Gradually becoming a vital part of Leeds, the journey of Headingley from a tiny village into a thriving suburb is a riveting one.
Stemming back at least as far as the Viking invasion of Great Britain, Headingley has become one of the most important suburbs in the whole of Leeds. It may have started off as a quaint outlying village, but it eventually became an intrinsic part of the city’s makeup, through the industrial revolution and into its current status as a thriving student hub.
The Viking meeting place
Yorkshire was one of the many Viking strongholds in the North of England, and Headingley was the centrepoint of the Skyrack wapentake. The Skyrack comes from the old English word ‘scir ac’, which means ‘shire oak’, and is named after the giant oak tree that stood in the town until 1941.
A growing village
It was included in the Domesday Book of 1086, showing its importance already and by the 18th century, Headingley had grown to possess a chapel, cottages and farmsteads, with a population of 300 at the end of the century as it maintained its position as one of the more populated villages outside of the city of Leeds.
The emergence of Far Headingley
As Leeds’ influence grew in the 18th century, the lands on Headingley Moor were sold off and the town grew. Around the same time, land to the North of Headingley was developed and grew to become what is now known as Far Headingley.
The industrial suburb
As with many other cities, and many places that are now Leeds suburbs, the Industrial Revolution became such a phenomenon that villages like Headingley were quickly swallowed up by the city, becoming popular suburbs where the rich and wealthy could come to escape the dirt of the factories in the city.
The Leeds Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Such was its growing importance, Headingley was chosen as the site of Leeds’ Zoological and Botanical Gardens in 1840, holding all kinds of wild animals and greenery. Unfortunately it never took off, closing in 1858, although the bear pit still remains to this day.
The old tramway depot
Once upon a time, the Leeds Tramway was one of the most important transportation services in the city, serving many of the suburbs from 1891 until 1959. Far Headingley was the site of one of the depots and helped the suburbs thrive with its added connectivity with the centre.
The centre of sport
Since 1890, Headingley has been the centre for two of Yorkshire’s favourite sports – rugby and cricket. The former first kicked a ball in 1890, with the cricket following a year later, and to this day, they’re still two of the most important stadiums in their respective sports.
A Headingley education
From 1907, the area of Beckett Park, named after the local politician Ernest Beckett, gave its lands to local education, with City of Leeds Training College operating on its site until 1976 when Leeds Polytechnic took over. After years as Leeds Metropolitan University, it changed its name to Leeds Beckett University in 2014 as a tribute to its setting.
Student life in 21st century
Nowadays, Leeds is regarded as one of the most important and populated student areas in the country, helping Headingley to become one of the most recognisable parts of Leeds, and with that a thriving hub of bars, restaurants and shops.
Older Horsforth images all copyright Leodis, Leeds Library and Information Services.