|Leeds Kirkgate Market is one of the largest markets in Europe. There are 800 stalls and 100,000 people visit it on a Saturday. It is as popular with shoppers as it ever was, with people coming from as far away as Newcastle, Hull and Sheffield to shop there. In fact, after being runner up two years running, in January 2016 Kirkgate won the ‘Britain’s Favourite Market’ award, beating competition from around 100 other markets. |
The market opens from Monday to Saturday, including Wednesday afternoons. On every first and third Sunday of the month, there is a Farmer’s market, with people from the surrounding district bringing produce and craft goods to sell.
As well as the indoor market, on Monday to Saturday there are also over 200 outdoor stalls with Monday’s selling second-hand clothing; Wednesday’s Asian bazaar; Thursday flea market; and Tuesday, Friday and Saturday being general market.
The market is currently undergoing a huge refurbishment. Work began in early 2015 on the now over 13m project, which is set to be complete by the end of 2016. The refurbishment involves a programme of maintenance and renewals, ensuring the buildings are efficient to run and comply with health and safety legislation.
Other notable changes include:
- The 1976 hall will be retained, graced with new purpose and new roof coverings. Around 114 permanent stalls from the hall will be removed and replaced by a daily covered market with pop-up stalls, cafés and an events area. This will see the introduction of themed events such as Victorian, French and Moroccan, as well as specialist markets over Christmas and a live entertainment stage.
- Fish and Game Row will be merged with Butchers Row, where businesses from the latter will relocate to create one entire fresh produce area where customers can come and do their whole weekly shop in one place. Heavy drain work and ventilation will be taken out in this area to protect and preserve the fish being sold.
- The market will undergo an overhaul in appearance, with the creation of a brighter, cleaner and more welcoming look to the location, bringing it more up-to-date. This includes the addition of clear signs, screens and maps all around the buildings, as well as the possibility of creating giant murals. Though Kirkgate Market’s traditional colours will be retained, the shades will be bolder and more vibrant.
- New pedestrian routes will be constructed, linking the George Street, New York Street and Vicar Lane entrances. Butcher’s Road will be demolished, with all traders moving to the new fresh produce area. Shops facing George Street will also be demolished.
- The history and heritage of the markets won’t be forgotten, with several hidden features uncovered during the refurbishments set to be displayed and documented throughout Kirkgate for all to see. On top of that, the market’s renovation will see the return of the popular ‘block shops’ which were lost in the fire of 1975.
- A new roof is being installed over the markets to complete the extensive refurbishments and preserve the buildings for many years to come. It is set to fit right in with the markets new modern and innovative architecture, providing the perfect shelter for stall-holders and customers in all-weathers.
Initial plans for the Market’s redevelopments were hit with some criticism, especially from traders who felt that the council using market profits to pay-off the revamp was ill thought-out. Although the news of a grand-scale refurbishment was generally met positively and seen to be “about time” by many locals, sacrifices have had to be made with several traders being temporarily or even permanently displaced, making way for the changes the renovations are bringing.
Many of the outdoor sellers have also argued that the way the market’s refurbishments are being carried out has resulted in a downturn in trade. They believe that despite the market remaining open, from some entrances, the market appears closed to passing shoppers and because of that, there are less customers and their trade is suffering. Other stallholders fear the market is being transformed into an “expensive food hall” which in turn means their prices will need to be put up and that also will then put off long-standing customers.
Leeds City Council state they have minimised trade disruption as best as they can, but have also acknowledged the potential lack of custom by reducing stallholders’ rent by 20% whilst the more major work takes place. They’re also of the opinion that when the £150m Victoria Gate opens its doors in Autumn 2016, the market traders will benefit from more custom than ever before.
Kirkgate Market has its own website www.leedsmarkets.co.uk with news, events, recipes and trader profiles.
But surely nothing can beat a trip to the market itself, where as well as being able to buy everything from tripe to computer games, you can experience over 180 years of market history and see the redevelopments for yourself.
There is also the opportunity to book on a Kirkgate Market heritage tour where you can not only learn about the history of the markets but also take a tour of the current Kirkgate Market and have a look at further plans for the redevelopments.
|Click images to enlarge|
Aerial view, 1992
Market hall, 1999
Butchers Row, 1999
Gateway to outdoor market
Stands in outdoor market