George Corson, leaving his mark on Leeds

George Corson

George Corson

Today we bring you the architect and designer of our 1884 Municipal Buildings, George Corson.  Born in Dumfries, Scotland, George like his older brother William trained under Scottish architect Walter Newall.  George followed his brother to Leeds where on the 1851 census aged 21 and 28 they are registered as living at Number 21 Lyddon Terrace in Woodhouse.  George began a partnership with his brother and landscape garden designer Edward La Trobe Bateman however when Bateman moved on and William relocated to Manchester in 1860 George was left with the practice.  As numerous public commissions followed his practice thrived and in 1876 George was elected the first president of the Leeds Architectural Society.

George Corson died in 1910 and was buried at Lawnswood Cemetery where between 1870 and 1876 he had designed the layout and chapel.  George left his mark on the City of Leeds with a number of beautiful buildings some of which still stand today including the Leeds Central Library.  Below are photographs from the Leodis website showing a selection of his Leeds designs.

St Clement's Church, Chapeltown Road

St Clement’s Church, Chapeltown Road

Designed in the early Geometric style and built in Potternewton stone at a cost of £10,000.  It could accommodate a congregation of eight hundred people and was consecrated on September 10th 1868.

Bewerley Street Infants School, Bewerley Street – built 1873

Bewerley Street Infants School, Bewerley Street – built 1873

The first Leeds Board School it opened on August 8th 1873 eventually just catering for for juniors (7-11year olds) and the infants were moved to a school  on Hunslet Hall Road in the 1930s.  Girls and boys were taught separately and the building designed with a gymnasium for the boys and a cookery and laundry room for the girls.

 

Leeds Grand Theatre, built 1878

Leeds Grand Theatre, built 1878

The theatre was designed by George Corson but much of the work was carried out by his assistant James Watson.  Built in a Romanesque style it was decorated with arched windows and circular roof turrets.

 

Education School Board Offices – built 1881

Education School Board Offices – built 1881

Originally intended to be included with the Municipal Buildings to take up the entire footprint from Centenary Street (now Victoria Gardens) to Great George Street the design was split into two buildings due to opposition to the closure of Alexander Street which it would have covered.

Municipal Buildings – built 1884

Municipal Buildings – built 1884

Built to be the heart of the administrative centre of Leeds with a Public Library, bill payment offices, the sanitation department, city engineers and hackney carriage offices.

It took 6 years to build at a cost of £21,000 and is today home to the Leeds Central Library.

Assembly Rooms – built 1898

Assembly Rooms – built 1898

Designed by George Corson and his assistant James Watson the building opened as the Assembly Rooms Concert Hall in 1898.  It became a cinema in 1907 and changed it’s name to The Plaza in 1958.  It closed in 1985 and has now been restored and is part of the Leeds Grand Theatre complex.

All building images are available to view on the Leodis website.

 

 

Beryl Gott and the Gott Bequest

In volume 10 of our copy of ‘The Northern Gardener’ published in 1956, there is an article by Kenneth Lemmon, the Honorary Editor, which says of the Gott Collection in Leeds Central Library ,’I cannot think of another such collection outside the R.H.S. Lindley Library or the British Museum and the older universities.’ Whether that still applies today I cannot say but one can be sure that the collection here in Leeds is still of huge significance and a highly valuable source of research to all with an interest in the history of gardens and gardening.

Beryl Gott

Beryl Gott

Beryl Katherine Gott, née Robins, born in 1866, married her cousin Frank Gott of the famous Leeds woollen industry family on the 29th June 1893. Frank Gott was Lord Mayor of Leeds, 1917-1918. Beryl, or Mrs Frank Gott, was Lady Mayoress and she also became Leeds first woman alderman and one of the first four women magistrates to be appointed to the Leeds Bench.

She was extremely active in institutions connected with the life of the city of Leeds. Not only was she a member of the National Union for Women Workers she was also vice-chair of the Leeds Charity Organisation, a member of the Court of the University, a member of the Yorkshire Ladies Council of Education and throughout the First World War Beryl was one of the secretaries of the Red Cross inquiry office at Becket’s Park Hospital. This was one of the first Red Cross inquiry branches to be opened outside London.

Amongst her many interests and commitments Beryl had a huge passion for gardens and gardening. This, along with a number of his books, she probably inherited from her great grandfather, Benjamin Gott, the founder of the Leeds Gott woollen merchant industry. Gott’s Park in Armley is one of the family’s gifts to Leeds.

