Cartwright Hall is located in Lister Park, about a mile from the centre of Bradford. It is named after Dr. Edmund Cartwright who was the inventor of the power loom and the combing machine. The London architect of this art gallery was chosen following a competition which attracted one hundred and seventeen entries for the best design. Construction began in May 1900 but problems arose almost immediately, it was discovered that deeper foundations were needed after heavy rains caused damage to the original foundations, there were a number of strikes, the joiners were out for sixteen months, the masons for ten, and by the time the plasterers returned, the work had been completed by outside contractors. There were also problems sourcing some of the stone blocks which weighed three to four tons each. The building went over budget, the architect refused to simplify the design to save money, the project was finally completed by 1904.
There were also problems at the official opening ceremony. When the party of civic dignitaries and local gentry arrived by coach from the town centre, the ceremonial key, specially designed for the occasion, could not be found and a plain key had to be substituted. A postcard bearing a picture of the occasion was produced shortly afterwards, the caption read 'Presentation of the Gold Key - Where is it?'