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Twentieth Century

At the beginning of the twentieth century Briggate was a thriving, fashionable shopping centre. The brochure for the Leeds Traders special show week in 1909, described the changes: 'No city in England can boast a more wonderful transformation than that witnessed at Leeds during the past two or three decades………. The centre of Leeds has been practically re-carved and polished since then. Nearly the whole of the ramshackle property that skirted the east side of Briggate has been demolished, and on the sites have been erected a class of shop property that would do credit to any city in the country.'

The photograph shows Briggate in the early 1900s, busy with carriages and horse-drawn trams. You could shop in the Queen's Arcade, and Thornton's Arcade, visit Lockhart's Cocoa Rooms for refreshment, and then spend some more money in Hope's Department store!

Large stores opened in the buildings put up by the Leeds Estate Company, on the east side of Briggate. Charles James Fox, piano dealer opened his shop on the corner of King Edward Street. It was later occupied by H & D Hart, who were still there in 1926 when the photograph was taken. It is now owned by Debenhams.

There was also new development on the west side of the street, in 1903, when properties including the Leopard Hotel Yard and the Wheatsheaf Inn were demolished to build Albion Place, and in 1904, Duncan Street was widened. The building which had been John Harrison's house in the seventeenth century, and then the Old King's Arms, and which was now used as offices, was demolished.

During the 1920s and 1930s some shops were completely remodelled, as was the case with Hitchen's the drapers, which was rebuilt in 1930s style.  In some cases, like Burtons, which occupied the ground floor of the old Imperial Hotel, only the shop fronts were altered, leaving the upper storeys in their original state.

The Sixties and Beyond.
In 1967 many of the properties built on New Briggate in the early 1900's were demolished to make way for the new Ring Road, and in the 1970s there were plans to demolish all the buildings between Boar Lane and the railway viaduct, in order to build a new shopping centre on the site. An attempt was made by the Leeds Civic Trust and the Victorian society to save the buildings. They did not succeed, although the shopping centre was never built. The buildings on Boar Lane survived but sadly the houses on Briggate, including Thomas Lee's house, (pictured on the Cossins map of 1725), and the yards behind were demolished.

When the Headrow was laid out in the 1930's, Briggate lost its place as the 'main street' of the town. Lewis's new shop and Schofields store made the shops on Briggate look outdated and old fashioned.  It wasn't until the end of the century that Briggate began to reap the benefits of investment and refurbishment, and to come into its own again.
Click images to enlarge
Early 1900's
Early 1900's
H&D Hart
H&D Hart
Hitchen's, 1936
Hitchen's, 1936
Hitchen's, 1938
Hitchen's, 1938
Burton's, 1938
Burton's, 1938
New Briggate, 1967
New Briggate, 1967




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