Up & Away!

A Life of Leisure

Bradford had and has much to offer with its diverse rural landscape; from the high hills of Queensbury, the lower lands of Low Moor, the rugged terrain around Ilkley’s Cow and Calf Rocks, the wild and windy moors of Haworth to river-side Saltaire. This natural playground has delighted Bradfordians for centuries, providing spaces and places for outdoor and leisure pursuits.

The motor car brought easy access to the countryside.
The motor car brought easy access to the countryside.

A change in work laws in the 19th century regulated the working week, which meant that the working-classes had slightly less time in the ‘dark satanic mills’ and a bit more time to enjoy Bradford’s ‘green and pleasant land’. Many people arranged their own leisure activities and days out, such as visiting Shipley Glen and Bolton Abbey. Some turned to associations and societies for organised outdoor leisure pursuits. Founded in 1867, Bradford Amateur Rowing Club in Saltaire made use of the River Aire. East Bradford Cycling Club was established 1899. Bradford Countryside Holiday Association’s rambling section which organised walks around Bradford was set up in 1903.

A works outing to the seaside.
A works outing to the seaside.

While Bradfordians have an abundance of varying rural landscapes on their doorstep, Bradford is a landlocked city and, before the 19th century, travel to the coast was difficult for most people. From the 19th century, improved railway networks allowed Bradfordians to travel at ease to coastal towns at weekends and on bank holidays. Morecambe was a popular seaside destination for Bradford mill workers, particularly during Wakes Week or Whitsuntide – a period when mills would traditionally shut down and workers would have time off. Some mills and factories would organise outings for workers and their families.

Saltaire workers wave as they catch the train for an outing to the seaside.
Saltaire workers wave as they catch the train for an outing to the seaside.

In 1850, the railway network connected Bradford to Morecambe. This railway line was used so much that Morecambe became known as ‘Bradford-by-the-sea’ due to the amount of Bradfordians day tripping, holidaying and retiring there. Blackpool was another popular seaside resort, as was Scarborough on the east coast. The rise of the motorcar in the 20th century meant that Bradfordians had more freedom, flexibility and quicker means to explore all four corners of Bradford and beyond.