We like to provoke a bit of healthy debate here at Bradford Civic Society, and we recently posed the question on Twitter about whether Bradfordians would ever like to see the rather grand statue of Sir Titus Salt brought back from its current home in Lister Park to its former home near the more central City Hall.
There was a good deal of initial enthusiasm for bringing him back to the city centre, but also a question about why it was shifted in the first place. So we asked our Vice Chair (and author of The Story of Bradford) Alan Hall to shine a bit of light on the origins of Salt’s historical habitats:
Alan says: “The statue was unveiled in front of the Town Hall in 1874, just a year after the Town Hall itself was formerly opened. It’s no surprise that the Corporation would have wanted to stick a statue of Salt – Bradford’s most famous former mayor – in front of the new building. Salt was still alive when the statue was unveiled, and it remains somewhat unusual for a statue to commemorate someone who is actually still living.
“Why was it moved to Lister Park? This is where I’m guessing a bit. Lister sold the site to the Corporation in 1870, but it took quite a few years for the park to be laid out completely – Cartwright Hall was not opened until 1904. The Norman Arch was completed in 1883 and Salt’s statue was relocated to its current position, close by, in 1896. It’s been suggested that the idea was to have statues of both great civic leaders in the city’s flagship park, Lister at one end and Salt at the other.”
The most likely reason for its move to Lister Park is something of a modern one… the need to put traffic first.
One of our Twitter correspondents has offered the reason as being the widening of the space in front of the (then) Town Hall for tram traffic, which was certainly something town planners gradually pursued over generations – taking it from a narrow street in the 1800s to the vast civic space we know today.
Over on Facebook, we’re grateful to one of our followers for digging out an 1889 article from the Shipley Times, which reports on a Town Council meeting where Alderman describe the “disgraceful” condition of the statue, with tram engines obscuring the structure. It’s interesting to note their idea for moving it to a “beautiful site” in front of the Unitarian Chapel, a site we now know as City Park. Other articles also refer to Salt’s statue becoming little more than a polluted “traffic circus” and there was a suggestion to close it up with plate glass at one point.
We’re interested to hear what people think about the idea of relocating one of Bradford’s most iconic statues. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time such a suggestion has been mooted, although back in 2003 there was a proposal to send him a few miles in the other direction – back to Saltaire!
Clipping from the British Newspaper Archive.