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Headingley – A Brief History

23rd February 2016

Original Oak PubThe Headingley you see today was formed in the 19th century, more particularly 1830 onwards when Headingley was one of the premier suburbs of industrial Leeds, when wealthy mill-owners and merchants sought sanctuary from the city smog in the clean air that was found on Headingley Hill (the area behind where Johnson’s Cleaners are now located) north of the A660 Headingley Lane.

Headingley was actually established long before this however. The Domesday Book of 1086 as the following entry:

In Hedlingleia seven carucates of land (700 acres) of land for geld (taxes). Land for three ploughs and a half. Two thanes held in King Edward’s time as two manors. Two villeins are here and one plough. It was worth 40s now worth 4s

It is likely that it was settled as an Anglo-Saxon settlement, possibly named and an Anglo-Saxon chieftain named Headda.

A Norman baron called Ilbert de Lacy was granted huge estates in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (anyone know De Lacy Mount in Kirkstall?)  In 1152 his son Henry de Lacy granted part of his land to the monks of Kirkstall Abbey and with other grants the Abbey controlled virtually all the land in Headingley. The area was predominantly sheep pastures but outpost farms, known as granges, were established at New Grange (now Beckett Park) and Moor Grange.

The land would have been a patchwork quilt of pastures across which past a few lanes. Woodhouse Lane and Headingley Lane were ancient roads which still exist today, although they would have terminated in the 1300 and 1400’s somewhere around what is North Lane today. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 there wasn’t a local resident with funds to buy any land and it was sold off piecemeal to outsiders intent on farming closer to Leeds where the economy was stronger and there was a good river crossing.

In the 1600’s and 1700’s development was slow although notable newcomers were the Brudenell family (Brudenell Road?) from Northamptonshire, later to become the Earls of Cardigan (Cardigan Road?) and the Bainbrigge and Foxcroft families (Brainbrigge Road and the Foxcroft estate?). These were the elite families of the area – although there would have been much space between them as the population in the area in 1775 still only amounted to less than 700 inhabitants!

Post 1830 there was considerable building of detached villas and terraces occupied by merchants, bankers, lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs. Headingley was the ‘Belgravia of Leeds’ at this time.

Development continued apace from 1830 with house building along Cottage Road and Moor Road, and down Shaw Lane, including the erection of a row of grand terrace houses (Oakfield Terrace) on what today is Grove Lane. These were constructed by one of the first ‘Building Societies’; a collective of residents who effectively funded each other as the construction went along. Each property has its own personality, many keyed into one another – double fronted or double-rear elevations, some with bays and some even with rather ornate ‘turrets’.

5 Shaw Lane External
Today, many of these grand Victorian properties offer exceptional apartments and flats, allowing those on more limited budgets to experience the splendour of this by-gone era. Without doubt, living in Headingley provides you with a firm link to the past and to a quality of life still envied today in most cities.


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