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1800-1900

The first accurate survey of Leeds was published by Netlam and Giles in 1815. It clearly shows the different types of development at each end of the Headrow. At the West End is the newly built Park Estate surrounding Park Square, with wide streets, houses with gardens, some of them with views over the surrounding countryside. There is almost no development north of Butts Hill and Park Lane. Contrast this with the narrow streets, and crowded terraces of back-to–back houses of the east end. The town centre, on both sides of Briggate and north of the Upper Head Row and Lower Head Row was a maze of alleyways, yards and courts and working-class housing.

Some development took place on the Head Row during the early years of the nineteenth century, and two contemporary accounts describe it. The 1806 Guide to Leeds states that: 'Upperhead Row……has hitherto had more of antiquity in it than any street in the town, but during the writing of this, many of the old buildings on the South side of it have been taken down, and new houses are erecting in their room.'

Edward Parsons, writing in 1834, said that:
'Upper Head Row was formerly a narrow and dangerous alley rather than a street; and its north side consisted of irregular unsightly, and inconvenient houses. The whole of this side, which was pious use property, with a most praise worthy attention to public safety and accommodation was pulled down and a handsome, regular range of buildings was reared, while the street was considerably widened, and an excellent pavement provided.'

These improvements appear to have been to the buildings fronting onto the street. A comparison of the Ordnance survey map of 1847 with maps made in 1815 and 1831 indicates that building continued in the yards north of the Upper and Lower Headrows, making them even more overcrowded.

There were several major building projects in the Head Row area in the nineteenth century:

1826-29 Corn Exchange.  
The Leeds corn market was held in Cross Parish, the area around the junction of Briggate with the Upper and Lower Head Rows. In 1826-29 a new corn exchange was built here; the architect was Samuel Chapman. An engraving made in 1829 shows the exchange with a statue of Queen Anne in the centre of the façade. This statue had been transferred from the old Moot Hall which had been demolished in 1824. The corn exchange itself was demolished in 1868. The present Corn Exchange was built in 1861-63.

1830's
Two important places of worship were built. In 1835 Oxford Place Wesleyan chapel was built on Oxford Place off Park Lane. St. Anne's Roman Catholic Cathedral opened on 24th October 1837, stood at the junction of Guildford Street and Cookridge Street.


1853-1858 The Town Hall

This was built on a site on the Head Row, Park House, was chosen for the new Town Hall, the most famous building in Leeds. The architect was Cuthbert Brodrick of Hull. The foundation stone was laid on 17th August 1853, and Queen Victoria opened the building in 1858. Even then the tower, an addition to the original design was not completed.  Brodrick deliberately planned that the Town Hall should be built towards the back of the site, to leave as much room as possible at the front of the building. When the Town Hall was opened it was surrounded by a large space, and in front of the building was 'a good sized square', (Victoria Square). The photograph from 1902 shows the original size of the square.

1873 Thornton's Buildings
A block of shops were built by Charles Thornton in 1873, at a time when Leeds was developing as a shopping centre. The architect was probably John Smith, who designed the City Varieties and Thornton's Arcade. In 1865, Thornton had opened his New Music Hall (later the City Varieties) in Swan Street. In 1876 he leased the Music Hall to John Stansfield, and with the money from the sale he built Thornton's Arcade, the first shopping Arcade in the City. The original entrance to the Music Hall was in Swan Street, as it is to-day, but in 1888 an entrance was made from the Head Row.

1884 The Municipal Buildings
These provided new rooms for the officials of the corporation, and a new public library.

1887-88 The Art Gallery
This was built beside the new Municipal Buildings.

1898 Victoria Arcade
An L-shaped arcade connecting the Upper Head Row with Lands Lane, it was designed by Thomas Ambler, and was named in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.  The arcade had 26 shops, each with a showroom above. The roof of the arcade was glazed, and there was a glazed dome over the point where the two branches of the arcade met. The Upper Head Row entrance was decorated in faience, with an image of Queen Victoria in the centre. The shop to the right of the Upper Head Row entrance was opened by Snowden Schofield in 1901, and he extended his business into several other shops in the arcade. In 1947 he acquired the whole arcade, and incorporated it into Schofield's store. The arcade was demolished in 1959 when Schofield's new store was built.

Other buildings dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and still surviving are:

Peacock's Buildings at the corner of the Headrow and Park Row which was built c. 1894; the architect was E J Dodgshun. It was the premises of Peacock and Son, warehousemen. In 1905 part of the building was occupied by the Bradford Old Bank.

Bank of England On the opposite side of Park Row to Peacock's Buildings is the old Bank of England, now called Sovereign House, built in 1862-64, and designed by P C Hardwick. The main entrance is on South Parade; the rear of the building faces the Headrow.

Athanaeum House, is in the block of buildings between Park Row and East Parade and was built in c.1890, and designed by William Bakewell.

Pearl Chambers, next door to Athenaeum House at the junction of the Headrow with East Parade, and  built in 1911 for the Pearl Assurance Company Limited, also designed by William Bakewell. It was one of the first buildings in Leeds to be built of Portland Stone. The statue on the front of the building is of Patrick James Foley, who founded the company in 1864, and as the inscription below the statue tells us, was MP for West Galway.




Associated Links
Corn Exchange

City Varieties

The Arcades

Click images to enlarge
Giles map of 1815
Giles map of 1815
Giles map, east end of Head Row
Giles map, east end of Head Row
Upper Head Row, map of yards
Upper Head Row, map of yards
Camden Court
Camden Court
Corn Exchange
Corn Exchange
Oxford Place
Oxford Place
St. Anne's Cathedral, 1903
St. Anne's Cathedral, 1903
Town Hall, c.1858
Town Hall, c.1858
Thornton's Buildings, 1930
Thornton's Buildings, 1930
Municipal Buildings
Municipal Buildings
Victoria Arcade
Victoria Arcade
Peacock's Buildings, 1944
Peacock's Buildings, 1944
Bank of England, 1950
Bank of England, 1950
Athaneum House, 1952
Athaneum House, 1952
Pearl Assurance Buildings, 1937
Pearl Assurance Buildings, 1937




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