My previous article about Bradford City’s ‘bantam’ identity in the BCAFC match programme has prompted feedback about the club’s earlier boar’s head identity…
The (tongueless) boar’s head is derived from the old coat of arms of the city of Bradford – the one worn on the shirts of the 1911 FA Cup winning team. A boar’s head badge with BC-AFC monogram was adopted by Bradford City AFC as a club crest between 1968-74 and then 1985-91.
This blog provides some background to the Bradford civic crest and personal thoughts about how it could be revived as a sporting identity shared by all clubs of the district, irrespective of code or status.
The boar’s head badge was essentially a civic identity and a statement of civic patriotism whereas the bantam identity signified a state of mind or attitude (and as I explained previously, was introduced for motivational purposes). To that extent the boar’s head and the bantam are entirely compatible.
The following provides detail about Bradford’s coat of arms and is taken from my book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS.
The Bradford coat of arms, 1908-74
The City of Bradford was awarded a coat of arms on 31st December, 1907 (albeit ten years after Bradford had been granted city status) and this was embraced by most local institutions. It became commonplace in the city, most visibly on the side of trams and buses. The ram and the angora goat signified the textile industry.
The Bradford shield, 1847-1908
Prior to 1908 the ‘badge’ of Bradford was the (tongueless) boar’s head and Bradford shield (without the ram or goat), the shorthand of which was the boar’s head. Despite the new coat of arms (above) the Bradford shield with boar’s head continued to be used, probably because the design was easier to apply but also well recognised.
In an article in The Bradford Antiquary in 1895, William Cudworth describes how the Bradford arms were derived from the Bradford family who settled at Warmfield, Heath, and Stanley near Wakefield but who had owned land in Bradford in the sixteenth century. The original Bradford shield dates from 1847 when Bradford was a county borough. On the shield are three hunting horns.
- The Bugles
The bugles recall the traditional custom of blowing the horn on St. Martin’s day in the forenoon in the Market Place at Bradford. This commemorates part of the service in which the manor of Bradford was granted by John of Gaunt, the Earl of Lancaster, to John Northrop of Manningham.
- The Well
The well in the middle of the shield is attributed to signify either the Bradford Beck or Boar’s Well.
- The Boar’s head
The boar’s head refers to a 14th century legend about a dangerous boar which drank from a well in Cliffe Wood that terrorised the local population. The reward of a piece of land was offered by John of Gaunt to anyone who killed the boar. A hunter killed the animal but the carcass was too heavy to carry so he cut out the tongue as proof to claim the reward. However someone else found the body, cut off the head, and took that as evidence of his kill. The second person tried to claim the bounty first but the arrival of the original hunter with the tongue ensured that the rightful person got the prize.
- Branch and leaves
The branch and leaves that accompany the boar’s head represent Cliffe Wood. As an aside, the location of Boar’s Well in Cliffe Wood (off Bolton Road) is visible from the main stand at Valley Parade.
According to The Bradford & Wakefield Observer; and Halifax, Huddersfield, and Keighley Reporter in October, 1847 at the time of incorporation the original motto of Bradford was intended to be ‘perseverantia vincit‘. However, the Heralds’ Office could not allow this as it was associated with the Bradford family from Arksey, near Doncaster and hence the alternative, ‘labor omnia vincit’.
The motto, ‘labor omnia vincit‘ – ‘hardwork overcomes all‘ came to symbolise a Bradford mindset in all aspects of life, sport included.
The significance of the Bradford identity
Evidence of this original Bradford identity dating from 1847 abound on surviving Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the city. The shield was instantly recognisable as being ‘of Bradford’ and its application can be seen across different areas of civic life. The boar’s head motif has been applied in the same way. I sense that they had considerable psychological value to Bradford given the circumstances of its rapid growth in the nineteenth century. For example rapid industrialisation had been associated with mass immigration and also dirty working conditions. They provided a degree of respectability whilst also fostering a common identity. I question whether this offers a lesson for today?
In the sporting world the Bradford shield was embraced by Bradford’s sporting clubs who were effectively ambassadors of the town/city. The provincial rivalry of northern towns extended beyond civic themes to the sports field and the Bradford shield was thus an expression of identity.
Enamel badges and medals with the Bradford shield were manufactured in considerable numbers by Messrs Fattorini of Bradford. Examples included the medals presented to the players of BCAFC’s successful League Division Two championship side of 1907/08. The application of a civic crest to a football medal was not unique, for example medals presented to the Everton players who were League champions in 1914/15 carried the ‘Liver’ bird of Liverpool.
The Bradford shield and boar’s head was ominpresent. Just about every badge of every historic Bradford club / society / organisation adopted it, one of the best examples of which being the Bradford Pals in World War One.
Could the civic identity be re-adopted by Bradford City AFC?
In recent years civic identities have been restored and actively incorporated in club crests; in that regard clubs as diverse as Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bristol City and Luton Town come to mind. However the original city of Bradford coat of arms was abandoned on April Fools’ Day 1974 with the introduction of the metropolitan district authority and the subsequent arms now incorporate identities from Keighley, Baildon, Bingley, Silsden, Queensbury and Shelf.
