Book Review: Bradford in 50 Buildings. By George Sheeran

Bradford in 50 Buildings. By George Sheeran. Amberley Publishing, 2017. 96 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4456-6848-2 (print); 978-1-4456-6849-9 (ebook). £14.99.

George Sheeran book

Available from Bradford Libraries

George Sheeran should be known to all students of Bradford history, and probably is. A steady stream of books, articles and talks, not to mention his work at Bradford University’s Pennine Studies Centre, all testify to his long involvement in this area.1

Bradford in 50 Buildings explores the history of Bradford through a selection of its buildings, not just the better-known iconic public ones, but from all social levels and cultures. Yes, City Hall, the Cathedral, Wool Exchange and the Alhambra Theatre are here, but so are mills, schools, churches, mosques and terrace houses. The focus of the book is more on illustrating the diverse history of Bradford through its buildings than a straightforward architectural narrative. The buildings are all present today: this is Bradford as we see it now. History is all around us. We are looking at it, but what do we see?

The book features just over a hundred coloured photographs of high quality interspersed with prose commentary highlighting the architectural features and giving historical background of the fifty selected buildings. There is a succinct introduction giving context and background to Bradford’s history and a delightfully clear map showing where the buildings are.

Here we have Cotton Weavers’ Cottages in Little Horton Green (testament to the cotton industry), cottages in Dracup Street, Great Horton (characteristic of Bradford’s early nineteenth century industrial development) and mill workers’ terraces in Gathorne Street; on the educational front we have Feversham Street School (built in 1873, with a discussion of the advent of Board Schools), Bradford College (with both the original 1883 building and the striking multi-coloured façade of the new Hockney Building) and Dixon’s Trinity Academy (a 1994 example of post-modernism); industrial buildings include Manningham Mills, Canon Mill and Mitchell Brothers (Bowling Old Lane), while the Midland Hotel, Yorkshire Penny Bank and the red brick Prudential building in Sunbridge Road are other examples of commercial buildings; Churches and mosques are well represented, plus the Hindu Temple in Leeds Road and the Bradford Reform Synagogue in Bowland Street. Council flats (Longlands), large houses (e.g. Bolling Hall), public buildings (e.g. Cartwright Hall, St George’s Hall) and a public house (Shoulder of Mutton, Kirkgate) are some of the other types of building in the author’s selection.

Not all the buildings selected are beauties. High Point, the former Yorkshire Building Society tower in Westgate is ‘the city’s outstanding piece of brutalist architecture … Its walls of corrugated concrete provide a texture … that gives the building more the feel of a piece of urban sculpture’  (plus note on the rise of building societies), the Margaret Macmillan Tower (with a note on Stanley Wardley’s plan to modernise the city and provide a trouble free flow of traffic); and the old  GPO Telephone Exchange (superficially a boring modern cube – but is a much under-rated style of the 1930s ‘stripped classicism’). Yet the author is quick to point out unusual features which will encourage us to take a second look. Thus, ‘ … the Margaret Macmillan Tower … seems just another tower block at first sight, but look again. It rests on a rustic base of slate and rises clad in Portland Stone as a chaste block overlooking the city centre. The stanchions (the vertical members) are also clad in slate producing a fine counterpoint to the Portland stone.’ Indeed, with informed architectural analysis to guide us, together with an equally informed historical background, we see Bradford with new eyes. A wide variety of eras, styles and innovative features are covered. Students of architecture will value these accounts.

Omissions? Of course there are. Magistrates Courts? Transport Interchange? Paper Hall? The Bradford Club? Bradford has far too rich an architectural heritage to be limited to a mere fifty. Maybe the author could be persuaded to do another fifity!

Sheeran wears his learning lightly: we are in the hands of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. We are not swamped in technical terms yet learn a lot. One grouse I have is that the Contents listing omits the page numbers to the fifty listed buildings, so that I was for ever hunting for page numbers using the entry numbers!         There is no index, though the contents page is detailed.

