Archive for the ‘Leeds City Centre’ Category

The Leeds Shopping Centre in the ’20s and ’30s,Rugby and the Cinemas.By Stan Pickles.

October 1, 2012

For this month’s tale Stan Pickles takes us back even further than usual to the 1020s/30s. Stan who has contributed massively to our East Leeds memories is, alas, no longer with us but the good news was he lived to be a hundred and his great memories of Leeds will live on even longer in these pages. Maybe Stan’s tales may appeal more directly to the pre-computer literate generation. Perhaps if you know someone who would appreciate a trawl through the 1920s/30s you could print it off for them?

The Leeds Shopping Centre in the ‘20s and ‘30s,
Rugby and the Cinemas.
By Stan Pickles
What a difference there is in the Leeds scene today from the lovely atmosphere of yesteryear. Then the shops were all household names and readily come to mind: Walker’s and Geldard’s next door to each other at the top of Kirkgate fitted out all the families for years: Geldard’s for ladies and children’s wear and Walker’s for dads and their lads. They were busy all year round and full to capacity for the annual Whitsuntide ritual. Walker’s with their trade name ‘REKLAW’ also supplied overalls and aprons for all trades. I got my printer’s apron there. Around the corner in Call Lane was King’s footwear shop where you could get a good pair of shoes or boots for eight shillings (40p).
Ho! Those tailor’s shops: Thirty Shilling Tailors, Fifty Shilling Tailors, John Colliers, Burtons of course. Half a dozen are still hanging on with a new image. As I passed through the centre on my way to work many were the times I called at Braham’s Pork Shop on Duncan Street for a sixpenny pork sandwich for lunch, or across the way for a quarter of Wraggs famous polony. That shop was noted for its pork pies sausages and polony. Many were the times I called in there after the rugby game at Headingley for half a pound of best polony for Mam and Dad’s tea with cakes and Yorkshire Relish.
Rawcliffe’s, the school outfitters, also on Duncan Street did a roaring trade in special school jackets, ties, caps all with the many distinctive school badges. There were also: Woolworth’s, Marks and Spencer’s (still there) and so many other big stores such as Lewis’s Schofield’s and the rest.
In the days before the wars there was no one-way traffic systems and Briggate and City Square in particular were choc-a-bloc with traffic doing its best to force a way through and the drivers in these rough conditions trying to control their tempers. Of course there was not the quantity of traffic there is today and the one-way systems have been a great help
The Leeds Market held pride of place for shopping. The whole atmosphere around the stalls and the open market filled with its stallholder characters. It was an entertainment in itself to see: Jimmy Rhodes juggling with baskets of crockery and dinner sets. Ringing them like bells and gradually knocking them down to give away prices in front of big interested audiences was enough to fill a stranger with admiration. There was another chap filling a carrier with soap and washing powder, quoting prices all the time and then saying , ‘Come on give me a couple of bob (10p) for the lot.’ and putting an extra bar of soap in the bag as you passed the money over.
These clever salesmen could hold an audience for ages with their sales patter. Then there was the couple who sold sweets and chocolate bars who would fill a large bag with mixed confectionary, then the lady would take them around the audience and sell them at half the price. The patter went something like this, ‘Why pay fancy prices in the shops for their electric lighting and their gaily coloured bags and the smile of the girl behind the counter?’ There was a fellow selling hair clippers who had a bare patch at the back of his head where he had demonstrated his goods’
The final hour on Saturday night was a good time for bargains. Big bunches of bananas going for sixpence (2 and a half p). Fruit – almost given away.
How many of the past newly-married couples still living remember Wigfall’s and Jay’s furniture stores with the famous slogan: Yours today – four years to pay?’ Yes, things have certainly altered a lot from those far off days of yore.
Joe Dixon, the market bobby would keep things in order while in the entrance, Woodbine Lizzie asked, ‘Give us a cig, cock.’ Joe Dixon, incidentally, played for Leeds Rugby League in the 1923 Cup Final at Wakefield when Leeds beat Hull 28-3.
The highlight of my Leeds games was when I went to Wakefield in 1923 to see that Leeds and Hull in the Rugby League Cup Final. I was only eleven years old but by now knew what it was all about. How I had looked forward to it, catching the Wakefield tramcar at the Corn Exchange and travelling the long ride to the Bull Ring. The old Chantry Bridge was choc-a-block with people on their way to Belle View. I was delighted to see Leeds win the cup and Jim Bacon holding it aloft. After the match we got back to Leeds and waited on Boar Lane to see the victorious Leeds team come home in an open coach to huge cheering crowds all the way to the Griffin Hotel, where thee was a reception and the players came out onto the balcony. I was a very happy youngster.
It gives a sense of history that almost 90 years after that 1923 final we still find ourselves walking over Chantry Bridge to that grand old Belle View Stadium (now the Rapid Solicitor’s Stadium and soon to be something quite different altogether)
At Headingley we always stood behind the posts at the St Michael’s Lane end. And apart from my later years when I got a stand ticket that was my favourite spot. How times have changes, though. Now ninety percent go by car and the streets around the ground are packed every Sunday when there is a match. Going back to a time between the wars it was a common sight to see rows of private bus companies like, Wallace Arnold and Heaps, that had bussed loads from all over the north parked tail to tail. It was a regular occurrence to see 30,000 in the ground on big match days
