This article forms part of our Heritage Open Day 2020 programme, specifically our Leeds City Centre Hidden Nature, Hidden History heritage trail. Click to see all the points on the trail and to read the accompanying articles…
Penny Pocket Park began as part of the church yard and graveyard of Leeds Parish Church (later Leeds Minster), over the years as the city grew land became a premium and the grounds and graveyard were split from the church and divided up by roads and railway lines.
The view of the park from York Street shows a tended, lawned incline with trees and flower beds leading up to the railway line, much work has been done to create the park as this 1938 Leodis images shows – few trees or a well-tended space; however, if you follow St Peter’s Street under the viaduct you come to a much larger and more interesting part of the park.
The incline on the other side of the railway line holds row upon of flat gravestones which appear to have been laid somewhat askew, however all of this is exactly as designed. An Act of Parliament allowed for the railway line to bisect the graveyard yet instead of creating an arched viaduct that would have destroyed the graveyard below a solid embankment was legally required. Gravestones were lifted and large amounts of soil were placed on top of the existing graves to create the incline, each gravestone was then re-laid in the same position as before maintaining the relationship between gravestone and original resting place.
The graveyard was closed for burials in the 1830s at a time when this area of Leeds was crowded and unsanitary and instances of body snatching were becoming more frequent. Instead of wealthy of Leeds bought £25 shares in the newly acquired and private St George’s Fields cemetery.
In 1912 part of Penny Pocket Park became the responsibility of the Thomas Wade Trust, who since 1530 have worked to ensure the provision of open spaces to the people of Leeds.
Next: Once you have explored both sides of Penny Pocket Park cross over Kirkgate and heading into the Grounds of the Leeds Minister of St Peter’s…