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Seventeenth Century

In a survey carried out in 1628 Briggate is described as: 'a large and broad street (paved with stone), leading directlie North, and continuallie ascendinge.  The houses on both sides thereof are verie thicke, and close compacted together, beinge ancient, meane, and lowe built:and generalie all of Tymber; although they have stone quarries frequent in the Towne, and about it, only some of the few richer sort of Inhabitants have their houses more large and capacious; yet all low and straightened on their backsides.'

One of the 'richer sorts of inhabitants' was Richard Sykes, a leading figure in the establishment of Leeds Corporation in 1626, and  who became mayor of Leeds in 1629.  He built a house on Briggate in 1613, which survived until the twentieth century.  The picture was taken around 1900.  Another example of a timber-framed seventeenth century house survives in Lambert's Yard.  It was built around 1600, and has 'jettied storeys', which means that the upper storeys project beyond the storey below.

The 1628 survey tells us more about Briggate: 'In the middle of the streete (towards the upper end wheare the Market place standeth) is built the Court or Moot House (as they terme it) and from thence upward are the Shambles, with a narrow street on both sides, much annoying the whole Towne; yett for theire inconveniencie, and want of room, not to be avoided or placed elsewhere'.

In the late Middle Ages, a row of houses and shops had been built on a piece of land in the centre of Briggate, just above the junction with Kirkgate.  It was called Middle Row, and divided Briggate into two narrow streets one housing the butcher's shambles, and the other the raw wool market.  The Shambles was the place where the butchers had their stalls; it was also where animals were slaughtered.  In 1615 the Moot Hall was built at the end of Middle Row, facing south down Briggate.  It was used as a Town Hall and courthouse, and the pillory and stocks stood in front of it.

The Moot Hall was paid for out of money given as charitable bequests, on condition that the rents should go to the poor.  However, the town bailiff, John Metcalfe, appropriated the rent from the upper rooms for himself.  He was found out, and ordered to repay the money.  To avoid a similar incident happening again, the Committee for Pious Uses was formed to oversee the town's charities.

Beyond Middle Row was the Market Cross which was given to town by John Harrison, the great Leeds benefactor, who also built St. John's Church in 1631.  This was at the top of New Street, which would later become New Briggate.






Click images to enlarge
House built in 1613 by Richard Sykes
House built in 1613 by Richard Sykes
Lambert's Yard, timber framed house
Lambert's Yard, timber framed house
The Shambles
The Shambles
St. John's Church, engraving
St. John's Church, engraving




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