Going to the Pictures
Starting in the early twenties after I had graduated through my ‘penny rush’ days at the Easy Road Picture House I ventured further afield with cinema visits all over the city My earliest memories were of stars like, Douglas Fairbanks (the acrobatic one), Mary Pickford (the world’s sweetheart), Charlie Chaplin (the little tramp) who introduced Jackie Coogan as ‘the kid’, Lon Chaney (the man with 1,000 faces), Tom Mix and William S. Hart (the first cowboy stars). Richard Bartholomew and Alice Terry were probably the biggest attractions in the twenties. Rudolph Valentino (he was the sheik) riding off over the desert with his dancing slave girl, Oh that Vilma Banky! The big silent films of the time were: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Gold Rush, The Black Pirate, The Sea Hawk, Blood and Sand, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Way down East and that great epic, The Ten Commandments. To add to the drama and effect there was a pianist who did a good job giving atmosphere to the occasion. Now and again a singer would be engaged to give extra entertainment. For the film, The Volga Boatman at the Coliseum half a dozen singers were engaged to pull a rope across the front of the screen chanting the boatman’s song, ‘Ho’er, Heave Ho’ pretending to be pulling a barge as in the film provided a very effective overture before the film started. By this time I was a fanatic and interested in anything about films. I bought the weekly magazine: The Picture Show, two pence every week, which was full of interesting topics and pictures of the big films, the big stars and all the latest gossip. By the time the ‘talkies’ arrived in 1928 singing and dancing films were all the rage; The Broadway Melody, Hollywood Revue, On With the Sow. Desert Song, Rio Rita, Gold Diggers and the first talking and singing film: The Singing Fool with Al Jolson drew big crowds at Briggate’s Rialto Picture House.
The thirties carried on with new stars arriving on the scene, child star, Shirley Temple was the biggest sensation of them all. As for the men: nobody could match Clark Gable who went to the top with films like: It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty, San Francisco and finishing the thirties with the Masterpiece: Gone With the Wind. Gangster films were very popular: The Big House, Up the River, Fugitive from the Chain Gang and Public Enemy Number One, made stars of: James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, Humphrey Bogart, and many more.
I saw lots of films, going at least twice a week. Night school didn’t help but on one of the nights our lesson on practical work was broken to go across Cookridge Street to the Art School (I hated it) for the 8 p.m.–9 p.m. session. I could not stand drawing letter characters as it was of no use to my trade and a waste of time (My old
school teacher, Mr Archie Gordon, once called me, sarcastically of course, ‘Our lightening artist’). Anyway I thought it was a better idea to stay at the back of the group and nip into the Coliseum for the last show. It came off until I had been absent
three times, then I was found out and had to pay a visit to the Head, Mr Bottomley, who was very sympathetic to my cause but asked me to play the game, so that was that.
The biggest night in the history of Leeds cinema was the opening of the luxurious theatre: The Paramount, Briggate, in February 1932. The Smiling Lieutenant featuring Maurice Chevalier was the big film followed by a wonderful stage show. A friend and I went straight from work but couldn’t get near the place for the huge crowds never mind getting in. However we were successful on the Thursday evening. I will always remember it was like entering a royal palace and the wonderful show on stage, I had never seen anything like it.
The opening of the Shaftsbury a few years earlier in 1928 offered really good stage shows. I think it was the only cinema to have double seats for young couples. It was my favourite cinema and held many happy memories. I took my future wife on our first date to the Shaftsbury and I remember the film: The Barrett’s of Wimpole Street (1935). Going back even earlier still to 1923 – The Princess Cinema opened in Pontefract Lane. After being quite happy visiting the ‘bug hutches’ like: The Easy Road, The Victoria, The Premier and then The Regent you can imagine how we felt going into a lovely new picture house. The seats were all very comfortable and the cinema itself was kept spotless. The price of admission was: 3d, 6d, and 9d. Wednesday night was ‘jazz night’. When the lights went up the audience were invited to join in a sing-song following a bouncing ball on a song sheet on the screen while a small orchestra played the popular tunes of the day: I Like Ice Cream, Toy Drum Major, California Moon and Constantinople were songs I recall. Oh and those serials in fifteen episodes with…to be continued next week finishing at the most exciting part and holding you in suspense until the next week. I remember them well: Bride 13, Hidden Dangers, The Masked Rider, Fantomas, Houdini and the most famous and evil of them all Dr. Fu Manchu, who terrified everyone with his torture chamber and the evil deeds, carried out on his adversaries. Pearl White was always in danger, fighting him in films like, The Ebony Block and The Perils of Pauline.
In the thirties I was on the ‘Big Five’ mailing list, a little booklet of monthly programmes at: The Majestic, The Scala, The Coliseum, The Assembly Rooms and The Parkfield in Jack Lane, Hunslet. On Saturday nights you had to book early to be sure of getting in. Yes, cinema going was the main entertainment before the war. Unfortunately, people lost interest after World War Two. Those lovely cinemas were closed and many turned into ‘bingo halls’. I rarely go to the pictures now- a- days but those grand golden days of the cinema hold a special memory for me.

