Leeds’ City Island is built between the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the River Aire. Before 1819 Armley to the south of the river, and Woodhouse and Hyde Park to the north, were  isolated from one another. One had to travel further into town, to the Leeds Bridge, to traverse the river, north or south. In 1818 a local businessman Benjamin Gott, a former Lord Mayor of Leeds (1799) and major industrialist, raised £7,000 to build two stone bridges to connect the areas. One bridge was to span the river, whilst a smaller bridge was to span the canal.

Benjamin Gott was a very successful businessman (Gotts Park, Benjamin Gott High School, etc) operating his woollen business from Armley Mills, which is now an industrial museum around a mile or so from City Island. Although philanthropic, Gott would no doubt have had a beneficial interest in improving business connections over the river, hence his enthusiasm for the raising money for the new bridge. Gott died in 1840, a millionaire.

The bridge was designed by the John Rennie, the same engineer who designed Leeds Bridge, famous for its low arches and cast iron and stone construction. It was originally called the Waterloo Bridge, after John Rennie’s famous London bridge of the same name.

By 1873, the commercial aspect of Leeds had changed substantially. Traffic volumes were too much for the two relatively small stone bridges and the bridge was widened. The bridge stayed that way for many years, until it was widened again in the late 1970’s. By then the original structure had been hidden by later stonework.

Learn what’s special about Leeds’ City Island here.