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Archive and Special Collections

A gateway to our University’s past

There be Owls...

The 1968 stylised emblem of the City of Leeds College of Education (L) and owl rainwater head Headingley Campus from 1911 (R)

For over one hundred years, a group of resolute residents have perched sentry-like on the rainwater heads of several drainpipes around the James Graham Building at our Headingley Campus.  These iron-clad owls bear the inscription “A. D. 1911” at which time the emerging building was known as the Education Block or Main Building.  Largely unnoticed the paint caked birds have tenaciously hugged the brick face for over a century but they are not alone on campus, they have some green cousins who cling to nearby Bronte Hall.  George Walter Atkinson, the architect of both buildings, was responsible for designing the overall layout of the campus with input from James Graham, Leeds Director of Education and Fred Broadbent, Leeds City Architect. Read more about owls

The Hounds of Kirkstall Grange

Statue of a dog outside The Grange, Beckett Park

Little is known about the two stone dogs that sat on plinths at the entrance of The Grange. Anecdotal evidence suggests they were in situ during the 1980s and may have been removed due to filming commitments on the Headingley Campus. They were made of white marble or alabaster and sat on plinths that are still in place outside the Grange. They were just some of the menagerie of animals, birds. mythological creatures and ornaments that could be found around The Grange dating from its former life as a private house. These creatures included a sphinx and a pair of lions that survived well into the twentieth-century. Early depictions of The Grange show an array of crouching animals and birds perched on the outer wall, all of these now lost. Behind The Grange was a stone building with a glazed roof, perhaps an orangery or conservatory. It was fronted by a long facade that featured statues and ornament in recesses, prominent were large stone eagles sitting along the top. Read more about the hounds

Hounds Found

The Grange dog statues in 1911 and in 2010

A previous article discussed a pair of stone hounds that once sat on plinths outside The Grange. Today a rising tide of shrubbery now hides one of the denuded plinths. News regarding the fate of the dogs has recently reached the University. The reason for removal from their podia remains a mystery. The best anecdotal explanation is that a television production company removed them during filming on the campus in the 1980s. It is likely that the statues had already deteriorated considerably; explaining their removal. Subsequently, the two hounds slipped from significance set aside for disposal and forgotten. In the 1990s, a former lecturer rediscovered them in their sorry state and gained permission to take them into his care. They now reside, somewhat diminished, but in the pleasant surroundings of a suburban garden.

St James' Lodge

St James Lodge on Woodhouse Lane, c. 1912

St James’s Lodge on Woodhouse Lane was built in the 1790s for merchant Richard Lee. It was advertised for sale in 1809 after Lee's bankruptcy. During its lifetime it was a private residence, Harewood Barracks, Leeds High School for Girls and briefly in 1907 the newly formed City of Leeds Training College before the purpose built training college at Beckett Park was developed (now Headingley Campus). The site of St James’s Lodge is on the open area between the Leslie Silver Building and the Ring Road near our City Campus.


Discobolus badges dating from the 1950s

The Discobolus of Myron was the image chosen to be the logo of Carnegie College of Physical Training in the 1930s. Myron, an ancient Greek sculptor, was credited as the first artist to produce a style of work reproducing the rhythm, harmony and balance of the athlete in mid throw. The original bronze was lost and the image has come down to us from Roman copies of various sizes and media including those in marble and bronze. The Carnegie image is most likely a replica of the “Townley Discobolus”, which is held in the British Museum. Experts consider it to have an incorrectly restored head set at a different angle to the Myron original.

The discobolus featured on a variety of Carnegie literature and ephemera including sports kit, the famous 'teddy bear' tracksuits and badges. Students also wore a college blazer bearing an embroidered discobolus. The Carnegie Library held a replica statue, rediscovered in the attic space of Carnegie Hall a few years ago, it now has a prominent place in the entrance lobby of Carnegie.


