Wormald’s Yard, Commercial Court and Lower Briggate

On the Secret Library this week, we hear from Library Officer Karen Downham about another project on our Leodis archive of historical Leeds photos…

I have recently been indexing for the Leodis website a set of photographs from the area on the eastern side of Briggate, to the south of Boar Lane, which had a complex network of yards and courts, often inter-connecting. The area bounded by New Station Street, Boar Lane, Briggate, and the railway line, underwent major redevelopment from the late 1970s, and on Briggate itself the whole area between the Viaduct Hotel and the Time Ball Buildings was redeveloped. The area is now the site of Trevelyan Square Car Park and The Bourse.

The photos date from 1973 and show the area prior to demolition, with most premises already empty, and focus on Wormald’s Yard and Commercial Court, just north of the railway line.

Wormald’s Yard
Wormald’s Yard ran westwards from lower Briggate almost to New Station Street, and parallel with the railway line. It could be accessed from Boar Lane via Alfred Street and White Horse Street, and on foot from an entrance between nos. 14 & 16 Briggate. It also connected into Commercial Court via a gateway between buildings.

Wormald’s Yard was home to Taylor Brothers, glass & china merchants, the largest wholesaler in Yorkshire, along with many other small businesses, including G.W. Agencies, selling toys and sports goods, and John Whitehead, printers.

The map below shows the layout of the area, with the many pedestrian entrances.

OS 25 inch England & Wales. Yorkshire CCXVIII.6 (Leeds) Revised: 1932

Alfred Street was home to the Royal Lancastrian Free School at number 13. The school was set up for the education of up to 500 male pupils, taught on the principles developed by the educationalist Joseph Lancaster, based on a system of monitors. Prefects chosen from the older boys passed on their learning to groups of younger, less able children. The building was later occupied by wool merchants, iron and steel merchants.

White Horse Street contained the premises of Goodall, Backhouse & Co, manufacturing chemists, and White Horse Buildings, home to a variety of businesses.

This view shows the junction on Wormald’s Yard and Alfred Street, looking south east. The other side of these warehouses would have faced onto Commercial Court. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
This view above shows the far eastern end of Wormald’s Yard. The doorway on the right with the rails at the bottom leads to an alleyway connecting to Commercial Court. The archway in the centre leads to another alleyway that is the entrance from Briggate. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
This photo shows the archway in the previous picture from the opposite direction, and looks westwards through to Wormald’s Yard, where parked cars can be seen. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

Commercial Court
Commercial Court was a network or interconnecting yards behind Lower Briggate and south of Wormald’s Yard, adjacent to the railway line. There were three places where the court could be entered, but only on foot – between nos. 12 & 13 Lower Briggate, by a gateway from Wormald’s Yard, and through an alleyway between the railway bridge and no.10 Lower Briggate. The main buildings in Commercial Court were the Viaduct Hotel, photographers Reynold & Branson’s wholesale department, and a large warehouse separating the court from Wormald’s Yard.

This photo shows the Viaduct Hotel, which now also occupies the building to the left of it. The entrances to Commercial Court are via an alleyway next to the railway bridge, and through a door which can be seen to the right of Merrell Mark, jewellers. The buildings to the right of the Viaduct were demolished, and the area is now a road leading to Trevelyan Square. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
Shown above is the wholesale department of Reynold’s & Bransons photographers, which was at the centre of the northern section of Commercial Court (see map above). The entrance to the building can just be seen on the right. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
Shown here is part Commercial Court, looking west towards New Station Street, where City House can be seen in the distance. On the left is the Viaduct Hotel, and on the right is Reynold’s & Bransons photographers. The court continues beyond the steps and wall in the centre. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
This view shows the northern part of Commercial Court, again with the premises of Reynold’s & Bransons, seen on the right. The other side of the building on the left, with the archway, would have faced onto Wormald’s Yard. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

As early as 1946 part of the area was selected as a proposed site for car parking, as the image below shows:

View showing proposed site for car parking accommodation on Wormalds Yard and Alfred Street. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
This photo shows the shop frontage on Briggate that was redeveloped to make way for the hotel complex. The door on the left is the entrance to Commercial Court, followed by Reynolds & Bransons photographers, Strand Libraries, and the entrance to Wormald’s Yard. On the far right are the Time Ball Buildings. (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

By the mid-1970s many of the commercial premises had either closed or had been sold to developers prior to a major redevelopment of much of the area. A large part of the west side of Lower Briggate, from Nos. 12 to 23, between the Viaduct Hotel and the Time Ball Buildings, and the properties behind, was redeveloped and is now part of the Marriott Hotel complex.

Wormald’s Yard, most of Commercial Court, and the surrounding buildings are now the site of Trevelyan Square Car Park and The Bourse.

Contact us at the Local and Family History Library to find out more about our many other exciting photographic collections: localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk, or on 0113 37 86982

One Comment Add yours

  1. John Regan says:

    When I first came to Leeds in the early 70s, the famous Jumbo Chinese Restaurant was in a small unit on the west side of White Horse Street, just before the chicane that took the narrow street southwards to join Wormald’s Yard.
    The Jumbo is an important part of Leeds’s culinary history and of the city’s Chinese community.
    John Regan

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