Sunbridge Wells, Bradford

Name of scheme: Sunbridge Wells, Bradford
Nominating organisation: Bradford Civic Society
Shortlisted category: Historic Buildings 

Sunbridge Wells, Bradford, is shortlisted for a Civic Voice Design Award 2017. It is a truly unique complex of boutique shops, café bars, restaurants and craft market stalls housed in a long-forgotten network of historic tunnels underneath Bradford City Centre. 

Bradford Civic Society nominated the scheme after being blown away by the sheer amount of effort, passion and attention-to-detail invested in this unique project. They simply believe there's nothing like it in the UK, and they are proud to have it in their patch. 

Originally a 13th century quarry, the tunnels have a remarkable history. In more recent years the tunnels lay abandoned and sealed off, with only a dilapidated door off Centenary Square that most people wouldn't have even noticed. But then local developer Graham Hall had a vision: to remodel the tunnels and adjoining derelict buildings as a three-storey leisure complex housing independent shops and young, creative entrepreneurs on flexible terms. After a painstaking programme of excavation, restoration and innovation, the tunnels once again welcomed hordes of curious Bradfordians in December 2016 – with parts of it being opened up again for the first time in over a century.  

The result is a delightful subterranean shopping and leisure project, the likes of which you'd struggle to find in any other UK city. To date, the complex houses specialty bars and cafes, a handful of boutique shops, and a collection of market stalls – with more units set to open this year, including the historic Rose & Crown pub (and its original 1870 sign!) which fronts onto Bradford's oldest street (Ivegate).

At its wonderfully restored (and rather grand) Victorian entrance, Sunbridge Wells declares "Welcome to a world of pure imagination..." which just about sums up the fantastic nature of this remarkable project. 

Civic Voice will be organising a study tour visit to Sunbridge Wells in September.