Tag Archives: Buildings

Celebrating 50 Years of Bradford Uni

In 2016 the University of Bradford will celebrate its 50th anniversary.    We are delighted to announce the University’s new website for the anniversary, which features some wonderful then-and-now pictures, a fascinating timeline, and allows our alumni to share their own Bradford stories.

UniB10 September 1964. View from top of Richmond Road, with Great Hall in foreground. Surrounding wall still under construction. Cars and vans at roadside.

View from Richmond Road, September 1964

Our local newspaper, the Telegraph and Argus, published an in-depth feature today, including lots of pictures of the archives and thoughts from me on the University’s history.

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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  However, the Institute had struggled with poor quality and outdated accommodation since its establishment as a College of Advanced Technology,  which hived off the higher education side of Bradford Technical College.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.

Building Works April/May

More detail about the works!  Follow this blog for updates.

1. The Floor 02 toilets are being refurbished from 27 March: work will take about six weeks.  Visitors will need to use alternative toilets on the other floors.  There may be some noise from the building works – we do not yet know how much disturbance to expect so we are encouraging visitors to rearrange their appointments for later dates where possible.

2. We may experience disruption from the GLEE Project, which will transform the upper floors of the Library.  Visitors with an interest in peace/politics should note that Commonweal will be affected: see the Glee Project website for ways to find out more.

Under Construction April/May 2012

Special Collections visitors will be affected by building projects during April and May 2012.  We apologise for any inconvenience suffered: the works will provide a better environment for all Library users. Please contact us if you have any queries or concerns.

Under Construction – March update

The latest news on the Floor 02 toilets: the likely start date for the building works is 30 March, finishing in mid-May.  Readers with appointments in Special Collections during this time will need to use toilets on other floors and we may experience some disruption from the works (though most demolition and other noisy work will take place out of hours).  Apologies in advance!

Under Construction 2012

Spring and Summer 2012 will see various building works in the J.B. Priestley Library.  At present, we do not anticipate closing the Reading Room or being unable to offer access to any material, but it may occasionally be necessary for us to do so.  More dates and information about matters affecting Special Collections will be made available here as soon as we have them.

The toilets in the Library are currently being improved, with much better and more eco-friendly facilities.  We are currently experiencing minor noise disturbance from the refurbishment of toilets on Floor 01.  From mid-March into April, the toilets on Floor 02 next to the Reading Room will be refurbished.  As most of the noisy work will take place in the early mornings, we do not intend to close the service.  However, visitors should be aware that the nearest toilet will be a floor away (accessible via lift) and that some noise and disturbance during opening hours is unavoidable.

Some major works will be taking place on Floors 1 and 2 to improve heating and lighting systems and create a more pleasant environment.  These will have less direct impact on Special Collections than the toilet works, but please note that there will be noise from building processes and from the movement of people and materials via the Loading Bay throughout the summer.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused and will do our best to ensure your visit is enjoyable and useful for you.

Hello to Health Studies!

Midwifery prospectus 1997

Midwifery prospectus 1997, with snazzy image of old Health Studies building

The Health Studies department is moving to a new home on City Campus, which means Health Studies Library will move to the J.B. Priestley Library this summer.  Some changes will be needed to accommodate these extra students, colleagues and collections, so building works will be in progress from February until July, with a break for the exams of course.

I don’t anticipate any major impact on Special Collections visitors, as the works will be in a different part of the building.  There may be occasional problems with particularly noisy works, or certain deliveries – may not be time to blog, so  my twitter account is the best way to keep up with these.

News of the works will be broadcast to University staff and students in various ways, including the University twitter and LSS web pages.