Leeds nostalgia: The birth of City Square in 1903

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This week’s ‘blended picture’ shows City Square looking up towards Infirmary Street. It was taken in 1903, the same year City Square was formerly opened, having been laid out by architect William Bakewell.

the image shows a combined public stand for Hackney Carriages and tram terminus. The General Post Office (still standing) can be seen on the left and was built in 1896, while the main backdrop is the now demolished Standard Life Assurance Building, now replaced by 1 City Square, which has been praised for its iconic design.

City Square was created between 1896 and 1903 because Leeds City Council wanted to improve the space near the Post Office. Over the years it has taken on many guises, even being fitted with bomb shelters during the Second World War.

Infirmary Street, of course, takes its name from the infirmary, which has its origins way back in 1767, when a meeting was called at the New Inn to discuss creating a provision for the sick and injured people of the town.

To begin with, a private house belonging to Andrew Wilson, on Kirkgate, was rented for this purpose but in March 1771, the institution moved to a new building which had 26 beds on what would become known as Infirmary Street.

The infirmary was funded from donations and subscriptions, including from wealthy benefactors and also church collections and money from other organisations.

One particularly original way of making money came in 1809 when surgeon William Hey dissecting the body of a criminal, Mary Bateman, in public. The event raised a sum of £80 14s. In 1868, the Grade I listed building, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was opened by the Prince of Wales and Florence Nightingale was consulted on its needs.

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