Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Bradford (part two)

So, what is the difference between Bradford and a large hole in the ground?  Well, at the moment, the answer is Absolutely Nothing.  Literally.  Read on to find out why...

After the delights of City Park, we walked along Market Street towards Forster Square, as my plan was to take everyone into the Wool Exchange.  It was clear that much of the 1960s shopping area was no longer there, and I was met with an unexpected view across the city which I hadn't seen before.

There were clearly a lot of hoardings which had been erected around the building site, and many had been decorated in faux graffiti to brighten them up a bit.  I confess they reminded me of the Berlin wall, and were about as cheerful.

Because the Wool Exchange appeared to be locked up, I decided to take everyone to see the Cathedral.  When I say "Cathedral", it's actually just the Parish Church of St Peter which was promoted as a result of the city being given its own Bishop in 1919.  Needless to say the Cathedral was locked up, and on a Sunday too.  Perhaps prayers are held there on a Friday nowadays?

The Ring O'Bells pub at the bottom of Bolton Road looked like it was in need of a little TLC.

Meanwhile the old GPO building and Cathedral didn't look too bad.  In fact, the steps up to the Cathedral from Forster Square were rather impressive.

From the vantage point of the Cathedral's graveyard up on the hill, it was possible to turn through 180 degrees and see another graveyard - this time of the city itself.  This was by far the biggest hole in the ground I had ever seen, and it reminded me of what parts of London must have looked like after the Blitz.

I did some research later, and discovered that Westfield were planning to build a large temple of consumerism on the site, and started work in 2004.  By 2008 it had stopped because not enough companies had signed up to make the development worthwhile.  One could be charitable and say that the project had "stalled", but the overall sense was one of abandonment and desolation.  What a mess, and desperately depressing.

Existing retail outlets didn't seem to be faring too well either.

Ivegate, which used to be an interesting and relatively high-class street, has become home to pawn-brokers, Pound shops and boarded-up discount stores.

I moved on quickly as the guy in the "Korek Cafe" didn't like the idea of having his picture taken.  Everywhere we went there were "To Let" and "For Sale" signs, as well as lots of boarded-up and derelict properties.  What a shame that such a proud and elegant Victorian city should be reduced to this.

The one highlight in the whole day was the fact that Waterstone's had taken over the Wool Exchange building.  Far from being locked up, the whole place had been preserved very sympathetically, and a new gallery at mezzanine level had been built to house a coffee shop.  From this gallery (which was also nice and warm!) we were able to look over the shelves of books and admire the architecture of Lockwood & Mawson at close quarters.

I'd never spotted the "Stars of David" before, and did some research as to whether the Wool Exchange ever had strong Jewish connections.  Apparently not.  According to what I read, it wasn't unusual for this motif to be used as building decoration in the late Victorian age without any particular religious significance.

I'll finish the post with three grumpy old men.  It seems appropriate that the final one, a statue of J B Priestley, was shot from behind, as he turned his back on the city of his birth for many years.  I suspect I'm going to have to do the same after some of the things I've written about it...