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|