Leeds, West Yorkshire

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Leeds is a city of 715,0001 inhabitants, and together with Bradford forms a continuous conurbation of over 1.2 million people which is the commercial centre of the north of England. Leeds' population makes it the 3rd largest city in the UK, 55th in Europe and comparative with Athens, Stockholm, Krakow and Amsterdam.


Leeds is almost exactly half way between London and Edinburgh, and midway between the coasts of Merseyside and the Humber. This provides easy accessibility by car on the M1 motorway from London, the M62 which crosses the country and the Pennines east to west, plus the Leeds-Liverpool canal which formed the crucial transport link during the city’s phenomenal growth during the industrial revolution.
Leeds is also a major hub for trains through the east coast main line, which reaches London within 2 hours, and has an international airport in Yeadon midway between Leeds/Bradford.

Geography and Climate

Despite the reputation the north of England has for bad weather, Leeds' situation east of the Pennines means that it suffers much less rain than the counties to the west, as muich of the rain bearing cloud coming from the Irish Sea and Atlantic empties itself prior to climbing across the mountains. Generally the climate is one or two degrees colder than the south east of England.


Leeds is one of the easiest cities in Britain to find your way around in. The central shopping district is on a hill, so north is always uphill and south downhill. Therefore if you're looking uphill, west is on your left and east on your right2. All the streets are arranged in a grid plan, so as long as you head in the right direction, you can't go far wrong.

The City Centre's basically square, with the Railway and Bus stations at the bottom left and right-hand corners. So if you arrive in town by train, everything is North and East when you come out of the station, or if you visit by bus then it's all West and North.

If you drive in, the City Centre's encircled by a one-way system called the Loop Road, and your car park is bound to be inside the Loop.

History and Industry

The district of Leeds, then known as Loidis, was first mentioned in about 730 by the Venerable Bede, it was also in the Domesday book in 1086 as Ledes. The centre of the town was originally a cluster of buildings around what is now Briggate and the river Aire. It has since spread to include the previously outlying towns and villages as far as Otley, ?? and ????.

From a steady population growth to 30,000 at the end of the seventeenth century, the industrial revolution provided an enormous boost to the Leeds economy and population, with the population growing to 150,000 by 1840. The plentiful countryside for rearing sheep, local supply of coal, iron ore and cheap labour made it a powerhouse of the 19th century cloth industry, and when Leeds became a city in 1893, its population has boomed to ????.

Leeds was typical of northern industrial towns of the nineteenth century – the industrial revolution had provided transport, employment and industry, but brought with it the associated problems of overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure, which led to health and social problems endemic in such conditions.

The outward face of Leeds was becoming ever more grand, with elaborate new buildings such as the Town Hall, opened by Queen Victoria; the University, the Corn Exchange, Kirkgate Market and the recently refurbished grand covered arcades leading between many of the major shopping streets. In keeping with its reputation as a shopping haven, Leeds can lay claim to being the birthplace of many a British retail institution – Michael Marks (later to team up with Spencer) started his first penny bazaar in Leeds market, Burtons… blah blah and blah blah all started in Leeds.

Since the boom days of the industrial revolution Leeds has expanded its commercial interests to include banking, insurance, call centres, retail and IT, and this, combined with an increasing public awareness of the benefits of urban planning, slum clearance and historical preservation, have provided an enormous amount of commercial and residential development, to make Leeds what it is today - a buzzing, successful and interesting place to live, growing faster than any other city in the UK

Don’t just take my word for it:

The people

(to rejig and make more interesting – from the Leeds city website)
Natives of Leeds are known as "Loiners", there are various theories as to the origin of the term, none of which are definitive. Loiner could derive from the name Loidis as above, another explanation is a Loiner is someone born within the sound of the church bells of Briggate. In the 19th century there were many yards and closes around Briggate whose back entrances were known as "Low Ins" or "Loins" hence "Loiner". Another theory is that there were a number of lanes in the Briggate area pronounced "loins". Men who gathered at the lane end to gossip etc. were "Loiners".

Leeds Timeline


731 Bede’s “History of English Church and People” mentions Leeds Parish Church. Leeds was then called Loidis.
1086 Leeds mentioned in the Domesday Book
1152 Foundations of Kirkstall Abbey built (Cistercian)
1155 Knights Templar take over Newsam
1207 Maurice Paynel grants Leeds a charter
1258 Market operating in Leeds
1380 Leeds Parish Church rebuilt
1469 Woollen industry well established in Leeds
1539 Dissolution of Kirkstall Abbey
1552 Leeds Grammar School was founded by Sir William Sheafield
1626 King Charles 1 grants charter
1634 St John’s Church, Briggate consecrated
1642 Civil War – Royalists take Leeds
1645 Bubonic plague kills 1325
1661 Second charter gives Leeds a mayor
1663 Farnley Wood Plot to overthrow Charles 11
1715 Ralph Thoresby published the first history of Leeds "Ducatus Leodensis"
1745 Mob attacks John Wesley in the town
1754 Leeds Intelligencer, now Yorkshire Post, founded
1755 Street lighting introduced
1759 Beginning of the Middleton Railway
1770 Leeds-Liverpool Canal commenced
1792 Benjamin Gott builds Bean Ing Mills (site of Yorkshire Post)
1808 Leeds Library, Commercial Street is completed
1812 Matthew Murray's stream engines begin operating on Middleton Railway
1816 Leeds-Liverpool canal is completed
1819 The city is lit by gas
1831 Leeds School of Medicine founded
1832 Cholera epidemic strikes in Leeds
1841 New Parish Church opens
1847 Leeds prison at Armley is built
1858 Leeds Town Hall opened by Queen Victoria
1859 Thoresby Society founded
1863 The Corn Exchange is opened
1872 Roundhay Park opened
1874 Yorkshire College of Science founded in Leeds
1878 Thornton’s Arcade and the Grand Theatre are opened
1884 The launch of the famous ‘Penny Bazaar’
1884 Municipal Buildings designed by George Corson opened to house to various Civic departments, Police and Central Library
1888 City Art Gallery opened
1893 Leeds becomes a city by Royal Charter
1894 Electric tramways are started
1903 The Black Prince in City Square is unveiled
1904 St Anne’s Cathedral is consecrated
1904 University of Leeds granted its own Charter as an independent institution by King Edward VII
1905 The first cinema in Leeds is opened
1908 Visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra to open new wing of the University
1911 Children strike in Leeds schools
1922 BBC broadcast from Leeds
1928 Britain’s first permanent traffic lights installed in Park Row
1933 Leeds Civic Hall opened by King George V and Queen Mary
1941 Worst air raid on Leeds - 60 killed
1959 Last tram in Leeds withdrawn from service
1964 Merrion Centre is opened
1974 Leeds becomes a Metropolitan District – population increases by 50%
1981 Riots in Chapeltown
1992 Leeds Polytechnic becomes Leeds Metropolitan University
1995 Royal Armouries Museum opens
1996 Leeds hosts Euro ’96 football matches
1997 Leeds Grammar School moves to new campus site at Alwoodley Gates
1998 Super bus lanes introduced
2000 Millennium Square opens
2001 Nelson Mandela is made Honorary Freeman of Leeds
2002 Queen's Golden Jubilee Visit

1Population figures are taken from the 2001 census, other sources say up to 730,0002And vice versa if you're facing downhill

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