BRADFORD’S historic Old Crown was the focus of our new Pub of the Week feature, launched last weekend.

The pub’s Ivegate site goes back over 200 years, and today it’s a popular city centre venue.

Dr Paul Jennings, author of The Local: A History of the English Pub, writes: “The original Old Crown in Ivegate, one of Bradford’s oldest thoroughfares, could trace its origins back until at least the 18th century, when it was known as the Crown and Cushion.

It played at times an important role in the town’s history. The first Bradford Club, a kind of Chamber of Commerce of those times, was founded there in about 1760 and the Worsted Committee met there in the 1770s. In 1825 the Bradford Commercial Building Society was established there.

It seems then to have fallen somewhat from this respectable status, as in 1856 we find a woman there called Ellen Mahen, nicknamed ‘Squinty’ and described in the Bradford Observer’s account as a ‘disreputable woman’, pledging a stolen watch for drink, although the landlord was acquitted of receiving stolen goods. His successor was, however, the following year fined heavily for allowing a dozen men to be drinking in the pub early one Sunday morning. He claimed he was in bed and didn’t know they were there. The Chief Constable also evidenced that he had seen known thieves drinking there.

By the following decade at least, it housed a popular music saloon. It was described by local writer James Burnley on his visit at the close of the 1860s in a piece called Music Hall Life published in his Phases of Bradford Life, as packed with listeners ‘much in need of oxygen’ enjoying ‘two neatly attired young ladies, each adorned with a splendid array of black hair’, playing a duet on the piano. After their act, they entered into ‘playful conversation with a small circle of special admirers’. They were followed by turns from the audience, as was common in singing rooms like this.

When the Bradford Corporation introduced music licences from 1882 this room, where a pianist played nightly, was said to be only just over nine ft high. The pub at this time is pictured in this photograph from William Richardson’s years as landlord, 1884-1888. The sign above the entrance advertises the music saloon.

It also unfortunately at this time again fell afoul of the law, according to police records, landlords being fined in that decade for opening out of hours, adulterating the gin and permitting drunkenness on the premises.

In 1925 objection was raised against it as the premises were deemed to be ‘structurally unsuitable’. Plans to rebuild it were accepted however and a new Old Crown was built in the style nicknamed Brewers’ Tudor used for many pubs in those years. Another Bradford example was the Barrack Tavern at Bradford Moor.

Latterly the Old Crown was well known for its strip shows, along with the Belle Vue on Manningham Lane, displays which led to its closure in 1991. But after trading as a gaming arcade the premises more recently were re-opened as a pub, re-establishing in its name at least a link with the city’s early history.”