Bookplate from the Gott Collection

Bookplate from the Gott Collection

In 1930 Beryl bequeathed a gift of money to the Leeds Public Library which was used over a number of years to purchase books on Horticulture.

The picture shown here is an example of a bookplate that records the fact that the book was purchased out of the donation left to us by her. These are to be found on the inside front cover of many of the books in the Gott collection. The bequest was a highly valuable asset that enabled the library to purchase many important horticultural books over the years.

Beryl Gott left yet another legacy to the Leeds Public Library. On her death in 1941 she left a large part of her library to us.

This consisted of a collection that ranges from the 16th century to the early 19th century. There is a strong emphasis on 18th century books. This being a time when there was a huge appetite for codifying and cataloguing the incredible amount of botanical riches that were being discovered at that time both in this country and abroad. As Mr Lemmon says in the Northern Gardener ‘That was the age when botany keenly interested almost every gentleman of taste….’

In all there are approximately five hundreds books in the Gott Collection. These include some one hundred and eighty four bound volumes of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

The common dandelion or Leontodo Taraxacum  from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

The common dandelion or Leontodo Taraxacum from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine

These with few exceptions run continuously from the first volume of 1787 to volume 184 in 1983. Also hugely important are Curtis’s ‘Flora Londinensis’ or, Plates and descriptions of such plants as grow wild in the environs of London. Originally published between 1775 and 1798 and bound in six volumes.

From the Flora Londinensis William Curtis makes the common dandelion or Leontodo Taraxacum seen here on the left, look quite special.

Papaver Orientale or Eastern Poppy

Papaver Orientale or Eastern Poppy

On the right, from the very first edition of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 1787, is his Papaver Orientale or Eastern Poppy. A flower with no small significance at this time in history as we remember all those who fell in the First World War one hundred years ago.

Other items in the collection of great importance include 2 copies of Dodoen’s ‘New Herball’ printed in 1586.

Dodoen’s ‘New Herball’

Dodoen’s ‘New Herball’

 

A history of herbs and plants ‘……which are heere growing in this countrie of England…….First set foorthe in the Douch or Almaigne toong, by that learned D. Rembert Dodoens, Phisition to the emperor.

 

 

 

Another book, ‘Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening’ by H. Repton esq. published in 1803 reflects the increasing refinement of Repton’s theories on landscape and architecture. It contains 27 etched and engraved plates, 12 of these with overslips, one folding, and many hand-coloured or tinted, aquatint and engraved illustrations in the text, 2 with overslips. Below we see an example of one of his engraved landscapes using the ‘overslip.

Water at Wentworth

Water at Wentworth

Picture 1. Here the overslip is laid flat to show the landscape as it appeared before the implementation of Repton’s architectural idea.

And below in picture 2 we see the architectural design in all its splendour with the overslip moved.

With architectural design at Wentworth

With architectural design at Wentworth

The many similar examples within the book offered the viewer a novel alternative aspect to a scene and provided them with an almost photographically realistic view of how the landscape would look when Repton’s changes were put into practice.

We have Parkinson’s ‘Paradisi in sole Paradisus,’ 1629, Gerard’s ‘Herball’ of 1636 and J. De La Quintinye’s ‘Compleat Gard’ner’ of 1693. John Evelyn’s ‘Kalendarium hortense,’ 1699, R. Bradley’s ‘New Improvements of Planting,’ 1718. The list of fascinating works goes on and whatever area of gardening literature interests you the Gott collection will undoubtedly cater for all tastes.

Although the items in the Gott collection are reference only they are all available to view here in the Information & Research Department. If you wish to see a small collection of books from the Gott bequest there is at present a display outside the Information & Research Library on the second floor of the Leeds Central Library. This includes some of Curtis’s very early Botanical Magazine. Here are two examples;

Amaryllis Reginæ or Mexican Lily.

Amaryllis Reginæ or Mexican Lily.

On the left we have Amaryllis Reginæ or Mexican Lily. Vols. 13-14, 1799-1800.

On the right we have

Sparaxis Tricolor or Three Coloured Sparaxis

Sparaxis Tricolor or Three Coloured Sparaxis

Sparaxis Tricolor or Three Coloured Sparaxis, Vols. 35-36, 1812.

Beryl Gott left us one more item. A book she gave to the library in 1929. Those of you who keep a regular eye on the articles in the secretlibraryleeds blogs cannot fail to have noticed a very small piece of this absolutely wonderful book. The banner of the secretlibraryleeds blog shows you this;

‘Horae beatae Mariae Virginis ‘ or Book of Hours.

‘Horae beatae Mariae Virginis ‘ or Book of Hours.

Believe me, the book is fabulous, but I am afraid you will have to keep watching the secretlibraryleeds blog a little longer before we reveal the rest of the picture and, perhaps, more from the Leeds Central Library illuminated manuscript, ‘Horae beatae Mariae Virginis ‘ or Book of Hours.

 

Celebrating 80 years of the Children’s Library

This year is the 80th year that the children of Leeds have had a ground floor library at Leeds Central Library. Until then the junior stock was part of the lending stock that was housed on the second floor, where the Art Library is today. In 1934 the Central Library had a refurbishment and the expanding lending stock was relocated to the ground floor. As part of this move a separate room was created as the Central Junior Library, which has stayed in various locations on the ground floor ever since.

Cross section showing the library in 1934 and in 2014

Cross section showing the library in 1934 and in 2014

The Central Junior Library also found a new home on the ground-floor and is proving much more convenient. A greatly admired feature in this room is the wall decoration, representing seventeenth century Leeds with typical local industries and costumes of the period, done with much skill and sense of colour by students of the Leeds College of Art.

Extract: Annual report of the libraries and arts committee to the council 

The star of the new junior department was the mural which was hand painted by art students from Leeds College of Art. It was mentioned and featured in several of the local newspapers; Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post and Leeds Mercury.

Mural painted by students from Leeds College of Art

Mural painted by students from Leeds College of Art

An article in the Yorkshire Evening News 11/6/34 talks about the expansion and creation of the new Junior Library.

Innovation in Leeds Lending Library

Innovation in Leeds Lending Library, article Yorkshire Evening News

On it are painted typical figures of the past – a woman at a spinning wheel, the old pack horses, Matthew Murrays famous engine and a Yorkshire miner.

Leeds public Libraries 1931-1935 

Article, 'Holiday sacrificed'

Article, ‘Holiday sacrificed’

The last 80 years has seen massive social changes to the junior library with the way families use the Library service. Computers, tablets and mobile phones are such a big part of children’s lives and education in modern times and have a strong presence in our Children’s library today. But we still have a great passion for children’s books and that is why families love the Central Children’s Library as much today as they loved the Central Junior Library 80 years ago.

Read More: Football and History

  • by Antony Ramm, Information and Research, Central Library.

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

Now that the domestic football season has begun we thought it an appropriate time to draw your attention to the Information and Research collection of the Rothmans Football Yearbooks (now the Sky Sports Football Yearbook).

Rothmans Football Yearbooks display

Rothmans Football Yearbooks display

This famous series started in the 1970-71 season – though our collection only runs from 1971-72. These books cover every possible detail imaginable about the previous year’s football, domestic, continental and international – scores, line-ups and a whole host of other fascinating facts, figures and statistics. Most football fans of a certain age will recall the many youthful hours spent trawling through these volumes; their value today lay as much in the Proustian rush of nostalgia evoked by their pages as in their usefulness for historical research. A Saturday afternoon spent flicking through this collection, while taking in the score updates from grounds around Britain, would be many people’s idea of a Saturday well spent. Though, depending on your choice of team, a journey through these volumes can be more pain than pleasure: it has certainly been a good long while since Leeds United have been as successful as in the 1973-1974 season!

Leeds United results in the title winning 1973-74 season

Leeds United results in the title winning 1973-74 season

The Rothman volumes are available to view by asking staff in the Information and Research library. Other interesting books covering football history that are held by the department – all available to loan – include The People’s Game: A Social History of British Football (James Walvin); Association Football and English Society: 1863-1915 (Tony Mason); the 1972 centenary history of the FA Cup (Tony Pawson); and the official histories of both the Football Association and the Football League (both authored by Byron Butler). The 1990 edition of The Football Grounds of Europe (Simon Inglis) is especially fascinating, offering photographs and detail about many major European stadia immediately prior to the post-Italia ’90 gentrification of the game. Speaking of Italia ’90, All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 is one of the best football books ever written, an invaluable record of the sport at a crucial turning point in its history – by an author with something important to say about England and the English.

Finally, for much more on Leeds United – including player/team records, biographies and match-day programmes – pay a visit to our Local and Family History library. You can be sure we will be blogging on this subject again as we approach the centenary of the team’s founding in 1919