Great Fire in Leeds - How the city's clothing industry rose from the ashes

It was the devastating blaze which became known as the Great Fire in Leeds.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 4:30 pm
A postcard view of the Great Fire in Leeds. PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
A postcard view of the Great Fire in Leeds. PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

These three postcards showcase the ferocity of the blaze which consumed a clothing warehouse on Wellington Street in the city centre in July 1906.

It was built in 1881 it was designed as a warehouse and factory for clothing giant Hepworths and became a shop in 1888.

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A postcard view of the Great Fire in Leeds. PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

After the fire the burnt-out building, at the junction of Thirsk Row, was rebuilt and continued to be occupied by Hepworth's until the early 1920s. At sometime it was used as offices by the Leeds Wholesale Co-operative Society.

Hepworths was started by Joseph Hepworth in 1865 at premises on Bishopgate Street. At one point Hepworth was operating from Marshalls mill in Holbeck. The company had their own retail outlets, specialising in men's suits. When the tailoring industry began to lose customers to foreign imports the company began to focus on other retail outlets, launching 78 of their stores as 'Next' in 1982.

The images are 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.

A postcard view of the Great Fire in Leeds.

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