Two final points. ‘It may seem strange in a book about the architectural riches of a city to show a derelict industrial site, but this one is important for two [historical] reasons.’ (p. 57) The site is that of the Providence and Thompson Mill sites just up from the Alhambra Theatre and the reasons are given, which lead on the second point: ‘This is a sensitive site given its historical provenance. Recent fires in derelict mill buildings and resulting demolitions provoke debate about the future development of the area, and invidious decisions that will need to be taken.’ (p. 58) ‘Let us not make the mistakes of the past.’ pleads the author. Amen to that!

Enjoyable and informative. Essential reading for Bradford city planners and their favoured architects!

(Bob Duckett)

1 Books such as Brass Castles: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Heritage (1993); The Victorian Houses of Bradford (1990); The Buildings of Bradford: An Illustrated Architectural History (2005); Good Houses Built of Stone: The Houses and People of Leeds/Bradford 1600-1800 (1986); The Mosque in the City: Bradford and its Islamic Architecture (2015).


Keighley Library Heritage Open Day 2018

Keighley Library celebrated Heritage Day on Saturday 15th September 2018 with a feast of history and culture celebrating local heritage, community and history. The day was a roaring success with something for everyone in the mix.

Billy Barton from legendary Keighley band Dawnwatcher took us back to the 1970’s and the new 1970’s Musical Heritage exhibition was launched.

Billy Barton talk 4

Billy Barton

Malcolm Hanson told the story of  the Civil War  and local people’s heroic stand. It is a most uplifting story!

Malcolm's talk 3

Malcolm Hanson

Historian Robin Longbottom gave a fascinating and  informative talk about the boundary stones based on his new publication.


Robin Longbottom

History Societies exhibiting included Keighley and District Family History Society, Keighley and District Local History Society, Men of Worth project and Keighley Model Railway Club all with a wealth of information about the local heritage.

The highlight of the day for many was live music from Keighley band ‘Howlin’ Johnny and the Devil’s Rejects’ who had the audience on their feet and the building rocking to the rafters.

A comment from the Visitors book:

Comments book

‘Howlin’ Johnny brought the house down, people stood, clapped and sang to give a good time feel to Keighley. Skiffle, Rock and Blues mixed to perfection; and to end with thunderous applause.’

The 1970’s exhibition will be up in the library until the end of October.

There are still  opportunities to hear Malcolm Hanson’s Civil War talk in libraries on the following dates:

Saturday September 22nd, 2.00pm, Denholme Library
Saturday September 29th, 2.00pm, Eccleshill Library
Saturday October 6th, 2.00pm, Bingley Library
Saturday October 13th, 2.00pm, Shipley Library
Saturday October 20th, 2.00pm, Bradford Local Studies Library
Saturday 27th October, 2.00pm, Ilkley Library
Saturday 3rd November, 2.00pm Wyke Library

October 1642. ‘When the battle began, the Royalist Commanders laughed at Bradford’s rabble army, but help for Bradford was at hand.’ Join Local historian Malcolm Hanson as he  brings to life this story of great heroism. These are free events. No booking required.

The Men of Worth Project

Bradford Libraries World War One Blog

Keighley’s Men of Worth Project researches local people who served the country in wartime. It is actively run by project directors Ian Walkden and Andy Wade.

They are currently looking to put together a bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant. They will be holding an initial meeting for interested persons to get together to discuss their bid.

If you would like to join the Men of Worth Project and have a say in the plan for a grant from the HLF, please come along to this meeting in Keighley Local Studies Library on Saturday 22nd September starting at 10.00am.

Andy Wade said:

‘This is just an initial meeting to gauge interest and outline what we’d like to do with a grant, and invite opinions from anyone who may have any other ideas on what we could accomplish. We’d like to make it clear from the start that the…

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Parkwood School Then and Now!

