West Bradford History

“And was Jerusalem builded here?”

In the 7th Century Kingdom of Northumbria, Maegan had to be an incredibly tough woman. She was so successful at running her small farm that the people who lived there were even named after her; “Oh, they’re Maegan’s folk, they are.” So the people, the farmland and even its crude wooden buildings became Maegan’s “inga ham”, meaning English settlement or community. Through the following centuries this part of Northumbria became the county of Yorkshire and “Maegans inga ham” became Manningham.

The small town of Bradford grew from a river crossing, from which some claim it got it’s name, a broad ford. The church of Saint Peter (founded in the 14th Century) atop the hill overlooking the river crossing was in prime position to see the changes. This church later became Bradford Cathedral.

The next church to be built, was at the top of an adjoining hill with a view of the expanding market area next to what is now Darley Street. This new church, opened in 1815, was named Christ Church. The first Vicar, Revd William Morgan oversaw the expansion of the church with the addition of a balcony. The paint had barely dried when along came a man from the council. The church was right slap bang in the middle of a planned extension to Darley Street.

Those Victorians, never ones to shrink from a challenge, did the obvious thing. They rebuilt Christ Church a quarter of a mile away on Eldon Place. This new church was opened a year later in 1879. But that’s not the end of this church’s story, we’ll come back to it later.

Back in the 1830’s, Manningham was a self-contained township, even larger than Bradford itself. Lord of Manningham Hall, Samuel Cunliffe Lister, was doing extremely well thank you. He had a fine mansion surrounded by acres of beautiful rolling parkland. Lister had inherited his fortune and also a successful woollen and worsted mill on Lilycroft Road. Manningham Mill opened in 1837 and employed hundreds of men, women and children. Lister had rows and rows of back-to-back houses built to accommodate his growing workforce.

The same year Mr Lister was cutting the ribbon on his new mill, a meeting headed by Bradford Infirmary physician, Dr William McTurk, decided to build a new church to be called Saint Jude’s. This was built on a site near to Lumb Lane and opened in 1843.

And this is where mill owner, John Hollings, comes into the story. His family owned West House, a small hall between Whetley Lane and Whetley Hill. He was a deeply religious man and worried about conditions in the town of Manningham. Regular worship services had been held in Lilycroft school on Heaton Road, and heavily attended. Although the 1830’s trade depression had hit Hollings’ business, he was still able to afford the enormous sum of £3000 to build a new church on Stocks Green in the middle of Manningham.

He contacted church architects Mallinson and Healey, who had recently set up business in the centre of Bradford. As was popular in the Victorian era they designed an early-English Gothic style church with a tall, narrow spire which would be seen from miles around. They wanted to make the best use of the fine site which Hollings had acquired from Samuel Lister.

>By the time the church was dedicated to Saint Paul, in October 1848, Manningham had become part of the Borough of Bradford. The dedication ceremony was presided over by the Bishop of Leeds and Ripon, Bishop Langley, the Vicar of Bradford, Dr Burnet, the first incumbent, Revd Welbury Mitton, and John Hollings, James Mallinson, Thomas Healey, and hundreds of invited dignitaries, local businessmen and even a few local people who had managed to squeeze in at the back of the packed church.

Suddenly, Manningham was booming. The 1851 census shows that 9,600 people lived there and ten years later it had grown to 12,890. However, housing conditions were appalling. It was not unusual for more than one family occupying a single house. There were no sewers and filthy water would often seep through the walls. Diseases such as cholera and rickets frequently swept through the area.

More and more people were moving into the towns to work in the mills. And to serve the people West of Manningham, in Girlington, the church of St Philip was built in 1860. It was designed by Mallinson and Healey and also paid for by good old Mr Hollings.

On a large site off Westgate, between Manningham and Bradford town centre, the church of Saint Thomas was built. It was a massive building with a capacity for up to 700 people. As was usual, a school house was built at the same time.

One night in 1871 Manningham Mill was totally destroyed by fire. Lister boldly decided to build a new mill on the site of the old one. However, this one would be even bigger and better than before. At its peak, eleven thousand people were employed there; it used 50,000 tons of coal per year and was the largest of its type in Europe.

On a site on Grosvenor Road, between Manningham Lane and Lumb Lane, the church of Saint Mark was built in 1874. It was part funded by… can you guess? Mr John Hollings again! This church was huge, even bigger than Saint Thomas’ and could seat up to 1000 people.

