Six of the best shopping arcades in Leeds

The Grand Arcade clock.
The Grand Arcade clock.
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The first Leeds shopping arcades appeared in the late 1800s and while some have disappeared, many remain, some have been given a new lease of life and even now new ones are springing up...

THE GRAND ARCADE, 1897

The Grade II-listed Victorian shopping arcade has been transformed into a vibrant new retail space that has given many independent retailers new space to sell their products and services to the people of the city of Leeds.

Built in 1987 by the New Briggate Arcade Company, it is one of the oldest retail spaces in the city, with a stunning glass roof, arched windows, open beams and wooden floors.

Its animated clock installed two years later by William Potts & Sons of Leeds. For many years it did not chime but it has since been restored.

COUNTY ARCADE, 1898

Built between 1898 and 1900, this was at the time the city’s most opulent arcade and was designed by Frank Matcham, its central dome meant to represent the industries of Leeds.

It housed a variety of upmarket shops, including the famous Mecca Locarno Ballroom and the Doll’s Hospital, which was popular with children. It helped develop the area between Briggate and Vicar Lane and centred on construction of the Empire Theatre. It had marble columns on the ground-floor, coloured mosaic frescoes representing the arts and sciences.

QUEEN’S ARCADE, 1898

Built on the side of the Rose and Crown Inn yard and designed by Edward Clark, this arcade was opened in 1889. It was Leeds’s second arcade and runs parallel to Thornton’s Arcade.

In Leeds, promenading encompassed all the fashionable shopping streets and new arcades and served to reclaim the symbolic status of the streets from the working classes. Further building work took place in 1896 and at the same time the entrance to the arcade was widened. The arcade was refurbished in the early 1990s. It contains a two-storey gallery.

THORNTON’S ARCADE, 1877

This was the first of the arcades in the town and was built by Charles Thornton between 1877 and 1878. It was built on the side of the Talbot Inn Yard and designed by George Smith.

It has a glazed roof and Gothic cross-arches, giving it the appearance of a church nave. It’s most popular feature is the clock by William Potts, which includes four life-size automaton figures from the historical novel Ivanhoe. They are Richard I, Friar Tuck, Robin Hood and Gurth the swineherd. The characters strike bells ever quarter of an hour.

CORN EXCHANGE, 1863

The Corn Exchange has undergone many transformations since it was built in the 1860s, opening in 1863. It was designed by the same man who was behind Leeds Town Hall - Cuthbert Brodrick and has an interesting eliptical roof.

It was built to replace the Moot Hall, which was the place where corn traders did their business up to its demolition in 1825. Many consider it to be Brodrick’s finest work. The interior was first converted into a shopping centre in 1989 and until 2012 it housed Anthony’s Piazza, which closed suddenly that year.

VICTORIA GATE, 2016

This exciting new development, which is being built right now, is due to open in 2016. It’s anchor store will be John Lewis.

The steel-framed construction will eventually deliver a visually striking piece of architecture which will stand opposite Leeds Kirkgate’s covered market. It is hoped it will help regenerate that part of the city.

Delivering John Lewis’s first store in the city, the first phase will capture the heritage of the Victoria Quarter and offer a range of high quality and designer brands with other stores and restaurants.

Tim Marshall has travelled the world covering foreign affairs for Sky News.

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