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Seacroft History

Read up on a history of Seacroft village.

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Early Seacroft

There is little sign of prehistoric or Roman occupation in and around Seacroft. A stone axe dating to the Neolithic (3,500- 2,100 BC) was found during construction work in Kentmere Avenue in the 1950s and two Roman silver coins were found on Seacroft Green in the 1850s. The lack of Roman material is perhaps surprising as it is generally accepted that there was a substantial settlement in Leads during the Roman period and the Roman equivalent of the A65 would have passed through Seacroft.

Anglo-Saxon Seacroft

The first mention we have of Seacroft as a settlement occurs in the Domesday Survey which was compiled for William the Conqueror in 1086. The name means 'enclosure by a pond or pool'. There is no large pond in Seacroft now but the first Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area shows a lake in the grounds of Seacroft Hall. Presumably this had been created by damming one of the local streams. A similar dam could have been created by the Anglo-Saxon founders of Seacroft to provide water to drive a water mill.

Domesday Seacroft

Before the Norman Conquest the ownership of Seacroft was divided up between 5 Anglo-Saxon noblemen. By 1086 it had been given to Ilbert de Lacy who in turn gave it to Robert de Somerville. The land is described as being 'waste'. This does not necessarily mean that nothing was growing there. Domesday is a revenue document. The assessors were not interested in anything which could not be taxed. In 1086 there could have been little there to interest them as the value of the township had dropped dramatically. Before the Conquest Seacroft was worth 4. In 1086 it was worth 20d (approximately 0.08).

Most of the other settlements in Leeds suffered a similar fall in value after the Conquest. This is generally considered to be the result of what later became known as the Harrying of the North, a punitive 'slash and burn' campaign which the Normans undertook to put down the rebellious Northern Lords.

Medieval Seacroft

During the Middle Ages Seacroft went through a complicated series of land grants, many people and organizations owning a part of the township. These included two military organizations, the Knights Hospitallers and the Knights Templars. The Templars also had a large estate based around Newsam, Colton and Whitkirk. Hence the modern name of Temple Newsam. The monks of Kirkstall Abbey also had land in Seacroft: presumably this would have been run from their Grange (monastic farm) at Roundhay.

What the medieval village looked like is difficult to say. Probably its layout was not much different from that shown on the first detailed map of the Leeds district drawn up by Thorpe in 1822. This shows a cluster of houses around the Green and another outside Seacroft Hall. The first six inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map of the area published in 1847 shows a number of thin narrow fields to the east of the Green. These may represent the fossilized remains of some of the communal strip fields farmed by the medieval villagers of Seacroft.

Seacroft Hall

Seacroft Hall was probably built by the Shilito family who were lords of the manor of Seacroft in the early 17th century, though other owners must have made alterations to the property to account for the grandiose mansion seen on Victorian photographs. In the 19th century the Hall became the property of the Wilson Family, the last of whom died in 1936. The estate was bought by Leeds City Council in the 1950s, by which time the house had become derelict and had to be demolished. The site was then used for the building of Parklands School.

The Battle of Seacroft Moor

Despite the prosperity suggested by Seacroft Hall, the district was not always peaceful during the 17th century. On 30 March 1643 a detachment of Parliamentary troops under the command of Thomas Fairfax were attacked by the Royalist army on Seacroft Moor while Fairfax was making his way from Tadcaster to Leeds. The resultant battle imposed heavy losses on the Parliamentarians. Perhaps as many as 1000 men were either killed or taken prisoner. The exact site of the battlefield is not known.

Seacroft Today

Despite its rural beginnings Seacroft has since become part of the Leeds conurbation. Nowhere is this more evident than in the famous Seacroft windmill. This was originally part of Windmill Farm and old photographs show it towering over the old farm buildings. These were demolished in the 1960's but the windmill itself was incorporated into the design of the Windmill Motel. However the Green still remains largely intact, an island of grass in the centre of an ocean of post-war housing.

* There's lot more information about local places on the WYAAS website at: www.archaeology.wyjs.org.uk

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