The winning entry in an architectural competition that drew many entries, with John Ruskin invited to give his advice. Won by the local architects Lockwood and Mawson with a design in Venetian Gothic with some Flemish influences. The accompanying photograph shows the architectural detail of the tower and arcading well, but the light is not strong enough for the contrasting stone colours to emerge. When the building was listed in 1963, the interior of the hall was described: “The main hall is still used as a Wool exchange and has finely detailed lofty hammer-beam roof with wrought iron work decoration. The hall is surrounded by tall polished granite columns with foliate capitals and there is an outer south aisle arcade with good naturalistic foliage carving. Lively wrought ironwork balcony and staircase balustrade.
1864 –1867: Wool Exchange Built
1960s: Wool trading stopped
1962: Swan Arcade demolished
1962-64: Arndale House built
1963: Building gained listed status
1975: Pennine Heritage Exhibition
1980 - 2017: Retail business take advantage of the beautiful building
2016: Wool Exchange undergoes brand and digital development
2017: Tiffin Coffee opens it's doors
Picture the scene one hundred years ago when there were more than 300 textile mills operating in Bradford. With smoke and dirt belching from a forest of pencil-straight chimneys. But step inside those factory gates and from the noise and clatter within witness the honest toil and sweat of proud Bradfordians whose productive energy helped to create the world's leading wool-trading centre. In the industry's heyday during that era, it was estimated there were a quarter of million men and women working in the mills of West Riding, with 70,000 of those jobs centred on Bradford. Today, the number has dwindled to a few thousand and Bradford is perhaps better known for the flavours of its curry houses than the cut of its cloth.
Author of the 'Wool City', Mark Keighley said, "It is a sad story when you look back at the industry in its heyday but it's not a totally unhappy one. The numbers may have dwindled but there are still companies in Bradford and the surrounding district producing some of the finest textile products in the world. In recent years, there has even been a minor renaissance but the wool industry is now very much a niche market."
The foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston.
THE WOOL EXCHANGE was completed in 1867. Occupying a triangular island site, the building has 3 main storeys of very finely masoned Bradford sandstone with a prominent clock tower at the north end. Red and yellow sandstone dressings. In type the design looks to the precedent of the great Flemish Cloth Halls but the style is Venetian Gothic, particularly in the polychromy and the serrated openwork of the parapet cresting. (An unexecuted design for Halifax Town Hall by sir C G Scott was perhaps a more immediate influence). Steep hipped slate roof with ridge cresting. Pointed ground floor arcade, originally open, with shafts and geometrical tracery. Coupled shafted lights to first floor and similar but shorter tripled lights to second floor. Both with toothed weathered sill courses and carved impost bands. Bartizan pinnacled turrets to each corner. Rose windows to south end. The north tower provides a grand open porch on the ground floor, with canopied statues to corners, and roses in 3 tall stages to the clock stage with crocketed gables applied to each face and pinnacled bartizan corner turrets. Similar parapet existing as on main building and sharp spire surmounted by crocketed pinnacle.
In the spandrel of the ground floor arcade are portrait medallions of the following notables: facing Market Street: Cobden, (ABOVE) Sir Titus Salt, Stephenson, Watt, Arkwright, Jacquard, Gladstone, Palmerston. Facing Bank Street: Raleigh, Drake, Columbus, Cook and Anson.