City of Leeds
A history of Leeds
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Note:Remember to click on any photo to enlarge it (opens in a new window).
A house in Kirkgate was used as an Infirmary. However, it was not open to everyone. Those excluded from using it were "No woman big with child, no child under six years, no person disordered in the senses, suspected to have small-pox, VD, the Itch (scabies), other infectious distempers, those who were apprehended to be in a dying condition or incurable." Very quickly is was found a new hospital was needed as the house was woefully unsuitable.
It was very soon discovered that the current hospital was inadequate, & a new one was needed to handle the needs of the sick in Leeds. The first purpose built Infirmary was constructed on the site that is now the old former Main Post Office in City Square, & what is now Cloth Hall Court in Infirmary Street. The area at the time was considered to be in the countryside.
The first back-to-back houses built in Leeds. A back-to-back house is where one house backs onto another. You have access only from one side, one room deep, there is no back to it. Property developers bought large areas of land & built cheap back-to-back houses which they rented to the workers.
Type: I back-to-back were very cramped, one room on the ground floor next to the entrance & one upstairs, sometimes an attic room as a second bedroom. Often built around a small courtyard, which added to the squalor & disease, or very narrow streets. The living room was also the kitchen, with a cooking range to provide the heating & the means of cooking food.
There was no running water or waste system. There was a shared pump to provide water for cooking, etc, No toilet, in the early ones it was usually a wooden screen around a hole in the ground. Later there was what was called a privy–shared public toilet. These were outside. These slum homes could have a family of 5-10 or even more living in it. The streets were narrow, as were the roads & pavements so they could build more. Over time slightly better ones were built, with an attic, a cellar, two rooms on the first floor (Second floor to Americans).
Type: II back-to back had a living room on the ground floor & a very small kitchen/scullery, two bedrooms on the first floor & an attic room on the second floor. The streets were wider, there was an outside toilet (Called a privy) which was shared by 4 or more homes. You can see the yard where the toilets were in the second photo from the right in type: II photos above.
The more spacious Type: III was similar to the Type: II, but it had a small garden or yard, & it's own privy in the cellar. It was still considered unsanitary to have a toilet inside so you could only access it from the outside.
The spread of disease & the cholera epidemic of 1832 was not helped by the insanitary & cramped conditions of these houses. This lead to new laws in 1886, which controlled the quality of new homes that were built.
Leeds was not the only city to have them, but it had more than any other city. Leeds did not outlaw such houses like other cities did & many more were built before the 1909 Housing & Town Planning Act outlawed all back-to-backs, by declaring such accommodation unfit for human habitation. Back-to-back houses continued to be built in Leeds until the 1930s because of a rush to gain planning approval before the 1909 law, & why Leeds still has over 30,000 back-to-back houses, even though they are classed as slums by the 1909 Act.
In the 1970s the clearance & redevelopment was the favourite way to deal with the slums & many areas were raised to the ground. By the 1980s all of the Type: I had been demolished, most of the Type: II & III had been improved & had inside bathrooms, resulting in one less bedroom. A larger (Dormer, as in the pic above of the Type: III) window was put in the attic to give more space. They were still considered unfit for human habitation though. Yet many people preferred then to the tower block flats that were more expensive to heat & less personal.
Due to the massive regeneration, redevelopment & improvements back-to-back houses are now considered a favourite with owner occupiers & renters. Many landlords also consider them a good investment.
A new prison was opened in Leeds called Leeds Borough Gaol, then known as Armley Gaol, then Armley Jail, It is now officially called HM Prison Leeds, but known locally & by inmates as Armley Jail. It was a grim & forbidding place. The perfect idea of the Victorian's view of a penal institution. It took over from York Castle which until then had housed & executed all the prisoners in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Between 1864 & 1961, when the death penalty was finally repealed, 93 men & one woman were executed at Armley Gaol.
A new market opens in the centre of Leeds. Outside is the open air market where Michael Marks opened his Penny Bazaar in 1884, leading to the founding of Marks & Spencer in 1890. Before the market was built the area was a slum.
The new Leeds Town Hall was opened by Queen Victoria after a rush to finish the tower in time. It use to house the Bridewell which was the cells for prisoners waiting to appear in court, until the 1993 when magistrates courts were built. Until then the Town Hall served as the courts. The name Bridewell (The correct name being the Central charge office) is a slang name which comes from a prison for vagrants & petty offenders in London, near the church of St. Brides. When the Town Hall was built not only did it house prisoners it had accommodation for the gaoler & his wife.
The new Corn Exchange was in fact the third one to be built. The first first had been built in the seventeenth century at the top of Briggate. This was replaced in 1827 by the second Corn Exchange, also at the top of Briggate (left pic, above) , in what is now New Briggate. The building looks round from the outside, once inside you can see it is actually oval.
On Saturday the 13th of December 1975 a fire started in the market. The fire was discovered at about 18:30, half an hour after the market had closed. The cause is still undetermined. Some say it was an electrical fault, others an overturned paraffin heater, many believe it was caused by an aerosol hairspray can in a hairdressers stall. As panic spread between the stallholders & staff who were still there, so did the fire. Stallholders tried to put out the fire, but it spread so quickly through the maze of stalls made of wood filled with cloth & many other fast burning stock, all had to run for their lives through the maze of burning stalls & thick, black smoke. The smoke & flames were so intense they could be seen fifteen miles away.
Over 100 firemen, with 15 pumps & 221 jets tried to save the market. Before they could bring the fire under control most of the roof had collapsed. It is a miracle that everyone got out alive. The fire caused over £7 million worth of damage (About $13 million). The market hall & the top section of the market were saved, & reopened 3 days later. The second photo above shows the top section of the market on the bottom left corner, the third photos shows the top section on the right & partly out of view. The lower part of the market was completely destroyed. By July 1976 a new hall had been built, sadly out of brick & metal, which does not add to the superb look of the old Edwardian market section that survived.
The Civic Hall was opened by King George V & Queen Mary. Amongst other things it is the office of the Lord Mayor of Leeds (Who's full title is The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of the City of Leeds), & the City Council.
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