Leeds nostalgia: Royal occasion for Leeds Civic Hall

The scene outside Leeds Town Hall as King George V and Queen Mary arrived in the city.
The scene outside Leeds Town Hall as King George V and Queen Mary arrived in the city.
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EIGHTY years ago this weekend, King George V was in Leeds for the opening of the Civic Hall, which took place on August 23, 1933.

It was one of the proudest moments in the history of the city. A crowd of people numbering in the tens of thousands thronged into the city centre as King George V and Queen Mary made their way to the Town Hall and past a statue of Queen Victoria, which at that time stood in front of the steps but has since been removed to Woodhouse Moor.

The king officially opened the new building using a golden key to unlock the wrought iron gate at the main entrance.

The building was designed by E Vincent Harris with 90 per cent of the workers used to build it being taken from the unemployment register. The cost of the building was £360,000 and the towers are 170ft high and topped by guilt bronze owls made by John Hodge - each of the owls weighs half a ton and are 6ft 6 inches in height.

An interesting story surrounds the key used by the king to unlock the hall in that it went missing some time after being used and was found on the other side of the world more than 60 years later.

It was returned from New Zealand on June 7, 1993 after having been missing since 1933. The gardens erected in front of the Civic Hall once included the £3,000 Coronation Foundation erected in 1953 and demolished a year later.

A plaque marking the Golden Jubilee of the Civic Hall was unveiled by Lord Mayor Martin Dodgson on August 23 1983 when the council leader was Coun George Mudie - the dates on the facade are 1926 and 1933.

The event was captured on a rare piece of footage which has been made public by the Yorkshire Film Archive as part of its Yorkshire Calendar, a 60-second video clip which is updated with a topical event every week.

Graham Relton, archive manager, explained: “Yorkshire Calendar is something we have on our website but it’s also something other people can put on their own websites and it’s completely free.

“We update it every week with something new and there is always a link to something that’s going on at the moment, whether it’s an anniversary of something to do with sport or an official occasion.

“We have over 17,000 items in our collection, about 4,000 of which we know quite a bit about. The idea is to make these films, many of which have been donated to us and include footage which has never been seen before, more accessible to people.

“It’s part of Yorkshire’s history and we think it should be shared and enjoyed. We have all kinds of films, from those covering national events like the opening of Leeds Civic Hall in 1933 by King George V and then more mundane things like home videos, which show how life was for ordinary people.

“We’d like more people to visit our website to view the videos and we’re always happy to work with other people and groups. We have some interesting films coming up in the next few weeks.

“These will include a fathers vs daughters cricket match at Hunmanby Hall in 1949 on August 26, which we are linking to Scarborough Cricket Festival, on the week commencing September 2, a back to school event in Wakefield in 1966; for September 9, we have some beautiful footage from Staithes from around 1953, which we will be linking to the Festival of Arts and Heritage.

“After that, we have some footage of the opening of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Halifax in 1954 and toward the end of September a film to mark the establishment of the Milk Marketing Board 80 years ago.”

Find the archive at www.ycalfilms.co.uk/www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com

This week’s clip: the opening of the Civic Hall in Leeds by King George V (1933), can be viewed at www.ycalfilms.co.uk/2013/08/19/week-commencing-19th-august