Gone, but not forgotten, these Leeds landmarks were once a vital part of the city but they’re no longer with us…
While we can still marvel at the amazing architecture and historical buildings that are dotted around Leeds, sometimes, it’s worth looking at what Leeds has lost over the years. From stately homes to old gig venues, swimming pools and even train stations, these are the landmarks from Leeds’ past that we wish were still with us today.
Cookridge Street Baths
Many of Cuthbert Brodrick’s acclaimed buildings are visible across Leeds, but the Oriental and General Baths on Cookridge Street has been lost. They opened in 1867 at a cost of £13,000 and were home to Turkish baths and a swimming pool, so Brodrick mirrored this in the design by fusing together Asian and European architecture. They remained in popular use until the late 1960s when the buildings were demolished and in December 2000, Millennium Square opened on the exact same site.
The Moot Hall
We’re going back centuries for this one – The Moot Hall was built back in 1618 and was based in the middle of Briggate towards its the junction with The Headrow. It served as a centre for the town’s events, even hosting Charles I when he was King of England, but was demolished in 1826 as the changing times dictated the need for a Corn Exchange. Its purpose was eventually replaced by the Leeds Town Hall.
The Original Leeds Stock Exchange
Long before London took over as the country’s central office in 1973, Leeds had its very own Stock Exchange. It was the first to exist in a provincial town when it opened in the mid-1700s at the corner of Albion Place and Albion Street. Back then, they traded stocks in various companies, but today, they trade in fruit and veg – it’s now a Sainsbury’s. You can still see one last remnant of our lost stock exchange though – there’s a lamp in a ginnel to the left of the building with ‘Leeds Stock Exchange’ written on it.
The First Corn Exchange
Nope, not that one. The Corn Exchange we’re talking about isn’t Cuthbert Brodrick’s iconic structure. This one took over the space left behind by the Moot Hall and provided a much needed outlet for Leeds to sell corn. Built in 1828 by Samuel Chapman, it was home to four shops, an inn, a hotel and a warehouse space, before being demolished in 1869 to make way for the building we see today, which offered even more space.
Mixed Cloth Hall
Did you know there was once a Mixed Cloth Hall? Coloured cloth was sold along Briggate until 1758 when a dedicated building opened at the bottom of Park Row. It was the largest building in Georgian Leeds, but when factory production of cloth picked up, its use declined. It was finally demolished in 1890 to help the development of City Square – The Old Post Office Building takes up much of the space it used to occupy.
Seacroft Hall was an extravagant stately home built by the influential Shiletto family in 1605, which came complete with large grounds and an ornamental lake. The Wilson family took it over in the 19th century until 1936 and it soon fell derelict. Leeds City Council bought the site and demolished the hall in the 1950s, filled in the lake and built what is now known as the East Leeds Academy. There are still remnants of the building remaining – there’s a dip in the school’s grounds which tells you where the old lake was filled in and you can find its Georgian fireplace at Leeds City Museum.
There are two to pick from here, because Schofield’s had two classic buildings on the same Headrow site from its opening in 1901 until 1987. The first was a set of gothic-style Victorian buildings with an arcade running through the middle. From the 1950s through to 1967, the store was reconstructed, making more space in a typically 60s, no-nonsense Brutalist building that became synonymous with the city, much like the company’s name. After being bought and sold numerous times since the 1980s, it’s now The Core.
Bean Ing Mills
Considering the scope of the Industrial Revolution across the UK, it’s some feat to have been the home of the world’s first woollen mill. That honour goes to Bean Ing Mills on Wellington Street, where the Yorkshire Post Building also stood. It was built in 1792 by local industrialist Benjamin Gott, and as well as being the world’s first woolen mill, it was also one of the biggest. It continued producing until the mid-1960s when its use was no longer required, and it was demolished ahead of the journalists moving in.
Leeds Central Station
The city’s original railway station was not the one we have today. Leeds Central Station was further down Wellington Street – it opened in 1854 as a joint station servicing the London and North Western Railway, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the Great Northern Railway and the North Eastern Railway. However, with the advent of Leeds City Station in 1938, it was only a matter of time before they consolidated the stations and the last train rolled out to Harrogate in 1967, with Lifting Tower at Wellington Place standing as the only reminder of its existence.
Knostrop Old Hall
Knostrop will ring a bell for those of a certain age. It once stood where Cross Green Industrial Estate stands today, and was home to some of the most impressive houses in all of Leeds. One of the finest was Knostrop Old Hall, a Jacobean mansion built in the early 17th century. It was first home to the Stables family before passing into the hands of a number of important and powerful people, and finally being sold for just £50 in 1959. This sealed its fate, however, as the whole of Knostrop was cleared to make way for the new estate – a crying shame if you ask us.
