Yesterday morning we wandered for three hours in Leeds discovering, sketching and “getting lost” (not joking, some of us really got lost!). It was a kind of treasure hunt!
We had just an old map of Leeds, a pen and our sketchbook, to go and follow the “warps and wefts” of the city to find out what of the old history still exist, the big changes that occurred.
Starting from the Leeds Bridge, with some cool people, we explored the city and discover the traces of the old textile manufacture, that I’ve been studying in these months, and I even discover some new details!
It’s the drawing effect: by using pen and paper you not only represent what you see, you learn to, and you can communicate quickly and simply your thoughts to someone else.
So thanks to Vale and Flora that suggested us this new way of seeing and to the all people that have come!
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..”
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. 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.
Searching. Discovering. Finding treasures.
Imaging myself in others’ stories, in other history.
In a city that now is almost invisible, or at least well hidden. Forgotten.
Bowman Lane, looking west. Hunslet, Leeds
It looks so real and intimate to me.
Enjoy leodis.net a photographic archive of Leeds.
“Obsessed as we have been in Leeds with mimicking the success of other ‘great’ northern cities, we seem to have lost our way in ensuring that the city develops in keeping with its unique geography, culture ans architecture, and it is this which perhaps defines our current dilemma.
Can we transcend the ‘meaningful cities shopping list approach’ and concentrate instead on ensuring that Leeds develops in its own unique way?”
Jonathan Morgan, “City Living: is Leeds really missing out?”