Continuing our epic rail journey through 3 West Yorkshire cities in one day, we arrived in Leeds, our 2nd city of the day…
Status: City of Leeds District, West Yorkshire, City, England
Travel: Northern Rail (Preston – Bradford Interchange), Northern Rail (Bradford Interchange – Leeds), Northern Rail (Leeds – Wakefield Westgate), Northern Rail (Wakefield Kirkgate – Leeds), Northern Rail (Leeds – Preston Via Bradford Interchange)
Eating & Sleeping: Greggs, Leeds Station Cafe
Attractions: Town Hall, Cathedral, Corn Exchange, Library and Art Gallery, City Museum, Civic Hall, Kirkstall Abbey, Bridgewater Place, University of Leeds, Leeds Minster etc
After spending a decent part of the morning looking around Bradford after a very early start, we headed on to Leeds, and as you enter you can really tell what a major city Leeds is. From far out you can see many rising skyscrapers that make it look like a proper bustling metropolis, and when you get into the centre this is still the case. The train station is one of the largest we have been to in the UK, along with Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley, Manchester Piccadilly and Newcastle Central.
This impressive building we encountered on the way from the main station to the Cathedral and the Town Hall is the Old Post Office from 1896 that dominates City Square. The building is no longer a post office and now houses restaurants and other businesses. The small clock tower on the roof both stands out and fits in perfectly at the same time, and clock towers always give a building an even greater feel of grandeur.
The square itself was laid out 1903, and is flanked by statues such as that of James Watt (1736 – 1819, Famous Scottish Inventor), Dr Walter Hook (1798 – 1875, Victorian Churchman) and John Harrison (1579 – 1656, Woollen Merchant). A refurbishment to the square in 2000 helped close part of it off to traffic, as well as adding in small fountains in an open ring around the front of the old Post Office.
Just past City Square is this beautiful skyscraper, called No 1 City Square. Completed in 1997, it is the new Norwich Union (now Aviva) building, as the original was part of a group of buildings voted the ugliest in Britain, and demolished. This is one of the most desirable locations in the city for office space, and whilst some still argue over the aesthetics of the building, I personally rather like it. The smooth exterior blends from black at the bottom up to a cream colour that runs up the rest of the structure, with an impressive glass lift running up the centre.
If you look closely at the bottom of the building itself on the left side, you can see the bronze sculpture of a small flock of birds, which are flying up and away from the doorway as though scared off by local businessmen on their way to work. Also, just out of shot but in front of the building is a statue of The Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, (1330 – 1376) on horseback. The young prince died a year before his father, becoming the first Prince of Wales never to actually become King. The nickname Black Prince arose long after his death so there are still disagreements about where the term appeared.
We pressed on, right to the heart of the city, to find the cluster of streets containing some of the cities most important buildings. The first of these is the well kept stone building dominating this picture.
Leeds Cathedral was originally called the Cathedral Church of St Anne, and dated back to 1838, however it was demolished after a local corporation expanded and bought it to make way for newer developments. The building is a relatively new Cathedral compared to the ancient ones that lie in other British cities, with the current building only being completed in 1904. It is also much smaller, however inside it is no less impressive than other Cathedrals and we enjoyed our walk around the building, taking in the intricate detail on the walls and furnishings. It was a lovely cool space, as the sun was beating down on us and the noise of the traffic had accompanied us throughout the day, so it was nice to get into a cool, quiet place whilst we explored.
As we entered the square surrounding the Town Hall, the first building we found was the Henry Moore Institute, an institute recognised around the world for its work studying the art of sculpting. It was set up by Henry Moore (1898 – 1986, popular English Sculptor) himself in 1977, to “encourage appreciation of the visual arts”. It is open all year round and plays host to various exhibitions about artwork and sculpting, and they encourage visitors to come and find out more about the arts.
Outside the institute stands the finely crafted War Memorial, which was created by Henry Charles Fehr (1867 – 1940) in 1922. The plinth is made out of marble, and is decorated by Bronze figures. An Angel tops the monument, although it isn’t the original Angel as this was damaged in a storm. The first Angel bore a sword and a wreath, however when it was replaced in 1992 the new Angel was one of peace, made by Ian Judd.
