The origins of Valley Parade and Midland Road

The following was published in the Bradford City match day programme on 8 August, 2017

Judged from its width alone, Midland Road conveys the status of a primary highway and yet it doesn’t go anywhere. Could the Victorians have really designed it solely for modern day street parking and to provide entertainment for future generations of traffic wardens? Surely there cannot be another road of its ilk in Bradford.

The original intention was for a road to Shipley from the Midland Station (what became Forster Square station, as renamed in 1924). The route can be detected from an aerial view on Google maps and you can’t help but think that it would have been a better option compared to either Manningham Lane or Canal Road. Indeed, our predecessors thought likewise. In particular, Valley Road was a cause of frustration for the Midland Railway as it was unable to accommodate the increase in traffic to its busy goods yard.

Passenger and goods traffic to and from Bradford was booming so the Midland looked to expand its warehouse and goods depot as well as increase capacity through additional sidings. The plans for the new ‘twenty yard’ road – a benchmark for primary highways of the era – fulfilled a couple of other objectives for the Midland by improving access to a new station at Frizinghall (opened 1875) and by encouraging the development of housing along the corridor.

The scale of development and the extent of the financial investment should not be underestimated but it was unfortunate that it coincided with a downturn in the property market in 1873. The reason why the Midland Road never extended to Shipley is understood to have been because property owners refused the sale of their land en route. In the depressed conditions, the Midland decided to terminate negotiations as well as the road project because a loss of appetite for property speculation in the town undermined the viability of the scheme. The Midland had other construction programmes at the time and was also digesting the cost of the Settle to Carlisle railway (which did not open to passenger traffic until April, 1876) and the construction of St. Pancras station in London. Hence it decided to conserve funds for use elsewhere. Thus Midland Road became something of a white elephant.

The Valley Parade site was originally intended to be a consignment warehouse by the Midland Railway who bought the land in anticipation of development in 1872. The railway company had intended to construct a bridge from the bottom of Cornwall Road to the railway yard in the valley below. A warehouse at Valley Parade would then have provided goods storage to and from the sidings.

Subsequent to the same property crash of 1873 the Valley Parade warehouse development did not proceed and the site remained in an undeveloped state with stone extracted for building and the area used to deposit a combination of building spoil and household waste. Although it would have been rough land there is reason to believe that it was adopted for stabling and in May, 1886 it was even reported to have staged a circus.

The following link narrates the early development of Valley Parade after 1886 and incorporates material that had been overlooked until the publication of my book ROOM AT THE TOP (Bantamspast, 2016).

John Dewhirst

*** The history of Valley Parade continued to be closely linked to that of Bradford’s railways. The story of the saga for a cross-town rail link in Bradford can be found from this link.

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