we come to its oldest. Bradford Cathedral has its origins in the fifteenth century and is a treasure trove of local history. The clock tower is the oldest public clock in Bradford. The walls are 11 feet thick in places and proved an effective defence during the English Civil War.

Inside churches and cathedrals you can often find connections between a community and other parts of the world. Bradford Cathedral is no exception. Through the entrance and immediately on the right is the Memorial Window. The stained glass commemorates First World War battles that took the lives of servicemen from the West Yorkshire Regiment.

On the same wall and towards the altar is an interesting plaque dedicated to the union of anti-Bolshevik countries in the Eastern Bloc, including Belarus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and the Ukraine.

Also look in the porch for a plaque to the former vicar, William Scoresby. Before becoming Vicar of Bradford he was an Arctic explorer. His father had made a fortune in Arctic whale fishery and William went on his first voyage with his father at the age of eleven. William became his father’s constant companion and the chief officer of the whaling boat Resolution.

William undertook various voyages of the Polar Regions, making scientific observations of the area's meteorology and natural history. In 1806 he reached 81°30’ North, at that time the highest northern latitude attained in the eastern hemisphere. 

During his voyage of 1822 Scoresby surveyed and charted with remarkable accuracy 400 miles of the east coast of Greenland. He contributed to the first real geographical knowledge of the area. But this was the last of his Arctic voyages. Unfortunately his wife died while he was away and after that he decided to enter the church.


William Scoresby plaque, Bradford Cathedral
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


When you have finished exploring the Cathedral, turn left out of the entrance and follow the path. At the wall, turn right and follow the footpath to the large stone staircase. Stop half way down and lookout over the city.

11 Vanishing point

From here on the stone staircase is a good view over Bradford city centre. At the time we researched this walk, the large site directly in front of this viewpoint had been cleared for a new development. It used to be part of a large urban garden called Forster Square.

If you travel to Bradford by train then you might use nearby Forster Square station. Forster Square and the station were named after William Edward Forster, a Victorian industrialist and philanthropist. Forster was Bradford’s MP from 1861 to 1882.

As a young man he helped raise funds for victims of the Irish potato famine. Concerned at their plight, Forster then dedicated his career to helping other people. For example, he played an instrumental role in drafting the 1870 Elementary Education Act.

Forster was briefly Under Secretary of State for the Colonies and travelled widely. In 1880 he was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland but fell into conflict with the emerging Irish independence movement. He survived several assassination attempts and then resigned after two years. His successor was murdered within a week.

Forster’s political career, especially his relationship with Ireland, illustrates the period when Britain’s international status declined. The 2004 demolition of the square that bore his name becomes rather poignant.


Forster Square in the 1950s
Picture courtesy of the Telegraph & Argus, Bradford - www.telegraphandargus.co.uk


Go down to the bottom of the stone staircase and turn left. Stop outside the first building which is St Peter’s House. You may want to cross to the opposite side of the road for a better view of the building.

12 Meeting point

Next to Bradford Cathedral is St Peter’s House. It was built in 1887 and was originally Bradford’s main post office. The lease belongs to the Cathedral who planned to use the building as a museum of religion. But the project was not a success and folded after a year, leaving the Cathedral nearly bankrupt.

So since 2006 St Peter’s House has been the home of Kala Sangam, a South Asian arts organisation. Their name comes from Sanskrit – kala means ‘art’ and sangam means ‘meeting point’. Kala Sangam promotes South Asian arts including dance, music, theatre, poetry and crafts.

Although the centre celebrates the culture of the people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who live in Bradford, people of all races and religious background are welcome to participate in its activities.

South Asian culture and arts are very vibrant in Bradford. The city art gallery, Cartwright Hall, includes many contemporary South Asian pieces. Exhibits include Islamic calligraphy, phulkari illustrated textiles and contemporary Sikh art, including a portrait of Guru Nanak.

In 1988 Bradford was the first city in Europe to hold a mela, a festival of Asian culture. It is now one of Bradford’s largest public events. 


Bradford Mela
© Rob Glover www.flickr.com (Creative Commons licence)


Turn back past the bottom of the Cathedral staircase and take the first road on the left which is Lower Kirkgate. Follow the road round passing the Midland Hotel. At the junction keep left into Market Street. In front of you is the triangular former Wool Exchange which is now a Waterstones bookshop. Stop outside.

13 The world’s wool capital

The Wool Exchange is the icon of Bradford’s development. Bradford’s growth from provincial market town to major industrial city was thanks to wool.

Wool spinning and weaving had long been traditional jobs in this area and Bradford had become particularly known for making worsted cloth. But from the early nineteenth century the industry was scaled up. Huge textile factories were built that used new industrial production techniques.

