Reunion for Stourton: the village that disappeared

IT had been a thriving Leeds village since the days of the Industrial Revolution.

More than 2,500 people made their home there and it was an entirely self-contained community with pubs, clubs, shops and churches.

But in the 1970s, Stourton as it used to be, was simply wiped off the map.

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The area, between Rothwell and Hunslet, was earmarked for clearance and over a period of years hundreds of homes were demolished.

The site was turned over to industry and where family houses once stood now there are huge commercial warehouses, factories and businesses.

The only thing that remains of the Victorian village is a lonely memorial remembering those from Stourton who gave their lives in the two world wars.

While it might be gone, it is not entirely forgotten, though – thanks to the efforts of former Stourton Liberal WMC committee member Ashley Knowles.

Ashley has amassed a wealth of information about the village and its past.

And he is now hoping to bring those memories to life by organising a reunion of people who lived in the "village that disappeared".

Mr Knowles, 63, who lives in nearby Hunslet, said: "Stourton really boomed during the Industrial Revolution – it was built as workers' housing which was desperately in demand. The Copper Works employed thousands alone.

"When the motorway came in the early 70s, the land became much more valuable for industrial use than it was for housing so it was designated for clearance.

"The ironic thing is that Stourton was cleared to make way for industry and to create new jobs, yet such a short time later a lot of the industry itself has died out. The Copper Works for instance employs just a fraction of the people it used to.

"It was a creeping process but absolutely everything was gone by 1990. It was incredible, really, you just cannot imagine it happening now."

Among the photos and other memorabilia going on display at the reunion are old school photographs – including one taken at the old Stourton Infants School in the late 1950s.

Mr Knowles is particularly keen to trace any of the children in the photo – who might be around 60-years-old now – and would love to see them at the reunion.

The back of the photo says it is 'Mrs Robinson's class' but does not give an exact date.

Mr Knowles, a former bus builder and now a guide at Temple Newsam House, said: "People are always asking me about Stourton and what became of the residents who lived there.

"Over the years we have held a couple of reunion-type events. It gives everyone the chance to get together and share their memories of Stourton and to meet old friends and neighbours."

The meet-up takes place at the Punch Clock Hotel in Thwaite Gate – the closest meeting place to old Stourton – on Saturday. There will also be a pie and pea supper and a Know Your Stourton quiz.

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