A New book chronicling the history of Leeds and looking in detail at its city centre, contains a number of hitherto unseen pictures.
Central Leeds Through Time is a picture-led journey down the ages, from the earliest mention of the town of ‘Loidis’, in AD731, when the region was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria.
Leodis is also mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086, although it was still a small town at that time, the name possibly meaning ‘people of the flowing river’.
However, when the town gained its first charter in 1207, a new street was created by then Lord of the Manor Maurice de Gant. The street was called Brigg Gata, the word ‘brigg’ coming from the Old English ‘brycg’, for bridge, while ‘gata’ was derived from the Old Norse for ‘way’ or ‘street’. Over the years, the two words became ‘Briggate’.
Up to the 17th century, the town had a population of under 10,000, however, this grew rapidly - expanding threefold in less than a century - thanks to the Industrial Revolution and burgeoning still further thanks to infrastructure projects like The Leeds Liverpool Canal, so that by 1841, its population had soared to 88,000. Indeed, by that time, some commentators were describing the city as a ‘miniature London’.
The book is split into sections, with headings such as ‘people’, ‘work’, ‘streets’ and ‘transport’.
One of the pictures (below) was taken in 1907 and shows the old home of the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’, looking toward the south side of Kirkgate from Old Crown Yard to Wharf Street.
There was also a medical botanist adjacent and a noted tripe shop, all of which were demolished in 1935.
The Ancient Order of Foresters, meanwhile, dates back to 1790 and was one of a number of mutual societies formed at that time with the aim of helping people in need. In 1837, almost 300 people were members in Leeds - for many, it was a form of insurance, in case they lost their jobs or otherwise fell on hard times.
Another of the pictures (above), shows bomb damage to a Leeds house during the Second World War.
Remarkably, the semi-detached house was practically chopped in two by the blast, which occurred on September 22, 1941 in a cul-de-sac of Cliff Road.
Other pictures also allow a fascinating insight into the city’s past, such as the image of the old four and five-storey timbered Georgian buildings which once lined New Briggate but which were torn town in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for the inner ring road, and which today would no doubt be considered a great asset to the city.
One of the more amusing pictures is the famous ‘Bread Arch’ of 1894, which was built to mark a visit by the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George and Queen Mary). The arch weighed five tons and was made entirely from bread, which was fine for a while, until it rained and the whole thing became a great big soppy mess, which ended up attracting rats.
There are also pictures of the construction and destruction of Quarry Hill flats, built in 1938 to accommodate 3,000 people, and pulled down in 1978.
Central Leeds Through Time (Amerberly Publishing), £14.99: www.amberley-books.com/central-leeds-through-time.html