1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Leeds

LEEDS, a city and municipal county and parliamentary borough in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, 185 m. N.N.W. from London. Pop. (1891) 367,505; (1901) 428,968. It is served by the Great Northern railway (Central station), the Midland (Wellington station), North-Eastern and London & North-Western (New station), and Great Central and Lancashire & Yorkshire railways (Central station). It lies nearly in the centre of the Riding, in the valley of the river Aire.

The plan of the city is in no way regular, and the numerous handsome public buildings are distributed among several streets, principally on the north side of the narrow river. The town hall is a fine building in Grecian style, well placed in a square between Park Lane and Great George Street. It is of oblong shape, with a handsome façade over which rises a domed clock-tower. The principal apartment is the Victoria Hall, a richly ornamented chamber measuring 161 ft. in length, 72 in breadth and 75 in height. It was opened in 1858 by Queen Victoria. Immediately adjacent to it are the municipal offices (1884) in Italian style. The Royal Exchange (1872) in Boar Lane is an excellent Perpendicular building. In ecclesiastical architecture Leeds is not rich. The church of St John, however, is an interesting example of the junction of Gothic traditions with Renaissance tendencies in architecture. It dates from 1634 and contains some fine contemporary woodwork. St Peter’s parish church occupies an ancient site, and preserves a very early cross from the former building. The church was rebuilt in 1840 at the instance of the vicar, Dr Walter Farquhar Hook (1798–1875), afterwards dean of Chichester, whose work here in a poor and ill-educated parish brought him fame. The church of All Souls (1880) commemorates him. It may be noted that the vicarage of Leeds has in modern times commonly formed a step to the episcopal bench. There are numerous other modern churches and chapels, of which the Unitarian chapel in Park Row is noteworthy. Leeds is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop, with a pro-cathedral dedicated to St Anne. There is a large free library in the municipal offices, and numerous branch libraries are maintained. The Leeds old library is a private institution founded in 1768 by Dr Priestley, who was then minister of the Unitarian chapel. It occupies a building in Commercial Street. The Philosophical and Literary Society, established in 1820, possesses a handsome building in Park Row, known as the Philosophical Hall, containing a laboratory, scientific library, lecture room, and museum, with excellent natural history, geological and archaeological collections. The City Art Gallery was completed in 1888, and contains a fine permanent collection, while exhibitions are also held. The University, incorporated in 1904, grew out of Yorkshire College, established in 1875 for the purpose of supplying instruction in the arts and sciences which are applicable to the manufactures, engineering, mining and agriculture of the county. In 1887 it became one of the constituent colleges of Victoria University, Manchester, and so remained until its separate incorporation. The existing building was completed in 1885, and contains a hall of residence, a central hall and library, and complete equipments in all departments of instruction. New departments have been opened in extension of the original scheme, such as the medical department (1894). A day training college is a branch of the institution. The Mechanics’ Institute (1865) occupies a handsome Italian building in Cookridge Street near the town hall. It comprises a lecture room, library, reading and class rooms; and day and evening classes and an art school are maintained. The grammar school, occupying a Gothic building (1858) at Woodhouse Moor, dates its foundation from 1552. It is largely endowed, and possesses exhibitions tenable at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham universities. There is a large training college for the Wesleyan Methodist ministry in the suburb of Headingley. The Yorkshire Ladies’ Council of Education has as its object the promotion of female education, and the instruction of girls and women of the artisan class in domestic economy, &c. The general infirmary in Great George Street is a Gothic building of brick with stone dressings with a highly ornamental exterior by Sir Gilbert Scott, of whose work this is by no means the only good example in Leeds. The city possesses further notable buildings in its market-halls, theatres, clubs, &c.

Among open spaces devoted by the corporation to public use that of Woodhouse Moor is the principal one within the city, but 3 m. N.E. of the centre is Roundhay Park, a tract of 700 acres, beautifully laid out and containing a picturesque lake. In 1889 there came into the possession of the corporation the ground, lying 3 m. up the river from the centre of the city, containing the celebrated ruins of Kirkstall Abbey. The remains of this great foundation, of the middle of the 12th century, are extensive, and so far typical of the usual arrangement of Cistercian houses as to be described under the heading Abbey. The ruins are carefully preserved, and form a remarkable contrast with the surrounding industrial district. Apart from Kirkstall there are few antiquarian remains in the locality. In Guildford Street, near the town hall, is the Red Hall, where Charles I. lay during his enforced journey under the charge of the army in 1647.

