A Sculpture Walk in Leeds

Within a short walk of the Art Gallery, Leeds has a good crop of Victorian statues, and as the city is filled with Victorian architecture, there is architectural sculpture and decoration too. This page describes a walk around Leeds, starting from outside the Art Gallery, and allong the way allowing us to meet statues by H. C. Fehr, Alfred Drury, Thomas Brock, M. Noble, George Frampton, F. W. Pomeroy and William Behnes, and see architectural carvings in stone and terra cotta. Here is a Map which I drew showing the relevant bits of the town; no promises as to its accuracy.

We start outside the Art Gallery, which is by the architect W. Thorp and dates from 1887. It was put up by the city Corporation, and cost over 10,000. In the open space in front of the Gallery stands the 1922 War memorial, with outstanding statues by H. C. Fehr. The summit bears a draped angelic figure in bronze, On the front is a St George with art nouveau shield and armour and a scaly crocodilian dragon; the rear of the monument has an equally good dreamy girl representing Victory with a dove of peace. Note also the stone owls clinging at the corners of the pedestal.

On the same side of the street is the massive Town Hall, built by C. Brodrick in classical style with huge Corinthian columns and a square tower, dating from the 1850s. In front are four lions in stone by William Keyworth, which the town authorities are apt to boast cost less than a twentieth of the cost of Landseer's lions in Trafalgar square, produced just a little earlier. In the tympanum, allegorical statues by John Thomas. Beyond, on the next block is the brick and sandstone Oxford Place Centre, 1898. On the opposite side of the street, more or less facing the Art Gallery, is the Pearl Assurance building, a turreted baroque effort by the architect W. Bakewell, 1911. Up at the top is a small statue of the company's founder and president, Patrick James Foley. A look at it with binoculars is enough to suggest that the founder never saw the thing close up. Among other buildings alongside are a large sandstone faced building with three draped figures, and the heavily detailed Jubilee Hotel and Chambers, 1904, with bright red terra cotta.

North of the Town Hall, via Park Street or Calverley Street, is George Gilbert Scott's excellently Gothic red and black General Infirmary, built in 1863-7. A longish diversion in fair weather can be made to Woodhouse Park to the north west, if desired, where there are several statues, including a Queen Victoria Memorial. Despite corrosion and some battering, this work by George Frampton remains an impressive example of his work. The main figure, bearing orb and book, is in bronze on a high plinth, with allegorical female figure of Peace to left, and the one on the right now missing.

Nearby is a decayed stone statue of H. R. Marsden, 1878, with weathered stone panels on base showing Education and Industry. One is missing. By the corner with University Road, is a Wellington by Marochetti, looking rather haughty, in a lounging pose. And at Hyde Park Corner is a rather jaunty 1852 statue of Peel by Behnes, in bronze. One can walk back into town via Woodhouse Square, where stands a statue of Peter Fairbairn, Mayor of Leeds, by Matthew Noble, 1868 - a good, solid civic statue in bronze. End of diversion.

Back at the Art Gallery, Park Row leads south to City Square and the Station, and has some good Victorian buildings. The Scottish Union and National Insurance Co Offices at the corner of South Parade form a white tile block dating from 1909. A nice figure of an angel faces onto South Parade, and slender girls hold up the several balconies. Facing down South Parade is the former Prudential Assurance, a red and sand-coloured terra cotta building with a spire, by Alfred Waterhouse. Next door, no. 18 is Cheltenham House, 1890, with a terra cotta frieze showing trading: to the left are packers and porters, to the right American Indians, Arabs and prospectors to represent the far flung places from where the ships bring their goods back to Leeds. Each of the two doors has over it a motif with two supporting terra cotta girls in the best taste. Next down the street is a Scottish life assurance company, with allegorical figures facing onto Park Row - Commerce, as a semi-draped figure with a ship, Wisdom as an old man, and two copies of Life and Fire.

