Leeds City







There was a Roman paved ford across the River Aire but, apart from that and the road from Ilkley to York passing north of the city, little ancient remains have been found to exist in the district.


After the conquest, the manor of Ledes was granted to Ilbert de Lacy along with many more estates from Lancashire down into Lincolnshire, but it grew slowly as it had no strategic importance, and Ilbert preferred using his castle at Pontefract as a base. He did build a castle in Leeds but probably the original timber structure was never replaced by stone, as was usual. When the harrying of the north took place in 1086 however Ilbert's lands escaped much of the destruction suffered by other regions.


Construction of the abbey at Kirkstall was begun in 1152 by Cistercian monks on land provided by Ilbert, and it was they who introduced the sheep farming that was to bring woollen trade wealth to the town. This developed into a thriving cloth and clothing manufacturing industry. Engineering was also introduce to the area by the monks when they established the original Kirkstall Forge adjacent to their Abbey.


Leeds was a poly focal town, the parish church lying half of a mile east of the manor house (in City Square) joined, west to east, by Call Lane and Swinegate. In 1207 a bridge was built over the River Aire near the ford, and a road (Briggate) running north from it was laid out containing over thirty burgage plots. In 1379 a population of only around 300 is recorded. Although there was stone quarries around the town the houses remained of wood with thatched roofs through the ages.


By the reign of Edward III weaving had been introduced utilising the readily available wool from the abbey at Kirkstall, and by 1400 the Thwaite Mills fulling mill was finishing cloth. The newly produced cloth was traded at an open air cloth market near Leeds Bridge, but the rapid growth of the textile industry by 1711 demanded a White Cloth Hall being built, which in turn had to be replaced three times by larger buildings.


The 3rd White Cloth Hall, the worlds most important white cloth market for a century, still stands in the Calls. A cloistered building around a central courtyard. It was however cut across diagonally by the arrival of the rail line in 1865, and the rail company was obliged to build a 4th cloth hall.


The town having passed into the hands of John o' Gaunt became part of the Duchy of Lancaster during the War of the Roses. The size of the town can be assumed by it being described as being near Rothwell, and when Richard II was held prisoner at Leeds in 1399, he was taken to the much more important Pontefract Castle for execution.


Having reverted to the crown under Henry IV the town was garrisoned by Sir William Savile as a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War. In 1643 Sir Thomas Fairfax left Bradford with a Parliamentarian army twice the size of Savile's, and Leeds bridge being defended and the next bridge to the west at Kirkstall destroyed, he crossed with his army, to the north of the River Aire, at Apperley Bridge. Swinging northwards he approached Leeds down Meanwood Valley and formed his troops on Woodhouse Moor. When surrender was not achieved, Fairfax quickly encircled the town, and after two hours of fierce fighting in a ferocious snow storm he had taken the town.


The following year warfare took second place to the inhabitants of Leeds when an epidemic of plague broke out causing 1300 deaths.  The weekly market was moved temporarily to the nearby village of Bramley.


When King Charles I was captured following the Battle of Newark in 1646 he was imprisoned in Red Hall in Leeds on his way to Newcastle.



Britain Tour



Kirkstall Abbey


Thwaite Mills


The 3rd White Cloth Hall


The Leeds Bridge


The Market Building


The Re-housed Museum


The Original LGI, with St Georges Church Beyond


My Old School (Now Council Offices)