For manufacturing and commercial purposes the situation of Leeds is highly advantageous. It occupies a central position in the railway system of England. It has communication with Liverpool by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and with Goole and the Humber by the Aire and Calder Navigation. It is moreover the centre of an important coal and iron district. Though regarded as the capital of the great manufacturing district of the West Riding, Leeds is not in its centre but on its border. Eastward and northward the country is agricultural, but westward and southward lies a mass of manufacturing towns. The characteristic industry is the woollen manufacture. The industry is carried on in a great number of neighbouring townships, but the cloth is commonly finished or dressed in the city itself, this procedure differing from that of the wool manufacturers in Gloucestershire and the west of England, who carry out the entire process in one factory. Formerly much of the business between manufacturer and merchant was transacted in the cloth halls, which formed a kind of market, but merchants now order goods directly from the manufacturers. Artificial silk is important among the textile products. Subsidiary to these leading industries is the production of machine-made clothing, hats and caps. The leather trade of Leeds is the largest in England, though no sole leather is tanned. The supply comes chiefly from British India. Boots and shoes are extensively manufactured. The iron trade in its different branches rivals the woollen trade in wealth, including the casting of metal, and the manufacture of steam engines, steam wagons, steam ploughs, machinery, tools, nails, &c. Leeds was formerly famed for the production of artistic pottery, and specimens of old Leeds ware are highly prized. The industry lapsed about the end of the 18th century, but has been revived in modern times. Minor and less specialized industries are numerous.

The parliamentary borough is divided into five divisions (North, Central, South, East and West), each returning one member. The county borough was created in 1888. Leeds was raised to the rank of a city in 1893. The municipal borough is under a lord mayor (the title was conferred in 1897 on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee), 16 aldermen and 48 councillors. Area, 21,572 acres.

Leeds (Loidis, Ledes) is mentioned by Bede as the district where the Northumbrian kings had a royal vill in 627, and where Oswy, king of Northumbria, defeated Penda, king of the Mercians, in 665. Before the Norman Conquest seven thanes held it of Edward the Confessor as seven manors, but William the Conqueror granted the whole to Ilbert de Lacy, and at the time of the Domesday Survey it was held of him by Ralph Paganel, who is said to have raised Leeds castle, possibly on the site of an earlier fortification. In 1207 Maurice Paganel constituted the inhabitants of Leeds free burgesses, granting them the same liberties as Robert de Lacy had granted to Pontefract, including the right of selling burgher land to whom they pleased except to religious houses, and freedom from toll. He also appointed as the chief officer of the town a reeve who was to be chosen by the lord of the manor, the burgesses being “more eligible if only they would pay as much as others for the office.” The town was incorporated by Charles I. in 1626 under the title of an alderman, 7 principal burgesses and 24 assistants. A second charter granted by Charles II. in 1661 appointed a mayor, 12 aldermen and 24 assistants, and is still the governing charter of the borough. The woollen manufacture is said to have been introduced into Leeds in the 14th century, and owing to the facilities for trade afforded by its position on the river Aire soon became an important industry. Camden, writing about 1590, says, “Leeds is rendered wealthy by its woollen manufactures,” and the incorporation charter of 1626 recites that “the inhabitants have for a long time exercised the art of making cloth.” The cloth was then, as it is now, made in the neighbouring villages and only finished and sold in the town. A successful attempt was made in the beginning of the 19th century by Mr William Hirst to introduce goods of a superior quality which were made and finished in his own factory. Other manufacturers followed his example, but their factories are now only used for the finishing process. The worsted trade which was formerly carried on to some extent has now almost disappeared. The spinning of flax by machinery was introduced early in the 19th century by Mr John Marshall, a Holbeck manufacturer, who was one of the first to apply Sir Richard Arkwright’s water frame, invented for cotton manufacture, to the spinning of linen yarn. The burgesses were represented in parliament by one member during the Commonwealth, but not again until by the Reform Act of 1832 they were allowed to return two members. In 1867 they were granted an additional member.

See James Wardell, The Municipal History of the Borough of Leeds (1846); J. D. Whitaker, Loidis and Elmete: or an Attempt to illustrate the Districts described in these words by Bede (1816); D. H. Atkinson, Ralph Thoresby, the Topographer; his Town (Leeds) and Times (1885–1887).