What a joyful way to spend a Thursday afternoon, listening to the sound of children singing, making music and having a right good time! On Thursday 19th July, Gina Birdsall and I were invited to Parkwood School to watch them perform their end of year show. This kind invite was extended to us, due to our help with their World War One Project.

Last month some of the Year 5 pupils came into to Keighley Library to look, first hand at some of our archive material. The children had the opportunity to study and discuss photographs and original documents covering issues such as: food rationing, refugees, entertainment, and the experiences of injured soldiers at the Keighley War Hospitals, using material from the Brigg collection (BK10) and the Herbert France Collection (BK424) and with help from other local groups.

Gertie and Paul, from Whitworks Adventures in Theatre (WAT) who focus on bringing history to life using drama, writing, local stories and primary sources with children in school and community groups, worked with the children as part of their Heritage Lottery Funded Project:  ‘Park Wood Then and Now’, the children’s hard work has been put into a wonderful booklet which we were pleased to receive copies of for the Library.


The school show saw the culmination of the children’s hard work over the year. We were treated to the Year 5 pupils singing two songs from the World War 1 era ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Pack up your troubles’. The children’s enthusiasm was infectious and by the end of the show everyone was joining in.

Angela Speight

Emily Jane Brontë – 200th year celebrations of her birth

The years of Brontë anniversary celebrations continue in to 2018 with the 200th anniversary of Emily Jane Brontë’s birth on 30th July 1818. Emily is probably the most controversial sister of the three to survive into adulthood and be published. Whereas Charlotte’s and Anne’s characters and influences are more clearly defined and documented by themselves and their contemporaries, still little is known of Emily’s inner life and full and true character, despite gleanings from her sisters’ observations and their associates. Wuthering Heights, Emily’s only published novel, similarly continues to confound and disturb readers and literary critics alike, while her poetry is much admired and reflects the truest love of Haworth’s moorland and its natural world.

This year will see some wonderful celebrations of Emily’s life and works in film, music, talks, tours and moorland walks, including the launch of the Brontë Stones, a unique celebration of the Brontë’s legacy. Check out  the Brontë Society, and Parsonage Museum’s fabulous events and workshops will continue throughout the year, please see:



Nowhere can compete with the Brontë Society Collections, Museum and Parsonage Library in Haworth  but Keighley Local Studies Library is proud to be Bradford Council’s repository for a very important collection of books, articles and news cuttings, including a small archive on the Brontës and Haworth in general. In these anniversary years, the Library is adding to this with newly published works reflecting contemporary scholarship and the latest research, with book stock for both reference and for loan. (Please see list of new books below) We also have a new fact sheet on Emily Brontë and this accompanies the full booklet about the Brontë collection and other leaflets celebrating the Brontë family and their contacts in the local area, please see: to download  free copies  or better still, call into Keighley Library to pick up a copy and see the collection for yourself. The library is open daily from 9am until 7pm and on Saturdays 9 am-5 pm, closed Sundays.

Telephone: 01535 618215; email:

Emily Bronte New Books

Small Town Saturday Night

Trevor Simpson is the author of two books telling the story of a love affair with the local music scene in a Northern town.  Join Trevor to hear the story of rock n’roll at its peak in the 1950’s and 1960’s, told with humour and shared memories.

The talk will be accompanied by a display of photos and memorabilia from the 50’s and 60’s.

Free event, all welcome.

For more details contact Keighley Local Studies Library:
01535 618215


Keighley’s Musical Heritage at its finest!

A sunshine summer day in the city could not be better celebrated than with upbeat rock ‘n’ roll bands,  superb singers, and a locally famous comedic host – Keighley Library had it all. The atmosphere was buzzing with a capacity crowd of over 200 pop fans, over 800 visitors to the library on the day (Saturday 9th June) and £213 raised for the charity St Martin’s House by the brave staff manning the very busy refreshment area.

