It is situated in the foothills of the Pennines, 8.6 miles (13.8 km) west of Leeds, and 16 miles (25.7 km) northwest of Wakefield. Bradford became a municipal borough in 1847, and received its charter as a city in 1897. Following local government reform in 1974, city status was bestowed upon the wider metropolitan borough.
Bradford has a population of 293,717, making it the fourteenth-most populous settlement in the United Kingdom. Bradford forms part of the West Yorkshire Urban Area conurbation which in 2001 had a population of 1.5 million and is part of the Leeds-Bradford Larger Urban Zone (LUZ), the third largest in the UK after London and Manchester, with an estimated population in the 2004 Urban Audit of 2.4 million.
Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Bradford rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture, particularly wool. It was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution, and amongst the earliest industrialised settlements, rapidly becoming the “wool capital of the world”. The area’s access to a supply of coal, iron ore and soft water facilitated the growth of Bradford’s manufacturing base, which, as textile manufacture grew, led to an explosion in population and was a stimulus to civic investment; Bradford has fine Victorian architecture including the grand Italianate City Hall.
The textile sector in Bradford fell into decline from the mid-20th century. Since this time, Bradford has emerged as a tourist destination with attractions such as the National Media Museum and Cartwright Hall. However, Bradford has faced similar challenges to the rest of thepost-industrial area of Northern England, including deindustrialisation, housing problems, social unrest and economic deprivation. Bradford is cited as a prime example of ‘parallel communities’, where the population is effectively segregated along ethnic, cultural and faith lines
Bradford is home to the acclaimed National Media Museum (previously the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television) which celebrates cinema and movies, and is the most visited museum outside London. It contains the UK’s first IMAX theatre, the Cubby BroccoliCinema, and the Pictureville Cinema — described by David Puttnam as the best cinema in Britain.
Bradford Industrial Museum was established in 1974 at Moorside Mills, a spinning mill in Eccleshill. The Museum celebrates and explains the significant achievements in Bradford’s industrial past, from textiles and printing to the manufacture of motor cars.
A mile from the city centre is Bolling Hall Museum, a part medieval building which offers visitors a fascinating journey through the lives and times of the families for which it provided a home over five hundred years. Rooms are furnished and decorated to give a taste of life at different periods of the house’s history.
Bradford’s main art gallery is housed in Cartwright Hall in Lister Park. Bradford 1 Gallery is a city centre art gallery opened in October 2007 in a new building in Centenary Square. The gallery shows four temporary exhibitions a year.