The history and future of Leeds' Tower Works - from factory to thriving rental community

It’s a building we are all familiar with, the magnificent towers guiding us into the city as the train trudges ahead into Leeds station.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Tower Works, one of Leeds' most historic sites, is undergoing a regeneration. Photo: Tony Johnson

Tower Works, which sits next to the railway tracks in Holbeck, is one of the most historic buildings in Leeds

Founded by T.R Harding in 1864, the Globe Road site was originally a factory which made steel pins for carding and combing in Leeds’ thriving textile industry.

The original buildings were designed by architect Thomas Shaw, and later Thomas Walter Harding, Harding’s son, commissioned William Bakewell to extend the works in 1899.

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The ongoing building work as July 2021. Photo: Steve Riding

All three towers are Grade II listed and the designs were heavily inspired by Italian architecture at the time.

The largest tower, the 'Giotto Tower' is inspired by Giotto's Campanile in Florence, which is an iconic piece of gothic architecture and forms part of the Florence Cathedral.

The Verona tower is the smaller tower, based on the Torre dei Lamberti, while the newer Little Chimney tower is inspired by medieval Tuscan towers.

Tower Works closed as a working factory in 1981 and was unused until the land was purchased in 2005.

Tower Works and Leeds and Liverpool Canal 22nd January 1951.

Now part of the Holbeck Urban Village regeneration project, Tower Works is undergoing redevelopment to become a residential village.

There will be two new residential buildings with one, two and three-bedroom built to rent apartments and duplexes.

Three new public squares are planned around each of the site’s iconic chimneys.

Building company Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has started ground works, and the scheme is being delivered by Richardson and Ask Real Estate in conjunction with Homes England and with funding from Legal & General’s Build to Rent Fund and Access Development Partnership.

CGI images of what the regenerated Tower Works should look like.

Legal & General also recently built the build-to-let Mustard Wharf development, which they were inspired to do after seeing the Tower Works sites.

Head of Build to Rent at L&G, Dan Batterton, said: “We knew we wanted to invest in Leeds.

“That area just south of the station has traditionally been a bit unloved and is an area of regeneration.

“We originally wanted to develop Tower Works because of the heritage of that location, and it was actually the original driver for us to look at Mustard Wharf.

“It's just really exciting to be involved in bringing that area back to life.

“We've been trying to develop Tower Works for about four years and it's only now we've just managed to get to the point of being able to start construction on site.

“We didn't own the land but we've wanted to build that for a long time.

“We've got a chance to really create a special community right in the heart of the city.”

Mr Batterton added: “The design has been worked on with the council on and off for five years, to ensure that the visibility and the importance of those towers is retained.

“What we're building that as lots of access routes so that that becomes a public space around those towers, so people coming from the train station and going through Holbeck working their way down to all the breweries and the bars will will naturally flow through that site, a site that has pretty much been closed to the public for decades and has not been an attractive place for people to get to.

“There are some offices in there [Tower Works] but other than that, it's a closed area, and so it will be opening that up as a new event space, and it will have restaurants and bars around the square on the ground floor level.

“The intention is that it becomes a destination, in the same way that granary wharf has become a destination with the bars and restaurants.

“This will become a natural extension of that.

“A lot of the thinking has been around placemaking - how can we make it an attractive place for not just our residents, but the Leeds population generally to come to.”