Forster Square was built in the late 19th century at the bottom of Kirkgate, and named after the 19th-century politician William Edward Forster. Until 1958 it was a spacious city square, triangular in shape, with public gardens and a statue of Forster in the centre; it was also a busy hub for bus and tram services.
Forster Square railway station fronted partly onto the square from 1924 until 1990, when the current small station of that name (originally intended to be temporary) was opened to the north. The former station was then demolished.
In the 1950s and 1960s, much of central Bradford was redeveloped to the design of Stanley Wardley. This included a new main road, Petergate, linking a completely remodelled Forster Square to Leeds Road at Eastbrook Well roundabout. Part of the gardens remained as a walled enclave in a busy traffic roundabout, accessible to pedestrians only by underpasses. Two large modern buildings were built on the west side: Central House and Forster House, a John Poulson design. Apart from the station (see above), the only building fronting the square that survived that redevelopment was St Peter's House, which was for a long time the central post office for Bradford.
Thursday 18 March 2004 was the historic day when work began on clearing the site of Forster Square for new development as part of the Broadway project. Forster House was demolished in order to make room for the new development. A new road (Lower Kirkgate) was built linking the junction of Kirkgate and Cheapside with the junction of Canal Road and Bolton Road. There is no longer a through route from the north (Canal Road or Manor Row) to Leeds Road at that point.
In late 2006 the site was empty and flat, except for a large pile of rubble in one part of the site. For the first time for many years, St Peter's House and Bradford Cathedral behind it are visible from the centre of the city.
Since the demolition, archaeologists have had a chance to excavate the area between Forster Square and Cheapside. They have found traces of what were most probably 16th-century buildings. Smaller finds have also been found such as coins, pottery and clay tobacco pipes, a bone spoon and a bone toothbrush.
Andrea Burgess, senior archaeologist at West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, has said:
These are the first real field excavations in the centre of Bradford and we've got historical evidence about the streets in 17th and 18th century Bradford but we've never really come across the physical remains of the people that lived here. Some of the work is still very preliminary but it seems to be that the earliest findings date from the 17th century. We've got the remains of buildings with some hint of some industrial processes going on down by the beck, a good water source there for industrial activity. It's the earliest archaeological evidence we've got from Bradford so when we actually get the analytical results through it's going to be very exciting.
Andrea Burgess also hoped that the findings would reveal more about life in Bradford during the English Civil War:
Bradford played quite a big part in the Civil War. There are some wonderful etchings - drawings of the parish church right next to the site - with sandbags hanging from the top of the tower to protect it from assault during attack. There are written accounts of the troops coming into Bradford and crossing the beck and we know they took refuge in houses that were around the beck at that time. It is not confirmed yet but some of the remains that were found during the excavation could be the right date to coincide with the Civil War so at least it will give us an idea of what people were writing about. There are going to be archaeologists monitoring the Forster Square redevelopment as the work goes on so that they can salvage and record any other information that turns up. Otherwise it completely depends on where the development is as to whether we recommend whether any archaeological work is done..