Site Home
 



Topic Home


Cloth Halls

The first White Cloth Hall.
Merchants from other towns visited Leeds to buy broad cloths, just as Leeds merchants went to markets in, for example Wakefield, to buy other types of cloth. But Leeds was on the edge of the cloth producing district, and Leeds merchants were worried that clothiers would prefer to travel to a more central site to sell their cloth.

In 1710 the merchants of Wakefield, in an attempt to attract business away from Leeds, built a cloth hall to house their market. This was far superior to the Leeds market, being indoors, and protected from the weather. It was an incentive to the Leeds merchants to do the same, and a cloth hall for the sale of white (undyed) cloth was built on Kirkgate on a site provided by Lord Irwin of Temple Newsam with 1000 given by merchants and tradesmen. According to Thoresby, the hall was built on the site of some old almshouses. Quoting Thoresby, it was 'built upon Pillars and Arches in the form of an Exchange, with a Quadrangular Court within.' The new White Cloth Hall was built and open for business by 1711, although some white cloth was still sold in Briggate. This building is still standing, in part, in 2009, but is in need of funding for restoration.

The Second White Cloth Hall.
The Leeds cloth hall soon proved too small, and in 1755 the clothiers financed the building of the second White Cloth Hall on a site south of the river on Meadow Lane. The building was 70 yards long by 10 yards wide and three storeys high.

The Mixed or Coloured Cloth Hall.
Meanwhile, the mixed or coloured cloth makers, still using the market in Briggate, also wanted a cloth hall of their own. An additional incentive was the 1775 Improvement Act which proposed increased market fees to pay for alterations to Briggate.  A piece of land in the 'Park' was bought from Richard Wilson. It is now the site of City Square and Infirmary Street. The hall was financed by the clothiers themselves who contributed between 2 10s and 7 10s each.
The brick building was 120 yards long, and 66 yards wide, with a central courtyard. Each wing of the building was divided into two 'streets', each street having two rows of stands. On market days it was used by 1770 clothiers; a clothier could buy a single stand for 2.10s. The hall, the largest ever built in Leeds cost 5,300 and opened in 1756.  The central courtyard could hold 20,000 people, and was used for public meetings where the steps served as a platform for the speakers; in 1880 Gladstone addressed a Liberal Party meeting there. A small octagonal building, the 'Exchange' or 'Rotunda' was added to the main structure, and this was used as an office by the trustees who were responsible for the running of the property. The hall was demolished in 1890, and replaced by the Post Office building in City Square.

The Third White Cloth Hall
Even the larger facilities at the second White Cloth Hall soon proved inadequate, and with the opening of a rival cloth hall at Gomersal, the Leeds merchants met in 1774 to plan the building of yet another hall in Leeds. Most of the money for the scheme came from the wealthy Leeds merchants, and a site was found on a piece of land called the Tenter Ground in the Calls. The hall was built around a large central courtyard, and at the northern end it was two storeys high, with assembly rooms on the upper storey. The Hall was built at a cost of 4,300, and opened in 1775. In 1776 the running of the cloth hall was passed from the merchants to the clothiers, and a Committee of Trustees was appointed to be responsible for the organisation of the cloth market.

The central yard of the cloth hall was sometimes used for spectacular public events, as in 1786 when Mr. Lunardi made a 'balloon ascent from the area of the White Cloth Hall, amidst the plaudits of 30,000 people.'

Fourth White Cloth Hall
In 1865 the White cloth Hall was demolished to make way for the railway, and in 1868 the railway company built a new hall, on King Street. This fourth White Cloth Hall was never fully used, and was demolished in 1895. To-day the site is occupied by the Hotel Metropole: the cupola on the hotel roof was once part of the cloth hall.

Tom Paine's Hall
Clothiers were not allowed to use the cloth halls unless they had served a seven year term (later reduced to five years) of apprenticeship in the trade. Anyone wanting to sell cloth who had not served this term, the 'Irregulars', had to use a separate building, first in Meadow Lane, and then from 1792 on the ground floor of the Music Hall in Albion Street, which became known as 'Tom Paine's Hall.'
Click images to enlarge
First White Cloth Hall
First White Cloth Hall
Second White Cloth Hall
Second White Cloth Hall
Mixed or Coloured Cloth Hall
Mixed or Coloured Cloth Hall
Mixed Cloth Hall, interior
Mixed Cloth Hall, interior
The Exchange
The Exchange
Ticket for Mixed Cloth Hall
Ticket for Mixed Cloth Hall
Political meeting, 1880
Political meeting, 1880
Main gateway of Third White Cloth Hall
Main gateway of Third White Cloth Hall
Third White Cloth Hall, c. 1973
Third White Cloth Hall, c. 1973
Advertisement for Mr Lunardi
Advertisement for Mr Lunardi
Fourth White Cloth Hall, 1868
Fourth White Cloth Hall, 1868




Site Map

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