Leeds International Pool
A quite stunning example of the ‘love it or hate it’ architecture of the 1960s, Leeds International Pool was an iconic building, as much for its controversy as its purpose. The building often found itself shut for repairs, and then the architect John Poulson was convicted of fraud not long after its opening in 1967. That being said, it was well used by locals and its unique design became a noticeable landmark, but as the years passed, its services were moved to other, newer venues, and it closed in 2007, becoming a hub for vandalism before demolition in 2009.
Once upon a time, a successful band or artist wouldn’t have made a jaunt around the UK without stopping at the iconic Queens Hall on Swinegate. The curved building was the place to be, with the likes of The Beatles, AC/DC, Joy Division, The Clash, The Who, Kiss, The Rolling Stone and The Jam all rocking up to headline the venue over the years. It closed in 1989, however, and multiple proposals for the plot’s future have been made, but for now it continues to just serve as a car park – a real shame.
Before Horsforth was a thriving Leeds suburb, it was a small village out in the sticks. It started to grow when the famous Stanhope family bought a fifth of the land from Henry VIII and created what would become the village’s centrepiece for over 200 years. Horsforth Hall Park was finished in 1707. It stayed in their possession until the 1930s when it was donated to the people of Horsforth. After two decades of neglect, the house was knocked down, but its grounds were maintained as Horsforth Hall Park.
The Brunswick Building
A fine example of 1970s architecture, The Brunswick Building was once one of the cornerstones of Leeds Beckett University’s offering and was even used as the setting for a number of TV shows with its futuristic look. Blending big blocks of concrete with black glass panelling, it was a jungle of lengthy staircases and sky scraping walls, but it fell a victim to the need for progress in 2008, and was demolished shortly after, making space for the First Direct Arena which opened in 2013.
The Empire Palace Theatre
The Empire Palace Theatre was one of the most important buildings in Leeds. When it opened in 1898, it had the new mod-cons of the time, including an electric light, sliding roof and fireproof curtain. It went on to become the city’s variety theatre, hosting a host of music and comedy legends, from Frankie Howerd, Harry Secombe and Shirley Bassey to Eddie Cochran, Adam Faith and Gene Vincent. By the 60s, it was too small for the shows that were touring, so it was sold off to open the Empire Arcade, which itself was knocked down in 1996 to make way for Harvey Nichols.
Here’s a newer one – The Bookends are no longer plural. The construction of Victoria Gate and John Lewis, has meant saying a farewell to Millgarth police station, although that was less of a heart-wrench than the adjacent south terrace of Eastgate. It was home to renowned boozer Hoagy’s and a number of shops, flats and eateries, but in 2014, the future beckoned and it meant knocking down one of The Bookends to make enough space for the new development. Was it worth it? Only time will tell.
Yorkshire Evening Post Building
Opened in 1970 by Prince Charles, the Yorkshire Evening Post building on the corner of Wellington Street, was loved by some and hated by others. It acted as something of a gateway to the city, and the classic brutalist building, with its striking clock tower, was an all too familiar sight to the city’s commuters. While the tower still stands, the building closed after 44 years of service in 2014, and it was demolished soon after.
Red Hall was the first red brick building in Leeds. It was built in 1628 for wool merchant Thomas Metcalfe on King Charles Street and its grounds reached as far back as Albion Place. In 1646, King Charles I actually stayed there when he was a prisoner during the English Civil War. The extensive gardens became the Tivoli and Theatre Royal in the 19th-century. Meanwhile, solicitors moved into the house until it became part of the Schofields department store. It was demolished in 1961 for the expansion of Schofields and now it’s the site of The Core shopping centre.
Second White Cloth Hall
We all know about the First White Cloth Hall on Kirkgate and the Third on Crown Street, but there was once a Second. Built in 1756, Second White Cloth Hall was a market place for undyed cloth and it stood where Leeds Bridge House stands today. It was closer to the thriving factories and mills of Holbeck than the First, and bigger too – but not big enough. The industrial revolution moved so fast that within 30 years, they had to upgrade to it. In fact, it lasted just 30 years. The building itself is now gone, but all is not lost – you can still see the original cupola atop Third White Cloth Hall as in the image above.
Fourth White Cloth Hall
The Fourth White Cloth Hall came much later – it was built in 1868 by the North Eastern Railway Company after they demolished part of the Third to build the viaduct that cuts through the city. Like the Second, it was a centre for undyed cloth, but again, it didn’t exist for long – by this point, cloth manufacturing in Yorkshire had given way to other industries, so it was never fully used. It lasted just under 30 years and was replaced by the Hotel Metropole which still exists with the Fourth’s cupola as its crown.Cover image copyright Leeds Library Information Services, Leodis.