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Cardigan Road & The Bear Pit – A Brief History

8th March 2016

Although the area is technically within Headingley itself, many residents regard this area as a little ‘neighbourhood’ within the neighbourhood; lying between the predominantly student properties on the Richmonds and Manors to the east and the Norwoods to the south, the area extends from the junction of Victoria Road and Cardigan Road up to and including Bainbrigge Road just before Headingley Lane, with the fashionable Cardigan Triangle off the to west.

It’s known for the ‘Bear Pit’, which for those unfamiliar to the name is the Victorian stone ‘castle’ which sits back on the north east of Cardigan Road, just in front of Regency Court, a block of flats which are not visible from Cardigan Road but which are set in delightful gardens with rosebeds and rhododendrons which offer a riot of colour at various times of the year.

The ‘Bear Pit’ was in fact a home to bear, although only for a very limited period of time. The pit was built as part of the Leeds Zoological and Botanical Gardens which occupied this site in the mid 1800’s for visitors to stroll and take the air in exotic gardens. The gardens were built in 1840 for the general public although the entrance fee of 6d (2.5p) for adults and 3d (1p) for children was expensive even for the affluent residents who lived in the ‘new villas’ which were being built on Headingley Hill (just to the north of Headingley Lane) during this period. The concept was to provide and area for exercising and to take clean air, away from the smog and pollution of industrial Leeds some 2 miles to the south east, but the gardens closed in 1848 and sold to entrepreneur, Thomas Clapham, who in turn sold the land off as building plots 10 years later.

The area still has a profusion of mature trees and shrubbery, with some exotic trees still insitu, and is a delightful location to say it is so central to Headingley and all its amenities. Most of the properties are either flats (some conversions and some purpose built) or hotels and guest houses. With most of the properties set back from the road, living in this ‘oasis-like’ location is relatively peaceful and tranquil.

Local shops and even a supermarket are a few metres down the road or around the corner. The bars and nightlife on Otley Road is a 10 minute stroll away and the New Burley Train Station is within easy walking distance – even with a suitcase or backpack!

  • Bramhope
  • Headingley
  • Hyde Park

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