Leeds nostalgia: Holbeck’s long history... then and now

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TODAY it’s a pristine industrial estate in the heart of Leeds but turn the clock back thirty years and Czar Street in Holbeck looked quite different.

Our archive picture shows the street covered in piles of rubbish, including old car tyres, bits of metal, rubble and earth.

BLEND: David Clay

BLEND: David Clay

Holbeck might be considered as being in the centre of Leeds today but for most of its life, it has been an ‘out township’, one of ten which originally formed satellites around Leeds itself.

It has a long history, dating back at least to 1089, when it was granted to the Priory of the Holy Trinity by Ralph Paynel. Back then it was known as Kirkgate-cum-Holbeck.

It has always been one of the most populous townships. In 1631, it was hit by bubonic plague and its first school opened in 1764. Believe it or not, at that time, Holbeck was renowned for its medical spas, not unlike Harrogate was during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed, ingenious tradespeople even sold water from Holbeck in Leeds.

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JANUARY 1980: Rubbish on land in Czar Street, Holbeck.

JANUARY 1980: Rubbish on land in Czar Street, Holbeck.

Holbeck Moor has long been a popular place for large crowds to gather and Holbeck Feast has long been held there. It became urbanised in the early 19th century, principally between 1801 and 1850, when three times the number of houses were built there, compared to the north of the city. Typified by rows of back-to-back houses, it was - and still is - predominantly working class and as the Industrial Revolution took hold, it became dominated by factories and mills, making machinery and textiles. Two of the most famous factories were Matthew Murray’s engineering works and John Marshall’s flax mills.

The Luddites rampaged through the town in 1812 and in 1842 there was social unrest during the so-called ‘Plug Riots’, where the plugs of boilers were removed by Chartists, who were campaigning for universal male suffrage.

Leeds, 25th January 1980''Rubbish on land in Czar Street, Holbeck.

Leeds, 25th January 1980''Rubbish on land in Czar Street, Holbeck.

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