THIS photograph, courtesy the former Bass North, shows a corner of Bradford’s centre that it is now very hard to picture - Tyrrel Street, opposite the Town Hall.

It was the ‘flagship’ pub of Hammond’s Bradford Brewery Company, whose premises were in Manchester Road. It replaced the old Commercial Hotel, built at the close of the 1820s and bought by Hammonds in 1891.

The company’s new pub of 1898 saw it renamed the Empress after, of course, Queen Victoria’s title Empress of India. Such was its importance to Hammonds that it was never allowed to run out of beer during wartime shortages and, after the war, the then Hammonds United Breweries continued to hold its AGMs in the large upstairs meeting room

It was a magnificent example of a late Victorian gin-palace style pub and its opening in June was featured in detail in the local papers. The Bradford Illustrated Weekly Telegraph, for example, describing it as ‘equal in its kind to any in the country’ and ‘modelled in the style of first-class London houses’, no expense having been spared.

The classical exterior featured granite columns and stained-glass windows. The chief entrance led through a vestibule and thence to a broad passage with mosaic floor, tiled walls and archway. The first-class bar had counter and cabinet work in Spanish mahogany, walls decorated with Japanese paper and deep red lincrusta dado. In the saloon bar, in addition to the mahogany woodwork, were mirrors, coloured glass and electroliers giving ‘a very bright effect’.

A large market room behind this indicated the important use of pubs for commercial purposes. There was also a luncheon bar, a small smoke room and to the rear a bar parlour, accessible from a separate entrance, for working-class customers. The licensee at the opening was John Schmidt, succeeded in 1900 by Francis Laidler, later better-known for his association with the Alhambra Theatre.

Mr Hobson told the Telegraph & Argus back in May 2009 of when his parents ran it just after the war. The back bar featured a circus mural painted by students from Bradford Art College. Sadly, I was always too young to have seen this or the rest of the splendid interior but pubs like the Princess Louise or the Salisbury in London give some idea of its palace style, or on a smaller scale, Whitelock’s in Leeds.

My memories are two. Dad told me how, sometime after the war, he was there when a man dashed in, stabbed in the back a man standing at the bar, and rushed out again. At the close of the 1960s, I used to catch the trolley bus up Little Horton Lane from outside the old Mechanics Institute building. Waiting for the last one on a Saturday night could be interesting. There were scuffles on Bridge Street among frequenters of the County Bar and from the Empress would come flamboyantly dressed men calling out ‘goodnight girls’ and the like to one another.

The pub closed in 1972, was demolished the following year and the Provincial Building put up on the site. There was then for a time another new Empress nearby.

* Dr Paul Jennings is author of The Local: A History of the English Pub (new revised third edition), Bradford Pubs and Working-Class Lives in Edwardian Harrogate. Available at Waterstones, WH Smith and online.