Tag Archives: 1960s

Happy 50th Birthday! Fancy some cake?

Tuesday 18 October 2016 is the University of Bradford’s 50th Birthday!  It was on that day in 1966 that Queen Elizabeth II granted the University its Charter.  Staff and students are invited to celebrate the event in the Richmond Atrium between 1.30 and 2.30pm.    There will be a last chance to look at the 25th Anniversary Time Capsule, and a glimpse of the objects chosen for the 50th Anniversary Time Capsule before both are locked away until 2041!  And yes, there will be a birthday cake.  We look forward to seeing lots of friends and colleagues there for a very special day.

Here’s one we made earlier: our 40th anniversary cake.

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These forthcoming 50th anniversary lectures are going to be very interesting.  Both are free, but do register, as they are likely to be popular!

Harold Wilson: statesman and visionary.  Lecture by the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP.  3 November.

Vice-Chancellor’s 50th Anniversary lecture with writer and educationalist Will Hutton (best known perhaps for his book The State We’re In).  26 October, 6pm, the Norcroft Centre.

20 January 1966. Silver Blades and Heart Beat

My favourite story from the 20 January 1966 issue of Javelin is the opening of two beloved Bradford landmarks, the Silver Blades Ice Rink and the Heart Beat discotheque above it.

Heart beat discotheque, Javelin, 20 Jan.1966., p.5

Located in Wardley House on Little Horton Lane, these were handily near the University (as we will see, the University would soon have a presence in the same building).

Silver Blades was rather special when opened:

“… reputed to be “The finest rink in the world”, with coloured lighting in the barriers, sparkling chandeliers over the ice, and a plush bar and restaurant. The resplendently dressed skaters were entertained with organ music. The opening gala at the rink had performances by British skaters who had just returned from the World Championships. They included Sally Anne Stapleford, John Curry and ice dancers Bernard Ford and Diane Towler.” (from the History of Bradford Ice Arena).

But ice rinks are expensive to run!  In the 1970s and 1980s recession and cuts to maintenance meant it became run down, and its owners Mecca Leisure decided to close it in 1991.  The rink was saved thanks to a new company put together by local campaigner Krystyna Rogers.  It is lovely to note that it is still going strong.  Now known as Bradford Ice Arena, the rink is celebrating 50 years of bringing fun and exercise to the people of Bradford.

And the Heart Beat?  It seems to have become  Annabella’s at some point during the 1970s.  I’ll share more info when I come across it.  And of course, memories and images can easily be found on Facebook and other sites – see All About Bradford for instance.

The Tall Blue Building: Happy 50th Birthday, Richmond

On 11 June 1965, Prime Minister Harold Wilson came to what is now the University of Bradford to open Main Building.  Later renamed Richmond Building, Main Building, a striking multistorey structure, quickly became the University’s most recognisable feature,  its hilltop position making it visible across the city.

Main Building, circa 1966.  (UNI B 19)

Main Building, circa 1966. (UNI B 19)

When Main Building opened, it was part of the Bradford Institute of Technology.  BIT was about to achieve the century-old dream of a University for Bradford: it received its Charter in October 1966, with Wilson as its first Chancellor.  However, the Institute had struggled with poor quality and outdated accommodation since its establishment as a College of Advanced Technology,  which hived off the higher education side of Bradford Technical College.  A University would need even more space for staff and students as well as better facilities for high level research and teaching in science and technological subjects.

Harold Wilson opening Main Building, 11 June 1965 (UNI PHw4)

Harold Wilson opening Main Building, 11 June 1965 (UNI PHw4)

BIT, unlike the College, was no longer under local authority control, but in practice it was impossible for it to act alone to solve its space crisis.  The two organisations had to work together for the benefit of the city, the Institute bringing in money and people and ideas and the authority making space and plans available.  They considered various greenfield sites for a whole new campus, including Woodhall, Tong and even Harrogate  (remember this was the 1960s when new “plate-glass” universities were taking shape outside cities).

However, it was eventually decided to expand the campus into the back streets which wrapped around the College.   Whole streets of houses were demolished (many people had to be rehoused as a result) and work on Main Building began in May 1960.  The building was commissioned by the Local Authority and designed by the City Architect, Clifford Brown, then handed over to the Institute.  The lower four floors of Main were first occupied in October 1962; other parts of the building in 1963 and 1964.

September 1964. View from top of Richmond Road, with Great Hall in foreground. Surrounding wall still under construction. Cars and vans at roadside. (UNI B10)

September 1964. View from top of Richmond Road, with Great Hall in foreground. (UNI B10)

Since the 1960s, Main/Richmond has been an important part of the University experience for students, from arrival at their first open day to their graduation ceremony.  Staff too (everyone visits Human Resources on their first day here!).  Visitors get their taxis and their parking permits at the “tall building”.   As well as many academic departments over the years, Richmond houses most central University functions plus shops and places to eat.

Artist’s impression of the proposed glazed atrium. News and views, September 2004, p. 3UniB15

Artist’s impression of the proposed glazed atrium. News and Views, September 2004, page 3 (UNI B15)

However, by the early noughties, it is fair to say that, like many 1960s buildings, Richmond was showing its age.  Many improvements to its appearance and usefulness have since been made, most noticeably the sky-blue cladding and the glassing in of underused space to create the Atrium where coffee and comfy chairs are to be had.   Alas, the fabulous modern “porch” on stilts you can see in the older photographs has gone.   I wonder if Richmond will be here in 2025 and how it will look?

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Music in the Atrium at an event for the University’s 40th anniversary, 2006

PS I don’t have the date of the renaming to hand, but we know that Main Building was renamed Richmond Building after the street on which it lives.  This was in line with the University’s then policy of naming its buildings after such streets or other local heritage features.

Sources:  Much of this article is based on Robert McKinlay’s histories, which are full of detail on the architecture and planning decisions of the 1960s, and on the Main Building article in our 100 Objects exhibition.

Potential Graduates online

Students in 1969, from undergraduate prospectus.

Students in 1969, from undergraduate prospectus.

A much-loved piece of the University of Bradford’s history is now available online for free.  The film, “Potential Graduate” was made by the Audio-Visual Unit between 1968 and 1970 to attract potential students.  It focuses on the new campus, and the range of sporting and social activities available to students.  It gives a wonderful insight into the University, the campus, student life, and how Bradford looked then.   Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, the Yorkshire Film Archive is making this film available online, along with 21 hours of other fantastic footage from all over Yorkshire.

To see the film, search “Potential Graduate” on the YFA online project website.