A city pub: the Bull’s Head Inn, Westgate



As you may have gathered I am a map enthusiast, but it is a rare pleasure to be able to match a plan with a surviving drawing. William Scruton, in his Pen & Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford, includes a picture of the above establishment: The Bull’s Head Inn, Westgate. You can just make out the bull’s head on the tavern sign. Scruton’s book was published in 1889 although this cannot have been the date of the original drawing since by 1886 the inn was no longer in existence. But in its day it had an important place in the history of Bradford.

Scruton says that at one time in front of this inn was a bull ring for bull-baiting, which presumably provided the name. Close-by was the town pillory in which offenders were manacled while being subject to the abuse of passers-by who hurled eggs or fruit at them. Under the influence of the more enlightened the pillory was outlawed in 1830 and bull-baiting in 1835. I have seen a watercolour print which places the pillory on a wooden stage just about where the figure is sitting. The Victorian historian William Cudworth, in his account, doesn’t mention ball-baiting but says that in front of the inn was a market with rows of butchers’ stalls; another possible source for the name then. Whatever the truth there’s not much doubt that Scruton was thinking of the situation in the late eighteenth century. At that time the inn was used by merchants, manufacturers and woolstaplers. The first Bradford Club was founded there, according to Cudworth, in 1760. By the early nineteenth century a Mrs Duckitt was the host. She was apparently famous for her rum punch, which sadly isn’t a beverage that I have ever tried. An Act of Parliament in 1805 appointed commissioners for levying rates and improving Bradford roads and lighting. These commissioners, a sort of primitive town council, met at the Bull’s Head. In some ways it was our first Town Hall. Apparently 60 years before Scruton’s book was published, which would be in the 1830s, the inn was also a rendezvous for town and country musicians.

Inns are usually easy to trace in trade directories and newspapers like the The Bradford Observer. I only wish I had more time for a detailed study. The 1818 and 1822 commercial directories place Jeremiah Illingworth in charge at the Bull’s Head. It seems to have then doubled as an Excise Office. In 1829 Hannah Illingworth, perhaps Jeremiah’s widow, ran the establishment which was clearly a large one since in 1834 no less that fifty friends of Airedale College dined there together. On the other hand there are reports of fights in the street outside, and in 1837 a licenced hawker, Henry Stephens by name, was fined the huge sum of £10 for trying to sell a watch and razors in the bar parlour. Later the same year Joseph Sugden, who was now in charge, was reported as providing another excellent dinner, this time for 56 members of the Ancient Order of Oddfellows. Acceptable early Victorian dinners often seem to be described as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ for some reason.

At the time of the 1850 Ibbetson directory Joseph Sugden was still the host and a John Hebden, fishmonger, has his premises in Bull’s Head Yard which is where you arrived at if you walked through the arched passageway. Manufacturers from outside Bradford would attend an inn on a regular basis so that they could be easily found if you wished to transact business with them. In 1850 among textile men at the Bull’s Head you could find John Anderton, manufacturer of Harden, and Samuel Dawson of Wakefield. Other visitors were Messrs Pilling, corn millers, and John Hirst, land agent, who attended on Thursdays. The habits of the patrons is hinted at by the fact that in 1869 Thomas Burrows was arrested in Bull’s Head Yard in possession of two spittoons, thought to be the property of Thomas Waterhouse of the inn. It was still a significant local building and in 1874 the Bradford Musical Union dined there, inviting the Mayor and local jeweller Manoah Rhodes as guests. I followed entries concerning the inn in the Bradford Observer up to 1875 when it was being used for election candidates’ addresses.


In the second image I have hatched the inn and the associated land plot and buildings of which there is a detailed map in the Bradford Local Studies Library. The Bull’s Head is on the same alignment as Westgate, as indeed are all its neighbours on both sides. The rear yards however are aligned at an angle to the thoroughfare. This is also true in the much older 1800 map of Bradford. Yards and properties are not running due south but down hill to the south-west following the earlier field boundaries. The map I have studied most has been annotated in pencil. It would appear to indicate the types of premises to be found in Bull’s Head Yard. The only proprietor I can be certain of is a Mrs Smiddles who ran a tripe shop there, but there are also sheds and stables. I haven’t been very successful in tracking down other businesses in the Yard although Tennand, Hall & Hill, from Manchester, who were tanners and curriers, were visiting there in 1857 according to a small advertisement.

Does any of this area survive today? Mrs Swindells and her tripe shop remains totally obscure. The Bull’s Head, 11 Westgate (J Sugden) is in a 1866 trade directory, and it is listed under the name J Halliday in the directory of 1879-80. In the directory of 1883 the inn is missing. In the mid 1870s clearance of much of the property in this area began. I would imagine that everything was destroyed when modern Godwin Street was brought up to intersect with Westgate. Walking along Godwin Street and Sackville Street today, both in reality and using Google Earth, I cannot persuade myself that any of the mapped buildings are still present. But I should so very much like to be proved wrong.


4 thoughts on “A city pub: the Bull’s Head Inn, Westgate

  1. I love reading your emails.

    can I ask if you have anything on the Ivy public house on What was the High street Bradford, now Barkerend road . We moved to bradford from halifax in 1957 and can well remember the pubic house and the stables in the back. I used to meander around the area but at only 6 years old have only a smattering of memory of the place. history has always interested me. Now I divulge my passion . the internet .. Brilliant

    regards Vera

    We lived in the Ivy fish shop a couple of doors from the public house in what would now be called Mews.. a yard surrounded by houses.. some very old

    On Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 7:20 PM, bradford unconsidered trifles wrote:

    > Bradford Brickman posted: ” As you may have gathered I am a map > enthusiast, but it is a rare pleasure to be able to match a plan with a > surviving drawing. William Scruton, in his Pen & Pencil Pictures of Old > Bradford, includes a picture of the above establishment: The B” >


    1. First we need to establish exactly where the Ivy Hotel was. A very useful webpage on Bradford’s vanished pubs places it at 157 Barkerend Road and states that it was opened in the 1840s and was demolished in the late 1960s. So, long before my time in Bradford. Today 157 is on the south side between Harewood St and Binnie St. Pubs.change their names but in this case we may be lucky. An 1880 trade directory places one Thomas Stephenson, at the Ivy Hotel 157 Barkerend Road.


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