Leeds nostalgia: Did You Know...?

Leeds, Roundhay 7th August 1968

The impressive statue of the explorer, Stephen (or JOHN) Cabot, was one of the figures which graced the Royal Exchange building at the junction of Park Row and Boar Lane.

More than 40 years ago it was removed and was later rescued from a builder's yard to be put up where it now stands, in the garden of a house at Roundhay.
Leeds, Roundhay 7th August 1968 The impressive statue of the explorer, Stephen (or JOHN) Cabot, was one of the figures which graced the Royal Exchange building at the junction of Park Row and Boar Lane. More than 40 years ago it was removed and was later rescued from a builder's yard to be put up where it now stands, in the garden of a house at Roundhay.
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This week, a selection of facts about Yorkshire and Leeds...

MAN OR MOUSE

Shire Oak, Headingley Oak.

Madonna and Child carved from a piece of the Shire Oak by Mr. Robert Thompson.

Shire Oak, Headingley Oak. Madonna and Child carved from a piece of the Shire Oak by Mr. Robert Thompson.

Robert Thompson, known as the Mouseman on account of his wooden carvings, served his apprenticeship at the Garnett Wire Company in Cleckheaton, during which time he lived on Mount Street, near Cleckheaton Library.

On his travels home from Cleckheaton, he would stop at Ripon and admire the craftsmanship of its cathedral. The master carver there was William Bromflet, who was young Robert’s inspiration.

An apprentice was not considered good enough unless he could carve a mouse like Robert Thompson.

Thompson died in 1955 and is buried in Kilburn. His work can still be viewed in churches, schools, colleges and pubs throughout the UK and other parts of the world, including the Solomon Islands.

Water Sign

On Leeds Liverpool Canal, there is a sign which is written back to front and upside down. Its reflection can be read in the waters, so long as the wind is not blowing too hard to create ripples.

The sign is near Bridge 225, close to Viaduct Road and also near an old warehouse known as Botany Bay - it is so called because it was the place which took the first shipment of goods from Australia, although it now stands in ruin.

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

After the Shire Oak in Headingley collapsed on November 10, 1941, parts of it were sent to woodworkers across the country, who turned them into carved keepsakes. A dozen pieces were sold for 10 shillings each, along with a certificate sign by the Lord Mayor Alderman W Withey.

One carving was in the form of Madonna and Child, pictured left, by the aforementioned Robert Thompson of Kilburn, which was sold for £25 and the money donated to the Lord Mayor’s charity. It was 13 inches high and under the base was Mr Thompson’s famous signature carving of a mouse.

Sculptor Richard Perry, of Bedford, who had a position at the Victoria and Albert Museum, carved a King Charles head in the form of a wall mask, measuring 14 inches top to bottom, pictured centre.

Other pieces were sent to Major Alan L Durst, a distinguished London sculptor. Yet another piece was carved into a depiction of George and Dragon. The last piece of the Shire Oak was carved into the head of a bishop’s pastoral staff, pictured right, and was given to the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Alderman A Hayes, in 1944.

A 10-year-old sapling was planted on April 6, 1956.

DOUGH RISING

An archway made of bread for a royal visit to Leeds in October 1894 weighed 5½ tons. It spanned Commercial Street near its junction with Briggate.

STILL LIFE

John Cabot was an Italian explorer (Giovanni Caboto, 1450-1499), who was known in England, and is credited with discovering North America.

Our picture, taken on August 7, 1968, shows his statue partially obscured by trees.

Some time in the 1920s, the statue was moved and found its way to a builder’s yard. Someone rescued it to stand in a private garden somewhere in Roundhay.

Next week: read an exclusive interview with a woman whose grandfather was one of the last people to live in the historic Oakwell Hall in Birstall - and he even helped save it from demolition.

Leeds nostalgia: September 1985: Harrogate stages war games