Leeds nostalgia: Street at heart of the city

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Today it is home to major retailers from Gap and Top Shop to Marks and Spencer, but the importance of Briggate stretches back more than 800 years.

One of the oldest streets in Leeds, it was constructed at the turn of the 13th century. It led to and from the north side of Leeds Bridge and its importance grew at the same rate as the city.

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By the 17th century, Briggate was home to The Moot Hall where local dignitaries would meet to discuss the local issues of the day.

That building was eventually demolished and all that remains of it is the statue of Queen Anne which once decorated the front and which is now housed in Leeds Art Gallery.

Briggate also played a small, but significant part in the English Civil War when a pitched battle was fought along its length. The Battle of Leeds began on January 23, 1643 and saw a Parliamentarian forces, led by Sir Thomas Fairfax, take the town from the Royalist forces of Sir William Savile, who had dug a 6ft-deep trench from the west of Briggate to the banks of the River Aire by way of defence. Unfortunately for Savile, it proved no match for the 1,000 musketeers and 2,000 foot soldiers Fairfax had assembled from Bradford and Halifax.

While walking down Briggate today on a busy Saturday afternoon can often feel like doing battle as the crowds make their way from one end of the city to another, it is a much gentler place these days.

With the restoration of the arcades on either side of the street, many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, over recent years Leeds has built a reputation as the shopping capital of the north of England and Briggate remains at the heart of the city centre just as it did all those centuries ago.

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