It’s an important part of the city’s history, but it’s time for Temple Works to start a new chapter.
Temple Works is one of the most important buildings in Leeds, but it’s had a bad run of luck. In its heyday, it was a thriving hub of industry, a Victorian flax mill owned by legendary industrialist John Marshall. And it remained in use long after the original factory closed. It was the Northern headquarters for mail order giants Kay’s from 1953 until 1981, and more recently, it acted as a cultural hub and events space in the form of Temple.Works.Leeds.
Unfortunately, their lease came to an end in February 2016, when Burberry announced that they were going to take a huge patch of land adjacent to the site, restoring Temple Works to its former glory in the process. A year and a half later, we’re on our way our way out of Europe and Burberry have pulled out of their Temple Works deal, so we’re back to square one. Which is why owners SJS Properties are putting the site up for auction.
Bids are not, as the Right Move listing suggested, going to start at £1. That would be ridiculous. This is a Grade I listed building with oodles of history and even more potential – auctioneers Pugh & Co simply haven’t had a chance to value it yet. In fact, at the time that we spoke to them, their surveyor was out in the field and Temple Works was definitely on his to-do list. One thing’s for sure though, you’re going to need deep pockets to buy this bad boy.
So what will your money get you? A one of a kind, Grade I listed building of course. Designed by Joseph Bonomi the Younger, its rather grand façade takes inspiration from Egypt – the original office was based on the Temple of Horus at Edfu, while the factory itself was modelled on the Typhonium at Dendera. The result is a stunning building with both architectural and historical significance.
Inside, it’s an incredible space. This was once the biggest single room in the world, so it’s absolutely huge. We’re talking 10,948 square metres – and yeah, you could turn it into an office or a factory, but we’d love to see it transformed into a cultural treasure. Imagine if it became a world-class museum or art gallery – it could have such a huge impact on the city.
Martin Hamilton, Director of the Civic Trust, is of a similar mind – but he’s worried that the auction means it could go to the highest bidder instead of the one with the best plan, “It is clear that the current owners were treading water, and without an occupier and the costs associated with maintaining and renovating a building of this nature, they have decided to pull the plug. The worry is that someone will see this as an opportunity to make a quick buck, whereas what is needed is a purchaser with a long-term vision and the resources to restore this building. It lends itself to exhibition space, potentially a museum. It could even be brought back into use as a factory.”
Temple Works will go up for auction on Thursday 7th December 2017 at Leeds United Football Club, The Norman Hunter Suite, Elland Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 0ES.