From a humble settlement on the banks of the River Aire, Leeds has grown into Yorkshire’s premier city and the third largest city in the UK with the largest legal centre outside of London. Regularly referred to as the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’, Leeds offers the visitor a breath-taking choice of shopping eating and drinking opportunities.
Leeds role in steam locomotion has often been overshadowed by the exploits of George Stephenson, but it was engineer Matthew Murray who built the world’s first commercial steam locomotive and railway. We’ve been taking a closer look at other things the city has given the world over the years and our Top 10 facts about Leeds may surprise you.
#10 – Tallest Tower In Yorkshire
The Bridgewater Place is the tallest building in Yorkshire and has been since September 2005. Nicknamed ‘The Dalek’, the building is an office and residential development. It measures out at 476 feet above sea level and has a total of 32 floors.
The building has faced massive criticism due to the shape of the building. The shape causes concentrated areas of accelerated winds in its immediate vicinity, knocking over pedestrians and even some vehicles. This has lead to number of serious injuries, such as a man who suffered a torn liver, internal bleeding and cuts; requiring him to get 11 stitches. In a more serious case, a man was killed by a lorry overturning on top of him by a sharp gust of wind. It was also awarded a award at the Carbuncle Cup for a “Building So Ugly They Freeze The Heart”.
#9 – The Birthplace Of Cluedo
Cluedo is a murder mystery game for three to six players. The object of the game is to determine who murdered the game’s victim Dr Black. Each player assumes the role of the six suspects, and attempts to deduce the correct answer by moving around the board and collecting clues about the circumstances of the murder from the other players. Cluedo has been sold tens of millions of times worldwide and has appeared in a numerous different variation, such as books and even a film.
Devised by Anthony E. Pratt (Born in Birmingham) and currently published by American game and toy company Hasbro, what many people may not know is that the game was originally designed and made in Leeds. Waddingtons was a publisher of card and board games and was founded in Leeds. It entered into game production in 1922, due to a boom in demand for playing cards around World War I. Waddingtons became the UK publisher of Parker Brothers’ Monopoly, while Parker licensed Waddingtons’ Cluedo, and from this partnership Cluedo was born. Much later in 1994, Hasbro bought the company and gained the rights to the Cluedo name.
#8 – Most Expensive Furniture In The UK Was Made In Leeds
A chest of drawers was sold for £3.8 million in 2010, setting a world record for a piece of English furniture sold at auction. This pricey piece of furniture, dating from approximately 1770, went under the hammer at the Sotheby’s in London and sold for more than three times its million-pound estimate.
It was made by the renowned Thomas Chippendale and belonged to the 10th Earl of Harrington, having been in his family for generations. However, since it was crafted in Leeds, it also makes the piece a Leeds born product, one that broke the record for most expensive furniture item and beat anything made in London for higher royalty.
#7 – Leeds Means “People Of The Fast Flowing River”
A history lesson next as we delve into the origins of the name ‘Leeds’. The name Leeds derives from the Old Brythonic word Ladenses, which means “People Of The Fast Flowing River”, this was in reference to the River Aire which still flows through the city. However, the name originally referred to the forested area covering the Brythonic Kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century.
Throughout English history there are also mentions of a place called ‘Loidis’. This is seen in a discussion of an altar that survived from a church erected by Edwin Of Northumbria, its says that it is located in “Regione quae vocatur” which translates in modern English as “located in Loidis”.
#6 – Leeds Has A Quidditch Team
Yes this is true, we are not making it up. Based on the sport played in J.K Rowling’s fictional world of Harry Potter, students from Leeds University regularly meet up and play Quidditch from the famous world associated with wizardry.
Known as the Leeds Griffins, students from Leeds Uni train, discuss skills and tactics and take part in friendly games and tournaments (And yes, there is more than one Quidditch in England). They also host ‘Sorting Hat’ ceremonies and ‘Yule Balls’ as part of their student society.
