Landmark Leeds city centre building to reopen in new guise

LANDMARK: Jim Heaton outside the old Heaton's building.
LANDMARK: Jim Heaton outside the old Heaton's building.
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Almost a century after Henry Heaton’s Clothing Company was founded its landmark building is to reopen in a new guise. Juliette Bains reports.

Jim Heaton was devastated when his famous family business had to close its factory 23 years ago.

But the man who took over great-grandfather Henry Heaton’s Clothing Company returned to Heatona House this week to see the building get a new lease of life.

After being derelict for more than 10 years, the grade II-listed building, now known as Crispin House, will open in May as Crispin Lofts - an 82-apartment housing scheme with a gym and retail unit.

During the 1970s the landmark building in Leeds’ Northern Quarter churned out over 3,000 items of clothing a week.

Jim started work at Heaton’s in 1959 at the age of 17 and estimates that almost 1,000 employees worked in the building on the corner of North Street and New York Street.

Jim, 70, said: “My great grandfather Henry Heaton was one of those totally self-made men. He started work down a mine at the age of five and went on to work as a policeman, a level crossing keeper and kept a pub in York.

“He came to Leeds as a grocer and had a chain of grocery stores, then came across this chap who was making skirts in Leeds and bought a half share in his business and it took off from there.

“It was very much a family business and we were world leaders in manufacturing children’s smart coats.

“Leeds was such a centre for the clothing trade, with Burton’s being the biggest name at the time.

“When we sold Heatona House it was the end of an era.

“It is an iconic building and I loved working there, everyone did. We were a very friendly business to work for.

“All the family have been sorry to see the place languishing and we are delighted that somebody is sorting it out.”

It was built in 1915 by Henry Heaton and sold in 1979 to bootmakers HW Poole & Sons, who re-named it Crispin House after the patron saint of bootmaking.

Leeds based property company Rushbond Group acquired the building, which is the biggest ever build-to-let scheme in Leeds.

Kevin Grady, director of Leeds Civic Trust, said: “Leeds Civic Trust is absolutely delighted that Rushbond has acquired another key city landmark and is returning it to its former glory with a viable use that will safeguard its future.

Richard Baker, development surveyor at Rushbond, said: “From an environmental perspective the re-using of building is important and there is a certain charm to refurbishment space.”