MANY people who think they know the centre of Bradford, if asked where the Bradford Club is, will say: “We’ve heard of it but never been there, so can’t be of any help.”

So let us remedy that straight away. The Club is based, nay secreted, at 1 Piece Hall Yard, which is in an alley connecting Kirkgate to the Old Wool Exchange (now Waterstones book shop).

The entrance has a large black gloss door beneath a Romanesque Arch. It so forbidding that I have seen many persons approach it but never have I seen any go in. On one occasion when a gentleman had the temerity to ask me what took place in the Club I offered to take him and show him but he hesitated for a moment then hurriedly walked away.

So to remove the fear factor about the Bradford Club, a former President, Tony Emmott, decided in a moment of great benevolence to write a book about the Club and its inner sanctum known as ‘The Optimists Corner’.

The first recorded Bradford Club was established at the Old Bull’s Head in 1761. Its objectives were to drink the health of members and to provide good company and harmony. This remains the objectives of the current Bradford Club. Today its members are made mainly of businessmen and professionals. However, until the end of the 20th Century the majority of members were made up of the leading members of the Bradford wool industry.

There was then a period between 1761 and 1977 when several versions of a Bradford Club existed. The latest incarnation was in 1977 when it merged with the Union Club (formerly called the Bradford Billiards club, founded in 1865).

There have been many prominent members of the Club but the most famous was Sir Titus Salt who built Saltaire village and was MP for the City of Bradford.

One tradition, if not the greatest tradition, of the Bradford Club was its ‘Corners’. The Corners came about because certain members got into the habit of sitting after lunch in the same seats in the Smoking Room when the Club was in Bank Street.

An affinity naturally developed between those members and this developed into a number of loosely knit unofficial associations, which became known as the Corners from the places where they sat in the Smoking Room.

There were four in all and the shape of the room meant that there could never be a fifth. Each Corner had a different characteristic. The oldest corner was simply known as ‘The Corner’ and was formed in 1896, comprised mainly of politicians, and included MPs, aldermen, councillors and magistrates.

The next corners to be formed were as follows: The Optimists in 1912, The 30 Corner in 1923 and The Unity Corner in 1927.

Sadly only one of the corners - The Optimists - still survive. One of the reasons why some of the corners disappeared arose when in 1977 the Bradford Club in Bank Street merged with the Union Club in today’s premises in Piece Hall Yard.

The Corners were encouraged to disband because the Club committee felt that they might inhibit the Union members mixing with the Bradford Club members.

The Optimists Corner however weathered this storm and continued with it traditions. The Optimists elects a chairman every year and he is most powerful as the only rule the corner has is that he can do no wrong during his term of office.

The Optimists meet for lunch every Thursday. The Chairman can and does impose fines on other members for any misdemeanours they commit. In past years fines could involve the culprit purchasing cigars for all members attending the weekly lunch. Birthdays also give rise to a fine of purchasing wine for the lunch. Also fines are levied if a member goes on holiday but fails to send a postcard to the Chairman - and even when he sends a card!

The Chairmen have over the years proved very inventive in finding ways to fine other members.

The Optimists organise their own golf tournament and members’ wives and widows are invited to enjoy the Corner’s various social events that are organised.

Each year there is an annual summer trip, either at home or abroad. The last one was a long weekend to Newmarket to visit a racing horse stable and the National Stud. This was much enjoyed, particularly by certain members who donate regular sums of money each week to the welfare of racing horses.

The Optimists Corner has its own tie, which bears the Club emblem of a drone; a non working bee which has a short life because after mating with the queen bee he gives up his life to ensure continuity of the colony.

The Chairman is elected every year at the annual dinner, held in March. At this dinner guests are invited and entertainment is provided, and large sums are raised for the Chairman’s chosen charities, which are often local organisations.

There is no joining fee or annual fee to be an Optimist but you do have to be a member of the Bradford Club.

* The Optimists’ Corner of the Bradford Club by Tony Emmott, a former chairman of the Optimists Corner, is available, at £10, from the Bradford Club on (01274) 727036 or