New book provides a window into Bradford's history

THEY ARE monuments to some of the great and the good of Bradford - but the inclusion of some family shields on the windows of Bradford City Hall are puzzling historians, despite a two-year investigation into the artworks.

Janet Senior with The Lord Mayor of Bradford Geoff Reid and Lady Mayoress Chris Reid at City Hall, Bradford Picture by Simon Hulme

Liverpool artist Henry Gustave Hiller was commissioned to create almost 100 hand-painted stained glass windows featuring heraldic shields to decorate the new banqueting hall at the landmark building over a century ago, between 1906 and 1909.

But while some of his subjects - such as the founder of Saltaire, Titus Salt, and city landowner the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, had very clear links to the city, others have thrown up a mystery for local historian and author, Janet Senior.

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And some of the shields themselves, seem to have no historical record and could have even been ‘borrowed’ from other families.

Janet Senior pictured by the stained glass windows in the Banqueting suite at City Hall, Bradford. Picture by Simon Hulme

Miss Senior was asked to take on the project by the Lord Mayor’s office after a tour to view the windows two years ago.

“The person leading the tour was asked a question by a member of the group that he couldn’t answer,” she said. “I’m one of those people who always butts in, and I happened to know the answer. He took me to one side and asked me if I knew anything about heraldic shields, and two years later, here we are.”

During the course of her research, Miss Senior, who gives local history talks as part of Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society, scoured historical records, newspaper archives, books and papers to find out more about the almost 100 windows and who each design represented. While the vast majority of windows are heraldic shields, with a family name or person’s full name and title, some represent groups of people, like the special plate commemorating the committee that commissioned the building of the banquet hall extension.

It is not known exactly how long Hiller worked on the project, but he was paid a total of £443 - somewhere in the region of £40,000-£50,000 in the early 1900s.

A selection of the windows. Picture by Simon Hulme

Miss Senior, whose interest in local history was nurtured by her parents as a child, said: “It was quite a complicated process. The problem was, not all the shields belonged to the people they were given to.

“Some, such as the Duke of Lancaster or the Lacey family, were perfectly entitled to a coat of arms, but others, such as some of the wool barons, were not, and seem to have been given a shield given to someone of the same name.

“We also have no idea at all why the people were chosen to be represented on the windows - or similarly, why some people were left out.”

Notable absences include the industrialist, philanthropist and MP William Edward Forster, and the first mayor of Bradford from 1846, who is missing despite the inclusion of other mayors and lord mayors. Others who have been included are large ancestral and industrial families such as the Stanhopes, Bollings, Baildons and Jowetts, and Phillippa Hainault, the wife of Edward II, who was given Bradford in her dowry when she married.

Janet Senior pictured by the stained glass windows in the Banqueting suite at City Hall, Bradford. Picture by Simon Hulme

But it is some inclusions that have proved the most “puzzling”.

“One shield is dedicated to ‘Charles, Prince of Wales’, and the font places it with some of the shields from 1909,” Miss Senior, who has written three other books on local history said.

“But the coat of arms is not for the then Prince of Wales, who would later become George V, and who visited Bradford in 1904 to unveil a statue of his grandmother, Queen Victoria.

“There is similar coat of arms belonging to the Stuart Prince of Wales but there seems to be no connection between him and Bradford at all. We wonder if it was all a big mistake.

A selection of the windows. Picture by Simon Hulme

“If anybody knew the answer, I’d be delighted to know.”

Heraldic shields of City Hall is available from Bradford City Hall for £5.

City’s connections with history

THE IMPRESSIVE windows of the banqueting hall have always been of “particular interest” to visitors, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Coun Geoff Reid, said.

“This book shines a light the heraldic shields of some of the major families of Bradford and also provides information about Bradford’s connection with key points in the history of England,” he said.

“I hope the book will stimulate an interest in the history of Bradford and encourage people to visit up on Heritage Open Day on September 10 when City Hall will be open for people to visit.”

Heraldic shields of City Hall is available from Bradford City Hall for £5.