Blue Plaque Highlight: Leeds Corn Exchange
The Leeds Corn Exchange, an architectural gem in the city, is well known as a quirky destination for independent retailers and delightful food outlets.
When it opened its doors, however, its remit was very different. As the name would suggest, it was first designed as a centre for the exchange and sale of corn wheat, barley, hops, peas, beans, seeds, oil cake and flour, and hosted a farmers’ market and regular leather fairs.
The blue plaque on the wall states:
“This magnificent building was designed for Leeds Corporation by Cuthbert Brodrick. Its ingenious roof gave an even northern light for the careful inspection of grain by merchants and factors from all over England and Scotland who occupied its 59 offices and 170 stands on its trading floor. Trade continued strongly until the 1950s but, as it declined, a new use was needed. Imaginatively re-modelled it re-opened in 1990 as a unique speciality shopping centre. Erected 1861-63.”
Cuthbert Brodrick FRIBA (1 December 1821 – 2 March 1905) was a British architect also known for the design of Leeds Town Hall and Leeds Mechanics’ Institute (now Leeds City Museum).
Leeds Corn Exchange is one of Britain’s best examples of a Victorian building and a Grade 1 listed structure. It is said to be just one of three Corn Exchanges left in the country that still operates as a centre for trade.
Blue Plaque Highlight: Whitelocks Pub
One of the city’s most loved landmarks, Whitelocks is a drinking den hidden down a ginnel off Briggate and the oldest pub in Leeds.
Originally opened as the ‘Turks Head’ in 1715, this public house mostly served merchants and market traders. In 1867, the licence transferred to John Lupton Whitelock, whose family managed it for generations until it sold to a brewery in 1944.
In the 1880s, the pub was renovated with Edwardian decor (some of which is still in place today) and in 1897 electricity was installed including a “revolving searchlight at the Briggate entrance to the yard.”
Whitelocks is said to have been frequented by Prince George (later Duke of Kent) and the poet John Betjeman, along with other stage names performing nearby.
Leeds Civic Trust honoured it in 2008 with the 100th blue plaque in the city, unveiled by the great great granddaughter of landlord John Lupton Whitelock.
The text on the plaque reads:
“Occupying a medieval Briggate burgage plot, it was first licensed as the Turk’s Head in 1716. Rebuilt by the Whitelock family in the 1880s, it later extended into the row of Georgian Working men’s cottages. John Betjeman described it as ‘the very heart of Leeds’.”
Blue Plaque Highlight: University of Leeds Refectory
An unlikely location for a famed blue plaque, the University of Leeds Refectory is the landmark site of a legendary concert by The Who.
The plaque commemorates The Who’s gig on Valentine’s Day 1970 when they recorded ‘Live at Leeds’, said to be “the most celebrated live album of its generation.”
Other performers at the rock venue have included, believe it or not, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Status Quo, Bob Marley, Elvis Costello, Radiohead, and Fatboy Slim!
The refectory, designed by architect J. C. Procter, was a late addition to the University campus. It opened its doors in 1955 and has proven to be an unlikely attraction for some of the most famous singers of recent times.
In 2006, Peter Townshend and Roger Daltrey returned to unveil the plaque which reads:
“The University Refectory is a legendary concert venue. The Who’s performance here on 14 February 1970 was recorded and released as ‘Live at Leeds,’ the most celebrated live album of its generation.”
Singer Roger Daltrey told the Yorkshire Post: “The students at Leeds were a great audience for us. It was packed to the rafters and then some more. I heard there were a thousand fans on the roof!”
Blue Plaque Highlight: Printworks Campus
In September 2013, Leeds City College’s new Printworks Campus opened on Hunslet Road on the site of the former Alf Cooke Printworks. This red-brick construction, with its prominent clock tower, is nestled just next to Costco.
One of the most recognisable industrial landmarks in Leeds, The Printworks is a grade II listed former industrial building by architect, Thomas Ambler. It was built in 1881 and rebuilt after a fire in 1894.
Alf Cooke founded his printing business in 1866 and moved his operation to Hunslet in the early 1870s. In 1885 Cooke was appointed by Queen Victoria as “Her Majesty’s Colour Printer”.
In 1890 he was made Mayor of Leeds, and the factory became famed internationally for the printing of intricately designed playing cards, among other things!
The site is now a Leeds City College campus which houses subjects including engineering, catering and hospitality, hairdressing and beauty therapy, and IT and computer science. It is also the location of College training salons and a restaurant, all open to the public.
Incidentally, Alf Cooke had his residence at none other than Weetwood Hall between 1889-1902, which also has a blue plaque dedicated to a Daniel Foxcroft who rebuilt the Hall in 1625 (his family owned the former Kirkstall Abbey estate for over a century).
The blue plaque at The Printworks, the 150th created by Leeds Civic Trust, reads:
“Crown Point Printing Works: Alf Cooke (1842 – 1902) began printing in 1866. He developed great skills in colour lithography producing art reproductions and portraits of the famous. In 1885 he was awarded a Royal Warrant. Following a fire, these works were entirely rebuilt in 1895 as “the largest, healthiest printing works in the world.” Architect: Thomas Ambler.”
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