Meeting Report February 2012
record audience of 56 people gathered at the end of February to hear an
illustrated talk by Louiseanne Hand entitled 'A Pictorial History of Quarry
Louiseanne is a librarian based in the Local and Family History Department
of the Central Library in Leeds, a post she has held for the last eight
years. Originally from Dublin, a fact reinforced for us by her delicious
accent, Louiseanne came to Leeds ten years ago to study for a masters
degree in history at Leeds Metropolitan University. Fortunately for us
she has stayed ever since. She began her talk by explaining that she would
show us how a particular area of the city, Quarry Hill, had evolved over
the centuries using photographs and engravings, some dating as far back
as the 18th or 19th centuries.
She explained that in the mid 17th century this area was known as Quarrel
Hill, but nobody has been able to discover the reason for the name change.
She also put forward the theory that it could have been the site of a
roman settlement known as Cambodenum, though this has not been proven.
Louiseanne explained that during the 19th and early 20th centuries Quarry
Hill had become known as an 'Unhealthy Area' and she showed many thought
provoking images which clearly demonstrated this. An especially interesting
image was of Cornhill the oldest inhabited street in Leeds. Some particularly
fascinating photographs were of the Leeds Mission and St Peter's Medical
Aid, as she described how the church influenced the lives of the inhabitants
by providing practical help and access to medical care.
Moving on to the building of the famous Quarry Hill Flats during the 1930's
she explained that these were the brainchild of the Rev Charles Jenkinson
and Housing Chief R.A.H Livett.
They had travelled to Vienna to view the Karl Marx Hof flats and returned
to Leeds determined to build similar flats here. Opened in 1938 they were
the largest block of flats in Europe and boasted such innovations as the
Garchey waste disposal system. This was a method of disposing of waste
from the sinks in the flats to a central incinerator, thus taking away
the need for dust bins in the flats area. However this system proved unreliable
and was one of the reasons which lead to the eventual demolition of the
When the flats first opened they were hailed as a solution to the housing
of all the tenants who were displaced by the slum clearances of the 1930's,
and Louiseanne showed one very evocative photo of queues of hundreds of
potential tenants waiting to view show flats. The complex, with communal
laundry rooms and safe play areas for children, must have been regarded
Utopia by the first tenants. The dream was to be short lived. Plagued
by structural faults and increasing vandalism they were demolished in
Louiseanne concluded her talk by describing the regeneration of this area
into the cultural quarter of Leeds and showed us images of such buildings
as the Playhouse, Leeds College of Music and BBC Television. After her
talk there was a lively discussion amongst the audience sharing memories
of the flats, and even telling Louiseanne snippets of information she
wasn't aware of.
The next meeting on Monday 26th March 2012 will be an illustrated talk
by John Gilleghan MBE entitled 'Leeds - The Story of a Great City'.