Once the centre of industrial East Manchester, Bradford has, like its neighbour Beswick, undergone a vast transformation in recent years, most notably with the construction of what is now the Etihad Stadium for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Bradford can trace its heritage back to the 1300’s with the origins of Bradford Hall, probably built around 1350 when the manor of Bradford was held by John De Salford from Worsley
The Hall was granted to Thomas De Booth of Barton in 1357 and was still owned by the family in 1513 when John Booth was killed at Flodden. The Hall, which stood just to the north side of the stadium was demolished in the early 18th century.
Coal was mined in the area from the late 16th century and field names from a 1761 plan show a new coal pit field and further coal pit field.
The Industrial Revolution and the opening of the Ashton Canal at the end of the eighteenth century was the catalyst for it’s expansion. A branch canal to the pithead was completed in 1840 and used part of the abandoned moat that once surrounded the Hall, it was still being used prior to the second World War.
In 1853 Richard Johnson along with his brother purchased land next to the pit for building an iron works.
The plant was converting pig iron to wrought iron for manufacturing wire – the final drawing process was carried out on Lees St in Ancoats.
The plant was managed by George Bedson who introduced innovative technological advances into wire drawing which included galvanising the wire with zinc to protect it from rust and a continuous mill which would enable 45kg iron rods to be drawn.
By 1882, the firm, now Richard Johnson and Nephew had ceased iron production and moved its drawing plant to Bradford
Amongst other products it was producing 300 tonnes of telegraph cable a week later in 1904 diversifying into copper and bronze wires and was to supply much of the barbed wire for the killing fields of WW1 opening a new rod mill to cope with demand.
The earliest textile mill in Bradford was built in 1840, the Bradford Mill was owned by William Pritchard and brothers who produced small wares.
The Municipal Gas Works opened in 1864 and the gas holders are still the legacy of that today, while the second half of the 19th century saw new mills opened, flax and hemp spinning at Philips Park Mill, cotton at Gibbon St. and Reservoir Mill, African Mills and Sheldrake Mill along the canal. Later Park Mill was to produce a cotton cloth known as Gingham which had a distinguishable blue and white or green and white checkered pattern.
With industry the town grew, by the end of the 18th century it was recorded that there were a mere 94 cottages probably all involved in mining. By 1861, the population was 3,523 and by 1879 over 15,000 lived in the village.
Frank Pritchard in this 1989 publication of East Manchester memories recalls the industrial belt that extended from Miles Plating and Newton Heath through Bradford and Clayton to Ardwick Openshaw and Gorton
He describes workers housed in hundreds of rows of smoke blackened dwellings with the factories pumping “an endless stream of foul smelling fumes into the atmosphere.”
The heart of Industrial Bradford was the super pit, complete with an underground tunnel that would take the coal to the Stuart Street Power Station. At its height after 1948 it was producing 4,000 tons a day also linked by a three and a half mile tunnel to the Ashton moss colliery
But by the 1960’s there were worries about major subsidence, houses with doors that would not close, walls crumbling and windows cracking, sewers fracturing and roads and footpaths subsiding so the coal board was urged to cut back on mining activities. By 1966 the pit was threatened with closure if the National Coal Board was not given permission to extend mining operations
The pit was losing money as in 1968 the Coal Board announced its closure with the loss of 1500 jobs and mining in the area which began in the 17th century came to an end. The Power Station followed, being finally demolished in the 1980’s, the cycling Velodrome now stands on the site.