Bradford – Cartwright Hall

This is Cartwright Hall in Bradford and it was constructed thanks to a generous donation of land and money from Samuel Lister. The council knocked down Lister’s former manor house (this seemed to have been planned, and not a surprise, mainly because it was all a bit rickety and was being used as a restaurant) and built this new gallery, named after the inventor Edmund Cartwright. It opened in 1904 and financed the purchase of numerous artworks with proceeds obtained from the Bradford Exhibition.

As an aside, the day I visited it was far too hot (well, other than when it poured with rain for two hours) so I got a daily bus ticket, meaning this gallery was about six or so minutes away from the city centre. To walk it would have taken thirty minutes or so, which I didn’t fancy doing in the extreme heat of Bradford.

The grand interiors and there has been a recent acquisitions policy of collecting more Asian works. For anyone interested, the original catalogue of the gallery is available at https://archive.org/details/illustratedcatal00brad.

There are two floors to the galleries, this photo was taken from the first floor looking back down onto the ground floor. The gallery was kept open during the Second World War and there are numerous newspaper articles noting the positive benefit that displaying the artworks had on the community.

You know you’ve achieved something in life if you get a room of this size with your statue located in the middle. I also liked how the security guard at the site was trying to balance ensuring that visitors (I was the only person in the gallery) could look at the artworks undisturbed whilst also floating around enough to check that I wasn’t pinching anything.

There’s also a David Hockney exhibition, as he was born in the city and studied at the Bradford School of Art. He’s not an artist I’m much interested in, but it was a carefully put together exhibition.

There’s a much more complete history of the gallery at http://www.bradfordhistorical.org.uk/cartwright.html, of which I thought this paragraph is a reminder that construction projects never really go well.

“The foundation stone was laid by Lord Masham on 24 May 1900, but this occasion was the beginning of a four-year struggle against the elements, workmen’s strikes and other delays. In the following July a storm brought the most violent rainfall ever recorded in Bradford. This flooded the foundations, causing the sides to cave in and leaving a deposit of silt over everything. It was then discovered that the subsoil was unsuitable for a building such as Cartwright Hall ‘of utmost solidity and massive strength’, so the foundations were dug twenty feet deeper, at an extra cost of £1,500.8 The greatest setbacks however, were caused by strikes, as a result of which work stopped for nearly a year. The joiners were out for sixteen months, the masons for ten, and when the plasterers, who seemed to be reluctant to do any work at all, returned, the building had been almost completed by non-union labour.”

The collections aren’t that substantial in size, but they’re still notable and there are works by LS Lowry, Andy Warhol and Damien Hurst. This museum very much comes from the legacy of the wealthy Victorian Bradford, it’s hard to see something like this being funded today. Bradford should perhaps be proud that it continues to invest and finance this museum, which some cities certainly don’t.