In 1905 a memorial statue of Queen Victoria was erected in Victoria Square in 1905. During the early years of the century there were some additions to the streets that were to become the Headrow. In 1908 Lloyds Bank was built on the Lowerhead Row, and in 1911 Pearl Chambers was built on Park Lane. But the most important changes came from 1928-1932, when the streets that made up the main east-west route through Leeds were widened to create the Headrow, and a new street, Eastgate, was created.
The Widening of the Headrow
A new East-West Route through Leeds.
For a long time it had been recognised that there was a need for an east west route on the northern edge of the town. T J Maslen, writing about Leeds in 1843, said that: 'At some future time a great thoroughfare will be found to be necessary from East to West in the northern part of Leeds, and it would be wise to begin early and provide a grand wide street for that purpose. The best line that at present offers for its formation is Park Lane, Guildford Street, Upperhead Row, Lowerhead Row, and Lady Lane; and thus form a junction with Quarry Hill. This grand thoroughfare should be 30 yards wide throughout.'
Eighty one years later, on 6th May 1924, the Leeds Corporation Improvement Committee approved a scheme for the widening of these streets which almost exactly matched Maslen's ideas. The plan was submitted to the Council for approval, which was granted on 4th June 1924. The reason for the scheme was that the only east west route through, the city, Boar Lane, was very congested and, with increasing traffic would only get worse. An alternative east-west route had to be provided. Also the Lowerhead Row was at times almost impassable because of the narrowness of the street. Various alternatives were considered involving changes to Commercial Street, Bond Street and Kirkgate, but widening these street would have been very difficult.
The new street was to be 50 yards wide, with wide pavements, making a total width of 80 feet. It would be half a mile long, running from the Town Hall, along Guildford Street, the Upperhead Row, and the Lowerhead Row to Mabgate Circus where it would link up with Regent Street. The scheme for widening Regent Street had already been approved; together the new roads would provide a much needed new route running west and then northwards from the city centre. The total cost was estimated at £500,000.
The scheme meant that properties on the north side of the existing streets would have to be demolished. This meant that Parliamentary powers would have to obtained, and the Leeds Corporation Act 1925, was passed which gave compulsory purchase powers to the Corporation to acquire land for the construction of the street. It was important to begin the work as soon as possible. Property on the south side of the route was already being improved, whereas on the north side there had been very little recent alteration. The corporation was anxious to proceed with the acquisition of these properties before improvements raised the purchase price.
Part of the site, between Cookridge Street and Albion Street was already owned by Leeds Corporation. Almost the whole of the north side of the Upperhead Row was owned by Wade's Charity. This was a charity set up by Thomas Wade in 1530; it provided funds for the provision of open spaces, and improvements for the benefits of the public and the Trustees were sympathetic to the Corporation's plans. However, although negotiations began in 1925, difficulties over land ownership meant that it was not until 1929 that the corporation had bought all property required for the completion of the scheme. The total cost of the property was £712,593. Demolition began in 1927, but was not completed until 1932. In 1927 the Corporation obtained Parliamentary powers to allow building work to begin, and so avoid land lying idle, with no rateable value, and therefore no income to the Corporation.
Building the New Street
From the start it was felt that development along the new route should not take place in a piecemeal fashion, but that there should be a unifying theme to the new buildings. The City engineer was responsible for all building works, but it was felt that an architect should be employed for such an important scheme, and in December 1925 the Corporation engaged Sir Reginald Blomfield to design the buildings which would front onto the new street. Other architects, notably G W Atkinson, were also employed on the scheme. The buildings, in English Renaissance style, have facades of red brick and Portland stone. At various points along the length of the buildings, and at the corners, are 'pavilions' with columns, balustrades and decorative urns. The windows have metal frames, and the shopfronts bronze glazing bars and fascias. Portland stone was chosen to resist blackening from soot which had affected the Town Hall and other buildings made of local stone. Work on the new road went on at the same time as the demolition of the old buildings and their replacement with new properties.
Choosing a Name.
In 1928 the Yorkshire Evening Post held a competition to find a name for the new street. Readers were asked to send in 'a name which is dignified and euphonious, and which tells all the world that Leeds has a street second to none in the country.' Thousands of suggestions were sent in from all over Yorkshire. Names such as Avenue Imperial, Loinersway, Magnificent Road, and The Pygmalion. From all the names sent in the Lord Mayor and others selected twelve names: Broadway, Leedsway. Maingate, Park Lane, Queensway, Red Hall Street, Templars Gate, The Crossway, the Headrows, Uppergate, Wadegate, and Wideway. A competition was then announced to choose the most popular name. People were asked to select the name they thought most appropriate, and then to put the 12 names in voting order. Over 15,000 entries were sent in.The competition was won by fourteen year old Miss G A Silversides of Cawood, who correctly forecast that Broadway would be the most popular name, and also put the other names in the correct order of popularity. The Headrows came third in the list, but nevertheless was chosen as the name for the street. Later the final 's' was dropped and the name became the Headrow.
|Click images to enlarge|
Headrow under construction
Upperhead Row, looking west
Lowerhead Row, looking east
Blomfield's design for Headrow buildings
Aerial view, before completion of Eastgate, 1930
Headrow complete, 1952
Headrow, looking east, 1952
Headrow, looking west, 1952
Headrow, looking east towards Eastgate, 1944