Thanks for those great memories. Stan.
The central Leeds cinema I remember were: The Odeon (previously The Paramount), The ABC (previously The Ritz)the Tower, The Assembly Rooms, The Gourmont – Cookridge Street (previously the Coliseum), The Scala and Majestic who always showed the same film for some reason and The News Theatre and Tattler near City Square. And our local cinemas: The Picture House (Easy Road), The Princess, Star, Shaftsbury, Regent, Hillcrest and in Hunslet: The Premier, Strand and Regal – all within walking distance and many more just a tram ride away. I’m sure you, our readers will remember many more.

Right, out last picture was of course The Market District Boys Club. Eric got it right how many more? And what about this months picture? All East Leedsers should recognise this one.

The Great Disappeared Pubs of Old Central Leeds

August 1, 2012


The Great Disappeared Pubs of Old Central Leeds

By Pete Wood

Sometimes, in fantasising mood, I conjure up my ultimate night of booze and debauchery:  the venue is Leeds City Centre and the decade is the 1890s –‘The Naughty Nineties’. I’m starting off up Briggate for my night on the town. From The Royal Public House Yard comes the sound of hooves on cobbles. There are horses steaming and black and ready for off. Merrymaking floats out on the night air: a tinkling piano, raucous laughter, the occasional breaking of glass. Inside, revellers in ‘Billycock’ hats and ‘bum starver’ jackets, swill back the ale, while their ladies polish off the gin.

            Alas it’s only make believe, in reality pubs like that are long gone and in their place: ‘plastic palaces’ with contemporary music played very loud and the flashing lights that are necessary to draw in the twenty-first century youth with their vast discretionary spending power. City centre sites now need money a plenty to survive. Well, I’m far too old to enjoy their style of pub, but unfortunately, not old enough to have enjoyed the true sawdust and spittoon era. Fortunately, there was an intermediate era – a good night was still to be had in the fifties sixties and even the seventies in the great old ‘mucky pubs’ of Central Leeds; where there were still colourful characters

enough to light up a room. I loved those ‘mucky pubs, in fact I never felt as though I’d really been out unless it took in Central Leeds. Even my stag night was a crawl around my favourite joints.

