Leeds nostalgia: The Headrow’s broad history

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Here are two pictures showing The Headrow in Leeds, the top one from the 1930s, taken shortly after the road was significantly widened, the second one (below) harks from a time when that northern boundary of the city centre was no broader than, say, Horsforth Town Street, which is hard to imagine today.

Leeds Town Hall can be glimpsed in both images but the image below shows just how much narrower this main thoroughfare of the city was, even though most people today would probably not give it a second thought, thinking it had always been so.

The Headrow was a triumph of the 1930s, which was a period of world depression in which it was remarkable to achieve anything. The old Upperhead Row and Lowerhead Row appear in the first Leeds map of 1560.

Widening the road meant the demolition of all the properties on the north side of the street, from Quarry Hill to the Town Hall and even though some considered that a loss at the time, its replacement was a grand facade which still stands to this day. The project was unveiled in 1933.

Lewis’s cost £1m when it was opened in 1932 and since then it has been hightened.

The slope of the The Headrow down to Park Row and Cookridge Street crossing used to be known as Merryboys’ Hill. The Garden of Rest was opened in 1937 (George VI’s coronation year) and the war memorial was moved there from City Square. A statue of Winged Victory, which once topped it, now resides at Cottingley Crematorium.

By the 1960s, old style cars had been replaced by modern equivalents, trams with buses.

One thing which doesn’t seem to have changed however, are the crowds thronging the street, which look as strong back in the 1930s as they do today.

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