Back-to-Back Houses and their Communities

  • University of York PhD researcher Joanne Harrison is working on an exciting project about the past, present and future of back-to-back houses and their communities in Harehills. Leeds Local and Family History Library is helping Joanne engage with the local communities, working with them to understand the neighbourhood, promote its value, and safeguard its future. Joanne writes…

We all know what a back-to-back house is – some of you may live in them now or have lived in them in the past, and I used to live in one too. I’m not from Yorkshire, so they came as a bit of a surprise to me when I first encountered them. I pondered the concept of a house with no back, and rooms stacked up on top of each other, and wondered who on earth would want to live in one of those. Well, a few years later, I did! That was in 2002, and I stayed for 5 years. Moving on brought mixed feelings – there were some obvious advantages, like not having to pay such careful attention to hanging my washing on the rotary line, and that got me thinking about privacy versus community. Yes, sometimes it might be nice to sit in your garden or on your doorstep and not feel like you’re on display, but then there’s a reassuring warmth that you get from smiling and saying hello to those people who you don’t know, but who pass your house regularly. And we can wonder whether this was the same for all the communities that have lived in back-to-back houses over the years. Harehills and the other back-to-back neighbourhoods may feel old to us, but back-to-backs started to be built in Leeds long before these houses were built.

The first back-to-backs were built accidentally. They were cropping up in many of the industrial towns in the Midlands and North in the late 18th century. Let’s go back to 1787 when they first appeared in Leeds. Now, if you can imagine a street, with a standard row of terraces on it, and to the back, they all have yards with walls between, which are accessed from ‘tunnels’ leading from the street. The population was growing, and you might think that the obvious solution is to expand the size of the town by making more streets with houses on. But no! What actually happened, was that one-sided houses were built to line the sides of the yards, backing on to the dividing walls. And when the neighbours all did it, you ended up back-to-back houses in little courtyards, accessed from tunnels leading from the main streets. And it must have seemed like a brilliant solution to the housing problem to some (and here I will add, the words developers and landlords and greedy), because before long, back-to-back houses were being deliberately planned and built in this way.

Let’s just imagine these courtyards for a moment. A narrow space with little light and ventilation, possibly a stand pipe for water in the middle, no sanitation, a mudbath for a floor, and in the worst case on record, more than 700 people in 34 houses. It doesn’t take much to realise that these would have been noisy, smelly and generally unpleasant places to live – in fact some people even kept pigs in their houses. The back-to-back courts provided perfect conditions for the spread of disease.

Figure 1 The first purpose built back-to-back houses were on Union Street and Ebenezer street, with Union Court giving access to the rear back-to-backs and cellar dwellings. (Image: Beresford, M., (1988). East End, West End: The Face of Leeds During Urbanisation 1684-1842. Leeds: The Thoresby Society, 203. Original in Lupton, F. (1906). Housing Improvement: A summary of ten years’ work in Leeds. Available in the Local and Family History Library).

And so, not surprisingly, the social and sanitary reformers of the time took it upon themselves to outlaw the building of back-to-backs. But there was opposition to this, and so for several years through the middle to later part of the 19th century, we had the introduction of by-laws which brought about improvements to the standard of accommodation. Dr Baker for example had put proposals forward to improve drainage, sewerage and paving, but seemed to be quite heavily influenced by recent Bills to ban the back-to-backs, and suggested that they needed regulation. The most significant change, was that back-to-backs started to be built on streets, just like we have in Harehills and the other back-to-back neighbourhoods, rather than the courtyard format.

Another reformer, James Hole, was considered to be a radical thinker but, even so, in his reports, articles and prizewinning essay, he still criticized the improved back-to-backs by kind of lumping them in with the court type, and failing to properly acknowledge the differences between. Back-to-backs had started to be banned in most of the other towns, but there was just no desire to do that in Leeds – the people loved them too much to give up their fight to keep building them.

By 1866, on one of Dr Baker’s recommendations, back-to-backs could only be built in blocks of eight with toilet yards between. Now clearly this was an improvement – although some of the streets were still quite narrow, there was more light, a better flow of air, more toilets per person, piped water to each house, and paved streets with drainage. But it wasn’t without its issues – and let’s talk toilets for a moment. You need to go, and everyone can see it. It’s not just your family who see you slip out of the house, but everyone in the street sees you walking a few doors down the street to the toilet yard, and then back again. To try and retain a modicum of privacy and avoid the morning rush, housewives would get up rather early to walk with the chamber pot to empty the night’s produce.

