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Leeds nostalgia: YEP ‘concrete bunker’ set to disappear

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It is a building which has dominated the eastern skyline of the city for more than four decades but soon it could be no more.

The distinctive concrete building, complete with clock tower, has become part of the fabric of the city, so much so that it even appeared on the Leeds version of the Monopoly game.

But like so many other characteristic buildings in Leeds, the former home of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post could soon be just a memory.

Following the transfer of staff from the Wellington Street site to No.1 Leeds on Whitehall Road in January, owners Johnston Press this week submitted a demolition order to Leeds City Council in the hope it will facilitate a sale.

Love it or loathe it, the ‘concrete bunker’ as it was known to some, was a true one-off.

When it was built, the management of the two papers declared it would be adequate to house the business for the next hundred years -– in the end, it was just over 40, opening on September 28, 1970.

Former YEP editor Malcolm Barker had his name on the door from day one at the £5m Wellington Street building. Now 82, he was editor from 1970 until 1987. Speaking to Times Past he revealed how, just weeks into his new job, he almost burned the place down.

“I smoked at that time and I had a wicker waste bin and I must have put a cigarette in there. I was pacing about on the editorial floor when all of a sudden my secretary, Mrs Mole, came running out, shouting, ‘Your office is on fire!’

“Sprinklers came on all over the building. Everyone got wet. The water was cascading down the steps into the printing hall.

“Afterwards, I was comforted by one of the maintenance people, who said they had been meaning to test the sprinkler system and that I’d saved them a job.

“I remember moving from Albion Street, which was composed of 13 adjoining buildings knocked together – some of the people I worked with when I started had fought in the trenches during the First World War.

“A lot of the older end were opposed to moving to Wellington Street and there was some concerns about there being no windows in editorial but for most of us it was a revelation, it felt like we’d moved into the modern era. I am just surprised at how short that era was.

“I imagine the recent move would have been viewed in similar terms but really it is not the end of an era but a new beginning.”

While Albion Street had been a warren of tiny rooms and corridors, Wellington Street was purpose-built, with the editorial departments of both papers being housed in a single room, which was itself large enough to easily house a two-storey building, its ceiling being more than fifty feet in height.

But perhaps the most recognised feature of the 4.5 acre site was its clock tower, looming as it still does over the inner ring road, passed by thousands of commuters every day.

Newspaper seller Eric Simpson, 65, has worked for the company for 46 years and is its longest serving employee.

He has fond memories of working there.

“It was brilliant,” he said. “There was a canteen on the fifth floor which was open from 7.30am until about 2.30am the following morning. I remember the canteen ladies: Nancy, Doreen, Sylvia, Lillian, who was in her 70s, Joyce and Betty and the canteen manager was Marcel Boulanger.

“Before they moved from Albion Street, for a couple of weeks, they actually printed the paper at both sites, to make sure the new site was up to scratch. If they were down a few copies on one site, they would up it at the other.

“Then one day the decision came to go to the new site.

“They took all the linotype machines out on the Saturday night and by Sunday night they were all set up in the new building.”

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