Hidden Nature, Hidden History: Tower Square (Leeds Highline)

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…

Tower Square began life as the Central Station Railway complex stretching from Wellington Street to Whitehall Road and the Tower is the only remaining building of a site once filled with railway lines and station buildings.  The Grade II listed tower lifted trucks from the lower level goods station to the high level passenger line above.  The station opened in 1848 and closed 1st May 1967 when rail travel was consolidated into the one city centre station.

The last train left Leeds Central on 29th April, a memorable send off as railway staff placed detonators on the track which they exploded off as the train rolled down the track and away from the station for the last time.

With the railway lines and most of the buildings removed the site moved on becoming for a while the Aireside Retail Park home to warehouse sized furniture stores, toy shops and even a bowling alley.  Post Millennium plans to redevelop the site into accommodation, offices and leisure uses were scuppered by the 2008 however the site owners MEPC chose to created temporary uses including a green space incorporating the larges lawn in the city centre, a 5-aside football pitch, offices in reclaimed shipping containers and temporary marques for events.

In 2013 development began again and by 2016 Tower Square opened anchored by the old lifting tower, the now landscaped piazza is home to plants, trees and lawned areas surrounded by a number of restaurants, cafes and bars and home to many outdoor events including food fairs, big screen sporting events and performances, however since 2008 Tower Square has also been the home to a rather large group of residents, a colony of honey bees looked after by the Leeds Bee Keepers Association.

As you stand facing the tower and look to the left you might catch sight of the only other railway remnant, rising high above the Aire stands the old viaduct that carried the railway line, now disused there has been much talk over the years of using the old line to create a skyline garden for the city centre.

You have now reached the end of our Hidden Nature, Hidden History Heritage Trail – but that is not all there is to the natural beauty of the city as a whole. In the coming weeks, we hope to share some more of our favourite green spaces just outside this city centre tour….



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