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Home » Memories » Pre-1939 » Yeadon Town Hall, 1800 – 2014

Yeadon Town Hall, 1800 – 2014

Reading Room Yeadon Town Hall

SL077 – Reading Room, Yeadon Town Hall, c1900s.

Title Yeadon Town Hall
Date 1800 – 2014
Location Yeadon
Written By Christine Lovedale
Comment Christine is the AHS Senior Archivist, based in Yeadon Town Hall.

Within a hundred years Yeadon was irrevocably changed from a small village in what was then quite and isolated position into a thriving township with it’s own civic amenities, first among them being the Town Hall.
Most of the population in 1800 were engaged in the manufacture of cloth, living in small cottages built of local stone, cramped and insanitary by today’s standards.
The conditions for the production of woollen cloth were ideal, available raw material from the many sheep reared on the moorlands, plentiful water supplies from the uphill streams which ran into the area and the family members to provide labour when the weaving was done on hand looms.
In this domestic setting each person had a specific task, the men wove, the women spun the wool, carding, fulling, tentering, bleaching would all be undertaken within the family unit.
The finished cloth would be taken to Leeds to be sold in the cloth market.
The rewards for all this labour were small and barely provided enough for families to exist on, the diet was basic, oatmeal in the form of porridge or oatcakes with potatoes and any other vegetables the family had managed to grow.
Meat when afforded was usually bacon which would be boiled over an open fire as ovens were not a fixture, some families were able to keep a few hens or a pig to supplement what was meagre food.
Home brewed weak beer was the usual drink, no tea or coffee!

By the 1800s society had begun to change as the Industrial Revolution took families from their cottage industries and gave them work in the mills which were being built throughout the country.
In Yeadon the early mills were Dixon Mill on the Steep and Ivegate (Circa 1782), the Old Dog Mill built by Joseph Cawthray in 1793, Union Mill erected by Baldwin Brown & Co 1840 also called High Mill or Waterside as it was near Yeadon Dam.
Other mills followed and became, with their owners, familiar names in the story of Yeadon’s progress.

During the 19th Century the population of Yeadon grew, men dispossessed from the land due to Enclosures or advances in farming technology came to the mill towns in search of work.
Common lodging houses such as Poll Marsdens on the High Street provided beds for itinerant workmen, the Oddfellows Inn also gave accommodation to those seeking employment.
As the township grew so did the responsibilities of the Local Board (forerunner of the Town Council) , by the mid 1800s they were dealing with the provision of gas from the Yeadon and Guiseley Gas Co., (1844) and a piped water supply from the Yeadon Waterworks Co.
This was in addition to being responsible for sewerage, street lighting, planning, education, a Medical Officer, law enforcement and amenities etc.
Another important duty was the collection of monies from ratepayers.
The increasing workload for the Board involved the formation of sub-committees to deal with different aspects of provision for the town, in fact they were undertaking most of the civic involvement which modern councils have.
From 1807 the Local Board held their meetings in the old school, sited on what in time would become the Town Hall Square.
The old school had been extended in 1816 by adding another storey to provide more room for the administrative body but it remained inadequate.
This desire for more space for the Local Board to operate in gave impetus to the idea of building a Town Hall although the initiative came from a different group.
The other demand came from the working people of the town and it would be supported by the great and the good of Yeadon.
The Mechanics Institute in Yeadon had been formed in 1832, this was part of a general desire for self-improvement by the working classes, many of whom had been denied any form of education or at best only being given the basic rudiments in a Church School where the emphasis was on religion or at a Dame school.
A penny or so would be paid to a female “teacher” or Dame many of whom were barely literate themselves.
There were of course private schools for the more affluent members of society.
Gradually this began to change with the passing of the various Education Acts, one of the most significant being the 1870 Forster Elementary Education Act which required board schools to be provided and young children to attend them.
William Forster was a Bradford MP, for a time he lived at Lane Head in Rawdon.
The subsequent Education Acts which followed laid the foundation of the Education system which operates today.
The Yeadon Mechanics Institute also initially used the old school which was built by public subscription in 1806 primarily as a Sunday School.
The Institute initially taught reading, writing and arithmetic to adult males but went on to give lectures, hold discussion groups and added other subjects to the curriculum, by the 1870s the Government was supporting classes which were extended to women and juveniles.
The Government had concluded that to compete in world markets and cope with advancing technology a literate, well educated work force was needed.
The rapidly expanding membership of the Institute necessitated a move in 1864 to the Lecture Hall on the High Street which had been built for the congregation of the New Methodist Reform Church.
This body too had outgrown it’s home and built Queen Street Chapel for it’s burgeoning following.
1877 was to be a notable year.
The Mechanics Institute or Yeadon Mutual Improvement Society as it was often called decided that new permanent premises were needed.
To widen the issue a Town Meeting was held where it was proposed that a new building be erected which would serve the whole town and provide a home for any groups or associations who wished to participate.
So, the idea of building a Town Hall had been put forward, supported by the Mechanics Institute and the Local Board.
In little over two years the idea would become reality, a staggering achievement when viewed from our perspective.

