Three Leeds Architects: W.H. Thorp, William Hill and Percy Robinson

Next Tuesday, the Central Library (in partnership with the West Yorkshire Victorian Society) welcomes prominent historian Janet Douglas, who will be delivering a talk on some lesser-known local architects of the Victorian and Edwardian period: W.H. Thorp, William Hill and Percy Robinson. Here we present some brief biographical details of those architects, along with some images from the Leodis archive of historic Leeds, to give readers a glimpse into the work done by Thorp, Hill and Robinson. You can book tickets for this talk via Ticketsource

All the below images are copyright of Leeds Libraries,, unless stated otherwise.

William Henry Thorp (1852 – 1944)

The son of John Hall Thorp, William Henry Thorp was articled to A.M. Fowler, the Assistant Borough Surveyor for Leeds, and in practice on his own account at 33 Grafton Street; Thorp then worked for three years for Edward Birchall. Birchall hailed from an old Quaker family, and set up his firm in Leeds during the early 1860s (Thorp wrote “Possessed of ample means, he did not push his practice, but carried it on in a somewhat old-fashioned leisurely manner.”). Thorp eventually launched his own practice in Leeds in 1876. In the 1890s he was in partnership with G.F. Danby, then with his son, Ralph W. Thorp, and from 1919-1923 with George Herbert Foggitt. He was the first Secretary of the Leeds and Yorkshire Architectural Society and its President from 1890-2. Two buildings designed by him can be seen below.

c1980-82. View of the Municipal Buildings on The Headrow. On the left is the Central Library and City Museum, opened in 1884 to the designs of George Corson, which initially also housed the Police Headquarters. On the right is the Art Gallery, designed by W.H. Thorp and opened as an extension to the Municipal Buildings in 1888. Taken around the early 1980s before the extension of the Henry Moore Sculpture Gallery was added to the Art Gallery in 1982. In front of the buildings is Centenary Street which was demolished to make way for the extension; the buildings now open straight on to Victoria Gardens. On the right of the photo is Alexander Street. The two towers of the Civic Hall can be seen in the centre background while Leeds College of Technology is the white building in the distance on the right. (c) Art Gallery,
18th October 1929. School of Medicine, Thoresby Place, designed by W.H. Thorpe, opened in 1894. The Medical School had been founded in 1831 by a group of surgeons and doctors. They had used various premises, which proved too small as numbers grew progressively through the years. It was one of the first provincial medical schools in England. In 1884 the Leeds School of Medicine and the Yorkshire College amalgamated. The College was to be the foundation of Leeds University, in 1910 clinical teaching was transferred from Leeds General Infirmary’s control to the University. 

William Hill (1828 – 1889)

Articled to Perkin and Backhouse, before setting up practice in 1851 at 59 Albion Street. In 1875 he was at 11 Park Square, when Salmon L. Swann was his partner. His firm is said to have been responsible for upwards of 100 Nonconformist chapels, as well as many more public buildings and private residences.

20th October 1941. View of Woodland Park Road, foreground, at the junction with Grove Lane. The house occupying the corner plot, which has a hedge and fencing, is number 46 Grove Lane. The substantial, turreted terraced homes in the background are also in Grove Lane and begin on the left with number 43, following an odd numbered sequence. At the other side they are numbered in an evens sequence as Back Oakfield Terrace. The houses were built by the Oakfield Terrace Building Club. An advert appeared in the Leeds Mercury on 23rd May 1874 stating: ‘Richardson and Watson are forming a Club for the Erection of Terrace Houses, with eight rooms each and large gardens at Headingley, to be called Oakfield Terrace. The position is the best in the district, having a southerly aspect, and within five minutes walk of the tram. For full particulars apply at the offices, 13 Park Row.’ They were designed by William Hill and construction was begun in late 1874. Grove Lane was not laid out until 1921 and until then there was a carriage-road with a turning circle to service the houses. 
3 June 1907. Exterior view of the old dispensary, which was situated at the junction of New Briggate, North Street and Vicar Lane. Built in 1865-67, and designed by Leeds architect William Hill, it was opened on 6 June 1867 by Sir Andrew Fairbairn. In 1900 it was proposed that the roads in this area be improved, a new dispensary was built a little lower down on North Street, at the junction with Hartley Hill, which opened in 1904. The right wing of the old building was demolished. The premises were used by various companies, then by 1913 it had been opened as a tuberculosis clinic. It is now a chest clinic and the building is listed. The very earliest Dispensary opened on 24th October in 1824 in the House of Recovery on Vicar Lane. This building dated from 1802/1804. 
24th September 1999. View of Yate’s Wine Lodge on Woodhouse Lane. The pub occupies the Woodhouse Lane Chapel which was opened on April 29th 1858. It was designed by William Hill for the Leeds first circuit of the Methodist New Connexion.
October 2003. A view of Yeadon Town Hall situated in the cobbled Town Hall Square. Leeds architect, William Hill was the winner of a competition to design the Town Hall and he was one of thirty entrants. He chose a gothic style and the building was completed and opened on 26th June 1880. Over the years the Town Hall has had many uses – The Mutual Improvement Society, the Mechanics Institution an elementary school, a venue for a gentleman’s club, a cinema, a library and a clinic. At present it houses Yeadon Town Hall Pre-school and hosts musical events, plays and pantomimes. A glimpse of the Methodist Church is visible, right.

Percy Robinson (1868 – 1950)

Robinson commenced practice in his hometown of Leeds after being articled to G.W. Atkinson and working for Thomas Winn. Most of his buildings date from the beginning of the present century, including Armley Public Library (1902), Leeds Exchange (Briggate, 1907). He was an active member of the Leeds arts collective known as the Savage Club, and  is best remembered for his books, Relics of Old Leeds (1896) and Leeds: Old and New (1926).

23rd March 1900. Armley Library, architect Percy Robinson’s design and drawing. The library opened to the public in 1902, it was the first purpose built library in Leeds. A lending department, reading room and separate ladies room were provided. Later, the basement area was a childrens library. The building has had a total refurbishment and houses various council services, including library service under the title of a One-Stop-Shop.
1924. View looks onto the junction of Briggate and Duncan Street. On the left is the premises of A. McConnell and Co, wine and spirit merchants at number 146 and 147 Briggate. Moving right is the Home and Colonial Stores, butchers at number 149 with Walker and Hall Ltd, jewellers, silversmiths and cutlers on the first floor at number 148. This building at the corner of Briggate and Duncan Street was designed by Percy Robinson and is now occupied by the Yorkshire Building Society. Part of the same building but facing onto Duncan Street was Hepworths clothiers and outfitters. At the top of the building is the face of a crying baby in lights with the slogan “Give (baby) its Nestles”. Underneath is a sign for Schweppes Ginger Ale. Hepworths was numbers 1 to 3 Duncan Street. Moving right is Milnes, formerly Wraggs Original Pork shop. To the right of the window is a poster offering pies, polony, sausage, home-fed bacon and pure lard. This was number 5 Duncan Street. Number 7 was Rawcliffes Ltd, clothiers. Tram lines are visible in the street along with a policeman on the left.
c1970s. View of Rawcliffes Clothiers at no. 7 Duncan Street, taken in the early 1970s. The building, designed by Percy Robinson and completed in 1905, is shown in need of repair with several windows broken. It was later renovated and Rawcliffes continued trading from the same premises, specialising in school uniforms, for a number of years before moving to York Road. The building is currently empty (2006). (c) R. Berkoff

All text adapted from Derek Linstrum’s West Yorkshire: Architects and Architecture (1978).

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