At the turn of the 19th Century, Bradford was a small rural market town of 16,000 people,where wool spinning and cloth weaving was carried out in local cottages and farms.
Industrial growth led to the rapid expansion of the city. Between 1800 and 1850 Bradford changed from a rural town amongst the woods and fields to a sprawling town filling the valley sides. By 1841 there were more than 100 mills in the borough and it was estimated that two-thirds of the country’s wool production was processed in Bradford.
During the same period, in what is now the Bradford West Methodist Circuit, Rev Patrick Bronte was appointed as Curate at Thornton Church. Maria Bronte gave birth to Charlotte Bronte, Patrick Branwell Bronte, Emily Jane Bronte and Anne Bronte. The house where Mr Bronte wrote and published two books and where, by the age of three, each of the children in turn would be learning their alphabet and singing nursery rhymes still stands at 72/74 Market Street, Thornton.
Richard Oestler, a rich mill owner and committed campaigner for the improvement in working conditions in the Bradford mills, was disinherited by his father for his Methodism.
Bradford West Circuit has also been through many changes. There are now eight churches in the Circuit, two of which are local ecumenical projects sharing with URC and Baptist Church. At one end of the Circuit Trinity and Little Lane are inner city churches in the middle of one of Bradford’s largest Muslim communities. Both congregations are engaged in ecumenical initiatives aimed at sharing the Gospel in the communities that surround them.
As the circuit spreads west from the city centre, the cultural diversity lessens and the inner city – inter faith congregations give way to a more rural way of life and congregation.
Welcomed national improvements for life expectancy have led Methodism and other denominations to look carefully at the pastoral care and support provided for older members of their congregations. Bradford West Circuit’s response in September 2001 was to employ a lay pastoral worker, who works with the ministerial staff in offering pastoral care to the older members of all the churches.
July 2005 saw the launch of our first Holiday at Home. The event, centred on Allerton church, was aimed at elderly or housebound members of the circuit not able to go away on holiday. Thirty-four holiday guests and thirty-four helpers enjoyed a week of outings, which included the cinema and a bus ride to Settle Market. Other activities included craft sessions, a Fish and Chip Lunch and a Tea Dance that was attended by the Lord Mayor and her Consort. There were even holiday postcards for everybody to send.
Our churches are more than just places to go and pray on Sundays – they are all part of the rich texture that is the community in West Bradford. Our buildings are used by a number of different groups which meet there and activities include; English courses for Asian women (run by the college), music and art groups as well as the usual Cubs, Beavers, Scouts, Brownies, Guides and Mothers and Toddlers groups.