Thursday, July 08, 2010

Square One : Little Germany

This project attempts to provide a flavour of what is typical in my home county of West Yorkshire by focusing on ten randomly selected squares from throughout the County. Each of the 500 square metre areas has been chosen by a random number generator and here I explore each of them in images and words. 

Let me first of all say that I didn't cheat. I realise that when you see the location of my first "square" it looks too good to be true (the sharp eyed will even spot there is a "Burnett Street" running through the centre of the square), but I promise you that the numbers came straight from the random number machine and were plotted faithfully in the atlas. And so for my first random exploration of West Yorkshire, let me take you to Little Germany, slightly to the east of the centre of the City of Bradford. And, for me, one of the most beautiful spots in the County.

The first of my random squares is just to the east of Bradford City centre.
In the nineteenth century Bradford had risen to become the world centre of the worsted textile industry (worsteds are high quality woolen fabrics used in clothing). With the construction of the spectacular Wool Exchange in 1862 (now, surely, one of the most beautiful book shops in the world and sadly just outside my square), Bradford confirmed its status as the centre of the world woolen industry and was known far and wide as "Worstedopolis". This new status meant that wool merchants from throughout the world were drawn to Bradford. where they would establish grand Victorian warehouses to store and display their goods. In the mid-nineteenth century so many of these foreign merchants - particularly merchants from Germany - had built grand warehouses to the east of the city centre, the area became known as Little Germany.

Burnett Street in the heart of the Little Germany district
The geometry of stone
The warehouses were built in an Italianate style from fine local sandstone and incorporated wonderful embellishments which proclaimed the status, wealth and pride of the owners. Today you can wander through the streets of Little Germany and continually come face to face with these architectural gems, now with their soot-encrusted skins removed, displaying details that can almost make you catch your breath. But now the wool merchants have long gone and the buildings look for new owners and new purposes. Some have become offices, some have become art centres, some just sit and await what the future may have in store for them.

Street sculpture in Little Germany
Eastbrook Hall in search of a new purpose
It is difficult to imagine a square more full of beauty and history than this first square, Can there be any city that it more typical of West Yorkshire than Bradford? Can there be any building that is more resonant of the area and its rich history than a wool warehouse?  We will see next week when I go off to examine the second square in my Ten Square Odyssey.

Carved stone name from Albion Buildings, Little Germany

29 comments:

  1. Now thats what I call street furniture!

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  2. Love the idea of the project; something to keep you pretty busy.

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  3. Bradford Must Be The Most Atmospheric Of Northern Cities.It has a unique flavour.Yet, in other ways it doesnt feel like a city to me at all.
    None of Yuppy~ness & apeing of America you tend to find in other English cities these days.
    To try & get the good folk of Bradford to drink expensive frothy-coffees at pavement Bistros would be impossible!
    Yes, Little Germany is a good example of the flavour of Bradford.A City that looks East rather than West (unlike it's sterile neighbour Leeds).
    Starbucks Be Gone!

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  4. A very enjoyable project and post Alan. I am really enjoying this glimpse into your world.

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  5. geraldgee : The sandstone sculpture is a 1992 piece by Timothy Shutter called "Grandad's Clock and Chair". It seemingly cost the City £5,000 which - to me - seems like good value for money.
    tony : there is a great deal of truth in what you say. If only they could do something original with that big hole in the centre. As things are I suspect it will either be Arndaleised or Yuppified.

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  6. i love the architecture and the street furniture is really cool....thanks for giving us a taste of the flavor AB

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  7. Alan,
    This is great! Nice buildings and surroundings. Looking forward to the next of your ten square county tour. I would love to go into the book shoppes. Do you if the wool industry there of the past used child labor as in "Oliver"?....
    Best, as always!
    :) The Bach

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  8. forgot the word "know" in my previous comment :( The Bach
    :)

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  9. Bach : To an extent, but only to a limited extent as Bradfords' period of dominance coincided with the beginnings of the factory laws which prohibited the worst excesses of child labour. In Bradford there is a statue to the memory of Richard Oastler, the Victorian campaigner for factory legislation who just lived up the hill from where I live now.

