ANYONE looking for a taste of the Bradford of old, when the city stood at the heart of the textile industry, could do no better than to step inside the club that bears its name.

The Bradford Club is a historic and exclusive private members club dating back to 1761. Sir Titus Salt and the father of composer Frederick Delius were among those who have enjoyed its hospitality.

Its entrance in Piece Hall Yard, still welcomes members into its splendid interior.

Its wide staircase with a polished brass handrail, passes beneath six long stained glass windows, illuminating busts of 19th century reformer and creator of the free market Richard Cobden and the Chancellor, later to become Prime Minister, of that time, William Ewart Gladstone.

There’s a spacious dining room where, for more than two centuries, the city’s business leaders have enjoyed lunch, before retiring to the comfortable bar for a game of backgammon or dominoes.

The club’s snooker room, pictured, is a splendid sight with its neatly-spaced tables standing under a striking hammerbeamed roof, one of only two architectural features of Bradford listed in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s famous guides to the buildings of Britain, City Hall being the other.

In an elegant reading room members recline in high-backed leather armchairs set beside brass-stemmed reading lamps.

Gentlemen’s clubs had their roots in coffee house and the meeting rooms of pubs. The Bradford Club is no exception. The Bull’s Head Inn at the bottom of Westgate was home to many informal groups including the old choral society and the first association called The Bradford Club.

They went on to meet in pubs across he city. Many of these people were piece traders - trading lengths or ‘pieces’ of cloth - whose business was, coincidentally, based at Piece Hall, the site of the present club.

Over the decades, as the textile trade boomed, five gentlemen’s clubs were established in Bradford. The first ‘Bradford Club’ and predecessor of today’s club, occupied premises at Upper Piccadilly and Manor Row. It was built in 1866 at a cost of £6,000 but closed in 1940 as many members were away on military service. It did not reopen as many failed to return. It later emerged in Bank Street, when the Conservative and Liberal clubs dropped their political affiliations to form the club.

The club came to its present premises after amalgamating with The Union Club, founded by German immigrants who had come to Bradford to work in the wool trade, which had occupied the Piece Hall Yard premises since 1852.

The Bradford Club has for many years been a relaxing haven for both men and women.

As well as fulfilling its age-old role as a place to dine, read the papers and chat, it now hosts functions including weddings, dinners and cocktail parties.

And it still carries on some quaint traditions. One of these involves informal meetings of a group of members in Optimists’ Corner, where in days gone by anyone who mentioned work would be fined and expected to buy a round of coffees.