Bradford, West Yorkshire – Cathedral

Bradford is the one Cathedral I have never been to – to be precise, the one English Anglican cathedral I have never been to. We had a free Thursday (19 November), so drove south. We went via the A1, M1, M62, M606 and entered the city from the south. The cathedral is not signposted, but we found the car park for the new Broadway shopping centre. I’m not a great shopper, but survived. Indeed, it was such fun I’ll even include a link to their website! It’s the modern complex on the right of this photo. The Cathedral is not far from Forster Square station (no, I won’t get sidetracked with the history of Bradford stations) – grid reference SE166334. It has a website here.

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We walked up the hill, past Samson – presumably there is a story behind this – and it is quite a push to get to the top. The more direct entrance is being repaired, and some better signage would not go amiss. A small close, with a parish hall and clergy housing on the right, and the Cathedral church of St Peter on the left.

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Not the unusual mix of restaurant and shop – but an open door and a bookstall inside. Their publicity is excellent, some very good leaflets. They have a nice full-colour guide, and four other more home-made booklets (but of a good quality) discovering the windows, telling the story of Bradford in the church, and telling “the story and meaning of Christianity as illustrated in the Cathedral” – what a good idea.

The church dates back to a wooden church built around 625 AD while Paulinus was preaching in the North. This was rebuilt by the Normans, and a stone church was built on the side around 1200. A document of 1251 says that a weekly market was allowed, and Bradford started to grow. In 1311 the Scots burned it down, leaving only four pillars on the south side standing. A new church was begun in 1341, but it takes a century to complete as Bradford is a small, poor community. The Nave was completed in 1458, then a Clerestory added in 1493. The tower was added in 1508, and the Rood Loft removed in 1547. During the Civil War the Cathedral was attacked by Royalist troops, and woolsacks were used to protect the tower. The wooden roof was installed in 1725, galleries were added, then removed.

november d 071november d 002The church was made a Cathedral in 1919 and major building work was planned. It was the 1960s before the extension at the East End was completed. This may well remind you of Bury St Edmunds – but it took us even longer! Most recently they have put solar panels on the roof – and proudly proclaim how much power they are generating.

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As we entered the Cathedral I found this memorial to William Scoresby, an Arctic explorer. He was born at Cropton, near Pickering, the son of a whaling captain. He sailed north with his father, became commander of the Resolution in 1811, and sailed for the NW Passage. He was a scientist and geographer, mapping much of the coast of Greenland. In the early 1820s he studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge – I bet the college was full of whalers – and was ordained. He came to be Vicar of Bradford when poverty and pollution were at their highest. In his parish of 120,000 there was no education for the poor, and conditions were horrendous. He surveyed and logged house by house the living and working conditions of the people, and gave lecture talks to generate enough funding to endow eight schools. In 1849 he moved south to Torquay (a bit of a change), and is buried in the church of St Mary Magdalene, Upton, Torquay – he died in 1857.

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The church is full of lovely memorials, so let’s start with those and see what stories we can find. Vicars of Bradford are listed on an impressive stone. You can also see the selection of leaflets.

november d 070There are plenty of memorial tablets under tower, and this plaque is to three of the eight children of Samuel and Ann Hailstone – not a surname I had ever come across before. The family lived first at Great Horton Road, and had the first greenhouse in the city – he was a keen botanist and was elected as a Fellow of the Linnaen Society. His wife Ann was the daughter of a local surgeon.

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This memorial is to John and Isabel Smyth, who died in 1686 and 1711 respectively, and their children. I can’t find anything about them in the guides, but what lovely sculpture.

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We also have Bishop Vincent Ryan – I wonder what he felt when he came from the sun of Mauritius to the rain of Yorkshire? I think this Jowett memorial has 13 people remembered (you can imagine the conversation with the stonemason – “how many?”), and this is a rather colourful one to a previous Vicar.

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We also have a memorial to those who died in the Bradford Stadium fire of 1985. I’m not a football fan, and I knew there had been a fire at Bradford … but I did not remember the fact that 56 people died here. This newspaper report from earlier this year – 30 years later – is quite thought-provoking.

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This is another 1980s memorial – and the world has moved on since this was erected.

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This memorial is to Joseph Priestley, who supervised the construction of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the link to Bradford. Elsewhere, which I didn’t photo, is a memorial to Abraham Balme (solicitor) who was appointed to negotiate for the powers to link Bradford to the canal. “To join and communicate with the said Canal Navigation from Leeds to Liverpool, at Windhill … for the navigation of boats and other vessels with heavy burdens, will open a short, easy, and commodious Communication between the said Town of Bradford and the said Canal Navigation, which will be of great Advantage to the Trade carried on there and at the places adjacent, and will also tend to the improvement of the Lands near the same, the relief of the Poor and Preservation of the Public Roads, and moreover, be of great public Utility …”. This website is not very positive about the canal . It closed in 1922. There have been plans to rebuild, but it all seems to have gone very quiet – sounds like a project! Going back to the photoed memorial, Joseph Priestley, who spent his lifetime as Superintendent, is shown in his top hat and frock coat directing navvies building a tunnel. Note too the surveying and charting instruments at the top of the stone. The memorial is by John Flaxman (1755-1826). There is a Wikipedia page about him, a photo of his memorial at St Giles in the Fields on the Charing Cross Road, and he is one of the statues on the front of the V&A. He was a classical sculptor, working in the style of Ancient Greece, and he created designs for the Wedgewood company.

