It’s a bit intimidating for a writer but a huge sculpture of J B Priestly, Yorkshire’s finest novelist, looks out over Bradford’s city centre.
I say Yorkshire’s finest writer… but later on this visit we would look in at Howarth Parsonage where a whole family of writers, the Brontés, might also claim the county’s literary honours
Contrasting writers in a town with many contrasts; we would spend time with Sci-fi heroes and villains and in dark satanic mills that echoed with memories of Britain’s rich industrial past.
The town centre has many magnificent buildings. The grand Alhambra theatre is modelled on one of Spain’s architectural wonders. In contrast the outskirts of the town have rows and rows of dull mill houses and among these and the people who live in them you’ll find some of the best curry houses in the world.
The fiery flavours of the Indian sub-continent were bought here by people who came to work in the many woollen mills that brought Bradford its prosperity.
Today the wool industry is nearly gone but in the town’s Industrial Museum you can still see spinning and weaving machines actually working and begin to appreciate the horror of a twelve hour shift in a noisy, dusty weaving shed.
The museum recreates Edwardian Bradford, houses, shops and even a rattling horse tram make the museum come alive.
You can see Bradford built Scott motorcycles, Jowett cars and Britain’s last trolleybus among a wide collection of the West Riding’s inventive industrial past.
A great museum, but we’d had enough of history, we were off for some time travel into the future. It is certainly awesome when you meet you first Dalek.
We met him at the Media Museum which tells the story of photography, film and television; and tells it in such an interesting way.
Rows of vintage telly’s could be boring, but not when they are showing the old black and white programmes that were broadcast when the sets were new.
There was my family’s first walnut cased Pye with its nine inch screen magnified by an add-on oil filled lens and flickering through it was an early episode of Hancock’s half hour.
You can also get behind the camera and put you family into their own soap opera. Children will love the many chances to get hand on and in the picture.
If you do tire of the town you can take to the countryside. We took the steam railway up the Worth Valley to Howarth for a stroll on the moors where Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronté all walked and wrote.
It was quite humbling for someone who tries to be a serious writer. Perhaps ‘On Ilkley Moor Baht’at’ would have been more my style?
What we love about Bradford.
The Media Museum
The entire history of photography, cinema and television is told in this amazing free museum. There are lots of hands on exhibits and through the wonders of modern technology you can see yourself and your family in their very own soap opera or sci-fi blockbuster.
Tel; 0870 7010200 www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk
The Brontés were one of Britain’s greatest literary families. The parsonage where they made their home might not be as lonely as it once was but it is just as atmospheric. You can still walk out on to the heath and perhaps meet your own Heathcliffe.
Tel; 01535 642323 www.bronte.info
The clip clop of a horse pulling a tram along the cobbled street brings alive memories of Yorkshire’s West Riding in Bradford’s evocative Industrial Museum. Allow a good few hours to enjoy the many different buildings and exhibits.
Tel; 01274 435900 http://www.bradfordmuseums.org
Keithly and Worth Valley Railway
This isn’t just another preserved steam railway. It still provides a regular passenger service for the people of the beautiful Worth Valley who travel to work behind colourful huffing and puffing steam engines as they have for a hundred or more years.
Tel; 01535 645214
Titus Salt was one of those rare benevolent Victorian Mill owners who built a splendid mill complex and an impressive town to house his workers. Today the place is just as elegant and home to an arts centre with a gallery featuring local boy David Hockney.
Tel; 01274 531163
Bingley Five Rise Locks
There is a great walk up or down the lock staircase at Bingley. Five locks in one with the top gate of one being the bottom gate of the next. Watch the boats go through and admire the imagination of the early canal builders who built this triumph of civil engineering
Where to eat
Bradford has some of the best Curry restaurants in Britain and that means some of the best in the world. Mumtaz is one of Bradford’s biggest and best. The food hall sells all you need for making curries too. Mumtaz Restaurant, Great Horton Road, Bradford, BD7 3HS.Tel; 01274 571861
Betty’s Teashop, Ilkley
What could be better after a bracing walk on Ilkley Moor, with or without a hat, than an afternoon tea at that Yorkshire institution Betty’s. A huge selection of teas and coffees and mouthwatering local cakes. Betty’s Tearoom, 32 The Grove, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 2EE Tel; 01943 608029
You can spend a full day in the shops and galleries of Salts mill. If you do then the diner is the place for lunch or a snack. The food is good and so is the atmosphere the diner is as much part of the local arts scene as the rest of the building.
Salts Diner, Salts Mill, Victoria Road, Saltaire, Yorkshire, BD18 3LB
Tel; 01274 531163 http://www.saltsmill.org.uk
Where to Cycle
The canal towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool canal will take you out into the countryside and along the spectacular Aire Valley. The towpath has been improved for cyclists.
Another fine towpath ride is at Bingley. This takes you past two lock staircases, one of three locks one of five. The route takes you among the old mills in what is some of the most spectacular of Britain canal landscape.
Bradford Cyclists Action Group have a great website from which you can download free routes. Some are easy and short, some a hard days ride but all are worth looking at and take you to some great places.
Where to walk
Heart of Haworth village walks are guided walks the pretty town of Haworth. We enjoyed the lantern light Graveyard tour but there are plenty of others to chose from. Contact Howarth Tourist Board. Tel; 01535 642329
The splendid Dalesway long distance path starts at Ilkley and heads across the famous and beautiful moor. On Ilkley Moor Baht’at is perhaps Yorkshires most famous and most mysterious song. It simply means without a hat.
Pick up a leaflet of four self guided walks around the remarkable town of Saltaire. Fine building, canal towpaths and locks and even a cable car tramway all feature on the walks. Bradford Tourist Information Centre, City Hall, Channing Way, Bradford BD1 1HY. Tel; 01274 433678
Did you know?
On the buses
The last trolleybus in Britain made its final non polluting journey in Bradford. The bus is preserved in the Industrial Museum.
The grandson of John Logie Baird, who invented television, is now the curator of the Media museum in Bradford.
You can ride a horse tram at the Industrial Museum or a cable car on the Shipley Glen Tramway.
Is it art?
When David Hockney designed the local phone book cover the free directory changed hands for hundreds of pounds on the art market.
Bradford Tourist Information Centre,
City Hall, Channing Way, Bradford BD1 1HY.
Tel; 01274 433678
This article was syndicated in a number of Times Warner Magazines in 2012