Leeds property news: the day Churchill visited Leeds and how PoWs built houses in Farsley

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On this day in 1942, Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Leeds Town Hall as part of the war effort.

The city was given only two hours notice of the visit but still, some 20,000 people turned out to hear him speak. It was important to bolster the war effort and to keep people giving and signing up.

During the course of the war, some 100,000 men and around 10,000 women enlisted for duty and the people of Leeds raised over £7m.

A bomber cost about £20,000 and a fighter plane about £5,000. Leeds raised enough to buy bought 250 bombers and in City Square there was a ‘cashometer’ next to the statue of the Black Prince.

During Ark Royal week (June 23-July 3, 1943) the people of Leeds raised a staggering £7.2 m, smashing the £5m target.

Although Leeds largely escaped German bombing and certainly wasn’t as badly affected as London and other cities, it still had its fair share, enduring nine raids in total, the worst of which came on the night of March 14, 1941.

That affected Beeston, Bramley, Armley and Farnley.

The image above shows some of the damage caused by German bombers, although which street it is unclear. Note, however, in the far right corner, the barrage balloon. These were huge, probably three times the size of a cricket pitch and half filled with helium, being tethered to a lorry or other vehicle with a steel cable. They were designed to thwart enemy air attacks, because if an aircraft touched the cable, it would be brought down, while if the balloon exploded, it would take the aircraft with it. They also posed a risk to people on the ground, however, because if they did explode, the cable would have to fall somewhere.

It was said that there was a hidden entrance to a war bunker somewhere in City Square but precisely where remains a mystery.

In Leeds, there were also two prisoner of war camps. There was No 244 on Butcher Hill, West Park and No 91 Post Hill at Farnley.

The image below, taken on August 25, 1940, shows some German POWs working on roads in Farsley, although they may have been brought in from Otley to carry out the work. They were working on Farfield council estate off Richmond Road in the Cote Lane area.

In a previous letter to the Yorkshire Post, reader David Swallow noted: “This shows prisoners of war working on the new Farfield council estate off Richmond Road in the Cote Lane area... My wife’s uncle drove a tank out of Farnley where there was a big military presence on the Horton-Fawkes estate. There is still a mark on the building which at the top of Bridge Street which he caused by not taking the corner properly.”

Meanwhile, reader Richard Wilson noted: “The farm in the picture was on the West side of Cote Lane, North of Richmond Road so I suggest that the picture was taken just to the West of the junction of Richmond Road and Farfield Drive. The farm supplied milk to local people and after the war one the POWs worked for the farmer.

“The prisoner’s name was Kurt (can’t remember his surname) – a lovely fellow. He stayed in the area quite a while and had been trained to fly bombers and been shot down. He obtained a commercial flying licence in this country – probably at Yeadon Aerodrome.”