Go inside Leeds Corn Exchange during the 1920s

This photo rewinds to the 1920s to show a busy days trading at the Corn Exchange.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 11:30 am
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

Wooden tables and desks are set out around the huge oval space for the individual traders. All the gentlemen appear to be aware of the photographer as they look up to the balcony. They are dressed formally in three-piece suits, raincoats and overcoats. Many are wearing bowler or Homburg-style hats.

The names of the established firms on the balcony date the photograph to between 1921 and 1927.

From left to right they are; Roger Shackleton & Sons Ltd., corn millers at number 24 (third arched doorway in), Harry A. Lane & Co. Ltd., provision merchants at 23, Armour & Co. provision merchants at 22, R. Dawson & Son, corn merchants at 21, J. Inchbold & Co., estate agents at number 20, Registrar of Birth & Deaths for Headingley south-east sub district, Leeds Union at 19, J. & I. Batten & Co., tea merchants and George Norley, tea agent at 18, The Sansinena Co. Ltd, meat importers at number 17, Whitfield & Holdsworth, rent collectors at 16 and John Revis (of Scarcroft Mill), corn merchant at 15.

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Above the balcony is the clock made by Potts of Leeds surrounded by a frieze depicting sheaves of corn. At this time the Corn Market was held in the Corn Exchange each Tuesday from 11am to 1.30pm.

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The Corn Exchange was completed in 1863. The Grade I listed building’s architect was Cuthbert Brodrick, who also designed the town hall. The distinctive dome design was based on the Bourse de Commerce in Paris.

It is one of only three corn exchanges in the UK which still operate as trading centres. The original function was as a gathering place for farmers and merchants to trade grain.

As agricultural trade declined it was closed in the 1980s. It was initially suggested that it be renovated and turned into a concert hall before re-opening as a shopping centre in 1990.

The photo is published courtesy of photographic archive Leodis, which is run by Leeds Library & Information Service. They also run heritage blog The Secret Library Leeds, which provides a behind the scenes look at the Central Library and highlights from its special collections, including rare books hidden away in the stacks.

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