Tag Archives: University of Bradford

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  However, the Institute had struggled with poor quality and outdated accommodation since its establishment as a College of Advanced Technology,  which hived off the higher education side of Bradford Technical College.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

Commonweal: a library for the good of all

Visitors to the Library at the University of Bradford will often come across references to “Commonweal” and maybe wonder what this means.   Wonder no more!

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Commonweal means “the good of all”.  The Commonweal Library is an independent peace library run by Trustees and volunteers.  Commonweal is located within the main Library of the University of Bradford (handily just outside my office on Floor 1!) and is a treasure trove of books, journals and pamphlets on protest, social change, religions, ideas, and much much more.  Its extraordinary collections of campaign archives are part of Special Collections.

Befriending Commonweal Peace Library“, a feature in the most recent issue of Peace News, is a great introduction to Commonweal’s fascinating story.  The author of the feature, Michael Randle, encourages activists and academics interested in nonviolent protest to make use of Commonweal’s wonderful resources.

Commonweal, like Special Collections, is for everyone.  Unlike Special Collections, however, Commonweal is open access:  you don’t need an appointment and you can explore the shelves to your heart’s content.

Find out more:

Brontes, Bollywood and JB: welcome to the Lit Fest!

Did you know Bradford has its own Literature Festival?  Over a hundred events celebrating the written and spoken word, from 15 to 24 May 2015, in a host of venues around the city.

The Festival has a distinctively Bradfordian flavour:

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Bradford Reflections, by Tim Green – licence CC BY 2.0

  • Venture into the Undercliffe necropolis – at twilight …
  • Rediscover famous Bradfordians Humbert Wolfe and William Rothenstein and the city’s forgotten Jewish heritage
  • Explore the incredible textiles of India and the riches of Urdu poetry
  • Find out how Bollywood films portray male (often shirtless) beauty and style

Not to mention colleagues from Peace Studies at the University sharing their fascinating research: Dr Munro Price on Napoleon‘s downfall and Professor Paul Rogers discussing the rise of ISIS.

For venues, prices, tickets etc and many more events, check out the full programme on the Festival website.

Do Words give you the Creeps?

Rat!  Vomit!  Slippery!  Squab!  Moist!

Do certain words give you the creeps?  The One Show on Friday 16 January 2015, filmed in locations around Bradford, explored the strange phenomenon of “word aversion”.

one show

You can see the programme on BBC IPlayer until 15 February (feature runs from 02:21-06:27 minutes).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04xm4wz

Watch out for Special Collections books (backgr0und of interview), our students and catering staff, and some great shots of Centenary Square.

I Vote for Radical Action! Free event at University of Bradford

“I vote for Radical Action!” Ernest Rodker

Commonweal Lecture 2015
Tuesday 17 February 6:00 pm
John Stanley Bell Lecture Theatre, Richmond Building, University of Bradford
Free admission
I Vote for Radical Action : Ernest Rodker and a life...

Ernest Rodker is a conscientious objector and veteran of many direct action campaigns including Free Vanunu, Stop the 70 Tour, Anti-Poll Tax campaign and local campaigns.  Ernest will share details of these campaigns and how direct action has shaped his life.   He recently donated the Archive of the Free Vanunu Campaign to Special Collections, where it will form a fantastic resource for activists and researchers interested in nonviolent campaigning.  The lecture is brought to you by Commonweal Collection, an independent public library for social change.

Advance booking:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-vote-for-radical-action-ernest-rodker-and-a-life-of-disobedience-tickets-15217886107

Why should universities invest in their archives?

Special collections in universities aren’t just dusty things in basements that are kept because they are nice or old.  They’re part of the story of their institution, highlighting and documenting its distinctive qualities.  For instance, the University of Bradford has peace campaign archives because of the radical history of the University and the City and collections on dyeing and textile industries because we grew from the City’s need for technical education.  If properly cared for and catalogued, such collections are invaluable for research, teaching, community work, art and even student recruitment.

BTC 2_5_22 Textile Department (2)

Classroom in Bradford Technical College Textile Department, circa 1911

Unique and Distinctive Collections, a new report co-authored by Alison Cullingford and published by Research Libraries UK aims to help university senior managers see the potential of their collections and encourage them to invest in making more of them.

Wool, Weaving and Motor-cars: discover Bradford Technical College Archive online

For the first time ever, the wonderfully rich story of Bradford’s Technical College, its staff and students, and their links with local industries, can be discovered online – via a new catalogue of BTC’s archive (available in Word or PDF on its web page).

Half of a 200 H.P. compound engine made in the Engineering Department for its own use, on the back of an open horse-drawn cart (Archive ref: BTC 2/5/8)

Half of a 200 H.P. compound engine made in the Engineering Department for its own use, on the back of an open horse-drawn cart (Archive ref: BTC 2/5/8)

The College was created to meet the training needs of Bradford’s textile industries in the mid-19th century.  The first building of the Technical School was opened in 1882.   Transferred to local Council control in 1899, the College grew and developed to supply high-level technological expertise nationally and internationally.  A long-running campaign for University status paid off when the higher education side became Bradford Institute of Technology (a College of Advanced Technology) in 1957: this later became the University of Bradford.

The surviving records of the College tell its story and introduce us to many interesting people.  Photographs illustrate its buildings, we see the activities and works of its staff and students, who received prizes, and the impact of war and changing society on the institution.  We have enriched the original typescript 1970s finding aid for online publication, for instance by indexing many names.  Revisiting the archive in this way has shown us how much the College was part of the city.  There is so much still to discover.