BRADFORD’S City Hall is such a familiar landmark to those of us who live and work in the city that we tend to walk past it without a second glance.

But look up and you will see stonework and architectural detail so magnificent it might just take your breath away.

Saturday, September 9 is the 150th anniversary of City Hall. To celebrate, the doors of the Grade 1 listed building will be thrown open for the public to take a look around and find out more about its fascinating history, with volunteer guides on hand to talk to visitors.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, the Telegraph & Argus has produced a booklet to assist with self-guided walking tours of the city centre, taking in such locations such as Little Germany, Bradford Cathedral and St George’s Hall. The guide will be available at City Hall at the Open Weekend on September 9 and 10.

See the T&A walking tours guide here:

Also in City Hall will be a pop-up shop run by Visit Bradford and a cafe serving afternoon tea in the reception rooms.

Visitors can step into the splendid Council Chamber, find out about the democratic and social pioneering history of Bradford and discover the Belle Vue Studio Archive and the Pioneering Women display in the Savile Room.

Built in a mainly Medieval Gothic style, out of local Gaisby sandstone, Bradford’s ‘civic palace’ was the crowning glory of architects Lockwood & Mawson, who also designed St George’s Hall, the Wool Exchange, Salts Mill and Saltaire.

The most notable external feature of City Hall is its splendid campanile Italianate style clock tower - soaring 217 ft high and containing 13 bells - inspired by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Another striking detail of the facade are the 35 statues of British monarchs, appearing in chronological order, with Victoria and Elizabeth I on either side of the main entrance.

The building opened as Bradford Town Hall in September 1873. Although Bradford became a city in 1897 it wasn’t until 1965 that it was officially re-named City Hall.

In his book Bradford City Hall: 150 Years of Civic Pride, Dr Simon Ross Valentine reveals that the first town hall in Bradford was in the Old Fire Station on Swaine Street, an alleyway, now long gone, between Market Street and Hall Ings.

He writes: “As the town grew in size, and civic duties increased, inevitably a new town hall was needed. But civic pride was an important factor as well. Leeds and Halifax had built impressive town halls, in 1858 and 1863, respectively. Bradford couldn’t be outdone.

“A national competition was held for a suitable design. The winners were the famous Bradford architects Lockwood & Mawson who submitted two designs, one classical the other Gothic - the gothic design which won is, as we can see today, a truly magnificent piece of work.

“The building contract was given to John Ives & Son of Shipley. In 1869, work on a new town hall began and was completed four years later. The final cost was £100,000 and £4,000 for the land.”

When the town hall was built, its 13-bell carillon was one of only three carillons in England at the time. The largest bell, weighing four tonnes, is Big Tom, also known as Matthew William - named after the Mayor of Bradford, Matthew William Thompson, who officially opened the town hall in September 9, 1873.

The 35 kings and Queens of England, from William the Conqueror to Queen Victoria, adorning the exterior are seven ft tall and placed in niches on the second-floor wall. Made from stone from Cliffe Wood quarries, they cost £63 each.

Writes Dr Valentine: “The most controversial statue is that of Oliver Cromwell, who was not a king but governed England as Lord Protector from 1653-1658.”

An extension to the building opened in the early 20th century: “In 1897, when Bradford became a city, the town hall of 1873 was too small for the council to fulfill its duties. An extension was built between 1909-1914 costing £100,000, providing a council chamber which, with its magnificent domed roof and pillars made from Italian Cipollino marble, is where council meetings are held today.

“A banqueting hall was also added. Medieval in style, there are huge oriel windows behind gothic arches, high oak panelling and a magnificent frieze representing the textile trade which made Bradford ‘Worstedopolis’, the textile capital of the world.

“Other sections of interest include the Lord Mayor’s Rooms, the Civic Suite where official guests are greeted and the magnificent civic staircase, the steps of which are made of baroque marble and local sandstone from Bell Dean Quarry at Jericho, near Thornton.”

The town hall was home to Bradford’s police station until 1974, and its Victorian courtroom and cells were in use until 1990. The courtroom, restored to its Victorian grandeur, regularly appears in Coronation Street and Emmerdale. City Hall has also been used for filming TV hits Peaky Blinders and Victoria and films such as Room at the Top, Testament of Youth, Official Secrets and The Duke.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Victorian courtroom at City HallThe Victorian courtroom at City Hall (Image: Bradford Council)

City Hall’s Open Weekend, part of the nationwide Heritage Open Days, is on Saturday (10am-6pm) and Sunday (11am-3pm). Booking is not needed - just turn up.

Admission to Bradford Police Museum will be free this weekend as part of the celebrations. 

The museum, in the City Hall building, will also open an extra day - Sunday, September 10 - as well as Saturday, September 9.

Bradford Police Museum is located in the city's old police station, court and chief constable's office from 1873-1974. It takes visitors on a journey through Bradford’s history of policing, crime and punishment, and artefacts on display in include uniforms, radio equipment and highlights of Bradford’s pioneering police work, including the first conviction by fingerprint evidence outside London.

A new exhibition explores the evolving relationship between the police and minority ethnic communities in Bradford from 1974-2006. Diversity and Policing: A Shared History explores the work of Bradford police in areas such as community engagement and forced marriage – and how its pioneering initiatives became national best practice.

The museum also has a fleet of historic police vehicles and on Saturday, September 9 a Mini Metro police car will be outside the museum entrance in Centenary Square.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Police Museum has a fleet of historic police vehicles Bradford Police Museum has a fleet of historic police vehicles (Image: Bradford Police Museum)

The museum will be open on Saturday, September 9, 10am, last tour at 2.30pm, and Sunday, September 10 10am-4pm, last tour at 2.30pm. Tours can be booked online only at

To mark 100 years of Jowett Car Club, the Open Weekend events will also include a display of Jowett vehicles, and vintage police cars, in Centenary Square.

* Fr more about City Hall anniversary events visit

* Bradford City Hall: 150 Years of Civic Pride by Simon Ross Valentine, published by Bradford Council, is on sale at bookstores and council outlets.