BRADFORD has many fine buildings.

The Gothic splendour of City Hall, the majestic Wool Exchange, the recently-refurbished St George’s Hall, the distinctive domes of The Alhambra Theatre.

They have served for many years as landmarks to be admired.

There’s the former post office in Forster Square, now home to Kala Sangam South Asian community arts centre.

And the fine stone Technical College, which became independent from the Mechanics Institute in 1882 and given its own premises. It now forms part of Bradford College.

These fine buildings are among many featured in ‘Around Bradford’, a book of photographic memories from the famous Francis Frith collection.

Francis Frith, the Victorian founder of the world-famous photographic archive, took photographs across the UK and on trips to far-off parts of the world. These now offer us a unique insight into life as it was more than a century ago.

On his excursions throughout the Bradford district Frith found a great deal to interest him. He captured town halls, churches and chapels, parks, bridges, inns, theatres, shops and many more local scenes.

After his death in 1898 Frith’s company carried on taking photographs up to the mid-1960s, all of which are kept in special archives.

A series of books has been produced, containing images from The Francis Frith collection, taken in town and country locations across Britain.

‘Around Bradford’ includes a chapter on the city centre and its buildings. It is fascinating to see how much still exists from bygone days, although in a different guise.

‘Bradford’s Wool Exchange, with its lofty facades, pointed arches and 150ft tower, was created in the grand Venetian Gothic style, and symbolised the wealth and prestige the textile industry had brought to the town,’ writes author Clive Hardy. ‘On ‘change’ days the atmosphere could be truly international, with buyers and sellers from around the world. It was said that no matter the type of wool or hair, a buyer would be found at the Bradford Exchange.’

The Wool Exchange was built in 1867 to the design of Bradford architects Lockwood and Mawson, who won a competition for the most successful design. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Palmerston. Now this striking building is home to Waterstones bookshop.

The Great Northern Victoria Hotel was, writes Hardy, ‘built to cater for the new influx of rail travellers to the town.’ It also points out that rooms at the prestigious Victoria cost from four shillings a night.

Another distinctive building featured in the book - which also looks at Bradford’s parks and views in villages and towns around Bradford - is the Post Office in Forster Square.

‘Bradford had an impressive postal network. This head office opened from seven in the morning to ten at night,’ writes Hardy.

Interestingly, at the time of the photograph being taken, around 1950, there were 34 town sub-offices and 21 country sub-offices. A far cry from today.

The book also features a bustling Manningham Lane in the early 20th century as well as in 1921 and around1950.

Born in Derbyshire, Francis Frith was originally apprenticed in the cutlery trade, but eventually became a grocer, supplying ships at Liverpool. He appears to have learned photography sometime in the 1850s, and in 1859 was one of the founding members of the Liverpool Photographic Society.

He not only took photographs of many parts of the UK, but also the Middle East.

His studio supplied shops across the country. To meet demand he gathered together a small team of photographers and published the work of independent artist photographers.

The Dorset-based company Francis Frith has scanned the entire archive of some 330,000 images, dating from 1857 to 2005. They are available to view on the website, searchable by location.

“Francis Frith’s legacy to us is an archive without equal”, says Julia Skinner, the company’s photo library manager. “It is a remarkable and unique photographic record of Britain over 100 years of change that is also a wonderful resource for local and social historians as well as genealogists or anyone compiling their family history.

“The 20th century images also make a great talking point for young and old, as many older people love looking at our images online and sharing their memories of these places with the younger generation. It is a great privilege to work with these wonderful photographs - every day I spot something that catches my interest.”

Francis Frith has published more than 1,100 similar local history books illustrated with historical photos from its archive. Information about all the titles available can be found at, from where they can be ordered.

Books can be personalised with a message printed on the title page at no extra cost if required, making them ideal gifts. *