Woodbine Lizzie - Memories of a colourful Leeds character

She was the colourful character who earned her nickname for asking passers-by for Woodbine cigarettes.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 11:30 am
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

Alice Porter, or Woodbine Lizzie as she was known, was once a very familiar character in and around the city centre.

She regularly begged for cigarettes and was reputed to have shown her temper if refused. Other people have recollected that she was sometimes seen selling cigarettes from a box hanging on a string around her neck.

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Described as a 'Lady Tramp' she protected herself from the elements in several layers of old coats and an assortment of hats, including an old tram conductor's hat which also earned her the name of 'Tramway Lizzie'.

Alice was born in Stanningley in 1887. Her parents were Frederick Porter, a labourer in an iron foundry, and his wife, Priscilla. She had an older brother and sister, Harry and Elizabeth.

From the age of 12 Alice worked part-time in a mill and by the age of 13 she was earning 3 shillings and 6 pence working full-time as a worsted spinner.

When she was 18 Alice married James Richard Hartley at St. Wilfrid's Church in Calverley and following their honeymoon in Hull the couple set up home in Pudsey. Over the next few years they had six children, five of whom were boys.

During the First World War, after 12 years of marriage, Alice and her husband split up and went their separate ways.

At the age of 38 decided to change her lifestyle completely by living on the streets as a 'vagabond' - as she described herself.

At one point she walked to London but was not impressed and returned to Leeds the following week.

'Woodbine Lizzie' became addicted to tobacco during the First World War when she started smoking a pipe. She would begin her day at 5.30 am at a coffee stall in Boar Lane.

Much of the day she would rest in parks or stand for hours in one of her usual haunts like the passageway leading to The Whip public house off Duncan Street.

Her nights were often spent on Woodhouse Moor or at the back of the Seaman's Mission just off The Calls. She died in 1947 in the Stanley Royd Hospital in Wakefield.

This 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.

DO YOU REMEMBER 'WOODBINE LIZZIE'? Share your memories with Andrew Hutchinson via email at: [email protected] or tweet him - @AndyHutchYPN .

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