Leeds nostalgia: The day the road to Leeds transformed a city

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Fifty years ago in Leeds there was still a train station on Wellington Street, the area behind Leeds Civic Hall was largely open and Quarry Hill Flats were still standing.

The details are shown on the main picture (below), which also shows the Town Hall, City Square and the cleared site for the new (now old) Yorkshire Post building, which, of course, was demolished some years ago.

The black and white aerial picture, taken around 1968, shows just how much the city has changed in a little over half a century.

Central Station in Leeds closed on May 1, 1967 but in this picture, one can still trace the railways lines leading into the old station. It opened in 1854, as a joint station between the London and North Western Railway, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the Great Northern Railway and the North Eastern Railway. It replaced the cramped LNW terminus at Wellington Street, which had opened in 1848 with the line to Dewsbury.

Quarry Hill Flats were not demolished until 1978, having been built in 1938. The largest complex of its kind in Europe at the time, it was revolutionary in its day but ultimately the building did not last long. The same can also be said for the old Yorkshire Post building on Wellington Sreet. When it was built in the 1960s, the owners of this newspaper proudly declared the building would see them for the next hundred years. In the end, it was more like 40.

The site had been home to Bean Ing Mills, built in 1792 by Benjamin Gott as the world’s first woollen mill and at the time of the picture being taken, some buildings can still be seen skirting the edge of the site.

It was a far cry from the early 1820s, when stagecoaches would take four days to travel from Leeds to London.

Competition from railways saw the time slashed to just 20 hours

Leeds was a city on the move. The M1 motorway had just opened and the city was being opened up like never before thanks to the building of the inner ring road - it was a transport revolution, the like of which the city has not seen since.

The extent of the new motorway network can be seen in the picture above, which shows the newly opened stretch of the M1 but note how the M62 trans-Pennine road is yet to be built.

The road network truly transformed Leeds from a series of separate townships into one city. It was a far cry from the early 1820s, when stagecoaches would take four days to travel from Leeds to London. Competition from railways saw this time vastly reduced however to the point where York to London horse-drawn coaches completed the journey in just 20 hours and that included stops along the way and changes of horses.

Hand in hand with this road-based revolution came the first estates. In Seacroft, whose village green dates back to the 18th century, high rise flats were being built, while other formerly rural parts of the city made way for the construction of housing estates, among them Wyther Estate, followed by ones in Meanwood and Middleton.

In an edition of Changing Leeds, published in 1968 and from which these two images were taken, it was noted: “Gipton estate was so recently a district of farms that streets upon it, the Oak Trees, derive their name from one.”

Coldcotes Road, for example, preserves a name which goes back centuries.

Gipton itself dates back to Saxon times, it was even mentioned in deeds during the reign of Edward I, who came to the throne in 1272.