Blue plaque unveiled at historic Leeds rail roundhouse

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A landmark seen by thousands of motorists travelling in and out of Leeds city centre every day has been awarded a prestigious blue plaque.

Paul Kirkman, director of the National Railway Museum in York, unveiled the Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque at the Railway Roundhouse, on Wellington Road, yesterday.

The Roundhouse and the adjacent crescent-shaped locomotive repair shop were built in 1847 and are the oldest surviving railway maintenance workshops in the country.

The historic Roundhouse is now home to Leeds Commercial Truck and Van Hire, which sponsored the plaque.

Chris Miller, the firm’s managing director, said: “We are very proud of the heritage of this building, which we have occupied since 1969.

“Fortunately, the nature of our business has provided a viable use for it and safeguarded it from demolition or decay.”

The Railway Roundhouse, designed by Thomas Grainger, was built in 1847 to accommodate 20 locomotives for the Leeds and Thirsk Railway.

The Leeds and Thirsk Railway was incorporated in July 1845, with the intention of joining the Great North of England Railway at Thirsk.

Opened in 1849, the line passed over the Kirkstall viaduct, through the Bramhope Tunnel and over the Wharfe Viaduct at Arthington to Harrogate, Knaresborough and Thirsk.

The Roundhouse was the main railway shed for Leeds until it was supplanted by the Neville Hill shed in 1898.

The building ceased to be used for railway purposes in 1904, with subsequent tenants including the West Leeds Motor Company from 1908.

Part of the building was also used as a drill hall by the Leeds Rifles from 1909 to 1916.

Kevin Grady, director of Leeds Civic Trust, added: “Leeds has tremendous railway heritage. The Railway Roundhouse maintained the locomotives of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway, which ran goods and passengers trains into its goods depot and the Central Station on Wellington Street.”

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