Bradford Cathedral

Bradford Cathedral (Photo by Mick Melvin from Wikimedia Commons)

Bradford Cathedral (Photo by Mick Melvin from Wikimedia Commons)

For most of its existence, the church at Bradford in West Yorkshire was a parish church dedicated to St. Peter. Two carved stones have been found on the site of the cathedral. Theses stones were most likely part of a carved Saxon preaching cross and indicate Christians may have worshipped here since the mission of the Roman Bishop Paulinus came to Northumbria in 627 AD. Paulinus preached in Dewsbury and the mission spread from there to Bradford. The first church on the site was an Anglo-Saxon church. By the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086, the land was described as a ‘waste’. The Domesday Book says Ilbert de Lacy, a Norman nobleman who came to England with William the Conqueror, was lord of the manor and he may have had a wooden chapel on his lands.

There is an historical record stating a stone church was burned on the site in 1327, probably by raiders from Scotland. When the chancel was rebuilt in 1963, foundations were found from earlier buildings. The church was rebuilt in the fourteenth century. The oldest parts we see in the building today are the Nave arcades which date from 1458. A clerestory was added sometime before the end of the fifteenth century. Chantry chapels were added by nearby families and the Perpendicular style Tower, added to the West end was completed in 1508.

During the Reformation, the Chantry Chapels were dissolved and the Chancel rood screen was demolished. During the English Civil War, in 1642 and 1643, the town of Bradford fought the troops of King Charles I and hung the church tower with wool sacks to protect it against the artillery fire of the Royalist army. Changes were made to the building in the eighteenth century. It was the only church in Bradford and the population of the town was growing rapidly. Oak timbers in the roof date from 1724 and in the early nineteenth century, galleries were built around the Nave with a flat roof. There was a three-tiered pulpit against one of the pillars of the North Nave and John Wesley preached from there in 1788.

John Wesley

John Wesley

In the nineteenth century, the exterior of the Nave was rebuilt. Bradford became a parish church in the newly formed Diocese of Ripon. In 1919, the Bradford Diocese was created from the Ripon Diocese and the parish church became a Cathedral. Because the parish church was small and Cathedral functions required more space, additions were needed but they had to be postponed due to the first and second World Wars. Extensive additions were made in the 1950’s. Renovations, such as removing the Victorian pews and adding chairs, removing the Nave organ and creating additional entrances, were made in 1987 to accommodate more visitors and special occasions.

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