10th November 2020
The history of West Park in Leeds can be traced back as far as the Mesolithic period. This is thanks to pre-historic and Romano British archaeological discoveries in surrounding areas. Neolithic and Bronze Age finds have also been discovered nearby and Roman finds from Headingley including coins 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 now redeveloped.
The site of West Park was sold off by the Earl of Cardigan’s estate at the end of the 1800’s. The 1892 OS map shows the area still in agricultural use. However, by 1906, West Park’s initial development had taken place 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. A former field wall can still be found today, at the northern end of North Parade.
Most of the Edwardian properties are large, detached or semi-detached dwellings, often three storeys with wide frontages and deep plots. The majority of properties have red brick with white painted render and some stone details. Many even have Arts-and-Crafts architectural detailing to windows, doors and porches. Black painted mock half-timbering is also a common gable detail. Although on this side of West Park, many gardens are considered small, they make up for it in 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.