Now there were so many people in Manningham that St Paul’s church was bursting at the seams, despite being enlarged twice before 1867. Yet again, John Hollings dipped into his wallet and called on the services of Thomas Healey’s son who designed the new church. It was built on land near Lister’s mill and dedicated to Saint Luke in 1881. Meanwhile, the congregation of St Jude’s helped pay for the building of a church near White Abbey Road, which was dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene in 1878.

A small Mission Church, dedicated to Saint Aidan, was built on Cornwall Terrace, near to the Manningham rugby club ground on Valley Parade. This church held its first service in 1897.

In a room in St Paul’s school, on the 29th May 1903, Manningham Rugby Club president, Alfred Ayrton, caused uproar by suggesting that they should stop playing rugby and instead play “a game that would pay.” He was talking about association football. The vote, after a furious meeting, was passed 75 votes to 34 and so Bradford City Football Club was born.

Another Mission Church, dedicated this time to Saint Silas was built in 1912 on land near Scotchman Lane. This lively church had a congregation made up mainly of workers from the nearby Lister’s Mill.

In 1914, the world was plunged into the Great War. Young men from Saint Paul’s congregation were amongst those who went to join up. One man managed to write home to tell his friends at “good old St Paul’s” about his experiences.

Saint Thomas’ closed in the 1930’s and joined Christ Church on Eldon Place behind the popular shop, Busby’s. Christ Church itself closed in 1940 and the congregation moved, yet again, this time to join Saint Paul’s. When Manningham Lane was rebuilt several side roads and many buildings were demolished. Busby’s fell victim to a devastating fire in the 1970’s. The only trace of Christ Church is now a small part of the original building which was used to form the Norman Arch in Lister Park.

The Revd R. B. Vanstone became the vicar at St Paul’s in 1927. He was a popular figure round the district and became Rural Dean. He remained vicar throughout the Second World War and helped to celebrate the church’s centenary in 1948. The yearlong celebrations included a flower festival.

Changing populations and different habits meant reduced congregations and Saint Mark’s on Grosvenor Road closed in 1959 and joined with nearby Saint Jude’s. Meanwhile, the congregation of Saint Michael’s and All Angels on City Road joined St Mary Magdalene’s in 1961.

St Jude’s church building closed in 1968 and the two congregations joined to become St Paul’s with St Jude’s. One of those who made the journey up to St Paul’s was musician Arthur Brook. For many years he was the organist and wrote many pieces himself, including an arrangement of the Gloria.

St Luke’s Parish church closed in 1984 and the congregations joined to become St Paul’s with St Jude’s and St Luke’s. The new Parish of Manningham also included the former Parish church of St Mary Magdalene’s with St Michael’s and All Angels. It would be fair to say that there were some people who were quite worried about being part of the new parish. Indeed, the congregation of nearby St Chad’s, after several meetings, decided not to join. It is a testament to their strength of character that the situation was resolved and a compromise was reached under the guidance of Revd Alan Kitchen, who was appointed as the first Rector of the Parish of Manningham.

In 1998, Saint Paul’s celebrated 150 years of worship with a year of parties, fairs and, of course, a flower festival! One man who particularly enjoyed these celebrations was the then Rector of Manningham, Canon George Moffat. He was known by many in the parish as he cycled between the two churches and his vicarage, robes flowing as he peddled along! The celebrations had barely finished when the Millennium arrived and it was a case of more parties, lunches, fairs and a balloon race, with the winning balloon travelling as far at Turin, Italy.

The feast day of St Mary Magdalene was chosen as the celebration of 127 years of Christian witness and worship at St Mary Mag’s, as it was affectionately known. It was faced with rising maintenance costs and had to close in 2005. Most of the remaining congregation went to other churches, including St Chad’s, and Manningham became a single church Parish.

This continued until 2018 when the Parish of Girlington, Heaton and Manningham was formed. Nick-named a “super-Parish”, it drew together St Philip’s in Girlington, St Barnabas and St Martin’s in Heaton and St Paul’s in Manningham.

This story doesn’t have an ending, history continues until that glorious day when…

“We have built Jerusalem, In England’s green and pleasant land.”

David Hartley © 2018

Post Script

Much of the information here came from West Yorkshire Archive Service. A church dedicated to Saint Matthew is referred to, although the author could find no dates or locations for this.