An Introduction to Leeds
On the banks of the River Aire in west Yorkshire lies the ancient city of Leeds, which is one of the county’s, indeed the country’s, busiest urban centres with a population of nearly three quarters of a million. The city acts as a transport hub for much of the surrounding area, with both road and rail links to the rest of the country such as the M1 and M62 motorways and the local Metro train system.
During Medieval times Leeds sprung up as a market town for local farmers and producers and has grown exponentially ever since. Around the Tudor era the town was best known for it’s wool exports to the Continent. The town as it was then was changed massively by the advent of the canal system in the area at the time of the Industrial Revolution – the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, for instance, enabled a huge growth in industry – and when the railways came local trade was changed irrevocably.
Up until recent times Leeds and much of the region was largely reliant on the coal industry for income and employment, but, after pit closures in the 80’s, the local economy has had to become more diverse, and now call-centres are a major employer due to the supposed trustworthiness of the Yorkshire accent.
From the tourist’s point of view the city has much to offer, from several museums documenting local rural and industrial history to art galleries, theatres and even the 12th century ruins of Kirkstall Abbey on the outskirts. Leeds is no stranger to sporting excellence, with a whole host of sports represented in the city, and plays host to several renowned clubs: Leeds United FC have had a torrid time with relegation and insolvency in recent years, but not long ago they were one of the biggest clubs in Europe; Leeds Rhinos have become a dominant force in Rugby League, crowned champions in last year’s Super League final against fierce local rivals Bradford; one of the oldest county cricket clubs in the country, Yorkshire, are also based locally.
In terms of famous sons and daughters the city of Leeds is unusually blessed, a veritable glut of actors and entertainers hail from the area. Cinematic legends Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia) and Malcolm MacDowell (A Clockwork Orange) were both raised in Leeds, as was Eric Morcambe’s eternal straight-man Ernie Wise. From the world of entertainment the city has given us Sir Jimmy Saville, radio DJ Chris Moyles and ex-Spice Girl Mel B, as well as writer and playwright Alan Bennett. Bands from the city include Chumbawumba, Sisters of Mercy and one member of the Kaiser Chiefs.