By 1841 there were 38 woollen mills in Bradford and the town produced an estimated two thirds of England’s wool. With the rise in trade Bradford’s population shot up as well. In the first half of the nineteenth century the town grew more than fifteen-fold from just 6,400 to 104,000 people.

Most of the wool that was imported into Britain during this period came from Australia and New Zealand. There were also imports from South Africa, South America, China and the Middle East that specialised in cashmere, camel hair and goat hair.

Sir Titus Salt, one of Bradford’s most successful Victorian wool merchants, made his fortune from Peruvian alpaca wool. He found an unwanted store of it sitting in a Liverpool warehouse and he used this wool to create an especially fine cloth.

With wool imported into Bradford from across the globe, the town became known as the world’s wool capital. The Wool Exchange was built between 1864 and 1867 while Bradford was still expanding rapidly. Trading was carried out by verbal agreements, although traders had to register with a membership committee before they were allowed to work. Being a member of the Wool Exchange carried great social prestige.

On the outside of the Wool Exchange are busts of notable merchants, inventors and politicians plus several New World explorers including Raleigh, Drake, Cook and Columbus. The building’s elaborate design was a deliberate attempt to show the importance and wealth that wool had brought to the city.

It was built in a mixture of Italian and Flemish styles. This was fitting as many of the wool traders in Bradford were Flemish. A fictional example is Robert Gerard Moore, the mill owner from Antwerp in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley.

Wool trading stopped in the Exchange in the 1960s and the building is now a shop. Do go inside and have a look at the original fittings.


The Wool Exchange logo
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


From the Wool Exchange go along pedestrianised Tyrell Street. Take the first road on the right, which is Ivegate. Stop when you reach the large set of metal gates.

14 Curry capital

From the world’s wool capital we now arrive at England’s curry capital. We are standing in Ivegate which is also the start of an area known as the World Mile.

Along Ivegate and onto Westgate are over 75 international shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Establishments from across the globe include most of South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.

At the heart of the World Mile are South Asian businesses, which is not surprising since over a quarter of Bradford’s population is from an Asian background. Bradford boasts the UK’s largest Asian department store – Bombay Stores in Shearbridge Road. And South Asian cuisine is so popular here that Bradford was awarded the title of England’s Curry Capital 2010 and 2011.


Lamb saag and chicken korma, Indian dishes common in Bradford
© Alpha www.flickr.com (Creative Commons licence)


Continue along Tyrell Street then straight across around the curving new development opposite the City Hall. Cross Princes Way and stop outside the front entrance of the Alhambra Theatre.

15 A palace for the people

This is one of Bradford’s most distinctive buildings and another one imitating foreign architecture. The Alhambra Theatre is one of the largest theatre venues in Yorkshire and hosts a variety of events including concerts, plays, musicals, opera, comedy and ballet. It was built in 1914 at a cost of £20,000.

The name Alhambra is suggestive of Spain, in particular the fourteenth century Moorish palace in Granada. The Alhambra palace was built for the Muslim Emirs who ruled Spain at the time. Made in red clay, its name derives from the Arabic kal-el-at-ambra which means ‘red domed castle’. 

By the nineteenth century the palace lay in ruins until it was ‘found’ by European travellers and scholars. Restoration work began soon after and the Alhambra is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions. It has inspired generations of artists and writers and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The name and the looks of the palace would therefore have been fashionable when Bradford’s theatre was being built. Beyond fashion though, there is something quite pleasing about the name here as it suggests successions of cultures and communities.

Bradford’s Spanish community is actually very small. In 1937 4,000 Basque children arrived in the city to escape Fascist rule. Of these an estimated 250 went on to settle in Bradford. 


Alhambra Theatre
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Walk up the pedestrianised street to the right of the Alhambra and continue onto Great Horton Road. Keep going uphill until you reach Bradford College. Take your time as the climb is quite steep. Stop outside the College Old Building - the one with the clock tower on the right hand side.

16 When old was new

As Bradford boomed in the nineteenth century a vast workforce was needed to provide labour in the expanding woollen industry. But while Bradford was one of the most productive towns in Britain, it was also one of the most polluted.

The mills belched sulphuric smoke. Cholera outbreaks were regular. Ill health was a big problem among the workforce.

Fortunately many of the textiles merchants who had built Bradford’s industry were philanthropists. They helped people less fortunate than themselves to improve their skills and quality of life. And this building is a good example of what they did.

A group of Bradford’s prominent industrialists recognised that founding a school to train workers for the mills could improve the city’s health and employment levels. Using their wealth and influence the merchants established Bradford Technical School, now Bradford College.

The building cost £23,500, had classrooms for 700 students and a 1,500 seat lecture room. Like the City Hall and St George’s Hall it was designed in the then fashionable Italian style. It was opened in October 1871 by William Edward Forster, whom we heard about earlier.

