- by Sally Hughes, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library
For a building almost 130 years old the walls of Leeds Central Library have many tales to tell. If you have visited or even seen photographs of this beautiful Victorian building you will know that there is a rich history to be explored inside. A large part of this building is hidden from view; behind 7 foot doors under lock and key, down winding stone staircases, bricked up behind walls and underneath the building. These parts have never been seen by the public…until now.
In the spirit of Hallowe’en we’d like to share a few of our favourite eerie spots around the Central Library…
The Yorkshire Room
Apparently the most haunted room in the Library, the Yorkshire Room has always been off limits to the general public, first used as offices and today housing books, newspapers and ephemera relating to Yorkshire. Reports of strange smells, the sound of footsteps and glimpses of figures between the shelves makes this room the first on our spook list!
The Stairs to Nowhere
It’s clear there were once stairs here…but where did they lead to? And what happened to them? These are part of what we call the ‘Tiled Stairs’ which run through the staff parts of the building and we can only assume they were covered over for some eerie suspicious reason…
After warnings that the Building may begin to collapse under the weight of the stock inside, in 1966 thousands of volumes were removed from the Library and temporarily housed in the basements of surrounding buildings. Where the courtyard that you can see in the photograph above once was, a 5 story concrete construction was built from the ground up to ensure we had enough space for all our stock to be housed safely.
The stacks today are one of the most eerie places in the building. As you climb the narrow staircases inside the stacks you can feel the dip in temperature and hear the clanking book lift in the middle of the structure.
Behind locked doors are the stack rooms themselves, again eerily cold and dark. Even our most sceptical members of staff have noted feeling uneasy in the stacks and numerous ghostly sights and sounds have been reported…
We really have saved the best, and most spooky for last. The basement.
If you have visited before, you may be aware that you can arrive into the building at basement level and take the journey up in the lift to our further 3 floors. But wait…there is another basement. Past the generators, the telephone switchboard and down stone steps is the real basement.
The depths of this Victorian building were once used by Library staff but now lay untouched with only a brave few engineers ever venturing down there, as this area is now inaccessible.
We warned you it was spooky!
If you dare to see the ‘behind the scenes’ sights of our beautiful Grade II Listed Central Library (it’s not all spooky we promise) you can book onto one of our Heritage Tours that run regularly. Keep an eye out for future dates/ticket information on Leeds Libraries Twitter (@leedslibraries) and Facebook (Leeds Libraries) or on our Ticketsource page https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents
Be sure to check back here soon for a report from our sold out Haunted Heritage Tour which is taking place after the building closes this Friday 30th October.