Leeds has plenty of fascinating history. In ancient times it was known as Loidis and was a Welsh-speaking area. For a long time it held out against the Anglo-Saxons. The name of Loidis may have meant “people of the flowing river”, alluding to the Aire in the city.

Norman Leeds

In 1086, two decades after the Norman Invasion, Leeds was a small village which was owned by the baron from Normandy named Ilbert de Lacy of Pontefract Castle. A century later Kirkstall Abbey was founded in a wooded area close to the River Aire.

Leeds from the Meadows by Joseph Rhodes
Leeds from the Meadows by Joseph Rhodes

The city became one of the most renowned wool-making centres in the kingdom. By 1560, during the reign of Elizabeth I, Leeds was showing major growth. The streets of Kirkgate and Briggate especially were doing well – they are still major shopping and dining areas. Its first mayor was appointed in 1661.

Leeds in 18th and 19th centuries

Leeds grew rapidly during the eighteenth century. Various cloths were brought into the city by merchants from Halifax and Bradford. Leeds really came into its own in the nineteenth century. During the Industrial Revolution machinery allowed mass production to be feasible and encouraged the rise of the mill.

For more historical visits around Leeds, check out Kirkstall Abbey or Leeds Industrial Museum.

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