To represent the interests of all parties a Board of Trustees was formed, Colonel W H Crompton Stansfield of Esholt Hall, Lord of the Manor of Yeadon becoming President.
The Board consisted of 8 members of the Mechanics Institute and 8 members of the Local Board.
Important decisions had to be made : a site chosen, finance raised and an architect appointed.
A central site was decided upon including a plot of land which was purchased from William Starkey before he died in 1879.
The site was not open to the High Street, for many years the Town Hall was hidden behind a jumble of old buildings including the old school.
A prize was offered to architects for the best design, 31 entries were submitted, the winning design was by William Hill with an estimated building cost of £5,000!
Hill was born in Halifax, he had offices in Leeds and lived at “The Heath”, Adel, a house he designed himself.
Other buildings of his design were Bolton Town Hall, the Public Dispensary and the Chest Clinic Leeds, Portsmouth Guildhall and many other chapels and churches, many of Neo-classical design but Yeadon Town Hall was to be a Gothic style edifice.
The money was to be raised by public subscription, Colonel Crompton Stansfield gave a large, generous donation of £500, followed by £50 from J M Barwick of Low Hall, he practised as a solicitor in Leeds and acted as solicitor for the Trustees, also he was the Vice Chairman of the Trustees.
In addition he pledged to pay for one of the stained glass windows which would be installed in the Town Hall.
Another magnanimous donation of £100 came from Alfred Brayshaw of Ivegate, he was in partnership with brothers Thomas Brown and Joseph Knapton Brown at Kirk Lane Mills.
He also volunteered to sponsor another of the stained glass windows.
Thomas Brown himself put £100 into the pot, he lived at Mount Cross, Bramley, Leeds, but was a great benefactor to Yeadon.
His widow paid £500 for the Yeadon Fountain and trees on Victoria Avenue to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, this was on instructions left in Thomas’s will.
Their daughter Mrs Beverley left money to the Trustees of the Town Hall which would ultimately pay the outstanding debt on the building.
Jonathan Peate of Nunroyd gave £100, he was another of the local benefactors who was always ready to support good works.
J H Pratt of Green Lane Dyeworks put in £100, the old mill was destroyed by fire in April 1906.
Other familiar names supported the cause : Thomas Denison of Bancroft House £50, William Murgatroyd (then living at Hawthorn Crescent before Moorfield House was built adjacent to Moorfield Mill) £50.
Alfred Slater, son of E B Slater and cousin of E E Slater £50, James Ives of Manor Mill £50 and Thomas Denison of Bancroft House £50.
William Coupland of Bolton House gave £50 as did William Starkey who notoriously wanted to build a perpetual motion engine (Died 1879) and Stephen Teal of Grange House which was built in 1868, around 1962 it was used as offices for Aireborough Sanitary Inspector but is now demolished.
Ernest Ethelbert Slater of Hopeville contributed £30, his father local historian Philomen Slater was one of the founders of the Mechanics Institute and had left £10 for the building, having died in 1878.
Joseph Knapton Brown gave £25, Joseph Peel of Wellfield £25, N B Wormald of Town Street £25.
There were many smaller amounts to defray the sum needed, £10 was donated by each of the following : Constantine Waterhouse, David Haigh of Ivegate, William Laycock, Miss J Barwick of Symcroft which was the Dower house for Low Hall, Ben Birch of Swincar House, Thomas Bolton of Springwell House, W P Brayshaw of Roydfield and John Denison of Highfield, he was in partnership with the Waterworths at Crompton Mill on Cemetery Road.
Once the site, architect and finance were in place work could begin ; the Foundation Stone was laid with great ceremony on May 10th 1879.

