The historical artefacts of Sunbridgewells

When you embark on the re-development of a complex as old as Bradford’s underground tunnels, it goes without saying that there will be a few surprises along the way. Beginning life as a quarry during the 13th century, the tunnels went on to incarcerate hard done by priests, house many local breweries throughout the 1800s and was the official birthplace of 60s music scene, The Little Fat Black Pussy Cat Club. The cities very own labyrinth of passageways has seen many years, many lifetimes and many stories. These are just some of the fascinating and historical artefacts you can find in Bradford’s underground Victorian tunnels.


The oldest sign in Bradford

During the development of this underground complex, an authentic wooden sign from the original Rose & Crown Inn was discovered in an old loft. Thought to date back as far as the 1870s, this early swing-board sign was hand-painted by Bradford artist, Thomas Forester and would have originally hung at the front of Ivegate. Now, one hundred and odd years later, this remarkable antique has been restored back to its best and takes pride of place outside its new home, the Rose & Crown Inn at Sunbridgewells.

Skeletons in the closet

Ok so not real skeletons as such but there are definitely real doctors skeletons in the house here at Sunbridgewells. Never one for doing things by halves, Sunbridgewells developer Graham Hall actually treated the skeletons with Potassium permanganate, giving them their grizzly, remains-like appearance. Funnily enough, Graham tells us the skeletons actually went purple before they went brown.

Other oddities and historical artefacts

Originating in 1842, Rimmingtons pharmacy is the oldest in Bradford. In 1950, an incredible discovery was made, a stack of original medical journals dating all the way back to 1887. Fascinatingly, the books contain the original prescriptions for the mayor and councillors alike, all expertly hand-written in traditional calligraphy. They were in fact, set for an appearance on the Antiques Roadshow, only for it to be thwarted at the last minute. After being kept in safe storage for 9 long years, these bona fide medical journals were relocated to Sunbridgewells where they still reside today.

Other incredible artefacts you can enjoy on your trip to Sunbridgewells are the old chemistry set, a scale model of Phyllis the working steam engine, the Wallers train which is made up of different components found within the tunnels, an impressive 3D model of Cartwright Hall made solely from matchsticks, vintage microscopes, the Halls vaults plaque and the suit of armour that is currently on show in the Rose & Crown Inn.


We hope you have enjoyed our latest blog about the discoveries made at Sunbridgewells. For years Bradford’s Victorian tunnels lay empty. Now, they are a hubbub of life and activity once again, teaming with intriguing tales just asking to be explored. There’s nothing we love more than providing an establishment for good food and drink along with memories of yesteryear and a slice of curiosity. If you’re partial to a bit of history and mystery, why not pay a visit to the wondrous world of Sunbridgewells. As rumour would have it, there is a secret passageway connecting the top floor of the tunnels directly to City Hall. To this day the passageway remains undiscovered but does it even really exist? Why not decide for yourself, at Bradford’s ambiguous underground tunnels.

Written and published by Hannah King

Posted on April 12, 2018 .