Adel, Bramhope and Otley
The northern outskirts of the city have escaped the ravages of Victorian over-development and yield Adel and Bramhope – villages that can now boast some of the city’s most salubrious residential areas. Golden Acre Park and Otley Chevin Forest Park are popular public spaces, offering excellent views of the surrounding lower Wharfedale countryside. Otley is an historic market town that has retained its own distinctive character – the prevailing air of self-sufficiency was reflected by the public consternation that greeted the recent appearance of “Welcome to Leeds” signs.
Armley and Pudsey
Although part of the Metropolitan City of Leeds since the mid-1970s, Pudsey has a proud history as a separate entity – the recipient of a Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1900, which distinguished it from the metropolitan sprawls of Leeds and Bradford on either side. Pudsey’s Owlcoates Centre is an impressive retail park serving the entire area west of the city. Neighbouring Armley is probably best known for Armley Mills – a relic of Leeds’ industrial past and once the world’s largest woollen mill.
Beeston, Middleton and Morley
Once the industrial heartland of the city, harnessing the River Aire and the Aire and Calder Navigation, this area to the south of the city mirrored the slow decline in the use of commercial waterways from the 1920s. However, the presence of the Elland Road stadium in Beeston – home to Leeds United FC – has ensured that the area remains fixed in the city’s consciousness. Enlightened regeneration has seen Thwaite Mills and the historic Middleton Railway become two of the city’s leading tourist attractions. Morley has plenty in the way of shops and facilities. It is the location of the Leeds Exhibition Complex, but the White Rose Centre – Leeds’ gargantuan and prodigiously popular out-of-town retail park – is the greatest pull for visitors to the area.
Burmantofts, Harehills and Osmondthorpe
Once famous for its distinctive pottery, Burmantofts is now best known for Jimmy’s – otherwise known as St James’ University Hospital. It is one of the country’s premier teaching hospitals. Next door is the award-winning Thackray Medical Museum, offering an unblinking view of Britain’s social history. Osmondthorpe and Harehills are home to Asian and Irish communities. Harehills is the location of the city’s impressive Grand Mosque. Osmondthorpe harbours the Irish Centre – a national concert venue for the performing arts.
Chapeltown, Moortown and Roundhay
These northern districts of the city are known for their multi-cultural communities and character. Chapeltown has found it hard to shake off negative connotations derived from its ramshackle appearance but it is famous for its annual West Indian carnival – a spectacle to rival the Notting Hill Carnival in London. Moortown is synonymous with its Jewish community and boasts a fine selection of specialist shops and cafés. The Synagogue of the United Hebrew Congregation is in nearby Shadwell. Roundhay is another of the city’s most desirable residential areas, due in no short measure to the proximity of Roundhay Park.
The fact that it is a pleasure to wander around the largely pedestrianised city centre is due in no small part to the Victorian town planners – whose network of elegant arcades and formidable municipal buildings still affirm its position as a leading centre of commerce, culture and the arts. Leeds is probably the premier shopping centre of the north – the Corn Exchange and Victoria Quarter offer a rich variety of luxury and specialist shops that complement the city’s traditional markets and modern high street shops and malls. The centre has welcomed a profusion of new cafés, bars, restaurants and nightclubs to meet the demand for increased amenities brought by the recent growth in the city’s business communities. This is particularly apparent at Leeds Waterfront, where derelict canal-side buildings have been revamped or replaced by high-profile commercial development and heritage attractions – such as the innovative subterranean retail complex at Granary Wharf and the Royal Armouries museum. Leeds is also a major centre of the arts, home not only to the Northern Ballet Theatre, Opera North, and the The West Yorkshire Playhouse, but also the neighbouring City Art Gallery and Henry Moore Institute.
Cross Gates, Halton and Seacroft
These areas east of the city centre are yet to benefit from the inspired regeneration programmes that have revived other areas of the city. The turn-of-the-century hospital at Seacroft stands out, but the Halton Moor housing estate has failed to shake off its negative associations and remains an infamous no-go area. However, nearby Temple Newsam is one of the region’s foremost attractions, offering an historic stately home, museum and extensive public grounds set aside for high-profile concerts in the summer months.