The afternoon kicked off with an introduction to the 1950s like no other by local historian and former Reference Librarian of Keighley Library, Mr Ian Dewhirst MBE. He spoke of how rock ‘n’ roll music seemed to have passed him by in a flurry of 2 years of National Service and helping in his dad’s shop. He said, “The only song I liked was Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly, but he died and that was that!” After hearing the Doveston Brothers, however, Ian acknowledged that he must have absorbed more of this burgeoning pop culture because he did indeed recognise many of the songs. Ian’s continued funny and informative account of the fifties and sixties did not lack spice as he spoke of having to help in a newsagent’s with a top shelf collection. He mentioned no names but said that he was surprised at the identity of some of the local customers.  Not surprisingly, all this racey activity led to a request for information about sex from Ian, the teenager, when he and his dad were riding tandem through the countryside. His dad didn’t fall off the bike but apparently went very quiet and after a couple more miles said simply, “Both the man and the woman have to agree, Son,” which brought the house down.

The Doveston Brothers was just one of two of Keighley’s finest bands of this era. They had formerly played twice at the London Palladium and though they had not played for 45 years, their winning professionalism shone through with a brilliant set of 60s covers. Brian Eldee’s voice is still superb and the audience was treated to Everly Brothers’ favourites as well as more rock ‘n’ roll songs. As a special treat for Janet Mawson, who organised this event, Brian sang John Denver’s, Leaving on a Jet Plane. Later, it was hard to get her feet back on the ground to chat to people about her revamped exhibition on the 1960s but she had to manage it.  With even more unique photographs, music reports and personal anecdotes from local band members, Janet was in great demand all day to answer questions and introduce people.

The Doveston Brothers were beyond popular and set the bar super high for the next band, fast becoming seasoned Keighley library stars – The Presidents, but as we know from last year’s event, they could not possibly disappoint. Their playing was fab with the expected nifty guitar work and Bruce’s acclaimed harmonica.  Linda Russell’s voice soared into pop and ballad perfection to match Brian Eldee’s earlier performance. Both the bands added interest and humour between songs with conversation and funny anecdotes to further enrich the value of this fantastic first class, free entertainment.

Local children were not missed out in this poptastic extravaganza and Saturday Rhymetime became Jamba Samba with little ones, ears fully protected, enjoying Samba drumming with an expert in the art. “Happy” does not describe the expression on some of the children’s faces as they got to make an exceptional musical noise in one of the quieter places in the centre of Keighley. Complements about the event are still coming in.

It’s an underestimation to say that everyone had a great time on Saturday 9th June, many people have filled in the Visitors’ books to the effect that it was another event that brought back many happy memories and was a wonderful musical and social occasion for the local community, especially for many in the audience whose youthful years were represented in the music and the exhibition.  I am sure Ian Dewhirst would agree, that this is local social history at its finest because it is momentarily giving real life to the books, photographs and archives in our keeping. As we have already found out, this in turn enhances their usage and local interest in the subject. It’s certainly something that Keighley Local Studies is very proud to deliver on.

Now, that’s not all folks because the  locally acclaimed and revamped 60’s exhibition will run until September when a brand new display will be launched, assembled by hard working volunteer, Malcolm Hanson with Music of the 70s. A local historian, writer and former local band member of this decade himself, he has inside knowledge of the local music scene but is still collecting memorabilia from bands and fans.  Malcolm can be contacted for this at the following:

Email: or call Malcolm on 01756 798730

This exhibition will be accompanied with more live music, this time from the 1970s to celebrate Heritage Day on Saturday 15th September 2018.

The next Keighley Musical Heritage event in Keighley Local Studies Library is: “Small Town Saturday Night”, A talk by Trevor Simpson on Saturday 14th July 2.00 pm. Trevor Simpson is the author of two books telling the story of a love affair with the local music scene in a northern town.  It is a story of rock ‘n’ roll at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s told with humour and shared memories. The talk will be accompanied with photographs and memorabilia from those decades. Don’t miss it!

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

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