Bradford is a city in West Yorkshire; it is situated in the eastern moorland foothills of the South Pennines, at the junction of three valleys, one of which is Bradfordale, or Bradforddale, which can be regarded as one of the Yorkshire Dales; one of the valley's becks, Bradford Beck rises in moorland to the west and is swelled by its tributaries Horton Beck, Westbrook, Bowling Beck & Eastbrook; the beck flows towards the River Aire at Shipley.
Bradford became a municipal borough in 1847 and received its charter as a city in 1897 and its name is derived from the Old English brad and ford the broad ford which referred to a crossing of the Bradford Beck at Church Bank below the site of Bradford Cathedral, around which a settlement grew in Saxon times; it was recorded as "Bradeford" in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Bradford rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture, particularly wool; it was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution and amongst the earliest industrialised settlements, rapidly becoming the "wool capital of the world"; the area's access to a supply of coal, iron ore and soft water facilitated the growth of Bradford's manufacturing base, which, as it grew, led to a population explosion.
The launch of manufacturing in the early 18th century marked the start of the town's development while new canal and turnpike road links encouraged trade; at the turn of the 19th century; the Bradford Canal, built in 1774, linking the city to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal took its water from Bradford Beck and its tributaries; the supply was often inadequate to feed the locks and the polluted state of the canal led to its temporary closure in 1866; the canal was finally closed in the early 20th century due to being uneconomic.
Bradford was a small rural market town of 16,000 people, where wool spinning and cloth weaving was carried out in local cottages and farms; the Industrial Revolution led to rapid growth, with wool imported in vast quantities for the manufacture of worsted cloth in which Bradford specialised and the town soon became known as the wool capital of the world.
Yorkshire had plentiful supplies of soft water, which was needed in the cleaning of raw wool and locally mined coal provided the power that the industry needed; local sandstone was an excellent resource for building the mills and with a population of 182,000 by 1850, the town grew rapidly as workers were attracted by jobs in the textile mills.
Like many major cities Bradford has been a destination for immigrants and in the 1840s Bradford's population was significantly increased by migrants from Ireland, particularly rural Mayo and Sligo and by 1851 about 10% of the population were born in Ireland; during the 1820s and 1830s immigrants also arrived from Germany and settled in an area of Bradford that came to be known as Little Germany, many of these were merchants who became active in the life of the town, and the Jewish community, around 100 families, were influential in the development of Bradford as a major exporter of woollen goods from their textile export houses mostly based in Little Germany; Jacob Behrens (1806 to 1889) exported woollen goods and his company developed into an international multi-million pound business.
A major employer was Titus Salt who in 1833 took over the running of his father's woollen business specialising in fabrics combining alpaca, mohair, cotton and silk; by 1850 he had five mills; however because of the polluted environment and squalid conditions for his workers Salt left Bradford and transferred his business to Saltaire in 1850, where in 1853 he began to build the workers village which has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Other major employers were Samuel Lister and his brother who were worsted spinners and manufacturers at Lister's Mill (Manningham Mills); Lister epitomised Victorian enterprise but it has been suggested that his capitalist attitude made trade unions necessary.
Blast furnaces were established in about 1788 by Hird, Dawson Hardy at Low Moor and iron was worked by the Bowling Iron Company until about 1900; Yorkshire iron was used for shackles, hooks and piston rods for locomotives, colliery cages and other mining appliances where toughness was required; Low Moor also made pig iron and the company employed 1,500 men in 1929.
Unprecedented growth created problems with over 200 factory chimneys continually churning out black, sulphurous smoke and Bradford gained the reputation of being the most polluted town in England; there were frequent outbreaks of cholera and typhoid, and only 30% of children born to textile workers reached the age of fifteen; life expectancy, of just over eighteen years, was one of the lowest in the country.
A culture of innovation had been fundamental to Bradford's dominance, with new textile technologies being invented in the city; a prime example being the work of Samuel Lister; to support the textile mills, a large manufacturing base grew up in the town providing textile machinery and this led to diversification with different industries thriving side by side; however, the textile industry has been in decline throughout the latter part of the 20th century and the grandest of the mills, which is no longer used for textile production, is Lister's Mill, the chimney of which can be seen from most places in Bradford.
The city played an important part in the early history of the Labour Party; a mural on the back of the Priestley Centre For The Arts, which is visible from Leeds Road, commemorates the centenary of the founding of the Independent Labour Party in 1893.
Bradford is now a tourist destination with attractions such as the National Media Museum and Cartwright Hall.