Figure 2 Stanley Terrace back-to-back houses built in blocks of eight with toilet yards between (Image: Available at Leodis.net).

So it still seemed primitive to the reformers, and characters such as Dr Barry and Mr Smith just couldn’t seem to make the distinction between those early overcrowded, disease-ridden courts, and the slowly improving back-to-backs on streets. But improvement continued, and by the 1890s the back-to-backs came to take on a standardised form. Streets were wider, many of the houses had front gardens, and an effort was made to include architectural features that might be found in middle class houses. Back-to-backs had a separate scullery; and an outside toilet shared with just one neighbour within the basement footprint of their houses, meant that there was no need for toilet yards, and houses could be built in longer rows again. Internally, many of the houses had a plumbed-in bath, and this was quite ahead of its time compared to other types of working class housing being built. Now let’s just make something clear, the houses had baths, most did not have a bathroom. The most common place for the bath was in the scullery under a lift-up worktop. But some houses had the bath in the bedroom – maybe they were even further ahead of their time than I have given them credit for, and they were in fact the first houses to have an ensuite area!

Figure 3 The three types of urban layout for back-to-back housing. Left – Street-lined houses in blocks of eight; Middle – Garden fronted houses in blocks of eight; Right – Garden fronted houses in continuous rows with integral, externally accessed toilets. (Image: Housing, Town planning etc Bill 1909. Statement of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of Leeds. Available in the Local and Family History Library).

Figure 4 Superior back-to-backs in Darfield Place, Leeds. The presence of gardens allowed the ground floor level to be raised and accessed via steps, which had the benefit of positioning the basement at semi-subterranean level. The houses had an outside toilet positioned under the scullery, shared by each pair (Image: Available at Leodis.net).

Anyway, by the start of the 20th century, they were providing a popular and good quality standard of accommodation. But still they just couldn’t shake off the reputation for being unhealthy, disease-inducing houses, and much to the outrage of the Town Clerk and the people of Leeds, just as they made their final improvement, which was the incorporation of an indoor bathroom, they were banned. That was in 1909 but a loophole meant that those with permission to be built could still be built, and with the traditionally slow building industry in Leeds, and the first world war, the last houses were not complete until 1937. One thing you might all be asking is why did the people of Leeds love them so much? In the words of Maurice Beresford we only have a “rather desperate refuge in ‘cultural’ factors, of the sort that have produced local differentiation in the demand for fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, Rugby League, and Lancashire hotpot.” So basically, we don’t know why – they just liked them because they did! And I like them a lot too.

As I said, I lived in one for 5 years, and I’d originally planned to make it into a slick minimalist home, like the sort you see on Grand Designs, but in the shell of a back-to-back house. That didn’t happen. The defining moment for me I think was when I was stripping out the first floor bedroom, and I pulled off some boxing, which I had assumed was covering a hole where the fireplace used to be. Well I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover the most beautiful, completely intact, original cast iron fireplace, complete with a discarded tram ticket in the grate! Wow, this house is amazing – I love it. And that was it. My house was going to be restored. I uncovered original doors, hidden behind tacked on panels, carefully removed layers of paint from the cornices so I could see the beauty of their design, took up all the carpets so I could see the floorboards, reinstated the little door at the side of the living room chimney, and took great care to look after this important piece of history.

And that is what we have all over Harehills. We can trace the development of the area from the 1890s, see which streets were built when, how designs, facilities and features improved and changed over time, and marvel at the amazing variety. Because yes, there is so much variety, it’s quite staggering. Have you looked at it? It’s not just monotonous rows of houses like Dr Baker had described. No! There are so many types of bay windows, original dormers, window lintels, stained glass patterns, brick friezes (those lovely fancy bits that criss-cross around the windows and sit under the gutters) – would you believe there are 90 variations just in the Harehills Triangle, and then there are the variations in house types, like the mid-terraces, larger end terraces, shop-houses and so on.

Figure 5 A small selection of the varied architectural styles found among the Harehills Triangle back-to-backs.

I got so excited by all of this, so much so, that my life has been changed by it. I wanted to know more, and my journey, fifteen years and counting, has shown me that the back-to-backs are locally and nationally important to the heritage of Leeds and the country. In Birmingham, there are only ten back-to-backs left and their rarity has led to them being turned into a National Trust museum. In Leeds we have 19,500, but we need to live in them and look after them – we don’t want a museum thank you very much! I want to share what I know, and work with the current custodians of that heritage, to work out how we can keep these National Treasures of Leeds, retaining and conserving them, while adapting them to our modern needs.

