A PROJECT exploring the story of a neighbourhood in the 'top of town' area of Bradford is seeking volunteers to interview former residents.

The Neighbourhood Project is carrying out a research programme into the post-war history of the Longlands area of the city centre.

Project director Jonathan Crewdson says Longlands is "one of the most important in the history of modern Bradford and arguably had a direct impact on its housing policy in the 20th century".

It was one of several 'lost neighbourhoods' circling Victorian Bradford town centre, made up of back-to-back terraced housing with poor sanitation. "Many properties weren't structurally sound and the population density was huge, with over 250 people per acre and typically four families per house, many sleeping on floors. Infant mortality rates were high as was disease and crime," said Jonathan.

In response to concerns, Frederick Jowett, the first Independent Labour Party councillor elected to Bradford Corporation, launched a public inquiry and called for the houses to be declared ‘insanitary’ so they could be demolished and replaced with social housing. By 1909 the area was rebuilt, with five new tenement blocks, three of which survive today. The estate was extended in 1914. The Irish heritage of Longlands is reflected in the Harp of Erin pub, built as part of the new estate, St Patrick’s Church and the former Irish Club.

"Built for social housing, the tenement blocks tucked away behind shops in Westgate had a style radically different from anything else I’d seen in Bradford," said Jonathan, who has researched the early history of Longlands.

While demolition and re-building work was carried out, residents were moved to the newly-created Faxfleet estate, between Marshfields and Odsal Top. The Longlands restoration was a model for further slum clearances in Bradford.

"One by one, these old neighbourhoods have either now gone or been radically changed and most of their names are no longer commonly used. Such is the issue with Longlands, often mistakenly called ‘Chain Street’ or ‘Upper Goitside’," said Jonathan. "Its name should be preserved for its significance in the social progress of Bradford in the 20th Century."

The Neighbourhood Project research will feed into a free publication on Longlands, to be launched later this year. Said Jonathan: "We wish to recruit and support a number of volunteer researchers, to carry out primary research - interviewing current and former residents of Longlands to capture their memories of the place - and secondary research, exploring archives and online sources for interesting facts and events affecting Longlands in the post-war period.

"Volunteers will meet monthly as a group. These gatherings, as well as interviews with residents, will take place in the Millside Centre on Grattan Road. Volunteers will receive supervision, training in any skills areas needed, and will have expenses reimbursed."

* For more information email Jonathan Crewdson at mail@neighbourhoodproject.org.uk