One of the philanthropists who helped found the Technical School was Jacob Behrens. Behrens was a prominent figure in Bradford. From German descent, he moved to the town in 1838. As well as the Technical School, Behrens helped to establish Bradford’s Eye and Ear Hospital and the city’s Chamber of Commerce, which we stopped at earlier in Little Germany.

The Technical School grew and expanded on this site throughout the twentieth century. The original building is now known as the Old Building. Today Bradford College helps over 23,000 students each year. It’s the fourth largest college in the country and has students from across the world. The College’s success is yet another reflection of Bradford’s international history and identity.


Bradford College Old Building
© Tim Green via www.flickr.com (Creative Commons licence)


Continue a short way up Great Horton Road then turn left into Claremont. At the junction with Morley Street go straight across into Sawrey Place. Take the first left and then the first right into Howard Street. Stop outside house Number 32.

17 Small beginnings

The mosque here at 32 Howard Street is the oldest one in West Yorkshire. Many – but by no means all – of Bradford’s Muslims originate from Pakistan. Pakistanis began to settle in Bradford from the 1950s and the city’s first mosque was formed in 1958 in this terraced house.

There are now over 80 mosques in Bradford of varying shape and size. Many are based in adapted existing buildings such as disused shops, cinemas, warehouses and churches. There are also 12 purpose-built mosques. The largest is the Hanfia Masjid in Manningham.

From various vantage points you can also see the 8-metre dome of the Al Mahdi mosque on a hill outside the city centre. It was built in 2008 and can accommodate up to 2,000 worshippers.


Religious leaders at the opening of the Al Mahdi mosque, 2008
Courtesy of Bradford Telegraph and Argus www.telegraphandargus.co.uk


Retrace your steps along Howard Street and then turn right into Lansdowne Place. Immediately on the right is a church. Stop there.

18 Eastern promise

As well as a large South Asian population, Bradford also has a history of European settlers. We’ve already heard about Germans and Italians who settled here during different periods. There were also Belgian refugees who came here after Germany’s invasion of Belgium in the First World War.

Then the aftermath of the Second World War brought a large number of displaced Central and Eastern Europeans. They included 4,000 Poles, 3,400 Ukrainians, 1,200 Yugoslavians and smaller groups from Hungary, Austria, Germany, Byelorussia and the Baltic states.

Many were former servicemen or liberated prisoners of war. Granted European Volunteer Worker status, they helped to cover local labour shortages, particularly in the textile factories.

As they settled, each immigrant group formed distinct communities across Bradford. New churches, social clubs and food stores appeared. A good example can be found here in Lansdowne Place - Our Lady of Czesnikowski Church.

Many of the Polish people who arrived in Bradford after the war were Catholic. Without a Polish-speaking church to go to, they worshipped at existing local churches. A Polish Parish was established in 1948 but this church wasn’t officially acquired until 1971. Bradford’s Polish community finally had their own place of worship.

Around the corner in Edmund Street is the Polish Community Centre which opened in 1986 and the Polish Parish Club. The Club is a vibrant source of community activity. These Polish settlers are yet another example of Bradford’s immigrant communities contributing to the city’s diversity.


Our Lady of Czesnikowski Church
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


From the church go back to Morley Road and go downhill towards the city centre. As you walk, look around at all the different shops in the nearby streets. Stop at the junction of Chester Street.

19 World corner

Like the World Mile on the other side of the city centre, we are now in another of Bradford’s multicultural pockets. Look around at the shop signs and names.

There are foods and services from all over the world – India and Pakistan, China and Thailand, Russia and Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, Italy and Portugal, Cuba... see how many others you can spot. Not so much every corner of the world as the world on a corner!

Bradford has sometimes been described as a parallel city. This means a city where different ethnic groups exist independently. Bradford’s different ethnic communities are largely localised. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Eastern Europeans tend to settle in different neighbourhoods.

Overall, though, this diversity of communities has shaped Bradford’s culture and identity. As we continue back to the city centre see how many countries, cultures and languages you can spot on shop and restaurant signs.


The Kashmir Restaurant, Morley Street
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Continue down Morley Street with the side of the Alhambra Theatre on your left. On the right hand side is a statue of Queen Victoria. Stop in front of the statue.

20 Empress of India

This statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in 1904, three years after her death. It is made of bronze, weighs three tonnes and stands twelve feet high. It is a triumphant celebration of Victoria’s life as Queen. And not just as the Queen of England. 

In 1876 Queen Victoria had taken the title 'Empress of India'. Britain was consolidating its political and economic interests on the Indian subcontinent. At the time British India comprised present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka.

