- By Ross Horsley, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library
Now is the time to wander down to the West Yorkshire Playhouse and take advantage of a relatively unobstructed view straight up Eastgate to the Headrow. Once the new multi-storey car park of the currently under-construction Victoria Gate shopping centre is complete (it’s due to open late next year), we wager you might still be able to see as far as the Town Hall clock tower – as seen below – but, depending on the shape of the new development, it’s by no means a given.
Today, the boughs of trees frame the prospect seen from this viewpoint at the eastern edge of the city centre but, forty years ago, you would have been staring out from beneath the arched entrance of the country’s largest housing block, Quarry Hill Flats. The complex stood on the site from 1934 to 1978, and a visit to our Leodis photographic website will show you exactly what it looked like. The picture below, however, from 1967, shows a view similar to that above, albeit with two big differences. Firstly, the left of the two ‘Bookend Buildings’, only recently demolished, still stands – the mirror image of its companion across the road. Secondly, Eastgate Roundabout (in the foreground) remains the location of Appleyard’s petrol station… Look closely and you can make out its petrol pumps where, today, flower beds and pelican crossing points stand.
Our vantage point, or hereabouts, is also the place from which to try to catch a glimpse of one of the city’s most mysterious and little-seen phenomena, known amongst the select few who’ve witnessed it as ‘Leedshenge’. It’s whispered that, if you’re standing in the right spot (somewhere around here) at the right time of day (sunrise or sunset) at the right time of year (accounts favour the vernal or autumnal equinox), the sun will momentarily rest upon the horizon, lining up perfectly with the buildings that flank the Headrow, and lending the landscape an unearthly, near-indescribable glow. You’ve missed your chance for this year, we’re afraid, but perhaps we’ll meet you there next March… that’s if that car park’s not in the way.