Plan for Leeds

John Cossins’ sketch. Quite hard call it just sketch. It’s the “New and exact plan of the town of Leeds”, 1726. It’s one of the oldest printed map in Britain, probably the first on Leeds, and according to Dr Kavin Grady we’re very lucky to have the original one because only one has ever existed.

I was in the Holy Trinity Church, some days ago, attending to a free lecture from Mr Grady (the director of Leeds Civic Trust) from the cycle “Leeds in your lunch time”… just 30minutes talks about the old city compared to the modern one. I was really surprised seeing the church completely crowded. I didn’t expected that these themes can raise so much interest.

Anyway, it’s a very detailed map, amazing for that time, and Cossins designed it after studies and measurements using a particular tool called Gunter’s chain and a plane table to sketch the plan following the right alignment of streets and buildings. So it’s very precise. You can se the rectangular shape of the fields, always with the same proportion of 22yards for 220 yards, because 22yards was the basic unit of the Gunter’s chain and Cossins reported it precisely on its map. In this way he designed long and narrow fields (as they actually were), representing the pattern of medieval agriculture.

But it’s also a celebration of the prosperity of Leeds, look at the description: “Leedes is a large, rich and populous town […] is particularly famous for its Great Manufacture of Cloth where here is every Tuesday and Saturday several thousand Pounds worth of Bread Cloath bought on Briggate in a few hours time..”


Deeper into the..cradle

Morning walk into the “cradle of Industrial Revolution” for some pictures, videos and spectrophotometer testing.

Once again astonished by the mix of old and new, by the conversion of old industrial buildings and the efforts to relaunch the area.

History has not been hidden, it’s been reinvented.
These places are able to tell stories and together to look to their future questioning:
What could we be tomorrow?


Wind @ tower works

Wind. Water. Ground.

Sometimes a simple look around it’s what we need to understand what it was and why. I’ll try to explain.

1. Wind. Leeds enjoy a moderate climate, it has strong winds flowing  from the west, heavy showers and basically no snow. This because it stand in the foothills of Pennines.

2. Water. We’ve already talked about the River Aire, it enters the city from west, together with winds, and going to south-east it loses both depth and speed due to the land changes. But during its journey a lot of pure streams (or beck as the Vikings called them) join it. One of these was the Hol Beck, does it remember anything?

3. Ground. The point is that the particular composition of the soil makes the streams water soft and lime-free.  Morever the the mixed layer the ground is composed of provided naturally filtered water, very useful when the streams and rivers became too polluted to use.

These geographical features provided the Leeds wollen industry with soft, clean water for the washing ans scouring of the cloth. Later the streams to the west make the mills wheel move.


Riboud’s experience

“I love towns, they’re like friends to me. When I haven’t seen them for some time, I miss them ad I want to see them again to find out if they’ve changed.”

Mark Riboud

And that’s exactly what he did. In a inspiring way.

The young Marc Riboud, following Robert Capa’s suggestion, first met Leeds in 1954, to makes pictures of it for the Picture Post. At that time, the magazine were publishing a series of pictures entitled “The best and the worst of English cities” an Leeds was the only town that left. 50 years after, in 2004, Marc Riboud, now a famous Magnun photographer, came back to Leeds to re-photograph it. So they became a book and a exhibition.
But it found difficult to duplicate his earlier photograph.
The city’s been growing and changing. And now, after only 10 years since his last visit, what could he find?
But nowadays anyone has a camera. The knowledge is share and spread.

What if anyone could try this experience? And hunt for those “lasting moments”?

Leeds loves cinema

Does cinema know that?

27th Leeds International Film Festival is over, from several weeks by now. (And how many cinemas did we see? Not so many, but only from the buses. Even if I really would like to go to the Hyde Park Picture House to try the real English cinema experience.)

Anyway, my recent visit to the Industrial museum at Armley Mills has reminded me some pieces of information that I’ve been collecting in these weeks and put in an drawer in my mind called “Leeds+cinema”.
Which the results? Don’t know yet, precisely. But I discovered some legends about Leeds and her love for cinema (I know i’ve said “her” although I’m not sure Leeds is a lady yet).
Right now there are a bridge, two owls and a plaque on that bridge related to Louis Le Prince. And   here started the story. The true story of the invention of moving images that we’ve lost when he disappeared from a train to Paris.

It seems that in 1887, at that time neither American Thomas Edison or the French Lumière brothers had begun their own research into moving pictures, Louis built 16-lens camera at 160 Woodhouse lane and a year later he created his first films, recording some scenes on the Leeds Bridge. 

But then? Why nobody seem to know Le Prince?
He was in Dijon at his brother and he wanted to come back to Leeds, where he was hiding his discoveries from industrial American spies, to finally patent his new camera. Something went wrong and Le Prince was never seen again alive or dead. So Thomas Edison got the credit for the birth of cinema when he demonstrated his projecting Kinetoscope in 1894, six years after Le Prince projected his film of Leeds Bridge.
But there’s even more. In fact Leeds contribution to cinema could started even earlier with the Donisthorpe Wordsworth. Son of a mill engineering, probably inspired by his father’s invention, he seems to have recorder the world’s first moving image, decades earlier than Lumiere Brother. Even with music.
But he was considered a nutter and nobody believed to his fantasy about making picture moving.

These are very weird and nebulous stories but what is sure is the large numbers of old cinemas that Leeds holds, that still shape her identity and landscape. And also the fervent atmosphere of the industrial Leeds that was the perfect laboratory for new ideas and for turning passions and fantasies into inventions.