Thomas Gent’s 1733 Wood Engraving of Leeds

Librarian Antony Ramm takes a brief look at a lesser-known view of Leeds in the 18th-century…

Eighteenth-century Leeds suffers slightly, perhaps, in the popular mind-set, sandwiched between a  19th-century more obviously traceable in its effects on the built environment of the city, and a seventeenth-century with more viscerally thrilling episodes and dominant personalities. While much good work has been done on the period, and some hidden contributors of the time brought back into the light, there still remains the need for substantial and comprehensive monographs that can stand alongside those covering the century that followed.

Extract from Francis Place’s ‘The Prospect of Leeds, from the Knostrop Road’, showing the area around Leeds Parish Church. Taken from Ralph Thoresby’s Ducatus Leodiensis

In the meantime, researchers and the interested public have to content themselves with viewing several illuminating maps and prospects from the period. Many of these are no doubt broadly familiar to many readers of this blog, including Francis Place’s 1715 ‘Prospect of Leeds, from the Knostrop Road’, Samuel Buck’s view from the South-East, and the maps of John Cossins and Thomas Jeffreys (1726 and 1770 respectively).

Extract from Cossin’s 1726 ‘New & Exact Plan of the Town of Leeds, ‘ showing the area around Leeds Parish Church

Another view to set alongside these has recently come to light in our collections – a wood-engraving by the York printer and writer, Thomas Gent. Published in his 1733 book The History of the Loyal Town of Rippon, Gent’s town portrait is absolutely not a new discovery, having been cited in Steven Burt and Kevin Grady’s recent book on Kirkgate. It is, however, almost certainly less well-known than the prospects of Place and Buck, and thus deserving of a wider audience – and deeper exploration.

An extract from the engraving is shown below. To access the original, or to view full versions of any of the prospects and maps reproduced here, please contact the Local and Family History department on 0113 37 86982 or via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk.

Detail from Gent’s 1733 wood-engraving, showing the area around Leeds Parish Church
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