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The History of Bradford

BRADFORD IN THE MIDDLE AGES

Bradford began as a village by a ford. Brad meant broad. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 the village by the broad ford had grown quite large (by the standards of the time) with perhaps 300-350 people.

Bradford was turned into town when the villagers were allowed to hold a weekly market. In those days there were no shops and anyone wishing to buy or sell anything had to go to a market. Once the market was up and running craftsmen would come and live in Bradford and sell their goods at the market.

Medieval Bradford would seem tiny to us, with a population of no more than several hundred but towns and villages were very small in those days. There were only 3 streets, Kirkgate, Westgate and Ivegate. (The word gate does not mean a gate in a wall it is derived from the old Danish word 'gata' meaning street).

In Bradford in the Middle Ages there was a leather tanning industry. There was also a wool industry in Bradford. Wool was woven in the town. It was then fulled. That means it was cleaned and thickened by being pounded in a mixture of water and clay. The wool was pounded by wooden hammers worked by a watermill. When it dried the wool was dyed.

Bradford slowly grew more important and in 1461 it was granted the right to hold 2 fairs. In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year. Bradford fairs would attract buyers and sellers from all over Yorkshire.

According to legend the boar became Bradford's emblem because of an incident in the Middle Ages. A boar was terrorising a wood near the town. (Wild boars were vicious animals). The Lord of the Manor offered a reward to anyone who could kill it. A hunter named John Nothrop saw it drinking at a well. He killed the boar and cut out is tongue to prove it was dead. However a little later another hunter saw the boar. He cut off its head and took it to the Lord before Nothrop could get there. However he could not explain why the boar's tongue was missing. Nothrop then turned up with the tongue and he was given land as a reward.

BRADFORD IN THE 16th CENTURY AND 17th CENTURY

During the 16th century Bradford grew much larger and more important. This was despite outbreaks of plague. It struck Bradford in 1557-58.

The wool industry continued to grow. By the 16th century many people in villages near Bradford wove wool. It was then taken to the town to be fulled and dyed. There was also a considerable leather tanning industry in Bradford.

About 1540 a writer named Leland described Bradford as: 'A pretty busy market town, about half the size of Wakefield. It has one parish church and a chapel dedicated to St Sitha. It lives mostly by (making) clothing and is 4 miles distant from Halifax and 6 from Christhall (Kirstall) Abbey. There is a confluence in this town of 3 brooks'.

By 1500 a grammar school existed in Bradford and in the late 16th century the wooden houses in the town were rebuilt in stone.



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