Headrow, Arcades, Leeds


Outside the Art Gallery is a long, wide road which changes name from Westgate, to Headrow, and then to Eastgate, and along this stretch is some sculpture. The War Memorial, just outside the Art Gallery, is an important example of the work of H. C. Fehr, one of the New Sculptors, and a contemporary of Alfred Drury, whose work may be seen elsewhere in Leeds. A stone obelisk, perhaps 15 or 18 feet high, it bears three excellent bronze figures. At the front, St. George, astride the crunched up corpse of the dragon, scaly and crocodile-like, but with long talons like a bird of prey. St. George himself is a somewhat art nouveau figure, almost reminiscent of the work of Alfred Gilbert, another sculptor of the period, with an important work inside the Art Gallery.

At the back of the monument, a figure of Peace, as a decadent art nouveau girl, wearing a clingy top and long skirt, a more substantial enveloping cloak, and a headdress. She holds a dove aloft, ready to fly.

Atop the monument, is a an angel, carrying several roses. Her drapery is remarkably delicate and complex, and a contrast to the treatment of the figures below. And finally, note the little stone owls at the basal corners of the monument.

Angel on top of the War Memorial, by H. C. Fehr

Next to the Art Gallery is the Town Hall, a truly massive Greek temple with a many-pillared square clocktower on top, surmounted by a squared dome giving the whole a degree of the baroque. The architect was C. Brodrick, and the whole edifice went up in 1853-58. In front, four large stone lions by William Keyworth - with a favourable contrast being made to the 20 times more expensive lions by Landseer in Trafalgar Square, produced just a little earlier. But of course those were in bronze, and bigger still. The Keyworth lions are in stone, much worn, and in one case cracked, but still of satisfying solidity and scale. On the tympanum above the main entrance, a group of five very Greek ladies in stone, with accoutrements, by the sculptor John Thomas. Worth some study for the careful symbolism. The central deity is Victory, holding wreath and firebrand, flanked by pillars bearing owls and in front busts of Athena, and the smiling face of some pagan, perhaps a satyr. All this raised on several steps, and a step down to left and right, a pair of figures in sweeping drapery, more Hellenistic than Hellenic. To the left is Music with lyre and trumpet, and to the right, perhaps Architecture, as she rests an elbow on a small pillar. The outermost pair of figures recline on the lowest step, giving a pleasing pyramidal composition to the whole. To the left, Manufactures, with hammer and anvil, spoked wheel, pliers, carpet and wallpaper, and bales of goods ready to ship. To the right, a more obscure figure with a small globe and other accoutrements.

Alas, the Victorian Hall inside the Town Hall has not been open when I have visited, but at least the foyer can always be seen. There may be found a pair of statues of the young Queen Victoria and Albert by Matthew Noble. Simple in treatment, and they must once have been outdoors as they are very worn - a similar pair may be found in Salford. Also there are fine portrait busts of the then Prince and Princess of Wales.

There is more architectural sculpture, unfortunately anonymous, on the buildings on the other side of the street. More or less facing the Art Gallery, is the Pearl Assurance building, a turreted baroque effort in the normal white pearl stone by the architect W. Bakewell, 1911. Up at the top is a small statue of the company's founder and president, Patrick James Foley. Though this can hardly be appreciated from street level, the statue is appallingly crude in execution, and one has to wonder if Foley ever saw the thing before it was put at a safe height. At each of the front corners at the same height is an equally roughly done griffin, much more successful, and with good batlike wings. The building deserves to be walked round in its entirety, to appreciate the small gargoyles at first floor height, which include a variety of fierce little monsters of great charm. Next to the Pearl building, in orange terra cotta, rather taller because the upper storeys are full height, is a fine block with three terra cotta statues on the front at 2nd floor level, in niches between the windows. They stand upright, wearing rather ecclesiastical robes and crowns of olives, and represent Painting, Music, and perhaps Literature.

On the other side of the Pearl building, on the next block, though without figural sculpture, we should mention the the heavily detailed Jubilee Hotel and Chambers, 1904, in bright red terra cotta.

Little else sculptural on Headrow itself, though we may mention number 113, with a pair of muscled youths in loin cloths, standing medieval-fashion on dogs, supporting the corners on their shoulders; also much by way of foliage detailing on window edges etc, in repeating patterns. However, just to the south of Headrow and Eastgate lies the Victorian quarter, with fine terra cotta buildings and several arcades, of which more below. And to the north up Briggate is one more arcade, the Grand Arcade, and a fine church, St John the Evangelist, maintained by a preservation trust and worth visiting for the fine Victorian stained glass.

The Arcades

Grand Arcade is not so grand by the standards of the others, but has nice tile detailing over the entrance, and inside has a clock by the local firm Potts, with a pair of painted knights to strike the bells on either side, and a cockerel above. The sculptor, if so he might be termed, was a local man, Mr Appleyard. Thornton's Arcade has ironwork details, and four more painted figures, rather kitsch, who appear to represent Robin Hood and companions. But the most important arcade is County Arcade, dated 1898-1900. It is by Frank Matcham, and up to his standards of liveliness in decoration, in terra cotta (green and pink terra cotta with orange and leaf designs), ironwork , and mosaic. The mosaics take up the four corner positions in each of the three domes - 12 pieces in all. The central dome has four seated allegorical full-figures, Architecture and Coal mining (male), and Cotton and perhaps Porcelain (female). The other domes have labelled portraits- Art, Liberty, Commerce and Labour in the one, and Agriculture, Peace, Industry and Justice - of these, Agriculture appears to be finer work and looks to be by a different hand than the others.

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