Standing well above ground and flanked by a pair of lions, the statue shows Victoria at the height of her reign. She is in full regalia, just as she appeared at her first Jubilee in 1887. It is symbolic of Britain’s power and influence in its Empire across the globe.

This statue was unveiled by the then Prince of Wales, who later became King George V. Having a statue like this in Bradford reflects the city’s importance in the Victorian era.

After Victoria’s death, her son Edward VII in turn became ‘Emperor of India’. The title became increasingly controversial and was formally dropped soon after India gained independence in 1947. Independence, however, wasn’t the end of the story. As we heard earlier many South Asians chose to settle in Britain rather than stay in newly-independent India or Pakistan.


Queen Victoria statue
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


From the statue walk in front of the National Media Museum. Cross the busy Princes Way either at the pedestrian crossing or by using the underpass. Go round the Magistrates Court and then to the back of City Hall. Stop in the garden stop with memorial stones in it.

21 City of sanctuary

Here at the back of City Hall is the Memorial Garden. This garden contains plaques, statues and sculptures that are memorials to the victims of conflict, as well as various industrial disasters and natural catastrophes – Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sarajevo, Bhopal and Chernobyl, and the 1923 Ukrainian Famine.

Look out for the Peace plaque, a circle in the ground representing Bradford as a ‘City of Peace’. The City of Peace was an initiative started in the 1990s. It involves different groups across the city working to combat racism, campaign for disarmament and improve the environment.

The movement’s Mission Statement is: “to co-ordinate, support and develop Bradford as a city for peace which celebrates and promotes peaceful relationships”.

Bradford was then awarded City of Sanctuary status in November 2010. The City of Sanctuary movement is a UK-wide group that aims to “create a network of towns and cities throughout the country which are proud to be places of safety, and which include people seeking sanctuary fully in the life of their communities”.

City of Sanctuary encourages councils, community groups, religious organisations, businesses and residents to make their cities safer places to live, especially for refugees and asylum seekers. Bradford is only the third city in the UK to be awarded City of Sanctuary status. The first two were Sheffield and Swansea.

Some 126 organisations are involved across cultural and religious boundaries. Will Sutcliffe, chairman of Bradford’s City of Sanctuary project said; “People who have fled for their lives from some of the worst trouble spots in the world are more likely to find a welcome and help in Bradford than in many other cities. Bradford can stand up and be proud of itself.”


Bradford Refugee Week notice board
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain


Remain in the garden.

22 A multicultural city

With its international commemorations, the Memorial Garden is an appropriate place to finish our walk.

We have seen how industry transformed Bradford from a provincial town to the world capital of wool. Supporting the trade were investors, innovators and immigrants from many different countries.

We have seen the buildings associated with the industry, such as the wool exchange and the warehouses. We also saw how elaborate architecture was used to reflect the city’s wealth and status, such as at the city hall and technical college.

Although the textile industry declined in the twentieth century, Bradford continued to receive different waves of immigrants from across the world. In more recent years it has welcomed asylum seekers from war-torn countries. As a result Bradford today is a vibrant multicultural and multifaith city.

We have seen evidence of this in places of worship, street names, restaurants and shops. Bradford’s various immigrant communities have contributed significantly to the city’s industry, identity, physical landscape and culture. We hope you enjoyed the walk!


Bradford City Centre
Courtesy of Jon Farman via Wikimedia Commons

Progress, Industry, Humanity

Quatrefoil for Delius sculpture © Rory Walsh RGS-IBG Discovering Britain

Bradford walk

A circular walk in Bradford city centre

Bradford is one of northern England’s most multicultural cities yet 200 years ago it was a small provincial town. Its fortune was made thanks to wool, sandstone and soft water. 

But that is only half the story.

Bradford’s development has been influenced by waves of settlers from different countries. From German merchants who helped Bradford become the ‘wool capital of the world’ to South Asian migrants who helped the city become ‘Britain’s Curry Capital’.

Bradford's city motto is Progress, Industry, HumanityThis walk explores these three themes to discover Bradford's many connections with places around the world. 

Follow the walk by clicking on the map pins
or downloading the guides below

Location: Bradford, West Yorkshire
Start point: Bradford City Hall, BD1 1HY
Finish point: Centenary Square Memorial Garden, Bradford City Hall, BD1 1HY

Bradford walk credits

Thanks to - 

Eugene Rae for researching the walk

Rory Walsh for additional research and photos

Jenny Lunn and Caroline Millar for editing the walk materials 

Nick Stanworth, Alex Greengrass, Kristian Wall, William Dyson and Christine McKenna for additional assistance 

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus and Ian Petticrew for kind permission to use archive images

Other images are reproduced under Creative Commons Licences

Every landscape has a story to tell