And so that brings me nicely to my PhD research in which I hope to:

  • find out what living or working in a Harehills back-to-back is like for current residents
  • identify what people value or dislike about the design and character, and the social and historical aspects of the houses and the neighbourhood
  • discover the memories of back-to-back living in times past, that have been passed on to the current communities
  • understand how people would like to live in their houses in the future
  • help the local communities find a long-term future for the houses that is compatible with their heritage and other values, and the way that their communities want to live in them.

Any adult (age 18+) who either currently lives in the Harehills Triangle area, or who has a link to the area dating to the late 19th/early 20th century can take part. There will be a variety of activities on offer including completing questionnaires, taking part in interviews/focus groups, having a historical survey of your house, creating video diaries and scrap books, and participating in historically-themed, and design-based workshops.

Figure 6 The Harehills Triangle area being studied in this research. ©Crown Copyright and Landmark Information Group Ltd. 2014 All rights reserved.

If you would like to find out more about back-to-back houses in Leeds:

Visit the back-to-back blog: https://backtobackhouses.wordpress.com/blog/

If you would like to find out more about the research and sign-up to take part:

Visit the website: https://backtobackhouses.wordpress.com/

Telephone: 0113 378 6982

Email: localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk

Or see the sign-up and information sheets which are available in the Local and Family History Library (Central Library, 2nd floor).

Key references

All sources except the title marked * are held by Leeds Library and Information Service.

Beresford, M. (1971). The back-to-back house in Leeds, 1787-1937. In S. D. Chapman ed. The history of working-class housing: a symposium. Newton Abbot: David and Charles. 93-132.

Beresford, M. (1980). The face of Leeds, 1780-1914. In D. Fraser ed. A History of modern Leeds. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 72-112.

Beresford, M. (1988). East end, west end: the face of Leeds during urbanisation 1684-1842. Leeds: The Thoresby Society.

Caffyn, L. (1986). Workers’ housing in West Yorkshire, 1750-1920. London: H.M.S.O.

Daunton, M. (1983). House and home in the Victorian city: working class housing, 1850-1914. London; Baltimore, Md., USA: E. Arnold.

* Gaskell, S. (1983). Building control. National legislation and the introduction of local bye-laws in Victorian England. London: Bedford Square Press.

Gauldie, E. (1974). Cruel habitations: a history of working-class housing 1780-1918. London: Allen & Unwin.

Harper, R. (1985). Victorian building regulations. Summary tables of the principal English building Acts and Model By-laws 1840-1914. London: Mansell Publishing Limited.

Hole, J. (1866). Homes of the working classes with suggestions for their improvement. London.

Housing, Town planning etc Bill 1909. Statement of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of Leeds.

Muthesius, S. (1982). The English terraced house. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Rimmer, W. (1960). Working mens’ cottages in Leeds, 1770-1840. The Thoresby Miscellany. Leeds, The Thoresby Society. 165-199.

Rodger, R. (1989). Housing in urban Britain, 1780-1914: class, capitalism, and construction. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan.

Rubinstein, D. (1974). Victorian homes. Newton Abbot, etc.: David & Charles.

Wood, S. (1991). Back-to-back: a look back at life in the old cobbled streets of Leeds. Leeds: Leeds Talking Magazine for the Blind Association.

Wood, S. (1993). More back-to-back memories: a further look back at life in the old cobbled streets of Leeds. Leeds: Leeds Talking Magazine for the Blind Association.

Wood, S. (1994). Even more back-to-back memories of life in the old cobbled streets of Leeds. Leeds: Leeds Talking Magazine for the Blind Association.

Yeadell, M. (1986). Building societies in the West Riding of Yorkshire and their contribution to housing provision in the nineteenth century. In M. Doughty ed. Building the industrial city. Leicester: Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Leicester University Press. 57-104.

Theatres Through Time: A Talk, a Trail and Tate Wilkinson

by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

We are pleased to announce the following event that will take place in the Local and Family History department of the Central Library on Monday the 10th of October: Theatres Through Time. This is to celebrate the launch of the city’s new Theatre Heritage Trail and will take the form of a mini-exhibition highlighting some of the fascinating theatrical collections at the library – including books and playbills. That exhibition will then be followed by a talk by the creator of the trail, Dominique Triggs, on the history of Leeds theatres. If you’re interested in attending the event, please click on the advert below to go straight to the ticket booking website.

theatres-through-time-talk

Dominique has also written a great article if you’re keen to do some background reading before attending the talk.