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  10. They've done a good job of cleaning off the soot on all those buildings. And I find it fascinating that someone thought to design factories and warehouses in the Italianate style. Now that's class!

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  11. Beautiful architecture in the buildings and many historical stories to go with it. What more can one ask for. Looking forward to the other stories to come.

    We have very few old buildings here in California because the majority of our houses and building were built after 1950. I guess in a few hundred years all these building will be historical if they are still here. We had another earthquake today. We just had one a few weeks ago. We don't normally have them this close and this size. People are starting to get a little scared around here. Good thing that you don't have earthquakes over there.

    God bless.

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  12. PS...I wrote about the iPad on your iPad post and about the iPhone too.

    God bless.

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  13. Roy : Bradford millowners were very fond of the Italianate style and there are many good local examples. Maybe the Random Numbers will take ne to some more.
    Mrsupole : It is pure chance that I got sent to lovely old buildings first - there are plenty of new ones (both beautiful and ugly) around.

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  14. Alan, it appears that the building in the last photo has not yet been cleaned. Also - where did the woolen industry go? I know that the famous Harris Tweeds are still woven on the isle of Lewis (of all places - you would think they come from Harris, wouldn't you?)

    I love these old buildings. Very beautiful.

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  15. AngelMay : Where did it go? Inevitably it moved to other countries. In the nineteenth century Bradford would import wool from all over the world, turn it into cloth and export that back to consumers in Australia, India, America or where-ever. Eventually those countries developed their own textile industry and Bradford became uncompetitive. Sad, but there is an inevitability about it.

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  16. Wonderful and charming. I was ready to pack my bags and move to Bradford, but then breakfast was served, which distracted me from my mission.

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  17. Wow! Great shots & great background. I really like the Geometry of Stone & of course Street Furniture photos. Also like that you included the map. This looks to be a great series.

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  18. wonderful....you never fail to entertain and educate us in all sorts of new and unexpected ways!!!

    thanks for starting another wonderful project!

    wv: playfoal

    somehow it seems to be a relevant wv..

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  19. You have picked a fascinating project. What happened to the millionaires?

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  20. Oh, didn't you drop lucky there? It's wonderful, Alan, to see some beautiful pictures and positive coverage of Bradford. I keep thinking I must do some wandering there myself. Just lack of time that prevents me.

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  21. Oh I'm so glad you're doing this. It actually looks really lovely. Did they clean up the buildings. Do you remember in the late 60's how everything seemed to be soot covered and black then changes were made to what you could burn and cathedrals and public buildings all scrubbed clean? Amazing the difference. Great post. So looking forward to the rest. I agree with Tony too Leeds is soulless but the Royal Armoury there is awesome.

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  22. Never realised (never having been there) that Bradford looks so nice.

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  23. The first picture is so much like a street in Boulogne-sur-Mer. When I first glanced at it I thought it was! The similarity is quite striking. I go to Boulogne quite often to visit friends.

    I've never been to Bradford, and the impression I get when it's mentioned in the news is a smoked filled, grimy city with dark satanic mills and full of immigrants and danger! Perhaps I should take a trip and see what it's really like. I am impressed with your pictures.

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  24. Thanks Phil and Keith. I am just heading off for square two and I will report on that next week - if I survive!

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  25. This was very interesting to read. I am intrigued that you have a Little Germany and that it is built in Italian style buildings. It will be nice to get to know your city as I know next to nothing about any of the country.

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  26. i'm loving the idea and the street sculptures are plain adorable!! this is somewhat reminescent of what i'm trying to do with my "12 of 12", when i focus on various sectors and activities in my city.
    keep up the good work!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  27. They look nothing like the warehouses we have here..all shiny and metal buildings..where one looks just like the other..except for maybe color:)

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  28. I love your architectural photography and am glad to know that bit more about your part of the world. Sooooo much more interesting than anywhere around here, let me tell you. Colorado history does NOTHING for me at all.

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  29. Brian in York5:15 PM

    Little Germany....makes me proud to be a Yorkshireman, yet sad to see such little investment nowadays in the wonderful city of Bradford (the forgotten land!!!).

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