Guiseley, Rawdon and Yeadon
This area is sufficiently remote from the city centre, (about 10 miles), to offer some charming countryside walks. However, it has to be said the main draws are probably Leeds-Bradford Airport and the famous Harry Ramsden’s restaurant.
Familiar to followers of cricket and rugby league alike, this distinctive area is home to the famous Yorkshire CCC and Leeds Rhinos RLFC – neighbouring clubs which host international matches in their respective sports. Headingley is also the student centre of Leeds, many of its trademark redbrick terraces having been converted into flats and bedsits. As you might expect, it makes for a lively alternative to the city centre for a night out – the Skyrack and Original Oak pubs are among Leeds’ best loved drinking establishments.
Hyde Park and Woodhouse
Hyde Park and Woodhouse are the venues of too many conspicuously run-down student residences to be highly praised. However, Woodhouse Moor’s proximity to the city’s university campuses ensures it is a constantly well-populated public space – even when it’s not hosting funfairs, circuses, beer festivals or other visiting attractions. The Hyde Park Picture House is justly famous throughout the region and is extremely popular with arthouse audiences all year round. Every October, it is placed under a wider spotlight, when it co-hosts the annual Leeds International Film Festival.
Kirkstall, Horsforth and Calverley
Although its 12th century Cistercian abbey marks an historical site of national significance, Kirkstall has become the focus of more contemporary interests since the recent opening, (at a discreet distance), of the Warner Village cinema and leisure complex. Further north lies Horsforth – a distinctive small town boasting its own university college – Trinity and All Saints – a museum and selection of popular pubs and restaurants. Calverley is on a much smaller scale, its proximity to the busy Leeds ring road is belied by the stunning views of the Airedale countryside visible from its traditional local sandstone houses.
History of Leeds
Leeds had established itself as an important centre of industry and commerce long before city status was granted by royal charter in 1893. By the seventeenth century, Leeds, (the name a corruption of the pre-Doomsday word “Loidis”), had become a prosperous market town founded primarily on the manufacture of cloth and trade in clothing.
Later developments such as the Middleton Colliery Railway in 1758 – the world’s first commercial railway – and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1770, served to further underline Leeds’ rapid transformation into one of the country’s premier industrial centres.
Although a typical victim of the post-Industrial Revolution, with tribulations of over-population and poor living conditions, turn-of-the-century Leeds was marked by its fine public buildings, the University and arcades. These buildings continue to contribute to the city centre’s imposing character in the present day.
Following a strategy of city centre regeneration that has gathered pace since the mid 1980s, areas in decline have become centres of housing, leisure and commercial development. Nowhere is this more visible than Leeds Waterfront, once the hub of Victorian commerce, now the home of the Royal Armouries museum and Granary Wharf, as the city embraces tourism. The splendid Corn Exchange and Victoria Quarter shopping areas play host to a diversity of retailers; including Harvey Nichols Department Store – its first venture outside London.
In recent times, Leeds has become the UK’s second home to the banking and legal sectors. City centre amenities have sprung up quickly as a result. New café bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms and leisure facilities are in evidence all over the city. The West Yorkshire Playhouse, City Art Gallery and adjoining Henry Moore Institute are prestigious cultural landmarks serving the whole region. Following its success in hosting group matches during the Euro 96 Championships, Elland Road – the home of Leeds United FC – has become one of England’s key football stadia. A similar story is to be found in Headingley, where neighbouring sports grounds regularly host international test matches in cricket and rugby league.
Leeds is perfectly placed for those wishing to explore the beautiful countryside of Yorkshire, particularly the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the north. Even closer to home are the stately homes Harewood House and Temple Newsam – both containing important collections of fine and decorative art – and the remarkably well preserved Kirkstall Abbey – a relic of the twelfth century.