24th November 2016
The area of land that sits to the west of the A660 Otley Road, north of St Chad’s Church and south of the shopping parade at West Park, was known as Reservoir Hill. The title derives from the water storage facility Leeds Waterworks Company built on the north side of what was then a turnpike road to provide fresh water to the city. The pipework ran from Eccup in 1837 to the main reservoir for Leeds at Woodhouse. This new site was designed to provide the filtration facility, but with continuous demand on water supplies Leeds Waterworks was taken over by Leeds Corporation and the filtration site itself became a reservoir for much of the area north of Headingley Hill by 1850. The pipes were originally designed to carry 1.2m gallons per day down to Woodhouse. By 1864 the consumption for water in Leeds was 4.3m gallons! Today, the fully automated waterworks still gravity-feeds water to Woodhouse but also pumps water to homes in Tinshill and Cookridge.
Until the early part of the 20th century the land to the west of ‘the turnpike road’ was predominantly open farmland, tended by the tenants of Ivy House Farm, which was located roughly where Churchwood Avenue and Otley Road meet today. Kirkstall Grange at Beckett Park (now Leeds Beckett University campus) was the only substantial dwelling of note on this side of the Otley Road. The remaining dwellings in the area, north of Headingley Hill, were those on Headingley Moor (now Far Headingley/Cottage Road) where Castle Grove, Moor House , Mr Askey’s Inn (The Three Horse Shoes) and a number of slightly smaller properties in well-defined plots were located.
The attraction of this stretch of the turnpike road was limited. The tram service terminated at Mr Askey’s Inn at the junction with Otley Road and Weetwood Lane therefore the next stage of the journey was by horse drawn carriage. One one has to bear in mind this section was poorly maintained; as a toll road, operated by a Trust, the maintenance relied upon the Trust who apparently were not diligent in their duties according to David Hall’s book “Far Headingley”, published in 2000, despite the collection of just under £3,000 per annum from the ‘coaches, gigs and stage wagons’ that used the road to reach the village of Bramhope and the market town of Otley. Toll payments were collected until 1873 when the road was taken over by the Town Council.
Although a number of substantial properties were built north of Headingley Moor in the mid to late 1800’s residential development on the south west side of the A660 really began at the turn of the 20th century. By 1906 many of the houses off Spen Road had been built, in the fashionable Edwardian ‘homesteads’ style. By 1913 the shopping parade had been built at West Park, the shops serving these new wealthy residents, as well as the established families and staff ‘in-service’ at Weetwood Hall and Spenfield House. Many of the homes built along the line of the former turnpike road, including those up to Otley Old Road, commanded countryside views to the rear, but with continual house building over the ensuing years, only interrupted by the outbreak of the first and second World Wars, those views were soon eroded in favour of suburbia.
Despite significant development in the 1920’s and 1930’s this area still retains a considerable amount of greenery. Beckett Park (former Kirkstall Grange) is unspoilt, and a wedge of greenery extends around the western edge of the Ancaster Road and Northolme Crescent to Spen Lane.