            Gone now, regrettably, are The Royal in Lower Briggate and McConnell’s with its barrel filled window. Gone too the round Wine lodge in City Square, The Mitre, King Edward, King Charles, Robin Hood, Nags Head, Dolphin, Scotsman,  Market Tavern and The Marquis of Granby. The Star and Garter near the Corn Exchange is an amusement arcade and the Central Market, Golden Cock, Hope and Anchor, Brougham’s Arms and Yorkshire Hussar have either gone or changed their names, some several times over and with the changing of their names has come a changing of their special character too. Not all is completely lost, at the time of writing those left of a rapidly diminishing bunch are: The Whip, bless it, where Woodbine Lizzie used to stand by its three stumps and where I first saw a ceiling spinning round after sampling barley wine. The Palace, The Duncan, Royal Oak’ The Regent, Scarborough Taps and The General Elliot totter on. The Ship, Whitlock’s, Piccadilly Bar, and the Pack Horse were up ginnels and never quite aspired to my favourite category of: ‘mucky pub’. The Headrow pubs and above were out of my frame.

            Through the years I think The Star and Garter became my absolute favourite; you certainly saw life in the ‘Star’. For a start there seemed to be three or four different sexes in there, I was never quite sure who was supposed to do what to whom. Then there were the ‘ladies of the night’ plying their trade, they were a lively bunch; always laughing: their antics made the pub a fun place. Mingled in were the old ‘down and outs’ – old kids who had been in there drinking since the pub opened. By the time I would be going in there at nine or ten o’clock they would have an inch of ash on the end of their cigs and beginning to fall asleep. They would nod and nod, getting lower and lower until they heads would finally touch the table, over would go the beer and the glasses would shatter. The ‘star’ had a barmaid who had developed a technique for dealing with this; she was only a slip of a lass but she couldn’t half shift them on. She would grab them by the collar and flick the stool away with her foot, then using the momentum of their fall she would drag them out backwards to the door and then bump. Bump down the two steps onto the pavement of Call Lane. I can recall two bodies still lying there one night as I was trying to enter the pub.

            Often there would be undercover police in there on the look out for stolen goods or trying to locate the whereabouts of some rogue or other. You would hear a commotion and they would have someone spread-eagled against the wall being searched; accompanied by a great commotion from the recipient.

            There was a an old kid who collected glasses, I’ll swear he broke more than he got back to the bar – there would be a c-r-a-s-h and a couple of minutes c-r-a-s-h again. No one seemed to notice or worry about it, the floor was always swimming in ale and blood and you could feel broken glass forever grinding underfoot. I saw a lesbian give a guy a crack who was getting too familiar with her friend. Another night I went in there and it was so crushed there was nowhere to stand but I could see there was plenty of room at the far end, so I pushed my way through, folk were looking at me strangely, when I got to the space at the front I realised why; a naked woman cavorting about there, then I had to try and push my way back. Perhaps the strangest sight I ever saw there was a bloke having his hair set on fire. It happened like this: there was a couple of chaps talking to each other, pints in hands – I saw this woman pass behind them and then suddenly his hair was alight, flaring right up to the ceiling. The funniest thing was he didn’t seem to notice, he continued to talk to his friend: ‘rhubarb – rhubarb’ etc. and there was his hair actually blackening the ceiling. Finally his mate must have noticed and I imagine he said something like: ‘Hi up Joe, your hair’s on fire!’ Anyway they managed to put it out between them, he seemed no worse for wear in fact, incredibly, although his hair seemed to have been burning for a considerable time it did not seem to have been noticeably consumed. ‘It’s that bloody woman!’ he said finally and chased out after her into the street.

            Surprisingly I never found the place to be dangerous. If you didn’t cause trouble, no one would trouble you and you could observe to your heart’s content. The punters were streetwise to an amazing degree so much so it made you feel naïve. And there was total equality, if Prince Philip had gone in there for a pint or even the Queen they would have had to wait their turn at the bar like everyone else.

            To round off the evening was to have fish and chips from the Crown Fisheries, eaten in alcoholic fuzz, out of the paper, on the Corn Exchange steps – observing every species of humanity rolling home up Boar Lane in jovial state. And that old blackened Corn Exchange observes on too and if those old Victorians couldn’t shock him – then I’m sure neither will me or you.

(Unfortunately even more of these great old pubs are ‘mort’ since the writing of this piece.)


Following on from Eric Sanderson’s picture question (the alternative ‘Slip’) which he now reveals is actually in Harrogate – here is another poser. East Leeds veterans will surely recognise this magnificent building now seemingly under renovation for something other than its original use. But can you remember where it is? I bet no one will remember the name of the side street?