The Brick Man - How plans for a unique Leeds landmark bit the dust

Did you know Leeds was once poised to have its very own equivalent of the Angel of the North?

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 12:36 pm
This man-sized replica of the giant sculpture was unveiled at Leeds Art Gallery in September 1988 before the scheme was eventually turned down.
This man-sized replica of the giant sculpture was unveiled at Leeds Art Gallery in September 1988 before the scheme was eventually turned down.

Back in 1988 city councillors took a decision which deprived the city of (or saved it from, depending on your point of view) a unique landmark - the Brick Man.

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Standing 120ft tall, the sculpture was due to be built on Holbeck Triangle, unused scrubland near Leeds city station, which council chiefs had long earmarked for a sculpture park.

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Sculptor Antony Gormley with a maquette of The Brick Man.

The colossus was to be built of out 120,000 bricks and would have taken 41 weeks to complete with work earmarked to start in the summer of 1989.

A man-sized replica of the giant even went on display in Leeds City Art Gallery in an attempt to win hearts and minds.

Yet despite having some plaudits, the project by artist Antony Gormley, the man behind the Angel of the North which celebrates its 22nd birthday on February 16, was never built.

The idea has it supporters but your Yorkshire Evening Post wasn't among them. It campaigned against the £600,000 project after a phone poll revealed 800 people in favour but more than 2,000 against it.

This mocked up photo by your YEP is what The Brick Man would have looked like.

Then Councillor Richard Hughes-Rowlands said it reminded him of King Kong, adding: "If Mr Gormley is talking about it going elsewhere my eyes won't exactly be weeping tears."

Gormley had threatened to pull the plug on the Leeds scheme because his planning application suffered a seven-month delay.

Then Leeds City Council leader Coun George Mudie said of the YEP poll: "I am delighted but not surprised with the formidable common sense of the Leeds public. The result demonstrated the scheme should not go ahead."

He added: "Their common sense contrasts sharply with the airy-fairy views of celebrities who don't live within 100 miles of the city."

The Leeds Brick Man would have been the largest sculpture in the UK. Eyesore or not, it would have been a draw for curious tourists and a must-see for locals.

The sculpture was to be hollow inside, with a door at one heel and two tiny windows where the ears were, so people would be able to wander in and peer up into the empty gloom.

The only reminder of Gormley's imagined obelisk stands just 6ft tall in Leeds Art Gallery in the form of a scale replica.