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Kirkgate Market - 1820-1850

It might seem that after the building boom of the 1820's, Leeds was adequately provided with markets. However there was as yet no provision for a wholesale fruit and vegetable market or a cattle market. An obvious site for another market was Vicar's Croft. This was a piece of land adjacent to the Vicarage, bounded on one side by Kirkgate, and on the other by Vicar Lane.  Giles Map of 1815 showing the Vicarage and Vicar's Croft. It was described by Edward Parsons writing in 1834 as 'a field immediately adjoining the vicarage on the west side, overgrown with weeds, and the common receptacle of every abomination. How such a place was ever suffered to exist in the centre of a large town, is indeed astonishing'. The vicarage had been given to the town by William Scott of Potternewton in 1453, and had been rebuilt in 1727. It was demolished to make way for the market, and the parishioners used part of the money from the sale to buy a new mansion for the vicar in Park Square. Future vicars of Leeds were, according to Parsons 'removed from the midst of smoke and filth and noise, to one of the most respectable, and one of the most salubrious situations in the town'.

Leeds Corporation could not afford to pay for the site, as they had no power to raise money from rates. Leeds Improvement Committee (a group of senior townspeople, elected by the ratepayers, who, under a series of Improvement Acts, had the power to levy rates to pay for improvements to the town), purchased the Vicarage, and the adjoining Vicar's Croft, under the Leeds Improvement Act of 1824.

Meanwhile, the area was already being used as an informal market. The cow and pig market had already moved there in 1822, as had the fish market and the wholesale fruit and vegetable market. Initially there were no market tolls to pay as this was a free market. Market days for the sale of cattle, pigs, fruit and vegetables were Tuesdays and Saturdays. Hay, straw and teazles were sold every day, except Sundays. The market was open until 9pm on Tuesdays and 11pm on Saturdays, and was supervised by the Clerk of the Market.

The market was a success, but there were problems. Because no tolls were paid, there was no money to pay for the upkeep of the market and there was much public criticism of the rubbish and filth that was dumped there. From 1830 tolls were levied, and improvements were made. Another problem was one more familiar to-day, and was  reported in the Leeds Intelligencer in December 1826.

The Expansion of Kirkgate Market
After the reform of local government 1835, Leeds Corporation (now often called Leeds Council), set up a Market Committee which took over the running of Kirkgate market. Between 1821 and 1851 there was a big increase in the population of Leeds, which was becoming increasingly important as a commercial centre. This meant that once again there was a need for a larger market.The council bought land adjoining the market, and demolished the property on the site, which included the squalid and insanitary Boot and Shoe Yard. The market extension was completed in 1846, and housed the cattle market, and the fruit and vegetable market. In 1855 the cattle market was moved to a site between North Street and Camp Road, and the twice-yearly horse and cattle fairs were also held there.
Click images to enlarge
Map of Leeds showing the Vicarage, 1815
Map of Leeds showing the Vicarage, 1815
The Vicarage
The Vicarage
Plan of Market Extension, 1843
Plan of Market Extension, 1843
Leeds Intelligencer, 14th December 1826
Leeds Intelligencer, 14th December 1826
Plan of Kirkgate Market, 1847
Plan of Kirkgate Market, 1847




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