The obvious question therefore is that if BCAFC was to re-adopt a Bradford civic crest should it be the original December, 1907 version or the current? The traditionalist in me favours the former but the club can hardly encourage a retreat to the original city of Bradford boundaries given that a high proportion of its supporters live beyond them.
In 1988 the reformed Bradford Park Avenue revived the old civic arms as its badge. Ironically the original club had been liquidated in 1974, coincidentally the same year as the old coat of arms was abandoned. Yet whilst a critic could claim that this is anachronistic, the manner in which the identity is now being applied is anything but. In 2019 the club introduced a new version of the crest based on a new digital reworking consistent with the traditional dimensions. Few will argue otherwise that it looks good (compare to the original below).
Bradford Park Avenue has wholeheartedly embraced the traditional Bradford identity as part of a wider initiative to promote community sporting engagement. The totem is being promoted as part of its #onebradford campaign and there is a good chance that this will encourage further application of the boar’s head motif.
I am not convinced that the current Bradford District coat of arms (below) would offer an inspiring option for a new club crest. The most obvious civic identity that has been unchanged since 1974 is the boar’s head and I consider it a shame that it wasn’t kept as a club logo (being displaced in 1991). There is surely no reason why the club couldn’t have a formal civic crest but retain the ‘bantams’ identity as a shirt badge for instance.
NB In 2017 Bradford Met Council itself undertook a digital reworking to simplify the lines of the current civic crest, the simplified version as below.
A common Bradford sporting identity to drive regeneration
If sporting failure undermined self-belief and self-respect in Bradford in the second half of the last century, since the late 1990s we have seen glimpses of the potential that sport has to offer the district – its contribution to a feel-good factor can be gauged by the experience of the last four years at Valley Parade and the mood in the district at the beginning of this century when the Bulls dominated their code. Dare I suggest that sport has also demonstrated its capability to be a social unifier.
Bradford Council has discovered for itself that grandiose regeneration schemes have been singularly unsuccessful and nor is a ‘Greater Leeds’ rebranding exercise going to solve the city’s problems and deliver a magic solution. Crucially there has been no initiative to encourage a sense of pride and belonging. Anyone serious about trying to revive the Bradford brand can do worse than consider the potential of sport to generate a common identity of our own.
Whilst the lead flag bearers would inevitably be Bradford City (and hopefully Bradford Bulls, maybe even Bradford Park Avenue), there is no reason why junior sports teams in the city – from rugby to athletics to cricket – cannot be engaged as ambassadors for Bradford with all concerned wearing a common emblem. Another lesson of history was the enthusiasm with which Bradford clubs and societies at the turn of the twentieth century adopted the Bradford shield and coat of arms as their common identity – a tribute in part to the marketing nous of the Fattorinis who sold countless enamel badges.
The official crest of Bradford City AFC has traditionally been the coat of arms which was replaced in 1968 by the boar’s head crest. Between 1974-85 and then since 1991 the club’s crest has been of a ‘non-civic’ derivation (officially the bantams 1981-85 and then 1991 to date).
The club’s name – Bradford City – was selected to emphasise its civic roots and the fact that it represented the city of Bradford. A civic crest was thus consistent with this.
A boar’s head signifies being ‘of Bradford’ and is firmly a Bradford identity.
The bantam nickname was adopted to emphasise the state of mind / attitude of the club and its players as a motivational identity.
The club was simultaneously ‘of Bradford’ but also ‘bantams’.
There are other instances with clubs with a strong civic identity alongside a distinctive nickname – for example Newcastle United / Magpies or Bristol City / Robins. For BCAFC to adopt a civic crest alongside the bantam signifies that the club represents Bradford and declares the culture of the club (ie underdog fighters). It is entirely compatible to have a civic crest alongside a nickname identity.
BCAFC could adopt a formal civic crest yet still retain a bantams identity as a shirt badge and/or for merchandising.
The boar’s head – as a Bradford motif – has wider potential as a shared identity for all Bradford sports clubs and could be encouraged much in the same way as the Manchester bee has been rediscovered to foster a common identity among people living in Manchester. (In terms of regeneration, Bradford’s problem is as much that of identity as image. The boar’s head is a longstanding Bradford identity with strong historical heritage that should not be overlooked or forgotten.)
Manchester has rediscovered its bee, isn’t it time for Bradford to revive its own boar’s head as a common Bradford brand?
By John Dewhirst
(My books ROOM AT THE TOP and LIFE AT THE TOP narrate the origins of sport in Bradford and how sport played a big part in shaping a distinctive Bradford identity before World War One, a phenomenon that I strongly believe has relevance today.
Thanks for visiting my blog. For details about my books in the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series which tell the history of sport in Bradford – and in particular football visit http://www.bantamspast.net The books seek to explain why things happened as they did instead of simply recording what occurred and readers may be surprised at the extent to which they contradict many of the myths and superficial narratives that have circulated previously. You won’t get fancy art school graphics but you will find substance and historical accuracy in the content. Of course if you prefer an abundance of pictures accompanied by text written for a Year 5 schoolchild you’ll find them ball-achingly boring.
Tweets: @jpdewhirst and @woolcityrivals
Features on the BCAFC identity: