Pablo is Coming!

Marking the end of Black History month this week we are sharing three playbills from our collections featuring Pablo Fanque, Britain’s first black circus owner. Born William Darby on 28th February 1796 in Norwich he joined the circus in 1810 as an apprentice to William Batty who owned a small travelling circus. He was known as ‘Young Darby’ for the first 15 to 20 years of his time at the circus before changing his stage name to Pablo Fanque.

Circus Royal, Boar Lane

Circus Royal, Boar Lane

This playbill from 27th February 1854 sees Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal performing on Boar Lane with ‘…one of the largest Companys of Equestrians!’ Amongst the artistes featured were: Henry Brown, ‘…the eclipse of all clowns’, Miss Smith in her ‘…daring and electrifying act d’equitation’ and The Milner family, ‘…in their unrivalled and beautiful Wreath Performances!’

Pablo Fanque had learned his profession well as he was known at various times in his career as an acrobat, a tight rope walker as well as a great equestrian and horse trainer.

Pablo Fanque's Royal Circus

Pablo Fanque’s Royal Circus

A further playbill in our collection shows the circus a month later with the programme for the 24th and 25th March 1854. Here Pablo Fanque appears with his celebrated Arabioan stead ‘the mare Beda’. Leeds Intelligencier noted on 25th March that
‘Pablo Fanque’s Circus – This favourite place of amusement has
met with continued and deserved success during the week.
Several new features have been introduced into the entertainments
including the unrivalled performance of the celebrated black mare
Beda.This beautiful mare,which possesses great docility,has been
so ably trained that her dancing exercises are more like those
of a rational being than one of the equine race.She appears to
listen to the music and to step gracefully and tunefully to its
inspiring strains.Her performances this week have elicited very
warm applause.Mr Fanque liberally devoted the proceeds of
Thursday evening for the benefit of the wives and families of
the soldiers who have departed for the East.The performance was
under the patronage of Major Goodenough,Captain Hunt,and the
officers of the Leeds garrison.The band of the Leeds squadron
of the Yorkshire Hussars was in attendance,and played several
popular airs.The house on that evening,was crowded to over-
flowing,thus evincing the interest that is felt in the laudable
object of providing for the wives and daughters of our noble
army.’

Although Pablo Fanque was renowned at the time as a great circus performer and equestrian he also suffered a great tragedy which happened in Leeds. In 1848 while the circus was at King Charles Croft in Leeds his wife was killed in an accident. The circus was performing in a wooden amphitheatre and the floor collapse sending some of the 600 spectators into the lower gallery which was used for selling tickets, Susannah Darby was in the ticket booth and was the only fatality. The Leeds Intelligencier noted later

‘Several persons were more or less injured by the fall
of the timbers composing the part that proved too weak,and Mrs
Darby,the wife of the proprietor was killed.This event which
occurred on Saturday the 18th March 1848,excited much sympathy
throughout the borough.A neat monument with an impressive
inscription is placed above the grave of Mrs Darby,in the
Woodhouse Lane Cemetery’.

Pablo is coming!

Pablo is coming!

Our final playbill is from 1858 and shows the circus at the White Cloth Hall Yard in Leeds,  the playbill states ‘Pablo is coming, with his world-famed Equestrian Wonders – a noble stud of highly trained horses and fairy ponies! The cleverest gymnasts, vaulters, rope-dancers, jugglers, tumblers, acrobats and best clowns in the world’.

Pablo Fanque is perhaps more well known now in popular culture when he was immortalised on the The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the track ‘ Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’ with the line ‘late of Pablo Fanque’s Fair’.

Pablo Fanque died aged 76 in Stockport in 1871 but was buried with his first wife Susannah at Woodhouse Cemetery, now St Georges Field. It was reported that a vast crowd lined the route of his funeral procession in Leeds.

The Great Leeds Book Crisis of 1966

In October 1966 the Leeds City Engineers determined the structure of the Central Library in the Municipal Buildings, in particular the load-carrying beams, were not strong enough to carry the weight imposed by the Reference stock.  Within weeks 80,000 volumes were moved from all stack rooms and gallery and stacked upon the library basement floors and further basement premises hastily leased in Cookridge Street.

Reference Library

Reference Library in 1954 packed with books and students – Leodis

The Library closed for 10 days from October 29th to November 10th while temporary wooden supports were fitted in the basement, ground floor, first floor and second floor.

It would take more than 5 years for the stock to be returned to the library.

Basement

1966 image showing some of the 80,000 books moved to the basement – Leodis

During this time Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Malcolm Barker described one of his visits to the reference library as follows:

A request to borrow the annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology 1879-80 raised no eyebrows at Leeds Reference Library. Obscure books are sought daily.

But the collection of the report meant that an assistant, Carol, had to walk down 71 mosaic-tiled steps (“quicker than waiting for the lift”).

She then descended into the basement. Carol’s journey continued through the cellars which run the length of the building fronting on the garden of rest.

She climbed a flight of stone steps to ground level, unlocked a door, and crossed Alexander Street in a rain-storm.  Unlocking another door, she entered the basement of a building fronting Cookridge Street.

In the corner of the cellar, among hundreds of other books, was the annual report.

The collection of the book and its return to the Reference Library gave the borrower ample time to study a notice on the desk: “It is regretted that there will be some delay in fetching maps and certain books owing to structural alterations.”

In October 1967, windows overlooking the courtyard at the rear of the library were bricked up as a new 5 story stack building was begun.

Outside Courtyard

1936 image showing the open air courtyard at the rear of the municipal buildings

In November 1973 the first four floors of the new Central Book Stack were handed over by Architects to Libraries.  Books were moved into the stacks over 4 Sundays in November & December 1973.

The new stacks were capable of holding 40,000 octavo and 25,000 quarto columns per stack and house back runs of journals, research stock and rare and valuable items.

If you visit the Arts Space on the first floor in the Central Library you can still see where the windows used to be before the stacks were built.

The Best Night Out in History

Here at the Secret Library, we’re celebrating the fact that it’s nearly the weekend by squeezing into our flares and strapping on our platform shoes ready for a big night out! Well… not really, but we did find an old edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post from 1975 and got rather excited by the groovy nightlife promotions in the Entertainments section…

Advert for Heaven-Hell

Advert for Heaven-Hell

Heaven and Hell, above, was one of Leeds’ first clubs to embrace the ‘dual dance floor’ concept and, by the late seventies, had become well-known as a punk and alternative venue. It occupied two floors of the building at 23 Eastgate, currently occupied by Hadramout Arabian restaurant. Interestingly, the ‘Heaven and Hell’ name resurfaced in the late nineties as that of an unrelated nightclub within the Grand Arcade, which again boasted two rooms with different identities.

The epitome of the twin-theme nightclub, however, was Cinderellas Rockerfellas on Merrion Way (where the Stick or Twist pub stands today, just in front of the First Direct Arena). Prior to 1973, the two dance spots existed as separate venues, both established and owned by seventies club entrepreneur Peter Stringfellow. But, by 1975, the combined super-club was arguably the city’s most famous nightspot:

Advert for Cinderellas

Advert for Cinderellas

The Cinderellas section welcomed students, stags and hen parties, contributing to a younger and more casual crowd who were often to be found dancing around handbags or competing in outrageous stunts to win bottles of champagne, often egged on by Peter Stringfellow himself. Next-door, Rockerfellas catered for a slightly older and classier crowd – although, according to reports, it wasn’t unusual for its clientele to venture into Cinderellas on the prowl, before bringing their conquests back into Rockerfellas to escape the younger competition.

The nearby Tiffany’s – upstairs in the Merrion Centre – tried to compete with regular themed events, such as this 1975 French night promising can-can dancing and Pernod promotions:

Advert for Tiffany's

Advert for Tiffany’s

As you can see from the branding at the bottom of this advert, Tiffany’s was owned by the Mecca Leisure Group, who’d been behind the successful and long-running Mecca Locarno Ballroom in County Arcade until it closed in 1969. In fact, Tiffany’s itself previously operated as the New Mecca for the best part of a decade. The space has since been occupied by a number of nightclubs, including Ritzy and Oceana, and is now part of the recently-opened Pryzm.

Lower Briggate’s Pentagon Nightscene looks like it was going for a suave and stylish vibe, judging by this advert:

Pentagon advert

Pentagon advert

 The entrance could be found by walking down from town along Briggate and looking for a little door on the left, just after the overhead railway bridge. Two flights of stairs led up to a dark and mysterious space illuminated only by low-hanging lampshades. The night spot prided itself on its sophisticated food options… which in the seventies meant the ubiquitous ‘chicken in a basket’.

 Leaving town, you might have found yourself at “Leeds’ latest swinging night spot for the best in disco sounds”, also known as Wheels Disco. This was attached to the Windmill Hotel in Seacroft, east Leeds (now known as the Britannia Hotel):

Wheels Disco advert

Wheels Disco advert

The reason many clubbers might have ventured out of the city centre back in the seventies was that venues in the small adjoining towns and suburbs were regarded as ‘friendlier’ – which is to say the doormen would allow you in even if you looked under 21 or, in the case of men, had a longer hairstyle or weren’t wearing a tie (a major no-no at a place like Rockerfellas!).

To walk the streets of Leeds today is to pass by the ghosts of many long-vanished nightclubs hiding in the coffins of shops, restaurants and disused buildings. As the flames rose over the roof of the Majestyk recently, another found its final resting place in the city’s history.

Take a Heritage Tour of the Central Library

Have you ever wanted to know more about the heritage of our fabulous Central Library building or fancied looking behind the scenes?

We are now offering bookable heritage tours around the building showing you how it has changed over the years and letting you see parts not usually accessible to the public.

To whet your appetite have a look at some of our ‘before and after’ merged images.

Looking towards the current Children's library

Looking towards the current Children’s library

View from the current Lending Library to what is now the Children’s Library but was earlier the Music and Audio Library.

Current Tiled Hall cafe, then and now

Current Tiled Hall cafe, then and now

The wonderful Tiled Hall has changed use many times but here we can see it currently as a cafe and in a previous incarnation as a Sculpture Gallery.

Tiled Hall cafe, then and now

Tiled Hall cafe, then and now

Again in the Tiled Hall this image shows the current cafe on the left with restoration work carried out before the cafe moved in.

Art Library then and now

Art Library then and now

Another room used for many different purposes over the years. On the right is the current view of it as the Art Library and on the left as the Lending Library and below the opposite way round.

Another view of the current Art library, then and now

Another view of the current Art library, then and now

Reaching the second floor we are now in what is currently the Information and Research library.

Current Information and Research library, then and now

Current Information and Research library, then and now

and a second view.

A further view of the current Information and Research library, then and now

A further view of the current Information and Research library, then and now

Finally the magnificent room which is currently the Local and Family History Library and was the original Reference Library.

Current Local and Family History library, then and now

Current Local and Family History library, then and now

To find out all the history of the building, see many more images and access behind the scenes book on to one of our heritage tours.

Sunday 12 October, 1.30 – 3.00 p.m

Sunday 16 November, 1.30 – 3.00 p.m

Sunday 7 December, 1.30 – 3.00 p.m

The tours are particularly suited to adults, please note some behind the scenes areas are not wheelchair accessible.

Prices £5 adults, £3 children.

Please book online at http://leedslibraryevents.ticketsource.co.uk/

Contact Enquiry Express for further details: enquiry.express@leeds.gov.uk, 0113 2476016

The Leeds Tapestry

During September this year Leeds Central Library had a visit from two year 4 classes from Farsley Springbank Primary School. They came to Central Library to see the Leeds Tapestries, which are housed on the 1st floor in the corridor between the Art Library and the Music Library. The Children’s Librarian spoke to the groups of children about the rich content and background of the tapestries. The children then had a chance to explore the tapestries with a question sheet to find the answers within each panel. This session forms part of the Leeds libraries Heritage offer to school.

The Tapestries were created between 1992-2002 and it was a community arts project to celebrate the millennium. The project was devised by Kate Russell who is a local community artist. Her vision was to create a rich tapestry of Leeds life, involving all different sectors of the city. There are 16 panels, they measure 2.4mX1.5m and each has a separate theme including; education, health, transport, industry etc.

There are a huge amount of different skills and techniques used from embroidery to photo printing to rag rugging.

Community Spirit panel

Community Spirit panel

Detail from the Enterprise panel

Detail from the Enterprise panel

Sporting Life panel

Sporting Life panel

Kate wanted it to be a valuable creative experience for all volunteers, so brought in high level tuition with professional artists. Records were kept of every piece of work and every volunteer, which can be found in ‘The Leeds Tapestry’ book, which is available in the Art Library.

The Leeds Tapestry book

The Leeds Tapestry book

To get an understanding of the time scale of the project you need to realise how long each component took to be created. For example on the ‘The Legal Sector’ panel there is a small piece depicting three judges which took 52 hours alone to complete. This piece in particular was then taken around various legal organisations to demonstrate the project and raise funds and support.

Three Judges, detail from Pro Rege et Lege panel

Three Judges, detail from Pro Rege et Lege panel

A really nice example that we showed the children from Farsley which is on the ‘Pins and Needles’ panel, is a couple of pieces representing Bonds shop. This is a haberdashery shop in Farsley, most of the children recognised the shop and created a really lovely connection for them to make. At the time the shop gave supplies to the project and became a sponsor in return to feature on the tapestry.

Bond's Shop, detail from the Pins and Needles panel

Bond’s Shop, detail from the Pins and Needles panel

The tapestries are really worth a visit if you are in Leeds City Centre and everyone can find something within the panels that they can relate to. From the skills and techniques used to the stories behind each individual piece which illustrates the wonderful rich history of Leeds. You can arrange a guided tour of the tapestries through Enquiry Express. The Art Library sells the catalogue, as well as the book and souvenir postcards. The Art Library also has stock of the book that you can borrow using your Leeds Library card.

The Leeds Tapestry books available to purchase in the Art Library

The Leeds Tapestry books available to purchase in the Art Library

Contact Enquiry Express for further information enquiry.express@leeds.gov.uk 2476016.