Leeds nostalgia: lunchtime talks with Thoresby theme

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The history of Leeds is to come under the spotlight again on Wednesdays in February when Leeds Civic Trust director, Dr Kevin Grady, presents another of his series of four half-hour Wednesday lunchtime public lectures. Dr Grady will be giving the 8th annual series of lectures. Previous series have been extremely popular attracting audiences of over 200 people to the landmark Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane.

The half-hour lectures are free to attend and no booking is necessary. This year there will be a special emphasis on marking the tricentenary of the publication of Ralph Thoresby’s massively influential Ducatus Leodiensis, which was the first proper in-depth history of the city and served not only to record people, places and events in 1715 but arguably bolstered the reputation of Leeds as an emerging power in the north.

Ducatus Leodiensis changed the way Leeds was viewed by the outside world and by Loiners themselves. The mammoth tome was begun by Thoresby in the 1690s and took him over 20 years to publish, owing to the fact printing was then in its infancy, with many firms unreliable and fires commonplace.

The book also offers insight into what ate 17th and early 18th century Leeds was like.

Dr Grady said: “This year’s lectures are a series of linked snapshots of Leeds over the 300 years since Ralph Thoresby published his topographical survey of Leeds, Ducatus Leodiensis, in 1715.

“One of Leeds Civic Trust’s key roles is to promote interest in Leeds’ history and heritage. My lectures aim to tempt city centre workers to nip out of their offices to Holy Trinity Church at lunchtime to enjoy half an hour of the fascinating history of Leeds. The lectures are very enjoyable to prepare and aim to be fun to see and listen to. The attendances in the last few years have been astonishing.

“People keep coming with such enthusiasm that giving the lectures is very worthwhile. The lectures are free and no booking is required. As in previous years, the lectures will be full of surprises.”

The lectures will be as follows:-

Lecture One on 4 February: ‘Ralph Thoresby and Kirkgate in 1715.

This lecture celebrates the 300th anniversary of the publication of Thoresby’s Ducatus Leodiensis, his topographical and historical survey of Leeds. This lecture takes you on a tour of the town of Leeds in 1715 as Thoresby described it. There will be a particular focus on Kirkgate where Ralph had his house and museum and which was then a prestigious street with the homes of many of the wealthiest cloth merchants in Leeds.

Lecture Two on 11 February: ‘The Genteelest Situations’: The creation of Park Square and the Park Estate. This lecture tells the fascinating story of the attempt to create in Leeds one of the country’s highest quality Georgian residential estates in the style of Edinburgh New Town, Bath and Bloomsbury. In the mid-eighteenth century the area of today’s city centre west of Park Row was almost entirely fields. In 1768 the wealthy Wilson family, who occupied the manor house on today’s Bishopgate Street, began to develop the former medieval hunting park for high quality housing. It was to become Park Row, East Parade, South Parade, Park Square and Park Place, some of whose fine Georgian houses survive today. The downfall of the grand plan was to lie in the black smoke which later belched from the chimneys of Benjamin Gott’s woollen mill on Wellington Street.

Lecture Three on 18 February: ‘A Stranger’s Guide to Leeds in 1830: A Tardis-typed Tour Through Time.’

It is the occasion of a young gentleman’s visit to Leeds with the purpose of producing a report on the state of the town. Using an amazing profusion of contemporary illustrations, Dr Grady will guide you in great detail around the streets and buildings of Leeds, while introducing you to leading personalities of the time and the issues of the day.

Lecture Four on 25 February: ‘A City Transformed 1965-2015’: Leeds Civic Trust and 50 Years of Change in Leeds. This looks at the remarkable changes in Leeds over the last half-century and the part which Leeds Civic Trust, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has played in influencing that change.

Lectures will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds LS1, between 1.15pm and 1.45pm on Wednesdays throughout February starting on the 4th and ending on the 25th.

For further details contact Dr Kevin Grady, director of Leeds Civic Trust via email on office@leedscivictrust.org.uk or phone 0113 243 9594.