OLD city centre pub The Harp of Erin has a history interwound with Bradford’s Irish community.

Here, Paul Jennings, the author of Bradford Pubs and The Local: A History of the English Pub, looks at the origins of The Harp of Erin, and how it evolved over a century from a housing cluster built for the city’s fast-growing Victorian population.

“The Harp of Erin, at the corner of Chain Street and West End Street, just off Westgate, is photographed here in the mid-1980s. It sheds light on several aspects of Bradford’s history. The land on which it was built had belonged to Joseph Middleton, who was the landlord of the Pack Horse Inn in Westgate. The trustees under his will sold a plot in 1821 on which were built 10 cottages.

This was part of the Longlands district, one of several housing developments for the town’s fast-growing population. They included many Irish men and women, who had been arriving in Bradford since the 1820s but whose numbers were swelled by the terrible Famine in Ireland of the mid-1840s. By 1851 they made up getting on for one in 10 of the population.

In 1868, two of the cottages were converted into a beerhouse, first called the Rawsons Arms and later the Full Measure.

But then landlord Patrick Henry, who took the pub in 1882, changed its name to the Harp of Erin. He himself had been born In Ireland and clearly wished the fact to be reflected in his pub.

Pubs were just one of a range of religious and social institutions which served the town’s Irish community. Under Patrick, the pub was also a grocer’s shop and took in lodgers.

The 1891 census shows a plasterer’s labourer and a blacksmith’s striker there, both also born in Ireland. There were Catholic churches like nearby St Patrick’s, or in other areas of Irish settlement St Anne’s, St Mary’s or St Joseph’s and schools like St Bede’s and St Joseph’s. There were a range of social clubs too, some of them named for Irish nationalist heroes, like Wolfe Tone, Michael Davitt or John Dillon.

Indeed, the community hosted visits by several famous leaders, notably the great Home Rule campaigner Charles Stuart Parnell in 1877 and his successor John Redmond in 1901. The founder of Sinn Fein, Arthur Griffith, twice addressed meetings in 1920 at the height of the armed campaign for independence.

By that time the Harp of Erin had been rebuilt. The whole of the Longlands district formed part of a slum clearance scheme and new council housing, the earliest in the city, was built on the site. Most of the pubs too were demolished but the Harp was spared and under owners Bradford brewers Waller and Son the present building erected in 1911. The building plan shows a central bar, smoke room, bar parlour, tap room and kitchen, with the WC and urinal out in the yard.”

Other pubs highlighted by Mr Jennings on this page have included the Ring ‘O’ Bells, on Bolton Road, an old 'canal pub' which witnessed Bradford's modern history, and The Westgate, dating back to the 17th century and one of the city's oldest drinking establishments.