The Saxon Cross in Leeds is the oldest historic monument in the city, being almost a thousand years old. It was discovered in fragments and had been built into the walls of Leeds Parish Church in about 1838 - it can still be seen inside the church, now Leeds Minster. It is thought to commemorate Anlaf, King of Northumbrian Danes, who died in AD 942. Some parts of the cross are replacement stones.
According to the church: “One of the bottom panels tells the then well-known story of the pagan hero, Weland the Smith, who having offended his king, escaped in a flying machine, possibly used here as a parallel for Christian stories and beliefs.” In a lecture in November 2014, Prof Howard M R Williams said: “It is important to remember some of the missing pieces have been restored and are not original, so the precise details of many scenes are open to multiple interpretations.”
IT’S CALLS IN A NAME
The Calls in Leeds is one of the oldest parts of the city. It dates back to Medieval times. The origins of the name (caul) are obscure but it could mean either ‘weir on a river to divert water to a mill or stream’ or from the Latin ‘callis’, meaning track. It was here, in the 1770s, merchants built the First White Cloth Hall, the oldest and some say most important building.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Lighting decoys were built to confuse the Luftwaffe during air raids in the Second World War. They were called Q-lights, a name derived from the Navy’s Q-ships, which were disguised as merchant vessels meant to lure U-boats so they could sink them. Several sites were constructed around Leeds in 1940, including in Thorner, Barwickin-Elmet, Swillington, Chidswell, Emley and Meltham Moor. Other decoys called Starfish were also used.
LET THERE BE NO LIGHT
There are no lights inside the main council chamber inside the Civic Hall in Leeds. The lights for the chamber are located outside the windows.
Did you know Otley had an MP before Leeds? In fact, it had two. Leeds’s first MP was Adam Baynes, who was returned in 1654. Did this have anything to do with King Charles I being held prisoner in Red Hall in Leeds for one night in 1646? Some believe this ‘put Leeds on the map’. Leeds lost its MP in 1660. In 1661 Charles II granted Leeds a new charter, installing a mayor, 12 Aldermen and 24 councillors. It would be 1832 (thanks to the Reform Act) before it had its own MP again.
A crater on the moon is named after Anne Sheepshanks from Yorkshire - it is approximated 25km long. Sheepshanks lived from 1789-1876 and was born into the wealthy Sheepshanks family of woollen manufacturers. After her brother, Richard, died, she devoted much of her energy (and money) to supporting astronomical endeavours.
HIPPOS IN LEEDS
In 1851 workmen in Wortley uncovered some large bones. They were so large one said ‘they could not be Christian’. Upon later examination, they were found to be from a hippo, an elephant and an auroch (an extinct species of ox), which it is thought would have roamed the area about 100,000 years ago.