When you think of Leeds, you probably think of a busy, hustling city with Northern, friendly locals and plenty to see and do. Such as a larger than life choice of shopping, eating and drinking opportunities. You wouldn’t expect it, but Leeds actually attracts more visitors on an annual basis than traditional holiday destinations like Brighton. Which in itself is a surprising fact!
Being such a large, multicultural city it must be full of secrets and gems that you may be unaware of.
Interesting Leeds Facts To Tell Your Friends
Here is a rundown of amazing facts that you probably haven’t heard about Yorkshires best city before, but will be glad to know now…
1. Leeds Means “People Of The Fast Flowing River”
Let’s start with a history lesson as we delve into the origins of the name ‘Leeds’. The name Leeds derives from the old brythonic word Ladenses, which means “People Of The Fast Flowing River”. This was in reference to the River Aire, which still flows through the city today. However, the name originally referred to the forested area covering the Brythonic Kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century.
Throughout English history there are also mentions of a place called ‘Loidis’. This is seen in a discussion of an altar that survived from a church erected by Edwin Of Northumbria, its says that it is located in “Regione quae vocatur” which translates in modern English as “located in Loidis”.
2. We’re lucky to still have a mummy in the city
You may have visited the mummy housed in the Leeds Museum. However, did you know that Priest Natsef-Amun has been in Leeds since 1824, but he used to have a few friends? During the Second World War there were three mummies, but when it was hit by a bomb strike, only one survived – and it’s amazing that he did. The inner lid of Priest Natsef-Amun’s coffin was smashed, but miraculously, his remains were untouched.
3. Leeds helped design iconic buildings
Sir Edmund Happold was born in Leeds in 1930, and he went on to become a renowned structural engineer. He had a hand in some of the world’s most famous buildings. From the Pompidou Centre in Paris to the Sydney Opera House and Riyadh Conference Centre. Impressive!
4. The first moving picture was filmed in Leeds
One for you film buffs – in 1888 Louis Le Prince created the first moving picture. He based the film on a back garden in Leeds. Although, his film is noted in the Guinness world records as the oldest moving film, he vanished a couple years after the film was produced and unfortunately was never was able to reap the awards of his accomplishment.
5. Home To The Largest Undercover Market In Europe
Leeds Kirkgate Market is located on Vicar Lane and currently holds the record for the largest covered market in Europe. There are around 800 stalls which attracts over 100,000 visitors a week.
The market first opened in 1822 as an open air market, but construction took place to cover the section until it became a fully covered area. On 14th March 1941, the markets were damaged in a bombing raid on Leeds. This resulted in damages to a number of the stalls and limited trade in the area for some years.
One of the more famous stalls is the Penny Bazaar. But you will more likely know the company it became as this was the first stall of British company Marks and Spencer. The Marks and Spencer’s heritage is marked by the market clock in the 1904 hall, which bears the shop name. In 2012, Marks and Spencer returned to the Kirkgate Market, opening a stall alongside the centenary clock.
6. We Have Our very own Quidditch team
All you Harry Potter fans will be excited to know that Leeds has its very own Quidditch team. Students of Leeds University have developed the game to be played on foot (rather than brooms). Known as the ‘Leeds Griffins’ the students take part in games and tournaments and even have sorting hat ceremonies and Yule Balls.
7. Leeds predicted riots before the Kaiser Chiefs
They may not be as famous as some of the others, but Leeds had a number of uprisings in the 19th century. The Luddite riots kicked off in 1812, reacting to the progresses of the Industrial Revolution. The Chartist Movement had strong ties in Leeds too and led their own riots in 1842. Industry wasn’t all plain sailing for the city.
Bonus fact – The Kaiser Chiefs originated from Leeds!
8. We nearly killed Harry Houdini
We all love a pint of Tetley’s but escape artist and illusionist Houdini took his appreciation of a pint a little too far when he accepted a challenge to free himself from a padlocked metal cask of ale.
He nearly met an early end when he failed and could have died. He had to be rescued by intervention, thanks to his assistant. Proving that even the greatest of tricksters can’t con good old Yorkshire folk.
9. The City once had hippos roaming about
The idea that hippos once patrolled The Headrow isn’t as shocking as it’s not too far from today’s truth (sorry locals). In 1851, by the site of the present Armley Gyratory, the bones of a hippo were discovered by workmen digging out sections of this spot. They’re thought to be up to 130,000 years old. You can now find them in the Leeds City Museum.
10. Circus proprietor Buried Within The University of Leeds
True story. Pablo Fanque, the first black circus proprietor in Britain, is buried in St George’s Fields, now in the middle of the University of Leeds campus.
Largely forgotten after his death in 1871, he became famous again as a result of the Beatles song Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! on the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, where the Henderson family is described as ‘late of Pablo Fanque’s fair.’
There we go, 10 wonderful facts about Leeds that make you proud to call this brilliant North Yorkshire City, home.