A Day Trip to Leeds

Continuing my England adventures from, yes, April, we arrive at my day trip to visit my friend Sarah in Leeds.  I departed London from King’s Cross Station, which had a futuristic restoration in 2005 giving it these soaring arches.

Leeds, like Manchester, was a major center of the Industrial Revolution in the UK, and is the largest city in Yorkshire. It still has something of an industrial feel, and it was great to explore its buildings and streets with Sarah. I know I’ve already said this, but I loved that during this trip I was able to visit friends in their home cities and see not only them, but these new places that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Above is the Leeds Town Hall, which was finished in 1858, and its exceedingly expensive costs were of some controversy, as it was built at a time when there was a lot of poverty among the city’s working class. It sustained some damage during Luftwaffe bombings in World War II, but has since been repaired.

There are owls perched all around Leeds, with this one in front of the Leeds Civic Hall, built in the 1930s, which unlike the City Hall was praised for its construction which gave workers employment during a depression. The owls are also on Leeds’ coat of arms, which is probably the best coat of arms I’ve ever seen, as it has owls wearing crowns and a top hat in its center. The owls can be traced back to Sir John Saville, the first Alderman of the city, who had owls on his own coat of arms.

We stopped inside the Leeds Kirkgate Market, which has 800 stalls, making it the biggest covered market in Europe. The hall here dates back to 1904, but the market has been open since 1822, and is full of people yelling about meat and fish.

Leeds seems to have a thing for soaring ceilings, as along with the market there are all the covered shopping passages with tall hallways lined with huge windows and pricey window displays. The arcades are from the Victorian and Edwardian periods and although they fell into some disrepair during the 20th century, they were restored in the 1990s to their current beauty.

Above is the Ivanhoe Clock in the Thornton Arcade, which has characters from Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” like Robin Hood and Richard the Lionhearted, pounding the time with their fists.

We ended our day at the Leeds City Museum, which has some diverse exhibitions, including those on Leeds’ history, Egypt, art, and also included this Roman mosaic of Italy’s favorite twins: Romuls and Remus. The museum has been open since 1819, and also includes the Leeds Tiger, a taxidermy with a curious history. It was once a rug, then got a story of it being a man-eater attached to it, but it was so poorly made that curators wanted to throw it out (that, and the Victorians may have used arsenical soap in its preservation), but people so love it that it is staying around.

After food and drinks with Sarah and her fiancé, I got on an evening train, the view out the windows speeding away from Yorkshire back to London.

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