As that talk will demonstrate, Leeds has a long and rich theatrical history, stretching back to at least 1722, when Ralph Thoresby noted, in his diary – and with some disapproval! – the appearance of a group of players in the town. The collections and books available in our Local and Family History department pay tribute to the depth of that history, providing a comprehensive overview of the many theatrical spaces and personalities that Leeds has played host to. With a history encompassing such diversity of people and locations, many might feel (at least this writer does) that a defined starting point or focus is required before attempting to make sense of that past.

One useful starting point would be the figure of Tate Wilkinson. Wilkinson was first an actor and then, most famously, a theatrical manager who opened the first permanent theatre in Leeds, based on Hunslet Lane and fittingly known as The Theatre or the Leeds Theatre; one of several such establishments Wilkinson operated in Yorkshire and which encompassed what is known as the ‘Yorkshire Circuit’. The Theatre was opened in 1771 and Wilkinson remained connected to it until his death in 1803. Much has been written about Wilkinson and the Theatre; and, rather than repeating the known facts again, we shall instead direct interested readers to our Discovering Leeds website to find out more.

Tate Wilkinson

Tate Wilkinson

What we can do, however, is highlight some of the relevant playbills and books available. Most obvious is the aforementioned playbills, of which over 200 from the Wilkinson era can be viewed here in the Library. You can see some selections from that collection in this previous blog post, or browse our Leodis playbills collection for a wider selection (simply select ‘The Theatre’ and narrow the search to playbills between 1781 and 1803).

A selection from the 200+ playbills during the Wilkinson era. This includes the earliest playbill at the Central Library, from 1781

A selection from the 200+ playbills during the Wilkinson era. This includes the earliest playbill at the Central Library, advertising a production of ‘School For Wives’ that took place during May of 1781

Readers can also find out more about Wilkinson’s story in his own words: the Library holds a first edition of his 1790 Memoirs and a facsimile copy of his comprehensive 1795 The Wandering Patentee: Or, A History of the Yorkshire Theatres, From 1770 to the Present Time. An index to that last four-volume book is also available. Anyone wanting to go even deeper will find texts such as The Yorkshire Stage: 1766-1803 and The Theatrical Manager in England and America: Player of a Perilous Game of great interest.

The title page of Wilkinson's Memoirs

The title page of Wilkinson’s Memoirs

And that’s just scratching the surface of the books and other materials which can help you gain an insight into this fascinating subject – click on the image below to view a research guide listing many other theatrical collection items available in the Central Library.

theatre research guide

Leeds Through The Ages

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

Most readers of this blog will already be very familiar with Leodis – our historical archive of photos from Leeds and its surrounding area. But what few people will be aware is just how many other places that Leodis collection is used. We regularly take requests for images from a wide range of sources, including media organisations like the Yorkshire Evening Post and the BBC; academics; local history societies; marketing agencies working with retail clients in Leeds – and many more. 

One particularly interesting such usage of the Leodis collection was by Park Lane Properties, who recently commissioned a fascinating web app that allows the viewer to browse images of specific Leeds locations and landmarks – images from the past; the present; or both mixed together in a seamless integration of ‘then’ and ‘now’. You can see Leeds Through The Ages by clicking on this link, or scroll below to read more about the motivation behind the creation of the app and its celebration of Leeds’ rich heritage.

“Established as a city in 1893, Leeds is now the largest city in Yorkshire with a population of 750,000 people. It holds a unique history itself, producing the first moving picture which was filmed in Leeds in 1888 by Louis Le Prince and inventing the well-loved board game Cluedo.

Over the years the city has taken huge steps to modernising the landscape and the way that the city runs. From introducing new shopping centres, to working on transport for the future, Leeds keeps up with the fast pace environment and demands that city life has.

Parklane Properties are keen to honour Leeds’ history by combining past and present day photos of iconic locations all over the city. The slider, named Leeds Through The Ages, gives you a chance to learn about the history of Leeds and see what the streets and buildings were like up to 100 years ago.

Lydia Eustace, Marketing Manager at Parklane Properties said, “Here at Parklane Properties, we are proud to be one of the longest established property companies in the area. Leeds’ heritage walks hand in hand with our own and we are delighted to be able to showcase the city then and now.”