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Moving from memorials to windows – here is the WW1 memorial, and the Memorial Window to the 6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. It was created by Archibald J. Davis, Bromsgrove, 1921. In the centre is an Infantryman lying mortally wounded. He is looking up at Christ on the cross. Below him is the badge of the Battalion, and soldiers’ graves – a battlefield grave and one behind the Line. Red poppies and the white rose of York. Around the side lights is the history of the battalion. I haven’t photoed them all, but you can see the troops landing in France by night, Ypres, the Leipzig Redoubt, the storming and capture of Thiepval, Passchendaele Ridge, Bullecourt, and the Battle of Cambrai. If I remember right this was the first use of tanks – they were invented in Lincoln. At the base is the Rhine with Cologne in the distance. This window is fascinating – and would be well worth using as the War progresses. The history of the Battalion has been written at this website, and there are photos here. This BBC page writes about the events of 1 July 1916 when 2,000 young men from Bradford went over the top at the Somme. This website might also be worth a look.

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The West Window is the Catherine and Jane Wells Memorial Window, 1864, the work of Heaton Butler. It depicts the theme of women of the bible – including Gabriel greeting the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene greeting the Risen Christ, Jesus with Martha and Mary, the women at the well, and the news of the resurrection.

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There are two south aisle windows which were probably installed in 1898, and their designer is not known. This is the Richard Fawcett Memorial Window with Saint Paul in the left, Peter in the right, Christ crowned and holding an orb in the middle. The small panel below shows Peter and John at the tomb.

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This is the Mary Robertson Memorial Window, her husband John was Vicar in 1896. In the top lights are the music and words of “For all the saints” – the guide tells me that this tune is by a local composer. According to Wikipedia it is by the Bishop of Wakefield – is that why Bradford simply says “local composer”? John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus. Nice little pictures below. They have a nice area for prayer and small services.

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The Epiphany window was created by Tower & Co and inserted in 1924. Spot the camel-driver with his camel. The Crucifixion Window is a Kempe window of 1900. There are lots of other lovely windows – but this is probably enough for now.

november d 013november d 013-1november d 012The 1960s extension is quite an attractive bit of building. The Lady Chapel has a Morris window which was the original east window – my photo is not very good. The altar frontal was made for the high altar of the old chancel, and designed by Bradford-born artist Ernest Sichel (1862-1941). There is more information about him at this website – he seems to have been a sculptor of some renown as well as a painter. He has led me to the website for the Bradford museums – there is more to visit in this City than I thought there was.

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There’s a nice view from the East End looking west, and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit has rather a good icon, written by John Coleman in 2008. There is a newspaper article and lovely photo of this here. It is a large piece of African wood, shows the disciples at Pentecost, and includes the Cow and Calf rocks on the Yorkshire Moors to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down on all creation.

november d 019november d 020Saint Aidan’s Chapel has a cross by Chris Shawcross – Aidan and Oswald at the top, with modern day struggles illustrated in the other three arms. The wall panels are by Patricia Porter – I like the colours and design. Iona on the left, Bradford-dale and its beck in Saxon times in the middle, and Lindisfarne on the right (is the Castle quite that tall?).

november d 025november d 023Oswald is only a little earlier than this Saxon cross, medieval piscine and carved shears which are now a feature at the entrance to the Chapel. The Cathedral guide says that the shears may have come from a guild chapel for the city’s wool trade, but we have seen Saxon shears at Edlingham and Birtley.

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There was a small exhibition of Yorkshire photos by Fred Davie in the North Transept – here Julie is deciding which one to buy. He has wonderful photos on his website.

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Finally we move to the Chancel – a very small chancel. I like the Nave altar frontal, and Peter and Paul either side of the cross (though the light is in the wrong place). It is a Hill organ of 1904, redesigned and enlarged by Hill, Norman and Beard in 1962.

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The Nave roof dates to 1724, and the angels are traditionally linked with Kirkstall Abbey outside Leeds. It would be a nice thought that someone saved them when the Abbey was dissolved.

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We had a walk back into the town and a wander round, though it was getting a bit dark and wet. We went into Waterstones which is in the old Wool Exchange. It is a gorgeous Victorian building and, as it has a café, I was happy eating and drinking while J explored (has my wife not got enough books? Read her wonderful blog). By the exit was a sand sculpture of Emily Brontë – part of a sand sculpture trail in nine locations in the City. It was made by Jamie Wardley. On their excellent website you can see that they also do Pumpkin carving, and have had a Christmas project of ice sculptures of homeless people, including one in Bradford, see their blog.

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november d 086I moved the car up the hill and parked nearer the now-floodlit cathedral. There were lots of youngsters doing music after school, and parents and families waiting for them. We went to Evensong, which was sung very well by the boys. Do have a look at their wonderful Choir Recruitment video on youtube. We drove home, heading north to the A1 on the A658 – a shorter route, but not much quicker. An excellent day. Now to go back and blog all the English Cathedrals. (Bradford, Newcastle, Carlisle, Durham, Ripon, Wakefield, Lincoln, Southwell, Sheffield, St Edmundsbury, Oxford and Truro done … 30 to go).


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