#5 – The Home Of Britain’s Oldest Active Plane
Back to a serious topic now. The Blackburn Type D is a single seat monoplane, built by Robert Blackburn in Leeds in 1912. It is a single engine mid wing monoplane restored shortly after the second World War, Today, it remains part of the Shuttleworth Collection and is still flying today. It was built only a nine years after the Wright Brothers first plane and is still active, making it the oldest active plane in Britain.
Harold Blackburn first flew the plane in December 1912, and used the Type D for a series of demonstration flights from Lofthouse Park situated between Leeds and Wakefield. Today it spends most of its days in the Shuttleworth Collection for people to view, but on some quiet days it is taken out and used in demonstrations.
#4 – Largest Undercover Market In Europe
Leeds Kirkgate Market is located on Vicar Lane and currently holds the record for largest covered market in Europe. There are around 800 stalls which attracts over 100,000 visitors a week. The market first opened in 1822 as an open air market, but construction took place to cover the section until it became a fully covered area. On 14th March 1941, the markets were damaged in a bombing raid on Leeds, this resulted in damages to a number of the stalls and limited trade in the area for some years.
One of the more famous stalls is the Penny Bazaar, but you will more likely know the company it became as this was the first stall of British company Marks and Spencer. The Marks and Spencer’s heritage is marked by the market clock in the 1904 hall, which bears the shop name. In 2012, Marks and Spencer returned to the Kirkgate Market opening a stall alongside the centenary clock.
#3 – World’s First Internet Provider
Remember those CD-ROMs from companies like AOL, offering up “free minutes of internet” you could use on your computers back in the nineties to browse online? Well, you’ve got Leeds to thank for that, as Freeserve (The world’s first internet service provider) started off here in 1998. The company was founded the same year as a project between Dixons Group plc and Leeds based hosting provider ‘Planet Online’ to provide free internet access to customers buying new home PCs from Dixons stores.
Freeserve was the first of the UK ISPs to dispense with the usual monthly subscription fee for internet access, and instead to collect a proportion of the standard telephone line charges. At the time, virtually all internet access in the UK was via dial-up access. Further revenue was obtained from advertisements on Freeserve’s homepage, which was set as the default page in the customers web browsers. By September 2000, Freeserve had more than 2 million active subscribers. This was vastly more than the incumbent telephone provider BT, and by the end of the year Freeserve was bought by Wanadoo in 2000 for £1.65 billion
#2 – The World’s Oldest Continual Working Railway
The Middleton Railway is the world’s oldest continuously working public railway. It was founded in 1758 and is now a heritage railway, run by volunteers from the Middleton Railway Trust Ltd since 1960. The railway operates passenger services at weekends and on public holidays. Their headquarters is location at Moor Road Hunslet, Leeds and Park Halt on the Outskirts of Middleton Park.
In June 1960, the Middleton Railway became the first standard gauge railway to be taken over and operated by unpaid volunteers. Passenger services were initially operated for only one week, using an ex-Swansea and Mumbles Railway double deck tram, the largest in Britain seating 1006 passengers. Regular operation of passengers services began in 1969.
#1 – First Motion Picture
Roundhay Garden Scene is an 1888 short silent film recorded by French inventor Louis Le Prince. It is believed to be the oldest surviving film in existence, as noted by the Guinness Book of Records. According to Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, the film was made at Oakwood Grange, the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, in Roundhay, Leeds on October 14th 1888. It features Adolphe Le Prince, Sarah Whitley, Joseph Whitley and Annie Hartley in the garden, walking around. The clip itself only last for 2.11 seconds, so while incredibly significant for film history, there’s no need to warm up any popcorn.
In 1930, the National Science Museum in London produced photographic copies of the surviving parts from the 1888 filmstrip. This sequence was recorded on an 1885 Eastman Kodak paper based photographic film through Le Prince’s single-lens combi camera-projector. Later a digitally remastered version of Roundhay Garden was produced by the National Media Museum in Bradford.