Lewis’s Department store on Headrow, which features in the slider, first opened its doors to the public on the 17th September 1932 and was 40ft higher than any other retail building in Leeds.  Now 84 years later the department store has been divided and is home to T.K Maxx, Argos and Sainsbury’s.

The locations included in the piece are:

  • Kirkgate Market
  • Kirkgate Tram Stop
  • Albion Street
  • Victoria Arcade
  • Brudenell Road
  • 02 Academy
  • The Arndale Centre
  • Corn Exchange
  • Headrow
  • Parklane Properties

Many of Leeds developments throughout the years have been focused on improving the shopping quality within the city and attracting people from all over the country to join a unique retail experience.

This had become particularly prevalent in Leeds, with developments like Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre and the new Victoria Gate shopping centre. Victoria Gate, which is set to open its doors on 20th October, will feature the John Lewis flagship store as well as other high end luxury brands and will continue to centre the city as a commercial hub.

The Arndale Centre chain were the first shopping malls of their kind in England which included an 18 lane bowling alley, however ‘The Bowl’ closed in the 60’s and today you can find a wide range of shops and restaurants in its place.

A notable feature that hasn’t changed in The Arndale Centre over the past 50 years is the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, featuring in both the 1967 photo and today’s.

Lydia added: “Some people may be able to look at some of the past photos and remember the buildings looking like that and give them not only a sense of nostalgia but also some information they never knew about the buildings”.

(For all media enquiries, please contact lucy.slater@blueclaw.co.uk or call 0113 234 3300)

Re-Discovering Leeds

  • Soon we’ll be unveiling a raft of updates to the 13-year-old Discovering Leeds website, a learning resource devoted to the history and development of the city. The new additions have been written by student Sophie Hedley during a placement at the Local and Family History Library. This week, she tells us a little about her experiences and adventures while gathering material.
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Drawing of Leeds Town Hall by R.P. Leitch, 1858

When the opportunity to work on updating the Discovering Leeds website arose, I snapped it up. I know Leeds, I thought, and I browsed through the website and jotted down places and events that could be added to the ‘Present Day’ section, to make the website feel more current and up-to-date.

Writing this post during the final week of my six-week work placement, I now realise that shopping at Trinity Leeds, regularly visiting the First Direct Arena, and seeing various parts of Leeds being demolished doesn’t even scratch the surface, because to truly address and understand the city and how developments in its present day affect Leeds and its residents, you need to, first, immerse yourself in the history of the city.

This is why the first couple of weeks of my placement saw me sat in the impressive Local and Family History department of Leeds Central Library, eagerly browsing through every page of Discovering Leeds, reading about the origins and developments of various parts of Leeds like Briggate and the Headrow, and learning lots of things about the city and its history that I’d never known before.

Things I learnt whilst browsing Discovering Leeds:

  • Queen Victoria hosted the opening of Leeds Town Hall in 1858.
  • The Headrow has been called several different names, from Park Lane to Lower Head Row.
  • Industry in Leeds began mainly with the marketing and trade of woollen cloth.

I then began to research changes and developments in Leeds to add to the website, such as the Victoria Gate development and the refurbishments of Kirkgate Market. The most accessible place to find information on pretty much everything is, of course, the Internet and I spent several days researching to find facts and figures about noteworthy things in Leeds which could be added to Discovering Leeds.

But in order for me to really take in the changes to the city and see how significant they were, and as any journalism student is encouraged to do so, I decided to go out and talk to people – those who know Leeds well, who live and/or work in the city, the people who these developments really affect. Chatting to strangers on the bus, outside the town hall and in cafés on your dinner break might be the kind of thing that’s frowned upon in everyday life but it was from those friendly and chatty people that I really grew to understand how things had changed in Leeds. Rather than just knowing the facts, I discovered how they influenced the city’s residents too.

There was the couple who lived in Granary Wharf’s contemporary and stylish apartment block, Candle House; the bus driver who had the day off on 5 July 2014, when he saw the Headrow “busier than ever before” as it hosted the Tour de France Grand Départ; the stallholder whose stall has been uprooted at Leeds Kirkgate Market as the big refurbishment is undergoing.

Tour1

The snippets I learnt in these conversations had to be checked and verified by me, as Discovering Leeds is a factual website and it’s easy for people to be emotionally affected by changes in life and stray a little bit from the truth when discussing them. But it was going out and seeing the places for myself, and talking to the people who had experienced the changes that really educated me and inspired me when I began to write the updates for Discovering Leeds.

