Bradford Fascinating Facts

Bradford is a major city in West Yorkshire. During the Nineteenth Century, Bradford was at the heart of the Industrial revolution and, for a time, was centre of the global wool trade. The British Wool marketing board is still based on Canal Road.


Photo: Tejvan

Bradford currently has a population of 531,000 (2011 Census), and is part of the West Yorkshire Urban conurbation, which in 2001, had a population of 1.5 million. Bradford District is the fourth largest metropolitan district after Leeds, Birmingham and Sheffield The district has the largest proportion of people of Pakistani ethnic origin (20.3%) in England. The largest religious group in Bradford is Christian (45.9% of the population) and nearly one quarter of the population (24.7%) are Muslim. source 2016.

Bradford MDC incorporates towns and villages including Ilkley, Keighley, Bingley, Wilsden, Shipley, Haworth, Cullingworth, Denholme, Thornton and Queensbuy

Bradford history facts

Bradford – is derived from Old English broad ford – The ford is at the site of the current Bradford Cathedral.


Bradford by Tim Green from Great Horton

  • 1251 Bradford granted market charter, centred on Kirkgate, Westgate and Ivegate.
  • 1311 A survey of Bradford recorded the presence of a water mill, fulling mill, and 28 houses at its centre.
  • 1642. During the civil war Bradford was occupied by Parliamentarian forces under Thomas Fairfax, though Royalist forces successfully besieged the town, leading to its surrender.
  • In 1801 population of Bradford 6,393 – centre on small craft industries, such as wool spinning and cloth weaving.
  • 1820s and 30s, Bradford received many German Jewish immigrants who settled in Mannignham, leading to the creation of an area known as ‘Little Germany’. German immigrants played a key role in the financing of industrial expansion.
  • By 1851 the population of Bradford was 103,778 – making it one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
  • As Bradford grew, it absorbed small townships which were previously separated, such as Manningham, Bowling, Thornton and Horton.
  • Bradford was a boom-town of the industrial revolution and often considered to be the epicentre of the global industrial revolution.


Bradford Lister Mill, photo Tim Green

  • Lister Mills was built  in 1871 (to replace original Manningham Mills) was once the largest silk mill in the world. At its peak, the mill employed 11,000 people.
  • The chimney is 78 metres high and one of the few large mill chimneys to survive. It is a visible presence on the Bradford skyline.
  • Bradford’s growth was helped by access to coal, iron and plentiful soft water (River Wharfe,River Aire, River Calder and Bradford canal).
  • The rapid industrialisation of Bradford caused serious problems of pollution, poor water supply.
  • In the mid Nineteenth Century, the life expectancy of Bradford citizens was just 18 – the lowest in the UK.

Saltaire Mill

  • 1853 – Sir Titus Salt, a Bradford wool merchant moved his mills and mill workers to nearby Saltaire, where had built model village and factory on the banks of the River Aire
  • The Manningham Mills strike of 1891 saw the birth of Bradford and District Labour Union – a forerunner of the Independent Labour Party which was founded in Bradford 1893.
  • 1897 Bradford became a city.
  • On May 4 1904 Great Bradford exhibition opened in Lister Park – attracting 2.5 million in six months. Attractions included crystal maze, a pavilion showing Bradford products and an imported Somali village, complete with native Somalis.
  • 1907 Bradford got its first Lord Mayor, Alderman Godwin
  • 1950s and 1960s mass immigration from Pakistan, India and New Commonwealth.
  • In 2011, 22% of the population are British Asian, the third highest percentage in the UK, behind Leicester and Tower Hamlets.
  • 1985 Bradford City fire at Valley Parade, claimed the lives of 56 people was one of Britain’s worst sporting disasters.
  • 1970s industrial decline. The textile industries lasted until early 1970s. But, by late 1970s, the industries had shed 63,000 jobs causing unemployment to rocket to 16%.
  • 1989 Copies of Salman Rushdies’ The Satanic Verses burnt in the city, as Muslims protested about the book.

Post-industrial Bradford


Bradford City park largest urban water feature in the UK.

  • Bradford was the first UNESCO city of Film in 2009
  • Morrisons supermarket chain was founded by William Morrison – who was initially a dairy merchant in Rawson Market. The first Morrison supermarket was built at Yeadon.
  • Bradford is the home to many major finance companies, such as Yorkshire Building Society, Santander UK, Provident Financial.

Bradford Wool exchange now Waterstones and cafe.

People of Bradford

  • W.E. Forster (1818 – 1886) Liberal politician, businessman and philanthropist. He made steps towards promoting a national education system.
  • Margaret McMillian member of ILP and Fabian Society, with her sister, sought to improve welfare of children living in slums.
  • David Hockney – educated at Bradford Grammar School one leading modern artist of Twentieth Century
  • J.B. Priestley (1894-1984) novelist and playwright.
  • Frederiech Wilhelm Eurich (1867-1945) bacteriologist helped conquer anthrax in wool trade.
  • Sir Edward Appleton (1892-1965) Nobel Prize Physics for work in proving the existence of ionspehere.
  • Professor Robert Turner (1923-1990) pathologist who pioneered use of chemotherapy at the Bradford Royal Infirmary.
  • Zayn Malik member of One Direction was born and raised in Bradford.
  • Bronte Sisters (Emily, Charlotte and Anne) were born in Thornton a district of Bradford, later moved to village of Haworth.

Bradford Sport

Bradford Bulls RLFG (formerly Bradford Northern) won the World Club Championship three times. Unfortunately they are still fighting for financial survival


  • Odsal stadium (now Grattan Stadium, Odsal) held the record for the largest attendance for a game of Rugby League. Official attendance of 102,569 in 1954 for Challenge Cup final replay, but unofficially much higher
  • Bradford City formed in 1903, won the FA Cup in 1911.
  • Bradford Park Avenue dropped out of the Football League in 1970
  • Joe Johnson from Bradford won 1986 World Snooker Championship, despite starting the championship as a 150/1 outsider – it was one of the great shocks of snooker. In 1987, he came the closest to retaining title and breaking the Crucible Curse. (no first time winner has ever retained title.)

Bradford Transport


In 1911, Britain’s first trolleybus opened between Bradford and Leeds. It was one of the last trolleybus services to cease. (in 1972)


Bradford interchange. Contains Cross-Pennine train lines. Also direct trains to London. Also bus station.

Bradford has two train stations – Bradford Forster Square (1846) and Bradford Interchange (1867)


Looking over Bradford Forster Square

Leeds – Bradford airport (Yeadon) built in 1931.

Bradford Culture


Bradford City Hall, undergoing restoration work. Grade I listed building, opened 1873.

The National Media Museum was most visited museum outside of London.

The St George’s hall built in 1853 is the oldest concert hall in Britain. Currently being refurbished

Alhambra Theater is a listed building and is a vibrant venue.

Bradford University has a Peace Studies department founded in 1973.

Bradford held the first major European ‘mela’ (Hindu festival) in 1888, it is now part of the wider Bradford Festival every June.

Bradford has often been awarded title of “Curry Capital of Britain

In 2010 Bradford was recognised as a “City of Sanctuary” for a tradition of welcoming people seeking sanctuary.


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