This was in an age before Television, radio and all the communication and technological devices with which we now all divert ourselves, the social lives of most of the people in Yeadon revolved round Chapel or Church. Any public event or entertainment would be relished by the public who would come out in droves to watch. There was also pride in the civic achievements of the town and a sense of community which still exists. So the crowds gathered to witness Colonel Crompton Stansfield lay the foundation stone for the Town Hall, various items were placed beneath the stone :-
enclosed in a bottle were several coins, 1/-, 6d, 1d, 1/2d several newspapers including The Yeadon & Guiseley Guardian, The Times, Leeds Mercury, Yorkshire Post, Bradford Observer and the Leeds Daily News. There were also plans of the building, a subscription list, copy of the rules of the Board of Trustees, and the last annual report of the Yeadon Mechanics Institute.
A procession led by Yeadon Brass Band made it’s way from the Lecture Hall to the White Swan Cricket Pitch for a Grand Gala. Also in the procession were the Local Board, School Board, Poor Law Guardians, Overseers of the Township, the Vicar of Yeadon and other Ministers of Religion. Representing the Town Hall Trustees in the parade were J M Barwick, Mr B Birch, Mr S Bolton, Mr A Brayshaw, Mr W Coupland, Mr J Peate, Mr J H Pratt. In the contingent from the Mechanics Institute were Mr John Denison, Mr Levy Haigh, Mr Joseph Harrison, William Laycock, Mr A Marshall, Joseph Peel and Ernest Ethelbert Slater. One can imagine them all behatted, bewhiskered, in best suits with stiff wing collars, their polished boots clattering on the road making their way to the Gala, perhaps allowing themselves a few self-congratulatory pats on the back!
No time was lost by local builder Richard Hogg, in just over a year the Town Hall was built! A substantial structure in Gothic style with a central clock tower and 4 smaller spires, to the exterior sides of the first floor windows are medallions depicting science , art, music and industry. Powell Brothers of Leeds created 2 stained glass windows designed to represent the woollen heritage of the town which include local heraldry symbols. The windows were paid for by J M Barwick and Alfred Brayshaw. A mosaic on the floor of the entrance is said to be a representation of Philomen Slater. The whole building has extravagant details outside and within, aesthetically more appealing than many Town Halls which were erected in other towns.
On the 26th June 1880 the Town Hall was given it’s official grand opening by Leeds banker W Beckett Denison, another 14 speakers came after him, tea was provided in the schoolroom which must have been more than welcome after such a prolonged ceremony. This was followed by another Grand Gala at 6pm. A caretaker , Mr Alfred Hill had been appointed, his salary was £1 per week, by 1925 a Mr Clayton was caretaker, he was paid £4 per week. The Town Hall was initially not clearly seen from the High Street, old buildings obscured the view. The Old School was pulled down shortly after the Town Hall opened, it would be many years before the rest were demolished, the Town Hall square was created in 1925 when the remaining buildings – Poll Marsden’s Lodging House, Holgates shop – were pulled down, giving a clear view from the High Street for the first time.
The donations given by the townspeople were not enough to pay for all the building costs, in 1883 £3,000 was owing, the debt grew to £15,000 by 1894. The Mechanics Institute moved their evening classes to the new Yeadon and Guiseley Secondary School (Aireborough Grammar) in 1910. The Trustees were still in control of the Town Hall but gave the Local Board rent free rooms, to raise money the Main Hall was opened as a cinema in 1912, an amenity which continued until 1925. The debt stood at £4,800 in 1918, an appeal was launched to help clear the debt and pay for a War Memorial, the response brought in £4,400, £3,000 was used to reduce the debt and the remainder to provide the memorial and carry out necessary remedial work on the fabric of the building.
1925 was to be a turning point both in financial and aesthetic matters. The remaining buildings in front of the Town Hall were demolished and a bequest from Thomas Brown, paid by his daughter Mrs Beverly, cleared the outstanding debt. It would be a further 10 years before the building was handed to Yeadon Urban District Council in 1935. When Aireborough Urban District Council was formed in 1937, there was much debate about which of the 3 towns should host the new Council administrative headquarters, both Yeadon and Guiseley claiming they had Town Halls to provide suitable accommodation. Micklefield House, which Rawdon Council had purchased in 1935, was chosen but many services were still provided in Yeadon Town Hall. Down the years it has served to house a clinic, library, schoolrooms, shows, clubs, dances, concerts and became a well loved and used amenity.
More change came in 1974 when Aireborough became part of the Leeds Metropolitan District, local people celebrated the Centenary of the Town Hall in 1980 with a week of festivities beginning on the 7th of June with the re-opening of the Town Hall by Barney Colehan. Although living in Guiseley he was born in Yeadon, a tall handsome man with a distinctive moustache, his modest manner belied his fame as a television producer. Many popular programmes he produced include The Good Old Days, It’s A Knockout and Jeux San Frontiere. Each evening saw a different production in the Town Hall by local groups.

After the celebrations the decade brought great anxiety about the future of the building when it was threatened with closure by Leeds City Council. A huge response from Yeadon people convinced the Council that the Town Hall had a viable future and necessary repairs and renovations were carried out. The Town Hall Users Committee co-ordinates the various groups and societies who continue to use this iconic Yeadon landmark, sell out musical shows, plays, concerts, charity functions and a nursery can all be found here. Room 27 provides a permanent home for the archives of the Aireborough Historical Society which is open to the public on Monday afternoons 1.30pm to 3.30 pm.
We who live in the area owe much to the fore-sight, perseverance and generosity of those Yeadon townsfolk who left us this magnificent heritage, the same community spirit still lives in Yeadon to the envy of many other areas For example, the old peoples annual excursion financed by Yeadon Charities, the main fundraising event being the annual pantomime held in the Town Hall. So, long may the Town Hall clock chime out the hours and long may the Town Hall lend dignity and substance to Yeadon.
The End.

Consolidated by Jack Brayshaw. 05 August 2022.
Last updated: 05 August 2022.

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