Bradford's Industrial Revolution

Public Places, Social Living

There is no better example of civic pride than Bradford's fine public buildings. Wealthy industrialists funded some of these buildings so people of all classes could enjoy education and entertainment. They took inspiration from the architecture of great world cultures - in particular the Italian Renaissance.


Examples include:


The textile baron Samuel Cunliffe Lister who in 1870 sold his 53 acre estate in Manningham to the Town Council, at a fraction of its value, so that the land could become the Lister Park. Some years later he offered £40,000 towards a competition to build Bradford's first public art gallery: Cartwright Hall opened in 1904.


Theatre impressario Francis Laidler, who accumulated his wealth in Bradford's brewing industry, built the Alhambra Theatre in 1914. With its flamboyant architecture and plush interior, the Alhambra was a palace dedicated to Variety, a new type of refined and respectable public entertainment, a distinct step up from the seedy and vulgar Music Halls of the 19th Century.


In the early 'pre-TV' years of the 20th Century, cinema-going was an increasingly popular pastime, and the trend continued between the wars; by 1940 Bradford boasted 42 'picture houses'. The Odeon Cinema opened in 1930 as the New Victoria, one the largest cinemas in Britain.


These grand public buildings were appropriate to Bradford's status as a world leader in the textile industry. The enormous wealth generated by this industry, and the large population of workers it needed, kept these great institutions alive.


For more information about these homes of entertainment please download the pages  ‘Public places, social lives’ from the Worksheets section (see link below).

Map view of Cartwright Hall, Bradford»

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