Yorkshire cycling website



Leeds City museum
Leeds City Museum

Leeds is a city of just over 800,000 people (ukpopulation.org), on the river Aire. Alongside the river, the Leeds & Liverpool canal runs west out of Leeds, and the Aire & Calder Navigation runs to the south east. Leeds is twinned with many towns and cities, including Lille in France.

Name and history of Leeds

According to Bede, writing in 731, the name Leeds comes from 'Loidis'. There was a forest called Loidis here in the 400s, when the area was part of the kingdom of Elmet. (Elmet was a kingdom of the Britons, who had co-existed with the Romans during the period when England was part of the Roman Empire. Elmet re-emerged as an entity after Roman rule. It lasted until the early 600s, when it was invaded and absorbed by the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria). Inhabitants of Leeds are still called Loiners. 

Leeds existed at the time of the Norman conquest, and appeared as a manor in the Domesday Book in 1088. It gained its first Charter in 1207, as the Parish of Leeds St Peter. 

In the 1500s, it expanded from a compact market town to a larger area, absorbing the surrounding villages in the process. In 1626, it was incorporated as the Borough of Leeds, by Royal Charter. At this time, Leeds was a centre for the production of woollen cloth. 

During the Industrial Revolution (1700s, 1800s, and into the 1900s), Leeds became an industrial centre, producing a wider range of goods. There were wool and flax mills, clothing manufacture, engineering, and printing. Transport links included the Aire & Calder Navigation (1699), the Leeds & Liverpool canal (1816), and railways, starting with the Leeds & Selby railway (1834).

Leeds was given city status by Royal Charter in 1893.

Economy and employment in Leeds

Clothing manufacture, previously a major industry in Leeds, stopped in the 1970s, due to cheap imports from abroad. The new vision for Leeds was of a 24-hour European city, and a major centre in the north of England.

It has developed into a centre for business, and legal and financial services. It hosts the only subsidiary office of the Bank of England. 

Leeds has fairly high employment and low welfare-dependency. Figures from 2002 show nearly 25% of workers employed in the public sector (including health and education); 24% in banking, finance, and insurance; 21% in distribution, hotels and restaurants; and 9% in manufacturing.  

Tourism is also important to Leeds, which is more popular with visitors from the UK than from overseas. It is one of the driest cities in the UK. The average temperature in July is 16C, and the record was 34.4C in August 1990.

The city of Leeds

Map of Leeds

There are downloadable maps of Leeds

Shopping in Leeds

The railway station is on the south west corner of the part-pedestrianised centre of the city. A short walk away are Leeds Shopping Plaza, and the new shopping centre, Trinity Leeds (opened March 2013). Running north-south through the centre is Briggate, which has some of the main shops. Just off Briggate to the east is the prestigious Victoria Quarter, with Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton, and Paul Smith. Further east is the charming Corn Exchange, in a circular building, and the Kirkgate Market. (This is where Michael Marks opened his Penny Bazaar in 1884. In partnership with Thomas Spencer, from Skipton, he would found Marks & Spencer). North of the Headrow are the St John's Centre and the Merrion Centre.

Leeds Town Hall

Leeds Town Hall & Victoria Square

On the Headrow is the impressive Town Hall. (The space in front of it is Victoria Square). It was built in the 1850s, by Cuthbert Brodrick, an architect from Hull. 

The Town Hall is used as a register office, so civil weddings take place here. It also functions as a conference and concert venue. The Leeds International Piano Competition takes place in the Town Hall, and some films are screened in it during the Leeds International Film Festival in November. 

Students in Leeds

Leeds has a student population of about 200,000, including 31,000 at the University of Leeds, and 52,000 at Leeds Metropolitan University. Much of the student accommodation is in Headingley, and the many pubs there are thronged with the university crowd. The Otley run is a popular pub crawl along the Otley Rd in Headingley.

Sport, leisure, and culture in Leeds

Sport in Leeds

The biggest venues for top-class sport are Headingley and Elland Rd. Headingley has back-to-back cricket and rugby grounds. Yorkshire County Cricket Club play at the cricket ground, and international Test matches are held there. The rugby ground is home to Leeds Rhinos rugby league club, and Yorkshire Carnegie rugby union. Leeds United play football at Elland Rd.

Leeds Museums and art galleries

There are many museums in Leeds, including Leeds City museum (in Millenium Square; free), which has six different galleries, with displays and interactive exhibits. Themes include Leeds history, natural history and fossils, and art. It's famous for the Leeds Tiger, brought back from India in the 1800s, which sags a bit, as it is stuffed with straw.

Abbey House museum, at Kirkstall Abbey, has recreated the streets of Victorian Leeds. Thwaite Mills Watermill museum, in Stourton to the south of Leeds, is one of the last surviving water mills, and lets you explore the city's industrial past. The Royal Armouries museum (free) houses Britain's national collection of arms and armour, and has done since it moved up from London in 1996.

Leeds Art Gallery (free) has an outstanding collection of C20th art, and is linked to the Henry Moore Institute, specializing in sculpture. Temple Newsam is a house and country park, and you can get there by bike on the Wyke Beck Way.

See all the museums and attractions on the Visit Leeds website.

Culture in Leeds

For high culture, there's Leeds Grand Theatre, the home of Opera North. There's dance at the Phoenix Dance Theatre, shared since 2010 by the Phoenix Dance Company and Northern Ballet. Plays are performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. There are pop and rock concerts at Leeds Arena.

Leeds hosts an International Film Festival.

There are local media based in Leeds, including the Yorkshire Post newspaper, and the regional studios and broadcasting centres of BBC TV and ITV. There's a local BBC radio station, Radio Leeds.

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UCI 2019 Harrogate circuit

Parliament Street, Harrogate

The Harrogate circuit is central to the 2019 UCI Road World Championships. The mixed team time trial is exclusively on it, and most of the other races will ride it after a route from elsewhere in Yorkshire. For example, the women's road race does three laps, and the men's road race does seven.

Discover the Harrogate circuit at the 2019 UCI road World Championships.

Bike lane, Manchester Parliament Street, HarrogateCote de Lofthouse