Leeds visions of future from past

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In 1926, as the Yorkshire Post marked the tricentenary of the city with a special edition, three leading public figures were asked to predict what the future held for Leeds.

Sir Charles Wilson MP said he saw a city of 3m people with “tree lined avenues” and schools to “radiate the wisdom of ages in new and attractive guises”.

He saw a Leeds criss-crossed by “broad thoroughfares” adding of the populous: “Humming with contentment, there shall be no complaining in our streets.”

He did get some things right. He said: “Electricity and gas will replace coal fires, smoke will disappear and the cerulean blue of the sky will charm all beholders.”


Another public figure, John Arnott, Lord Mayor, predicted the city would grow, reaching out into its suburbs as “the rich who once thought it desirable to live in the city centre” moved ever to the edge of the city.

He also forecast “all schools in Leeds being of the secondary type and every child capeable of taking advantage of a secondary school education, getting it as a matter of course.”

He added: “There is no inherent reason why an artisan should not have had as good an education as a great surgeon.” He suggested better general education would result in “an increase in culture and taste”, as “artisans took a share in the management of industry.”

Meanwhile, Dr Arthur Hawkyard, while warning of the “yellow peril” and “black peril”, as he put it, was more pessimistic in his outlook and said the only way the city would survive and thrive in the future would be if a ship canal was built connecting it with Hull.

He said: “The only source of help... is a ship canal from Hull to Leeds. If we can get that, I see Leeds as a greatest distribution centre in the North.” He even called for the creation of a commission.