Things I learnt whilst updating Discovering Leeds:

  • There’s no need to big Leeds up or to compare it with neighbouring cities, to show off and try and present it as the grandest city of them all. The landmarks, heritage and history tell the story of Leeds and allow readers of the website to be informed and reminisce, without feeling like we’re trying to compete with other locations across the UK.
  • The internet is no substitute for experience – reading about the changes in present day Leeds is informative but not as inspiring and useful as seeing the places for yourself.
  • From live music to beer and food festivals, art exhibitions to charity runs, there are so many events taking place in Leeds throughout the year that it is impossible to keep up with.

Over the course of my placement, I’ve really enjoyed researching the history of Leeds whilst visiting some of the current major places and redevelopments in Leeds. It’s interesting to see just how much the city has changed and discover the parts that still remain from Leeds’s past, and also those areas that have changed for the better and positively transformed the culture of Leeds. There is always something new to learn about the city via Discovering Leeds and I hope my updates will help inform people of some of the more recent 21st-century developments.

Do We Look Strangely Familiar to You?

This group of girls and boys with their bicycles are posing with attitude on Wolseley Road, Burley, in 1969. They had just returned from Kirkstall swimming baths on Kirkstall Road, which was close by. And that’s when visiting photographer Eric Jaquier captured the moment in a striking black-and-white image, full of the warmth and personality typical of his style.

Now, almost fifty years later, Eric is compiling his pictures into a forthcoming book to be titled Strangely Familiar: Photographs in the Streets of Leeds 1969-2015. Not only that, but he hopes to revisit the sites of many of his original works to document anew the changing character of the areas. He even hopes to reconnect with some of the people from his photos, in order to create new portraits that both recall and revise the images of decades ago.

RillbankStreet

View of Rillbank Street taken from Westfield Crescent. A series of steps with hand-rails climb up either side to Rosebank Road. The two large properties seen in the background are the rear of large terraces, numbers 181 and 179 Belle Vue Road. Small children run towards the ambulance parked in Rillbank Street. (1969)

That’s where Eric hopes you might be able to help. Let’s hand over to him now to let him explain in his own words:

“My name is Eric Jaquier. I’m a retired Swiss journalist and photographer. A long time ago, in 1969, I took hundreds of pictures in the streets of Leeds during my one-year stay in the city. Almost forty years later, in Spring 2008, I had a big show, together with Leeds photographer Peter Mitchell, at PSL (Project Space Leeds). And now I’m working on Strangely Familiar, a book project containing these photos. That’s why I need your help.

“The main section of the book will offer the Strangely Familiar photos from 1969. And, for this section, your help would be appreciated because a lot of these pictures appear on the Leodis website. You can find them using the keyword ‘jaquier’, or click here for a direct link to all of them.

“Leodis visitors have already left quite a few comments under the photos. But I need more. I’m looking for people who recognize themselves, or relatives, or friends. And even if you don’t recognize anyone, recollections and anecdotes about this time in the life of the city are welcome.”

YorkRoad

A young woman walks towards the camera in York Road holding two small girls by the hand. They are just passing William Lambert & Son, Estate Agent, Valuers and Building Society Agents at number 248 York Road. Behind the woman are the Thrift Stores at number 256 York Road. Beyond is the junction with Ivy Street. To the left-hand side is the Victoria Spice Mills (Stokes & Dalton Ltd., spice merchants), now York Towers. (1969)

More then just a coffee-table object, then, Eric’s book will be a venture with a deeper ambition. As well as its unique juxtaposition of Leeds’ past and present, he hopes it will contain texts written by specialists in various fields, such as history, sociology and architecture.

So please take a look though Eric’s photographs on Leodis. If you’ve lived in Leeds for a while, scour the faces for people you recognize and think about the places you remember. Leave comments on as many images as you can, or drop us an email at localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk and we’ll be sure to pass it on.

Even if you’re not acquainted with many of the sights and scenes he captured in that now-distant decade, we’re sure you’ll find yourself lost in a city-scape that seems strangely, enchantingly familiar.

WestfieldCres

A group of young boys play ball games in Westfield Crescent. The gas lamp post stands at the corner with Rosebank Street. The two streets seen in the background are Back Rosebank Crescent (left) and Rosebank Crescent. Beyond, Woodsley Road, at the top of Westfield Crescent, is just visible. (1969)