South of the river

In this contribution to The Guardian’s Illustrated City series, writer, printmaker and illustrator Francesca Roe shares with us her views of our home town, or rather, the lower, grubbier half of it.

Faded grandeur: the industrial glories of neglected south Leeds – a cartoon
A walk through south Leeds reveals a district caught between industrial grandeur, post-industrial wasteland and urban blandness. The starting point is Leeds station, where the 1960s edifice and the 1930s art-deco concourse sit directly above the Dark Arches, a series of vaults spanning the River Aire that serve as the station’s foundation. A metal walkway passes through the Dark Arches and over the Aire, where passers-by can stop and watch the churning water receding into darkness. Around 18m bricks were used to construct the arches during the 1860s – the largest such project in the world at that time.

south-of-the-river-3

Through the Dark Arches lies the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the gentrified tip of Holbeck: “Holbeck Urban Village”, a tight knot of former red-brick flax mills and steam engine works. The Round Foundry dates back to 1795 and was once home to steam engine manufacturers; today the complex is home to offices, a brewery and Yorkshire’s official tourist board. The gentrification of this small part of Holbeck has done little to ease poverty in south Leeds as a whole, but it has preserved a part of the district’s history that was previously at risk.

Some wonderful illustrations accompany this melancholic piece, with more on Instagram. Very evocative of the inner-city scrappiness and griminess of the area.

south-of-the-river-1

Here’s a link to some more of her writing on a similar theme, how cities deal with their past.

What should cities do with ‘dark sites’, where tragic or sinister events occurred?
It’s unsurprising that communities want to physically erase the sites of violent crimes. In other cases, though, dark sites hold a deeper historic and social significance that can be commemorated. In these cases, redevelopment offers an alternative to demolition. High Royds Hospital was a psychiatric institution in Leeds which closed in 2003 and turned into housing. I remember walking around the site in the early stages of redevelopment. The grounds felt desolate, and it was easy to imagine the abuses that took place there.

No place like home?

Author: Terry Madeley

I enjoy reading about art and design, culture, data, education, technology and the web. I'm confused by a lot of it, to be honest.

4 thoughts on “South of the river”

  1. Interesting post, the sketches are very evocative, beautiful in a grim way. I can understand that historically tragic events shouldn’t be erased but I think the energy of past abuse or atrocities lingers, better to not renovate them to be just regular buildings in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

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