Last week’s ‘historical curiosities’ was well received by readers, so here are a few more...
While the lawnmower might not have been invented in Leeds, it was certainly popularised by a Leeds business. Founded in 1835 as a wire making business, Thomas Green & Son, based in Hunslet, also made boilers, washing machines and even steam rollers. They began selling lawnmowers in 1850 and by 1907 were making 10,000 a year. Mowers were made of all shapes and sizes, including a 30 inch mower designed for sports ground and even an engine driven 42-inch mower. There was a tractor which towed several mowers and was designed for golf courses. The business was sold in 1951 and Thomas Green died in Roundhay in April 1892.
Arguably one of the best ideas Leeds has ever had but could it ever happen today? It brought together children from all Leeds schools for a day of sporting fun. Crowds of 10,000 regularly watched the festivities and in 1949 even Her Royal Highness, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen) attended. Leeds Children’s Day festival queen was 14-year-old Joan Fox that year and she presented a bouquet of roses to Her Royal Highness but as she was leaving the stage, the Duke of Edinburgh stood and bowed to her out of courtesy.
The first bus lane in Leeds opened in September 1983 between Portland Crescent and Blackman Lane, on the run up to the Parkinson Building. It was in operation from 4pm to 6.30pm but when a YEP photographer was dispatched to the scene just after 4pm, he found most motorists ignoring the new restrictions.
Britiain’s first permanent traffic lights were installed on Park Row at its junction with Bond Street in 1928. How strange it must have been to have to stop and wait when the red light shone. If only they could see us today…
During the Second World War, bunkers were built just about anywhere, with many people creating their own bomb shelters in their gardens. There were also several built in city square and they were only demolished in July 1946, when workmen climbed atop the structures and began taking them down with sledgehammers. At that time, everyone wanted to forget about the war.
Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit author J R R Tolkien spent several years in Leeds while he worked as the University. It was said that he enjoyed walking on Otley Chevin and also in Meanwood Valley and that he may have drawn inspiration from some of these places to describe the magical worlds he created in his books.
The cats owned by Leeds philanthropist John Harrison (1579-1656), had the run of his house, quite literally. Harrison was a renowned cat lover, who modified his abode to include a maze of tunnels and small doors to allow his pet cats to gain access to different areas.
The story is one of many related by Leeds historian Ralph Thoresby in his Ducatus Leodiensis, which was first published in July 1715.