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Landmarks Through the Ages: Leeds Town Hall

· Joseph Sheerin · Culture

Leeds Town Hall

Turn back the clock, as we take a trip down memory lane with one of the most recognisable building in the city – Leeds Town Hall.

It’s the crowning glory of Cuthbert Brodrick’s storied architectural career. Leeds Town Hall is a remarkable structure that confirms Leeds’ constantly growing importance in Victorian England. Completed in 1858, it became the standard for other cities to look up to, and it’s still an incredible sight to behold.

A Royal Opening

Royal Visit, Queen Victoria

After Cuthbert Brodrick’s design won the competition for the new Leeds Town Hall, which was destined to take over the Moot Hall of Briggate, it took just five years for the building to be completed. To cut the ribbon on its construction was a fitting Royal seal of approval – Queen Victoria visited Leeds to open the building in 1858.

A Unique Masterpiece

Leeds Town Hall

Brodrick was an unknown when he won the design, and although the building came under fire because of the time and expense it took to build, it soon became a symbol of Leeds’ growing influence. In fact, it became the standard bearer for late Victorian municipal design.

Centre of Public Life

Town Hall, Victoria Square, Queen Victoria Statue Unveiling

When Queen Victoria died, she was honoured with a huge, imposing statue in front of Leeds Town Hall in 1905. It’s since been moved to Woodhouse Moor, but at the time, it brought out thousands of people to pay their respects and was a major attraction.

The Scene of Leeds’ Political Power

Leeds Town Hall

Credit: Leodis

For many years it was the seat of politics in Leeds, and as such, it was home to a series of significant events. It was here, that the city celebrated the election of William Gladstone to Prime Minister in 1880, and you can see a depiction of what it was like above.

Grandiose on the Inside Too

Leeds Town Hall

The outside of Leeds Town Hall is instantly recognisable, but the inside is not to be sniffed at either. The Victoria Hall is an incredible space, best enjoyed at one of the many events that are held her. It includes a huge concert organ that is one of just three of its kind in the world.

Don’t Go Underground

Leeds Town Hall cells

Leeds Town Hall once had a role to play in the city’s justice system, which is why it has its own courtroom and cells. Prisoners were held in the cells before trial and they stayed here until their sentence was carried out, which in some cases, meant they here until the day of the execution.

At the Heart of Culture

Gotterdammerung at Leeds Town Hall

These days, it’s used less for politics, and more for the arts and entertainment world. One of its main attractions is its classical music concerts, attracting the most talented artists, conductors and orchestras from across the globe, as well as being the scene for great local institutions like Orchestra of Opera North and Leeds Philharmonic Chorus.

A Festival Feeling

Leeds International Beer Festival at Leeds Town Hall

People love to come out to the iconic building for festivals too, and thankfully not the ones you have to camp out for. The likes of Leeds International Film Festival, Live at Leeds and Leeds International Beer Festival have all come to make use out the unique space, turning Leeds city centre into the place to be for many weekends across the year.

As Important As Ever

Leeds Town Hall

Just like for Queen Victoria and Gladstone, Leeds Town Hall is still at the forefront of Leeds’ biggest moments. Just last year it was the starting point of the iconic 101st Tour de France Grand Depart, welcoming royalty once again as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge set off the world’s best cyclists.

As Impressive As Ever

Leeds Town Hall view from Pinnacle

For 108 years, Leeds Town Hall was the tallest building in the city. It was finally pipped in 1966, but to this day it’s still the sixth tallest, which is a testament to the skill of the people who worked on it all those years ago.

Main, A Royal Opening, Centre of Public Life and Scene of Leeds’ Political Power images courtesy of Leodis. A Unique Masterpiece image Copyright Martyx licensed under creative commons for commercial use. Image of Leeds Town Hall cells Copyright Carl Milner licensed under creative commons for commercial use. Towering from Above courtesy of Nicky Rowbottom. As Important as Ever images courtesy of Ollievision Photography.