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History of Leeds

History of Leeds
  • council: Leeds City Council
  • population: 770,000
  • phone code: 0113
  • postcode area: LS
  • county: Yorkshire

Leeds is a lively city, rich in culture and heritage with lots to explore. More than 750,000 people live within our city boundaries and over 100,000 people come to work in the city centre every day. Many thousands more tourists and visitors come to shop, eat out or enjoy the range of attractions Leeds has on offer.

Leeds also have excellent nightlife, great shopping, fascinating architecture, world renowned sports venues and our close proximity to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales are just a few of the many attractions that bring over 11 million visitors to Leeds every year.

Whether it's for business or leisure, the Leeds lifestyle has a lot to offer. With over 100 bars, 25 night clubs and 75 restaurants in the city centre alone, Leeds is famous for its vibrant night life and cultural scene. Our city is also home to the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition and top international performing companies such as Opera North, Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Dubbed the 'Knightsbridge of the North' by the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain, Leeds is also Yorkshire and Humberside's prime shopping location. Our city has more than 4.3 million square feet of retail space, set in stunning architectural surroundings such as the Victoria Quarter, Corn Exchange, Headrow Centre, Leeds Shopping Plaza and The Light.

The name "Leeds" is thought to be derived from "Loidis", a word of Celtic origin. Bede wrote: "...regione quae vocatur Loidis" region known as Loidis. This root also survives in the nearby place names of Ledston and Ledsham. Leeds was mentioned as "Ledes" in the Domesday Book of 1086, after which the name evolved into "Leedes" and finally "Leeds".

Leeds was an agricultural market town in the Middle Ages, and received its first charter in 1207. In the Tudor period Leeds was mainly a merchant town, manufacturing woollen cloths and trading with Europe via the Humber estuary. The population grew from 10,000 at the end of the 17th century to 30,000 at the end of the 18th. At one point nearly half of England's total exports passed through Leeds. At the time of the Industrial Revolution Leeds grew rapidly and the population rose to over 150,000 by 1840. The city's industrial growth was helped by the building of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699, Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816 and the railway in 1848. In 1893 Leeds was granted city status. The industries that developed in the Industrial Revolution included making machinery for spinning, machine tools, steam engines and gears as well as other industries based on textiles, chemicals, leather and pottery. Coal was extracted on a large scale and the Middleton Railway, the first successful commercial steam locomotive railway in the world, transported coal from Middleton colliery into the centre of Leeds.
The old Post Office, City Square, constructed 1896, representative of the scale of many commercial buildings of the late nineteenth century found in Leeds.

By the 20th century this social and economic base started to change as Leeds saw the creation of the academic institutions that are known today as the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University and Leeds Trinity University College. This period also witnessed expansion in medical institutions, particularly the Leeds General Infirmary and St James's Hospital. Following World War II there was a decline in the secondary industries that had thrived in the 19th century. In 1951, half the workforce was still occupied in manufacturing; by 1971 the figure was a third. Leeds lost a third of its manufacturing jobs during 19711981. In 1991, 64,000 were employed in manufacturing. In 2003, 2,103 firms employed 44,500 (10% of workforce). However there are still some large engineering firms, the largest of which make turbine blades, components, alloys, valves and pipelines for the oil industry, switchgear, printers' supplies, copper alloys, surgical and hospital equipment, pumps, motors and radiators.

In the 1980s, the Conservative government designated Urban Development Corporation status on a number of areas of UK cities: some declining areas were taken out of local authority control and government funding was provided with the aim of speeding up and concentrating private sector investment in the most run-down areas. Leeds Development Corporation ran from 19881995 and helped to focus attention on two decayed industrial areas, the lower Kirkstall Valley and the riverside area to the south east of the city centre. Achievements of LDC included refurbishment of many riverside properties, the opening up of Granary Wharf and the Royal Armouries development.

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