June 2000

The English football league season finished with mixed fortunes for Yorkshire’s leading clubs. Sheffield Wednesday, after a pretty awful season, were relegated from the Premier League. As Barnsley failed to win promotion, that reduced the number of Yorkshire clubs in the Premier League to three (Bradford City, Leeds United and Middlesbrough). Leeds finished third, so winning a place in next year’s European Champions’ League. With a young talented team they had a great season though they never really recovered towards the end from two unpleasant incidents off the pitch. Through it all, David O’Leary, the team manager, has earned the respect and affection of all Leeds supporters.

But on the last day of the League programme it was Bradford City who won the headlines and the hearts of football supporters not just in Bradford but throughout the whole country. A year ago they were promoted to the Premier League and few expected them to survive for long. They would, it was generally thought, have a season in the sun playing with the big boys and then, like Bede’s sparrow, return to the cold and dark, in this case of the Nationwide League. Well, they battled bravely all season, despite having a small squad of players and limited resources. Sometimes they were clearly outclassed and by the end of the League programme faced relegation. But then in a climax which could have been scripted for a boys’ annual, on the last day of the season they beat the mighty Liverpool, and, at the other end of the country, playing at the same time, their rivals for survival lost. It was enough. Next season Bradford will play Premiership football again.  

Alan & Garry Stockdill celebrate at Valley Parade!

The fans at Valley Parade, Bradford’s ground, went wild with excitement. Grown men wept. And Bradford partied all night. You would have thought they had won the League, not simply remained in it and finished 17th. But it was a great achievement in the circumstances and the people of Bradford knew it.

The following day thousands massed in the city centre as the players and their young manager toured the city in an open top bus before being given a civic reception. It made the national television news. With a startling lack of originality, Bradford’s Chief Executive said that he was ‘over the moon’. According to the Telegraph and Argus, the Bishop of Bradford thought it was ‘absolutely brilliant’. The Daily Telegraph quoted the managing director of Bradford City as saying ‘what is here is very good. The problem is there isn’t enough of it’ before explaining that he was talking about the stand, not the team.

Last month an article by Piloti in Private Eye described the sad and shameful neglect of Lister's Mill in Manningham in Bradford. It is unusual to find such an informed article about a matter of this kind in a metropolitan magazine. The quotations here are from that article. ‘Poor old Bradford needs to exploit all the assets it has…The old industry has collapsed; the city centre was buggered up by councillors and city engineers in the 1960s and, these days, while Leeds goes from strength to strength, Bradford is desolate’. And yet Lister’s Mill has been allowed to fall into ruin. The mill dominates Bradford’s skyline as one looks from the hills surrounding the city. It is magnificent. Built in the 1870s, the buildings, ‘solidly constructed of stone and embellished with Italian Renaissance  detail’, include 16 acres of floor space. The 249 foot chimney is a Venetian campanile made of 8,000 tons of stone. In short it is ‘one of the wonders of the Victorian Age’ and anywhere else it would be protected, restored and revered. ‘Surely it is recognised by anyone half sane that solidly constructed Victorian industrial buildings are a most valuable resource?  But that is not how they do things in Bradford’.  

Lister's Mill

Over the last few years the empty unprotected mill has been ‘systematically looted. Almost every slate has been removed from the roof and many of the York stone floor slabs taken up…Why didn’t Bradford city council try to stop this theft and vandalism to a listed building?’ It continues. I understand that only last week hooligans set fire to part of the building, so damaging it even further.

The article ends thus. ‘A vast structure which, a few years back, was in reasonable condition is now worth practically nothing as an asset. So unless Bradford city council is prepared to behave responsibly, enforce the law and put some of its own money into the project, these superb buildings look doomed’. It is disgraceful.

mill2.jpg (52133 bytes)                    gates.jpg (48876 bytes)

Two more photo's (click to enlarge)

The first weekend in June saw unusually heavy rainfall in the West Riding. Conditions in Calderdale were the main story on the national news. In the Calder Valley hundreds of homes had to be evacuated as the river burst its banks. Roads and railway lines became impassable. National newsreaders began the day mispronouncing Todmorden and Mytholmroyd. However their attempts improved noticeably as the day progressed. One can well imagine that irate Yorkshiremen had spent the morning telephoning the BBC to explain that it’s Todmorden, not Tod-more-den, Mytholmroyd, not Mitholmroyd.

Local papers somehow always manage, unintentionally, to make a serious and dramatic event appear comic. Take this from the front page of the Yorkshire Post. ‘Several people and a dog became marooned on the steps of Hebden Bridge Picture House where they spent four hours in darkness’. Well, call me an old cynic, but that sounds to me much like any normal evening inside Hebden Bridge Picture House.

David Brearley