Leeds funny place names: From Mabgate to Charlie Cake Park

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From the saucy to the the romantic, the historic to the silly, the city of Leeds and beyond is home to a whole host of unusual street and place names. Reporter Stuart Robinson looks at some of the real stories that lie behind those names.


The origins of the name Charlie Cake Park may well be one of the city’s sweetest stories.

Local legend in Armley, where the park is a much-loved feature of the local community, has it that a pedlar named Charlie used to sell popular cakes and pastries through the Pudsey, Kirkstall and Bramley areas.

On his travels through the various towns of the district, Charlie was said to have often rested his horse on the triangular-shaped patch of land at the top of Armley Town Street, which was officially called Whingate Park.

The baker was said to have sold his wares to local residents- including shortcake in the same triangle shape as the park- and quickly became a popular figure.

So much so that the patch of land, which was originally owned by the Gotts Family, became known as Charlie Cake Park after the pedlar’s death.

David Bootle, is chairman of the Armley Common Right Trust, who look after the areas of common land dotted around Armley and organise a string of annual events in the area.

He told the YEP: “It’s a piece of local folklore and one explanation for the name of the park that’s stuck.

“People say he used to come down and sell his cakes and they were very popular so they re-named the park in his honour.

“It’s nice to have these bits of local history in the town and it’s a name that really sticks in your mind.”

The name of Charlie Cake Park has spread far beyond Armley too.

The park features in best-selling novel A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford, which is partly set in Leeds.

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ON the face of it, the name Mabgate may seem fairly innocent.

And thousands of people every day must travel through the area, which lies just outside the city centre, without knowing the saucy origins of its moniker.

But the truth behind the name is that Mabgate is thought to have once been home to one of the city’s red light districts.

The name is actually believed to have come from the original title of Mable-gate, which has since been contacted to the current name.

According to the experts here in Leeds, Mable was a middle English term used to describe “loose women.”

Kevin Grady, director of local heritage chiefs the Leeds Civic Trust explained: “Mabgate was one of the old Medieval sections of Leeds.

“The suspicion is that ‘Mabgate’ was an abbreviation of ‘Mable” which in those times was a word for a prostitute.

“So in those days at any rate, perhaps that’s where these ‘loose women’ could be found.”

These days Mabgate is better known for a being the home of a number of industrial units and businesses which have set up in the area.

It is also one of a string of areas across the city with “gate” in the name, which harkens back to the city’s medieval roots.

And Dr Grady said he believed it was good to see some of Leeds’ long and rich history was still reflected in its place names.

He said: “The great thing is that this is a testament to the fact that modern Leeds still has its roots in its medieval origins, which is demonstrated by some of the names that still exist today, like those with Gate in the title.

“For example, we still have Briggate and Kirkgate in the city centre.”


A TOUCHING gesture lies at the heart of the story behind Chapel Allerton’s Canadian Estate.

In a little patch of the village just of Harrogate Road a number of streets named after parts of Canada can be found by anyone who cares to look.

The estate of around a dozen streets include Ontario Place, Toronto Place, Montreal Avenue.

The name may seem like the modern whim of a trendy developer, but the truth lies with a tribute to the wife of the former owner of the land.

According to local history buff Mike McGrath, who lives on Regina Drive, one of the streets in question, the Canadian Estate derives from the wishes of the family of famous clothing manufacturer Sir John Barran, who served as Mayor of Leeds from 1870 to 1871.

Mike told the YEP: “Sir John and his family owned the land and it was specified that when houses were built there, streets would be named after Canadian places. That’s because Sir John’s wife was Canadian.

He added: “If you count them up, there must be about a dozen streets which have Canadian names.

“We’ve lived here for about 30 years now and I still get confused by all the different names.

“But I suppose it’s something a bit different from other areas where all the street names sound the same as everywhere else.”

Flats built on the site of the Dominion Cinema and Bingo Hall are named Dominion Close in reference to Canada.

The street name Alaska Place has also been mistakenly included in the estate- Alaska actually being part of America.


CASTLEFORD’S Tickle Cock Bridge made headlines across the country when a row erupted over its cheeky name.

The well-known underpass was one of a host of features in the town that were given a much-needed makeover back in 2008.

The bridge behind, the Carlton Lanes shopping centre has been known as Tickle Cock for more than a century and has historically been recognised as a popular place for courting couples to go.

And so fond of the name were local residents that a plaque bearing the name Tickle Cock was unveiled at the site after over-50s Castleford group Castleford Area Voice for the Elderly (CAVE) campaigned for an old plaque with the name of Tittle Cott to be replaced by Wakefield Council.

Speaking at the time, Chairman Margaret Shillito said: “We are pleased with the plaque as Tickle Cock is how the bridge has been known for generations.

“We love the name, it’s got character and history, and this is Castleford – we don’t want a name there for posterity that is wrong.”

Castleford Coun Denise Jeffery unveiled the plaque and said: “Some people do call it Tickle Cock and some don’t but residents have pressured us to put this plaque back to how they felt it should be, and we’ve done that.

Leader of Wakefield Council Coun Peter Box, said the bridge “represents the rich history and community spirit of Castleford.”

The underpass was originally improved through the Channel 4 television series, Kevin McCloud and the Big Town Plan in 2008 and was given further improvements in a bid to halt vandal attacks.

The revamp included recycled glass, and fish created by schoolchildren.