Site Home
 



Topic Home


Corn Exchange

In the seventeenth century the Leeds corn Market was situated at the top of Briggate, between the Market Cross and New Street (now New Briggate). In 1827 a corn exchange was built at the top of  Briggate, but by the middle of the nineteenth century this had become inadequate for Leeds traders.

In 1860, a new corn exchange was proposed, and a meeting took place between cornfactors and the Markets Committee, who gave the Edinburgh Corn Exchange as an example of the type of building needed in Leeds. The Edinburgh exchange had a large central space where farmers and cornfactors transacted their business.

A competition was advertised, inviting architects to put forward a design for the building. The three prizes were awarded to first, Cuthbert Brodrick, who had also designed the Town Hall and the Mechanics Institute, (now the Civic Theatre), second another Leeds architect William Hill, and third, Lockwood and Mawson of Bradford. The builder was Samuel Addy who had built the clock tower on the Town Hall; the roof was constructed by Butler and Co. of Kirkstall Forge. Mr. Cairns was the clerk of works. The total cost including the site was to be 25,000.

A site was chosen near Kirkgate market, and the first stone was laid on 7th May 1861. The building was held up by finding several Bell Pits on the site. These are pits made as a result of digging for iron ore. The building is oval in plan, two storeys high, over a basement, and built of local sandstone. The grey slate roof is a huge oval dome, made of wrought iron and timber. Each storey has a row of arched windows and above these was a decorative frieze of garlands and ox skulls, and an inscription. CORN EXCHANGE ERECTED  A.D. 1862. There is much detailed masonry work, including a parapet with a clock, a coat of arms and decorated with swags and scrolls.

Inside there is a large central space surrounded by offices, each with an arched doorway. Those on the second storey open onto a balcony with iron railings and are reached by a staircase. There were 56 offices, some of them opening directly onto the street, the others into the interior of the building. Underneath the building is a huge basement area, where the corn was stored. For a time it was also used as the headquarters of the fire brigade.

Business transactions between the corn farmers and the corn factors took place in the large central space on the first floor. The sample trays where farmers displayed samples of their corn, the name boards and the merchants desks can still be seen. The only source of natural light was the glazed central panel of the dome. A second area of glazing was later added on the north side.
Click images to enlarge
Old Corn Exchange built 1827
Old Corn Exchange built 1827
Plan of the New Corn Exchange from 'The Builder', 1861
Plan of the New Corn Exchange from 'The Builder', 1861
Engraving from 'The Builder', 1861
Engraving from 'The Builder', 1861
Map showing position of the Corn Exchange, 1889
Map showing position of the Corn Exchange, 1889
Interior, 1915
Interior, 1915
Exterior, 1929
Exterior, 1929




Site Map

© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003