Old building restorations underway in Top of Town boost

February 1, 2020 Bradford Civic Society

Old building restorations underway in Top of Town boost

Bradford Council has awarded its first grant under the Bradford City Centre Townscape Heritage Scheme. The four year scheme is supported by £2 million of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and aims to improve historic buildings in the area commonly known as the Top of Town.

The first project to start construction and be awarded a grant from this scheme is at 14-16 Rawson Place – where a Grade II listed building will be fully refurbished to create apartments on the upper floors and retail units at ground floor level. The units will have new shop-fronts that are in keeping with the period character of the building.

14-16 Rawson Place is part of a complete Victorian terrace and was designed in 1888, by Fairbank & Wall Architects for Charles Heppleston, a local businessman who had turned property developer. Architect Benjamin Dalby Fairbank was twice the president of the Bradford Society of Architects and Surveyors which was founded in 1874, and is still in existence today.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and transport, said: “It’s wonderful that our Townscape Heritage grant awards will preserve the Top of Town’s precious architectural heritage. This first grant award for Rawson Place will ensure that a 130-year-old building is brought back into full use, and in a condition that will ensure it will be conserved for many years to come.”

Richard Middleton, Townscape Heritage Project Officer, said: “During the first year of the Townscape Heritage scheme, over a dozen projects have been developed with property owners, but grant awards can only made once a project is ready to start on site. We are delighted to be able to award our first grant in this scheme and look forward to working with the owners on this project.”




What’s the point of the Townscape Heritage Scheme?
A lot of buildings in the top of town are of great architectural merit, but have fallen into real disrepair. Sometimes landlords and property owners might not be in a position to fix up these buildings to a high standard, so they end up vacant and deteriorating. This scheme will use £2 million of funding from the National Lottery Heritage fund to carry out high quality repairs, but there are strict criteria in place.

Which streets will benefit?
This scheme covers the area concentrated along North Parade, Rawson Place, Darley Street, Northgate, Piccadilly, Upper Piccadilly, Duke Street and James Street. Collectively, this area has become known as the ‘Top of Town’ in recent years.

What sort of work does the funding cover?
Eligible works include carrying out repairs to external fabric of buildings; reinstating exterior architectural details, such as shop fronts, and work to bring vacant buildings back into use.  Whilst grants will provide a significant proportion of the cost of the works, it still requires a commitment of match funding from applicants, and grants will not reward property owners who have simply failed to maintain their buildings.

Who’s involved?
Bradford Council have appointed a dedicated Townscape Heritage Project Officer who is an expert in these matters, and who will administer the scheme. This project officer will also provide support and advice to those looking to apply for funding, and will be engaging with local businesses and others throughout the project.

This scheme was announced ages ago – why is work only starting now?
The scheme has been very active for around a year now, and in that time a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to ensure that the right projects are getting off the ground. The Townscape Heritage Officer says that over a dozen projects have been developed with property owners, but grant awards can only made once a project is ready to start on site.

Who decides who gets the funding?
A Grants Board has been established to make the decisions over funding support for individual projects.  The Board will be made up of Council officers with specific areas of expertise relevant to Townscape Heritage, and local community stakeholders – including Bradford Civic Society – who bring knowledge of the scheme area.

How can people get involved?
Bradford Council has been exploring archive records to draw out the history of the ‘Top of Town’, but they have also called for people in the local community who may have old photographs of buildings, or historic records of businesses or events that took place in the area. You can find out more and contact the team here.

The streets around the Top of Town are looking a bit tatty – what’s being done about that?
Bradford Council has announced that they will deliver improvements to the public realm around the statue of Richard Oastler as part of this project, and it’s hoped that improvements to North Parade and upper Darley Street will follow. In 2022, the Oastler Centre will close when a new market and public square opens on lower Darley Street. A masterplan for the new mixed-use ‘city village’ that will replace the current Oastler Centre site is currently being drawn up.

Who was Richard Oastler?
Oastler – known as the ‘Factory King’ – was a Victorian political agitator, who was at the heart of the campaign to limit the long hours worked by young children in the mills and factories that grew out of the industrial revolution.  There is also a Wetherspoons pub named after him in Brighouse.