18 Park Row, detail of frieze, by T Hewlis

Wandering to the end of one or other of the roads to the right parallel to South Parade leads to Park Street and East Parade, where there are many good things. East Parade Chambers (1899), for instance, has complex terra cotta lettering, and the pub next door has a classic Britannia with trident, shield and lion on top. Infirmary Street has the Gothic Yorkshire Bank with gargoyles on an evil tower (1894, Perkin and Bulmer). Also off East Parade is St Pauls Street - on the corner is an Irish bank, formerly Atlas Chambers, also by Perkin and Bulmer, dating from 1910. In white tile, with a figure of Atlas above the door, and individualistic Chinese, African, American Indian, Semitic and European faces in roundels, cherubs seated above pillars and other detailing. St Pauls Street is worth a wander down as far as the excellent St Pauls House Warehouse and Clothcutting Works, by the architect Thomas Ambler, 1878. This building is noteworthy for the Doulton tilework, with pinnacles at the corner, terra cotta pillars, and other Italianate and Moorish features. Interestingly comparable to the treatment on what remains of the Doulton Factory in Lambeth. Behind the building is Park Square, with a nude statue of Circe with two fond swine, utterly characteristic of the delicate work of Alfred Drury, and excellent in every respect.

Returning along St Pauls Street, Quebec Street has another fine example of terra cotta, on the former Leeds County Liberal Club, very red, highly decorative pillars and surface-filling designs of grotesqued lions' heads, wreaths and plants. The street leads to City Square. City Square is dominated on the Quebec Street side by the Post Office, built in 1896 by H. Tanner. Above each of the two entrances are pairs of limestone girls, engaged in writing, reading and finishing letters. Also by the square, a Unitarian Gothic church of 1847, by Bowman and Crowther, and at the corner of Boar Lane, a former bank with a domed rotunda by W. W. Gwyther, dating from 1899. And in the centre of the square, the main collection of statues.

The highest, on a raised plinth and looking most dramatic, is the Black Prince on horseback, by Thomas Brock. But the most beautiful statues are the eight lampholders, four each of Morning and Evening, allegorical semi-draped girls by Alfred Drury, whose work we saw in Park Square. They date from 1899. Also by Drury is the portrait statue of Joseph Priestley, with magnifying glass and pestle and mortar, slightly overdone. This work the gift of T. Walker Harding in 1903. Two statues by H. C. Fehr, whose War Memorial we saw by the Art Gallery: the rather Shakespearean-looking John Harrison, gift of Councillor Richard Boston in 1903, and James Watt, gift of Wainwright in the same year. Finally, a statue by F. W. Pomeroy, Dr Hook, Bishop of Leeds, shown as a fiery preacher, dated 1902.

Leaving City Square by Boar Lane, the former bank already mentioned has high up a stone female figure and boy, representing agriculture, with corn, hoe and sheep. Proceeding, on the corner of Boar Lane and Briggate is the Yorkshire Building Society, in a pale cream terra cotta with pleasant girlish figures by the side of the round windows, and lots of flourishes. Continuing, Boar Lane becomes Duncan Street, and leads to the Corn Exchange, happily get-inable as a bazaar of small shops. The interior of this remarkable oval construction has geometric iron ribs, comparable to the most impressive railway architecture. The architect was Brodrick, working a little later than when he designed the Town Hall. Also here are the City Markets by Leeming and Leeming (1903-4), with complex exterior with lots of cherubs holding up pillars, half-figures high up, and towers with heraldic lions holding shields. The interior is rather filled by the market to see the whole thing, but the ironwork dragons at least can be appreciated.

Going north along Briggate or New Market Street, leads to the final stop on the walk, the County Arcade, by Frank Matcham, dating from 1900. This is one of the best Victorian arcades, with excellent coloured tiles - the predominant theme is green and pink terra cotta with oranges and leaf designs, more colour from marble pillars, and three domes with mosaics. The two smaller domes have female art nouveau faces symbolic of Art, Liberty, Commerce and Labour in the one, Agriculture, Industry, Peace and Justice in the other. The larger central dome depicts four seated figures, male for architecture and coalmining, and female for wool manufacture and porcelain. Fortunate indeed are those who live in Leeds.

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