A Brief History of Bradford Cathedral

Two carved stones, probably parts of a Saxon preaching cross, have been found on this site. They indicate that Christians may have worshipped here since Paulinus came on a mission to Northumbria in AD 627. He preached in Dewsbury and it was from there that Bradford was first evangelised. The vicars of Bradford later paid dues to that parish. The Domesday Survey, made in 1086, described Bradford as 'waste'. Ilbert de Lacy was the Norman lord of the manor. It is likely that he would have had a chapel on his manor and so there may well have been a wooden church here during the Norman period.

Alice de Lacy, widow of one of Ilbert's descendants, gave a grant to the parish of Bradford which is recorded in the register of the Archbishop of York in 1281. Richard de Halton is named as vicar of the parish by 1283. By 1327 there was a stone church on the site for we know that it was burnt, probably by raiders from Scotland, in that year. Foundations of earlier buildings were found when the Chancel was rebuilt in 1963.

During the fourteenth century the church was rebuilt and some of the older masonry may have been used in the reconstruction of the Nave. The Nave arcades, the oldest parts of the present building, were completed in 1458. A clerestory above them was added by the end of the fifteenth century. Chantry chapels were founded, on the North side of the Chancel, by the Leventhorpe family and on the South by the owners of Bolling (or Bowling) Hall. The Tower in the perpendicular style was added to the West end and finished in 1508.

During the Reformation in the mid-sixteenth century the Chantry chapels were dissolved and the rood screen across the Chancel was destroyed. Stairs which led up to this, and part of the wall of the Leventhorpe chapel, still survive as evidence of this period in the building's history. The Bolling chapel was restored by the Tempest family in the seventeenth century but has not survived the recent rebuilding of the Chancel.

The Parish Church played a part in the sieges of Bradford in 1642 and 1643 during the Civil War between Charles I and his opponents. Bradford tried to withstand the King's troops and the church tower was hung with woolsacks in an attempt to protect it against the artillery of the (Royalist) army led by the Earl of Newcastle.

There were several changes to the building in the eighteenth century when it was still Bradford's only church, a time when Bradford had a large and growing population. The oak timbers of the roof date from 1724 and are thought to have come from the forest of Tong. When John Crosse was the vicar (1784 - 1816), galleries were erected round the Nave with a flat roof above them. The three-decker pulpit stood against on of the pillars of the North Nave and John Wesley, a friend of John Crosse, preached from it in 1788.

In the next century most of the exterior of the Nave was rebuilt; first the South Aisle and then the Gothic style main Porch in the 1830's. At this period Bradford became a parish in the Diocese of Ripon which itself was formed out of the vast Diocese of York. Other parishes were formed within the original parish (and new city) of Bradford, though this building remained as the Parish Church of Bradford in the city centre.

When, in 1919, a new diocese of Bradford was created from that of Ripon, the ancient Parish Church became Bradford Cathedral. It is in the southern part of the diocese, which stretches as far north as Sedburgh and to the west includes some Lancashire parishes. Extensions were needed to provide for the new functions of the Cathedral Church. These, however, were postponed by the problems following World War 1 and the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939.

Sir Edward Maufe RA then drew up a plan to rebuild the East end entirely and to add wings to the Tower at the West end. These latter, which provided a Song Room on the North side and offices for the Cathedral staff on the South side, were built in the 1950's. The East end was rededicated in 1963 by Archbishop Coggan. As well as a new Chancel it included a Sacristy, St Aidan's Chapel, a Chapter House, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, the Lady Chapel, a Library and Muniments room, and Ambulatorys to the north, east and south. In the next decade the northern part of the graveyard was landscaped to form a Close, and houses were built for the Provost and two Residentiary Canons. The Parish Room was altered so that it could be entered from the Close.

In 1987 the Nave and West end were re-ordered so as to provide the setting and amenities needed for the increasing number of visitors and the many varied occasions when large numbers of people come to the Cathedral. To enable flexibility of use the Victorian pews were replaced by chairs. The Nave organ was removed to give more light and space at the West end and new entrances were made through the Tower walls to the offices and Song Room. The roof panelling was cleaned and restored and new lighting was installed.

The kneelers were embroidered by people from many parishes in the Diocese. They depict Christian symbols and also a woolsack and the White Rose of York. The finest embroidery is seen on the cushions in the Sanctuary and the Choir.

Though Christian Worship and outreach is the heart of the Cathedral's life, the building is a worthy centre for an active City and Diocese. It is well equipped to serve the whole community, as well as being the regular meeting place of a lively congregation

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Page last updated: 29th Oct 2012 9:26 PM