Friday, 17 November 2017


 Leeds City Hall

We are on a short visit to Leeds to see our nephew who has just started at Uni there. I have taken the liberty of merging a little bit of last night’s walk with today’s.

We set out from our hotel, Quebecs in er Quebec St. It is a very good hotel in a lovely building which was once the Leeds and County Liberal Club. The terracotta decoration on the facade usually suggests a date in the 1880s and it turns out that it was built in 1891.

At the end we turned right and then second left in St Paul’s St where I admired the Moorish arches and floral decorations of this house.

Our immediate goal was Park Square and as we turned right to go into it we were astonished by more Moorish architecture on the rear corner of St Paul's House. It was built as a warehouse and cloth-cutting works in 1878.

It is imposing from the front with extensive terracotta decoration around the windows and what seems to be two minarets on the corners.

We left the lovely square, noting an astonishing number of rubbish bins which we took as an expression of civic pride. Just around the corner into the Headrow we passed Oxford Place (Methodist) Chapel. It was built in 1835 and extended in 1895 when the adjoining Chambers, with its splendid tower, were added to be let as offices and provide a source of income.

Just beyond the chapel we came to the celebrated Town Hall by Cuthbert Broderick between 1853 and 1858 (see picture at the head of this post).  The Christmas decorations and banners don’t do very much for the façade.   

We turned left up Calverley Street passing the German Market and then the Civic Hall. This is a fairly undistinguished 1930s building, but it is lifted by the projecting clock supported on gilded struts and by the golden owl on the top of the spire. This is another picture from last night with the sun right on the clock.

We headed north to meet Benji and have an illuminating walk around the places where he lives, works and plays. As we were crossing the motorway bridge, there was a fantastic modern tower on the right.

 I took just one picture of the University campus as a memento: the 19th century Great Hall of the University.

We headed back to where Calverley Road meets the Headrow and went in to see the City Art Gallery. This was very good with some excellent 19th and 20th century pictures. We especially enjoyed four by Atkinson Grimshaw. To our great surprise and delight, there was a very good display of watercolours and sketches by the East Anglian painter John Sell Cotman, who was once seen as a better water colourist than Turner, and is still seen as pretty good.

Within the building was the delightful Tiled Hall café …

… and the reference library in a room with great terracotta tiled arches.

Now further along the Headrow, a road seemingly lined with shopping centres, to turn right into Lands Lane and enter the wonderful zone of arcades. The first one we saw, Thornton’s Arcade, was one of our favourites. It was apparently the first of eight arcades built by about 1900. It was built by local architect George Smith in 1877-8, for Charles Thornton.

We continued down Lands Lane and turned into Queens Arcade which brought us out into Briggate. We then went into the impressive County Arcade of 1901.

At the end we turned into Duncan St which brought us to the Corn Exchange. It was designed by Cuthbert Broderick (he of the City Hall) and completed in 1862. It is an oval structure, not tremendously exciting from the outside …

… but airy and spacious on the inside. A bit of a tardis therefore. After a renovation on 1980s it now contains an array of small shops. I found it reminiscent of Covent Garden market.

We then went along Call Lane and right into Kirkgate to see Leeds Minster. It is a 19th century building constructed after its predecessor was destroyed in a fire.

Now we headed towards Brewery Wharf, crossing the River Aire on the way.

Brewery Wharf was a bit disappointing to be honest – all modern buildings, not the renovated old brewery we imagined. It would have been possible to embark on an exploration of the river bank and the tow path of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal further along, but we were now cold and a bit tired so we headed back across the river. We turned left into The Calls and then Call Lane, right into Lower Briggate and left into Boar Lane. This brought us to City Square just in front of the station where we enjoyed a pleasant late lunch in a restaurant called, rather ridiculously, The restaurant, in the former central Post Office.

Conditions: bright at first, becoming progressively greyer.

Distance: about 4 miles.

Rating: four stars. Really interesting and enjoyable, but nothing that was absolutely great.

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