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What Horsforth Used to Look Like

· Joseph Sheerin

Horsforth has become one of the most popular suburbs in Leeds in recent times, but its history is also well worth looking at.

Of all of Leeds’ suburbs, Horsforth’s history is perhaps one of the most intriguing. For nearly 1000 years, it was its own business, growing into the biggest village in England. That was until it became part of the city of Leeds, and grew again to become a hugely popular suburb. See how it’s changed over the years as we dig into the archives…

The Old River Crossing

Horsforth, Leodis

Horsforth rightly claimed its place in the Domesday Book of 1086, after growing from an important river crossing, from which it takes its name, to a populated village. There’s even evidence of activity from the 9th century, showing its historical significance to Leeds, before it fell under the control of Kirkstall Abbey after the Norman Conquest.

Stanhope’s Village

woodside-horsforth-january-2016-leodis copy

As Henry VIII swept the monasteries aside, Horsforth was sold off to five prominent families. One of those was the Stanhopes, who would grow their influence, playing an integral role in the development of the village well into the 18th century, and in doing so, becoming synonymous with Horsforth.

Building a Manor for the Future

Horsforth Hall, Leodis

The Stanhopes’ base was in what is known to this day as Horsforth Hall Park. While Horsforth Hall no longer stands, it was the centrepiece of the village from its completion in 1707 until it was demolished in the 1950s, after being given to the people of Horsforth a couple of decades earlier.

Quarrying Into the Future

Horsforth Industry

As the rest of the region became entrenched in the Industrial Revolution, Horsforth wasn’t going to miss out on a slice of the pie. From 1820, it was home to a tannery and it  was also renowned for its fine quarries, dating back to Medieval Leeds. Brick from there helped to construct Kirkstall Abbey and its produce went as far as Egypt, with Golden Bank Quarry sending sandstone out east.

The Largest Village in England

horsforth-hall-park-january-2016 copy

By the end of the 19th century, Horsforth had grown into the largest village in England. This was before Leeds swallowed up the surrounding towns and villages that make up the city as it is today – but its various amenities, from the railways to the canal, made it a vital Yorkshire cog.

Financing the War Effort

Horsforth Scout Hut

When Great Britain went to war, Horsforth joined the fight. The Scout and Guide Hut on New Side Road was requisitioned as an emergency mortuary, though it was never needed, while the HMS Aubretia, a warship, was funded solely through donations from Horsforth, totalling £241,000.

Furthering Education

All Saints Court, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds: A Modern Student City

As Leeds attempted to get itself out of the post-war depression, it created the City of Leeds metropolitan district, which swallowed up Horsforth. As a result, the suburb became home to an innovative new education complex, now known as Leeds Trinity University, an institution renowned for sports science, psychology and media.

A Modern, Thriving Suburb

View of The Old King's Arms down Town Street, Horsforth

Today, Horsforth is one of the most popular, vibrant suburbs in Leeds, mixing up a range of shops with a bustling nightlife spread out across Town Street, Station Road and New Road Side.

Scout hut image copyright Betty Longbottom, licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use. Older Horsforth images all copyright Leodis, Leeds Library and Information Services.