Soldiers of both World Wars are commemorated here, and wreathes are laid down throughout the year to remember them. On the right hand side is a statue of St George, letting a dove fly free, whilst on the left stands a soldier in battle.
One of my favourite buildings in the city is the Town Hall, which was built between 1853 and 1858. It was designed by Cuthbert Brodrick (1821 – 1905, a British architect who also designed the Leeds Corn Exchange).
The design of the building is very similar to others we have seen, and we soon realised it is almost identical to Bolton Town Hall in Lancashire. The architect for that building, William Hill (1827 – 1889) originally came from Leeds and based his design on Leeds Town Hall, albeit scaled down slightly. He has contributed a range of buildings to both Leeds and Bolton, and left a lasting legacy.
This whole area is known as City Square, and one of the other stunning buildings in the square, off to the right out of shot, is Leeds Central Library, an enormous public library completed in 1884 originally for joint use between local council departments and the library itself. Today the building contains an Art Gallery, a Reading Room, Cafe, and information about the city itself.
We soon started exploring the main inner streets of Leeds, with the above being a typical street you will find throughout the City Centre, similar in style to other cities we have been too including the most recent one posted, Bradford. The old style buildings really make it feel like a big city, and in fact Leeds is one of the leading cities of the UK, and outside London is the UK’s leading centre of finance and and business services.
At the back of the picture is a large spire, which sits atop Holy Trinity Church, a fine Anglican Church completed in 1727 to designs by William Etty. The tower was originally much smaller, however in 1839 RD Chantrell topped it out at it’s present height.
Leeds also has the fourth largest metropolitan area in the UK, and is a ranking world city along such others as Rotterdam, Phoenix and Kansas City.
As we kept exploring, we got a fantastic view of Leeds Minster, also known as Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to St Peter, and was previously the main parish church until becoming a Minster in 2012. There are a number of churches around the country with minster status, including Stoke Minster, Sunderland Minster and Preston Minster.
This beautiful building was consecrated in 1707, and is the last in a long line for churches here, from the 7th century church burnt down in 633 AD, through two more fires in the 14th and 19th centuries that destroyed the subsequent versions. The architect was a man called Robert Dennis Chantrell (1793 – 1872, London Architect). Also, the building is noteworthy as being the largest new church to be built in England since St Paul’s Cathedral (by Sir Christopher Wren 1632 – 1723) after the Great Fire of London in 1666.
For the consecration, notable attendees included Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910, founder of Modern Nursing) and Dr Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800 – 1882, English Churchman). Architecture wise, although it isn’t as obvious on the photograph, the church tower is out in front at the middle of the church with the remainder of the building on either side. It really is a great looking building, and the tower is a stand out feature in the city centre.
As we kept moving, we came across this circular building, the Leeds Corn Exchange. It is an old Victorian building dating back to 1864 whose function was trade, originally in corn. The building is now one of only three corn exchanges left in the country that actually still carry out trading. It was designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, who I mentioned earlier designed the Town Hall.
Continuing through the streets, the Victorian Architecture really jumps out at your, and Leeds has retained so much of it’s historic charm that it doesn’t feel like a modern glass and steel city, it has the best of both. We spent a while just wandering up and down the streets and taking in the sights, before moving back in the general direction of the train station.
There are a number of shopping centres up and down the pedestrianised sections of the city, including The Trinity Centre, White Rose Centre, Saint John’s, Merrion Centre and others, giving a wide variety of shops for you to choose from.
Leeds is well connected via the motorway network to the rest of the UK, as the M62 that runs past Bradford continues past Leeds and then on to Kingston-upon-Hull, having come from Liverpool and Manchester where there are direct links to the M6 (For London and Scotland), and the M61 (For Preston). By rail Leeds lies on the East Coast Main Line giving direct connections to London, as well as regular services to nearby Bradford and Wakefield, as well as back to Manchester and the Settle – Carlisle line up to Carlisle, as well as many other destinations regionally.
Leeds is a fabulous city, and although it now a leading modern city it still has many historical regions, and many shopping centres for anyone looking for a great local shopping destination. There is much to explore and discover in the city and its great transport links make it easily accessible to commuters. One of the largest skyscrapers in the city is called Bridgewater place and has been nicknamed the Dalek by locals, for its slightly odd shape.
We pressed on with our exploration of West Yorkshire cities, and our final stop of the day was to the city of Wakefield…