TREASURE OF THE WEEK. No. 5 – BRADFORD’s MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE

 

In the basement of Bradford’s Local Studies Library are collections of nineteenth century pamphlets (and some of earlier date). Ranging from sermons and programmes of royal visits, to reports, articles, obituaries and regulations, they are a treasure-trove of local history. What follows is an account of one of these treasures. To consult any of these items please ask the staff. Card catalogues of these collections are located in the Local Studies Library.

Brief History of the Bradford Institution 

JND 193/5 (Please quote this number if requesting to consult this leaflet) 

Pamphlet volume JND 193 is titled ‘Bradford Tracts 1875-1885’. It contains 38 items ranging from booklets of 76 pages to several leaflets of only four. Item number 5 is one of the latter, well, just three pages actually. Yet it contains much useful information on the history of an important Bradford institution, the Mechanics’ Institute.

The Institute was founded on the 14th February, 1832, though an earlier attempt had been made in 1825. There were three objectives:

  1. The provision of an extensive and well-selected library for the use of all members and subscribers [Bradford’s public library was not founded for another 40 years];
  2. The supply of popular and attractive instruction through the medium of public Lectures;
  3. Foundation of Classes under well-qualified masters, in which every facility should be afforded for pursuing the various branches of useful knowledge.

The growth of the Institute was rapid. Purpose-built premises were opened in 1840 at the junction of Well Street with Leeds Road, with an extension added in 1852. A much larger building was opened in 1871 bounded by Tyrrell Street, Bridge Street and Market Street.

The building, which stands upon an area of 1,000 square yards, contains elementary class-rooms for study of the sciences and higher branches, capable of seating upwards of 700 students, a School of Art … for 200 pupils; a large Reading Room supplied with telegraphic intelligence, 20 daily papers, 37 weekly papers, and 40 monthly and quarterly periodicals; a well-selected Library containing 12,000 volumes; a Lecture Hall seating 1,500. 

This fine building was demolished as part of the post-war re-development of Bradford.

There are many other sources of information about the ‘BMI’, but one feature of particular interest in this slim leaflet is a list of the classes operating in 1876, together with the teachers and average attendances. The classes were:

Reading
Writing
Arithmetic
Elementary Grammar
Elementary Geography
Phonographic Shorthand
Grammar and Composition
Elocution
Singing
Harmony
Bookkeeping
French
Italian
German
Plane and Solid Geometry
Machine Construction
Building Construction
Mathematics
Acoustics, Light and Heat
Magnetism and Electricity
Inorganic Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
Geology
Animal Physiology
Elementary Botany
Biology
Art

There were sub-divisions of some of these classes, and some exclusively for females.

(The Library of the Bradford Mechanics’ Institute still exists, one of only two in the country – the other is at Epworth – and is located on Kirkgate.)

Stackmole

Local Studies Library Volunteer

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