The UK City of Culture competition, run by the Government every four years, invites places across the UK to set out their vision for creative place-making and culture-led regeneration. The City of Culture title has had a transformational impact on previous host cities, including Derry-Londonderry, Hull, and Coventry, which have subsequently secured millions of pounds of investment and delivered projects with lasting benefit for their communities.
As a city with plenty of unique heritage and culture, Bradford is set to deliver a fantastic range of performances, events and festivals in its landmark year as the UK City of Culture 2025. Today, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is celebrating Yorkshire Day by taking a look at some of the projects it has supported across Bradford in recent years. You can learn more about the projects below.
Image: The old Yorkshire Penny Bank, one of the buildings situated in the Top of Town area in Bradford.
Top of Town - Townscape Heritage Area Masterplan
Bradford Civic Society
The Top of Town area covers the Victorian commercial core of Bradford and boasts some of the most historically and architecturally important buildings in the city, including the old Yorkshire Penny Bank, Church House, the Institution for the Blind, and Bradford Dispensary.
For this project, Bradford Civic Society worked in collaboration with Manchester School of Architecture to re-imagine how historic buildings could be restored and reused within the Top of Town. Months of innovative research and design proposals culminated in a booklet and online exhibition, which illustrated potential community-led re-use/conservation projects in the area and demonstrated the potential of third sector organisations to take on these buildings. The project also complemented wider initiatives, including the Bradford City Centre Townscape Heritage Scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council.
The AHF supported this project with a Project Viability Grant, awarded in 2020.
Image: 30 Chapel Street. Photo courtesy of Impact Hub Bradford.
30 Chapel Street
Impact Hub Bradford
Constructed in Yorkshire stone in the 1870s, 30 Chapel Street is a Grade II-listed, five-storey former merchant’s warehouse situated in the Little Germany Conservation Area in Bradford. Most recently, the building served as the offices for a local radio station.
Impact Hub Bradford (IHB) plans to transform 30 Chapel Street, which has been empty since the 2000s, into a multi-purpose facility for innovators, makers, artists, designers and community businesses. The restored building will include co-working space, studios, performance facilities and a café, as well as spaces for retail, artisanal food offerings, training and events. Alongside this, IHB will run programmes of support, including workshops, mentoring, knowledge sharing and consultancy, to encourage the establishment and growth of local entrepreneurs and businesses.
The AHF has supported this project with a Project Viability Grant, awarded in 2019, and a Project Development Grant, awarded in 2022.
Image: The Mechanics Institute Library. Photo courtesy of the Bradford Mechanics Institute Library.
Bradford Mechanics Institute
Bradford Mechanics Institute Library
Established in 1832, the Bradford Mechanics Institute Library (BMIL) played a leading role in adult education in Bradford for over 70 years. Today, it retains its original function by providing meeting spaces, archives and a library for the enjoyment and education of all. In 1973, the organisation moved to its current base, the 19th-century Narey’s Buildings. The site is significant to the social history of Bradford and contains a number of important collections, including the works of J.B. Priestley. Florence White, a campaigner for pension reform for women, also hosted several meetings in the building, for whom there is a blue plaque on the façade.
Following the departure of the third-floor tenant, BMIL aims to find a new use for the former office space. Specific proposals include the development of a Bradford Heritage Hub, which would comprise a subsidised workspace for groups or individuals within the heritage sector who have limited access to office space due to restricted funds. In order to better support the wider Bradford community and ensure the building’s sustainability in the long-term, BMIL also wishes to examine how the Narey’s Buildings could be improved as a whole. Current plans include the expansion of the function of the lending library to incorporate an archive of Bradford and a new collection of local studies material; improvements to accessibility; and enhancements to the commercial shop front.
The AHF has supported this project with a Project Viability Grant, awarded in 2022.
These three projects are working towards the community-led conservation and adaptation of significant buildings that showcase the rich cultural history of Bradford. It is hoped that all of them will have been completed in time for 2025, when people across the city and beyond will be able to enjoy them throughout Bradford’s momentous year as the UK City of Culture.
To learn more about Bradford 2025, please visit: https://bradford2025.co.uk/