26th October 2018
Lady Beck was a watercourse that ran from the north-east of Leeds through the narrow valley that is now the route of Regent Street down into the early Georgian-era Leeds and to the River Aire. As the Industrial Revolution emerged in Leeds, centred around the Woollen trade, industrialists saw the opportunity to both power their mills by harnessing the water in Lady Beck as well as use it as a drainage system for their waste products. Mabgate rapidly developed into one of the city’s major industrial areas in the last 1700’s and early 1800’s.
By the 1820’s Mabgate was a highly populated district with factories and mills surrounded by poor quality back-to-back housing, behind which shared yards housed privvies and middens. Disease was rife, yet somehow families survived and the city flourished off the back of their toil.
Technology changed and even in the late 1800’s and early part of the 20th Century, Mabgate’s factories slowly gave way to warehousing. Slum clearance made way for post-war industry and by the 1960’s major housing clearance in the area reduced the residential population substantially. With the development of the car industry, much of the Mabgate area gave way to road and highway development, linking west and east Leeds and south and north Leeds. The area became ostensibly separated from the city by the inner Ring Road/York Road, not physically, by psychologically, and in the 1970’s and 1980’s the area was somewhat forgotten about.
By the 1990’s, Leeds City Council, along with many other council’s around the country, had recognised the importance of the waterways and city centre for residential occupation, taking a lead from many of the countries in the EU and farther afield. Policy changed, strategies were implemented, and major infrastructure investment saw the city regenerate itself. Mabgate was part of that program, and remains to today.
The city has grown eastwards and Mabgate is becoming an integral part of the Northern Quarter of Leeds. Sadly, the waterway of Lady Beck was culverted many years ago, and now much of it runs 3m – 4m below the ground, but since 2007 there have been plans in the making to open up Lady Beck so that it once again becomes visible to residents and provides a ‘waterfront’ for residents to enjoy. With present funding, this is not likely to happen in the next few years, but clearly as the population in Leeds grows, demand for housing in Mabgate will grow and the need to enhance this busy metropolitan area will grow with it.