Friday, 22 November 2013

Leeds - so much nicer in the daylight

I've not visited Leeds since student days and now I'm back twice in a week. Last week I arrived and departed the city in darkness, and my impressions were not positive. This time, being able to walk around in daylight hours (from the station to Leeds Town Hall and from the Ibis Budget (yes, free in-room wi-fi and only £30 a night), I saw enough great Brictorian architecture to change my impression of the city.

Look at the magnificence of this building - Kirkgate Market, which was (largely) completed by 1904, with the initial construction being started in 1875. Look at the wealth of ornamentation and just feel the civic pride. Britain has always been a nation of shopkeepers - and good ones at that.


And what have we here? This is where the very first Marks & Spencer was opened by Michael Marks (a Polish Jew) and Yorkshireman Thomas Spencer, in 1894. This shrine to the original penny bazaar was opened in 2012 to commemorate the birthplace of one of the UK's great retailing brands - well-known in Warsaw too. Standing on the left of the photo is fellow-blogger Paddisław.


To quote Babcia Wanda - 'kiedyś tu była synagoga - dziś to pub!' But the Mogen David on the gable is deceptive - this was the city's Masonic Hall (from 1866 to 1901 when it moved to larger premises). Surprising, then, that it's now an Irish theme pub (though owned and operated by Mitchells and Butler, once the brewer of Birmingham). A Masonic theme pub - now that would be interesting!


Below: the building (centre) was the Church Army Hostel for Men, across the road Turton's Wharf and Warehouse. Fine brick-built Victorian edifices both (though the warehouse I find more appealing in its austere simplicity).


Below: 'kiedyś to był bank, dziś to pub' - the domed former headquarters of the Yorkshire District Bank (1899) on the corner of Boar Lane and Bishopsgate Street.


Below: Kiedyś to był pub, dziś to jest pub - the Duck and Drake is one of many names given to ale houses occupying this building since the first half of the 19th Century.


Below: Leeds General Infirmary (1869, Sir George Gilbert Scott) high Victorian neo gothic. Lovely stuff, especially when the facade catches some late-afternoon November sunshine.


Left: a turret of Leeds Central Library, 1884, snapped from the steps of the Town Hall. The civic pride of Victorian Leeds is still evident wherever the 1960s architects didn't pay off local government officials to tear down Brictorian loveliness and replace it with tawdry tat.

Below: the Leeds City School, opened 1889, converted into local authority offices in 1994.

The end of the Victorian era brought with it greater simplicity of architectural style; below: the Arts and Crafts buildings along Great George Street with St Anne's Catholic Cathedral (1904) behind them; the tower of Leeds Town Hall looms on the horizon (right).


And finally, to end my overview of Leeds' Bricktoriana - I cannot leave the city without a nod to the Town Hall, a monument to the city's strong sense of self-belief - somewhat lost in today's era of diversity.


Leeds - I take it back - it has some fantastic vistas on offer for fans of Bricktorian Britain.

1 comment:

pavolk said...

Lovely to see proper stalls in Kirkgate market. The equivalent building in my own home town was disastrously and heart-breakingly ruined five years ago by taking out the stalls and putting in identikit mall-sized retail units: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolton_Market_Hall

But Bolton's Masonic hall still has its original function and I went to a Polish wedding there just last year! Fascinating little place.