PAUL Jennings, author of The Local: A History of The English Pub, looks back at one of Bradford's oldest surviving pubs - the Duchess of Kent.

"When so many old pubs have closed, it’s nice to hear that one has recently reopened, as has the Duchess of Kent in Sackville Street. Especially as it is one of the older surviving buildings in the city centre.

William Brayshaw bought a plot of land in 1849 for £154 and on it built a beerhouse which became the Duchess of Kent, after the mother of Queen Victoria, in a common enough royalist gesture. The Queen, Albert and her numerous children provided names for many pubs.

It was in what was then Southgate, which ran from Westgate down to Thornton Road, and which was at that time a notorious street for rough drinking places and prostitution. Bradford at the time was the fastest-growing industrial town in the country, as people moved there in their thousands for work in its mills, swelling the population by 1851 to over 100,000.

Perhaps to get away from seedy associations, when Sunbridge Road was created in the 1870s, bisecting it, the upper part became Sackville Street. But it didn’t entirely escape the attentions of moralists. In 1890, then landlord Thomas Sadler was prosecuted for permitting an exhibition of singing and recitations of ‘an improper character’ in the pub’s music saloon. Two police officers had attended on three nights and heard a male vocalist sing a song containing a ‘suggestive allusion’ as well as other objectionable songs about a policeman lodger and the Salvation Army, among others. The case was dismissed on a legal technicality but Sadler lost his music licence, although the music room was revived to receive the attentions of a new Chief Constable a decade later, seeking to get rid of what he claimed were minor music halls where drink was freely available throughout the performances. Of his targeted 37, however, only five eventually were refused, but which included again the Duchess.

Brayshaw, after several attempts, had eventually been successful in obtaining a full drinks licence for the pub and on his death in 1883 it was sold to Brear and Brown of the Hipperholme Steam Brewery. This brewery was later acquired by brewers Wallers of Bradford, and in turn by the Melbourne Brewery of Leeds and hence to Tetleys. During the inter-war years one landlord was John Flanagan, who served on the council for Labour, unusually in that publican politicians tended to support the Conservatives. But in these quieter times, the pub didn’t entirely escape the unrulier element. In 1921 a man selling goods from pub to pub was asked to leave due to his bad language. He responded by breaking three large windows with two pickaxes.

When I frequented it at times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, from when the photograph dates, it was quieter, usually lunchtime or early evening. I found it a nice example of a basic, unassuming city-centre pub. I remember with a small group in the little room beyond the bar watching Alex Higgins win the 1982 world snooker championship and the ‘tidal wave of adrenalin’ on which he took the final frame. One of those pub moments.