Site Home
 



Topic Home


1600-1800

In 1626 the first Leeds Corporation was created. The corporation, according to the Borough Charter was 'Lord of the Market', responsible for the running of the market and for the collection of the market tolls. By this time, the most important industry in Leeds was the making of woollen cloth, and during the seventeenth century the Briggate cloth market became increasingly important for both national and international trade. By 1684 the expansion of trade meant that the cloth market was moved into the lower part of Briggate. The position of the cloth market and the other markets in Leeds are shown on Cossins map of 1725.

Daniel Defoe, writing in the 1720's gave a detailed description of the cloth market at Leeds. Clothiers from the surrounding district brought their cloth to sell in Leeds. The bales of cloth were displayed on wooden trestles on either side of the street, where they were inspected by the merchants, who chose the cloth they wanted, and agreed a price with the clothier. The market began at 7 o'clock in the morning and was over by 9 o'clock. As soon as the cloth market finished and the trestles were removed, other market traders set up their stalls, to sell a variety of goods.

Ralph Thoresby, the Leeds historian writing in 1715 gives us a description: 'the market people of other professions, as Country Linen Drapers, Shoo-makers, Hard-waremen, and the sellers of Wood Vessels, Wicker Basket, Wanded Chairs, Flakes (fences)etc.; the fruit sellers both wholesale and retail; the farmers selling dairy cattle; the fish traders; the butchers in the Shambles behind the Moot Hall; the egg, butter and poultry sellers; and the corn traders'. There was a horse fair in the Upper Headrow, the Pig market in the Lower Headrow, and between the Market Cross and New Street was the corn market. In other parts of the town, Thoresby says, there was sold 'whatever is necessary for the comfortable Sustenance of Mankind, though too tedious particularly to recite.'

In 1711, in order to successfully compete with other towns in the district, the Leeds merchants built the first White Cloth Hall, and the cloth market was moved there from Briggate. The White and Mixed Cloth Halls were the pride of Leeds, and important visitors to the city were taken to see the markets in operation, as in 1768 when the King of Denmark paid a visit to the Mixed Cloth Hall.
Click images to enlarge
Leeds in 1715
Leeds in 1715
Cossins Map of 1725
Cossins Map of 1725
The Shambles
The Shambles
Site of the First White Cloth Hall at 100 Kirkgate, 1923
Site of the First White Cloth Hall at 100 Kirkgate, 1923
Plan of Mixed Cloth Hall, 1847
Plan of Mixed Cloth Hall, 1847




Site Map

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