A Quick Look Around Leeds

It seemed like we had only just got back from Edinburgh before we were back at Kings Cross station waiting to board a train to Leeds. Now I have only been to the city a couple of times for boring stuff like conferences and never really had the opportunity to see much of it, so while my better half did the conference thing this time, I had a nose around. After leaving the station the first thing I noticed was this marvelous equestrian statue of Prince Edward, the Black Prince in the city square.

The Black Prince

This statue by Sir Thomas Brock was a gift to the city by former Lord Mayor of Leeds Colonel Thomas Walter Harding in 1903. Pure coincidence that the King at the time just happened to be called Edward too! Incidentally Brock also designed the Victoria Memorial just outside Buckingham Palace. Nearby are eight rather lovely bronze lamp bearers cast in the inimitable mode of Victorian soft porn. These are the work of Alfred Drury.

Victorian soft porn lamp bearers

Moving further into the city I was impressed by some of the monumental buildings, mostly I suspect the result of newly rich industrial civic pride of the Victorian era.

Here is Leeds Town Hall.

Town Hall Leeds

This was designed by the architect Cuthbert Broderick and completed in 1858.

Next door I found the City Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute.  In fact there is so much Henry Moore stuff that it overflows from the Henry Moore Institute into the really rather small art gallery.  Once you get past all the Moore stuff there are a few remarkable Victorian paintings including Holman Hunt’s study of Christ casting the shadow of the cross in his carpentry workshop The Shadow of Death, Elizabeth Thompson’s rather wonderful panorama of the Scots Dragoons charging at Waterloo  Scotland Forever, Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot, Evelyn de Morgan’s The Valley of Shadows and George William Joy’s huge Death of General Gordon. Moving into the 20th Century there are also some nice works by Percy Wyndham Lewis, Francis Bacon and Paula Rego.

The art gallery took about two hours to see everything so next stop was the Leeds city Museum in Millennium Square. This is quite a small museum which doubles up as a conference centre.  The most interesting part is the second floor gallery which tells the story of Leeds from early settlement right up to the Sisters of Mercy and the Kaiser Chiefs. The temporary exhibition on the Spice Girls (Mel B is from the town) is quite fun too with everything from stage costumes and gold discs to the Pepsi cans and Walkers Crisp packets that were used to market the band. It’s an interesting study of a global phenomenon even if, like me, you hated the music.

Avoid venturing into the basement if you don’t want to see some ancient stuffed animals stuck behind some funky graphics about climate change, but do take a look at the lovely bronze statue of the enchantress Circe in the gift shop. It is another work by Alfred Drury. Again this is a small museum, so two hours is about enough to see everything.

Slightly more substantial is the Royal Armories located in Clarence Dock over the River Aire. I spent the best part of three hours here looking at armour, guns and other weapons (I know but I am a boy). Particularly interesting were the Asian horse armour, the 19th Century revolvers and machine guns, and the exhibition of weapons used by James Bond. Like all the places mentioned so far admission to the Royal Armories is free and I could quite easily have spent longer there, but time can be a harsh mistress.

As I mentioned before Leeds is full of splendid examples of Victorian monumental building and on the way to our hotel I found this rather nice example with Moorish styling in Park Square.

A northern Moorish palace

This is St Paul’s House and it was originally a warehouse and cloth cutting works. It was designed by  Thomas Ambler and completed in 1878. The front entrance is particularly splendid, shame about the bent bit of pipe in front of it though.

Moorish gateway

That evening we discovered a quite fabulous restaurant, more on that later.

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