Leeds nostalgia: Map of 1840 shows pace of change

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The discovery of an old Ordinance Survey map of Leeds dated 1840 shows just how much the city has changed.

The story of how the map was found is interesting enough - it was spotted lying in the mud in an old farm shed about 30 years ago and, thankfully, salvaged.

Its rescuer decided, because of its size, he would pin it to the back of two wardrobes so it could dry out... and there it stayed until quite recently.

About three years ago it was re-discovered and handed to the Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society, who set about trying to restore and preserve it.

Society member Harold Smith, 76, a former management consultant, has been aware of the map for some time.

He said: “We applied for a grant to have the map re-backed and consulted with the West Yorkshire Archive Service about preserving it.

“When the map first came to us, it was in a poor state, very brittle and in places falling apart. We have managed to preserve it as best we can and it is now kept between two pieces of acetate.”

The society has also taken the precaution of making a number of high-resolution photographs of the map and they have put these on a DVD which is being sold through Leeds Civic Trust.

Mr Smith said: “Because of the sheer size of the map, we thought it would be prudent to make copies of it by taking pictures and so we have done that and the pictures are available on a DVD, which we think every historical society should have.

“The map shows a vast section of Leeds, stretching from Micklefield to Armley and from Huby to Thorp Arch. We think perhaps the map was owned by someone of importance because there are large areas highlighted and these denote estates.

“There are all kinds of interesting features on the map, including places whose locations we weren’t sure about, for example, the map shows where the old tithe barn was in Barwick, a structure which would have been in existence since Medieval times and which was still there in 1840 - today, however, it has been built on.

“The map also shows a number of wells, together with other features which would have existed since Medieval times.

“We’re lucky to have the map, it was found in barn leaning against a wall on the floor in the Leeds area. It was going to waste but someone decided it was worth saving. That was 30 years ago. After that it was pinned to the back of two wardrobes and was just left there. It was when the person was moving house and the wardrobes became superfluous that the map was found again.

“We’ve had it for three years. We weren’t sure what to do with it to start with but we got advice and had the linen backing stripped and restored with new and it is now between two special sheets of acetate.

“It’s interesting to look at the map. Alwoodley, for example, is just a load of fields and Stanks has just a handful of houses, there also used to be a pub at the Bramham crossroads we think called the White Hart. The Pinfold estate in Crossgates was named after an area some distance away - a pinfold is marked on the map, it would have been a place where stray cattle were held until the owner turned up to reclaim them and pay a fine.

The map showing part of Headingley is particularly interesting - today one of the most built-up areas of the city, back in 1840 it shows the location of the Skyrack Oak, a turnpike marked ‘T.P.’ at the junction of Leeds Road (the present day A660) and North Lane. It also shows Weetwood Reservoir, Castle Grove and a number of estates which are highlighted on the map in blue. Stanks is just a collection of a few houses, as is Scholes.

The DVD is on sale priced £7 and is available through the Leeds Civic Trust, call 0113 243 9594.

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