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West Park – A Brief History

10th March 2016

Prehistoric and Romano-British archaeological finds from the surrounding area provide evidence of human activity from as early as the Mesolithic period. Neolithic and Bronze Age finds have also been discovered nearby and Roman finds from Headingley including coins, hoards and a stone coffin. During the medieval period, the area was in agricultural use, with two granges (agricultural centres) of Kirkstall Abbey nearby: New Grange to the south and Moor Grange to the west (both sites are now redeveloped).

The site of West Park was sold off by the Earl of Cardigan’s estate at the end of the 19th century. The OS map of 1892 shows the area still in agricultural use however by the 1906 edition initial development of the suburb had taken place to the east of Spen Lane and west of Otley Road, as a planned, middle-class Edwardian suburb. Subsequent development took place on a plot-by-plot basis throughout the 20th century. The area is developed on a grid-plan layout designed to create a sense of order and uniform regularity. The curving line of Spen Road predates the suburb and contrasts with the rectilinear grid and a former field wall can still be found at the northern end of North Parade.

Most of the Edwardian properties are large, detached or semi-detached, dwellings often of three storeys with wide frontages and deep plots. There is a predominance of red brick and white painted render, with some stone details, with many having Arts-and-Crafts architectural detailing to windows, doors and porches. Black painted mock half-timbering is a common gable detail. On this side of West Park the gardens are relatively small compared to the size of the properties but these add character, as do the profusion of trees, boundary hedges and narrow grass verges.

To serve the growing population, the tram route (No. 1) from Leeds was extended from Far Headingley to West Park in 1908. In 1913 the parade of shops on Otley Road was built, opposite what is now the Village Hotel and Spenfield House.

Development to the west of Spen Lane was led by the Moor Grange estate which was commenced in the 1950’s on reclaimed farmland. There is some private housing but the majority of Moor Grange (and its sibling Spen Estate to the south) was developed and owned by the Council, with the houses and flats leased to council tenants. The majority of the houses are now owner-occupied, especially following the Right to Buy legislation of the Thatcher Government in the 1980’s, and the two estates are very popular with first time buyers.


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