November 2018 marked the centenary of Armistice Day the beginning of the end of World War One hostiles. In the years that followed, towns, villages, businesses and institutions across Great Britain began a process of remembrance. 

In 1921, the City of Leeds Training College erected a war memorial to fallen Students and Staff. Although records are not complete, Henry Thomas Todd, a science tutor at the College, instigated the idea of a memorial. He reported to the Old Students Association that funds had been raised through subscription, but fell short of the total required and he suggested that the OSA make a contribution, they supplied the last £10 needed. It has not been recorded what the final price of the memorial was.

The Original War Memorial

Originally erected in the Great Hall, the memorial had four brass plates bearing the names of seventy-four students and one member of staff; two further names were added later. A central plate bore the dedication including lines of verse from the third stanza of Lt Col John McCrea’s poem ‘In Flanders Field’ first published anonymously in Punch on 8 December 1915. McCrea’s poem captured the imagination of the public. The challenge of the final lines was for future generations to remember the fallen at all costs. This accorded with the sentiments of the time and McCrea’s words found their way onto many war memorials.

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872-1918)

The symbolism of the poem resonated with the college ethos. The torch of remembrance passing to the next generation echoed the torch and book included on the college badge, a torch of knowledge illuminating darkness, a torch passed from teacher to pupil.

The War Memorial today

During 1947-48, the Old Students Association paid £101. 7. 6 to add four new brass plates to the memorial and alter the dedication on the central plaque to reflect those who died in the Second World War, a further fifty-five lives added to the memorial.

The Great Hall, c.1913

In 1978, a fire raged through the Great Hall causing extensive damage to much of the original wood panelling. Extensive damage to the pipe organ and balcony meant they were beyond repair and removed. A small amount of panelling survived the fire along with the war memorial. A sensitive restoration of the original décor took two years to complete and renamed the James Graham Hall. During a mid-1990s refurbishment, the Hall became part of the entrance to the Library and the memorial moved and erected in its present position in the foyer of the James Graham Building.

City of Leeds Training College War Memorial

The college war memorial in the entrance of James Graham Building

In 1922, the City of Leeds Training College erected a war memorial to fallen Students and Staff in the Great Hall of its Main Building. Although records are erratic, Mr. Todd, a tutor at the College appears responsible for instigating the idea of a memorial. He reported to the Old Students Association that funds had been raised through subscription but fell short of the total required and he suggested that the OSA make a contribution, which they did supplying the last £10 needed. It has not been recorded what the final price of the memorial came to. Read more about the college war memorial

A Competition

Block Plan from the 1913 College Handbook

Leeds Corporation’s decision to develop the estate of Kirkstall Grange as a teacher training college included an architectural competition announced in September 1909. The City of Leeds Education Department produced the grandly entitled “Instructions to Architects submitting Competitive Designs for the proposed City of Leeds Training College for Teachers, at Kirkstall Grange, Far Headingley, and Leeds.” The competition was limited to architects practicing in Leeds, entries were anonymous and stipulated they must not bear any marking or stamps revealing their origin. The Education Department set a deadline for noon on Saturday 18 December 1909, appointing Sir Aston Webb C.B. R.A. F.R.I.B.A. as Assessor. The Education Committee’s architect Fred Broadbent under the watchful eye of James Graham, then Secretary of Education in Leeds; devised a general scheme. This layout was supplied as a guide and stipulated that the style of architecture and materials were left to the competitors. What Leeds, and Graham in particular, was seeking was a solution to a deficiency of teacher training places but with an eye looking beyond Leeds. As Committee papers record, the College buildings should meet "not only local but the national demand for increased Training College accommodation". Read more about the architectural competition

Medieval New Grange

Artists impression of medieval Grange

Originally The Grange on our Headingley Campus was a farm belonging to Kirkstall Abbey. It was called New Grange, a grange was a monastic sheep farm. As the name suggests it may have been established a lot later than neighbouring granges. The original grange buildings would have been run lay brothers who tended the abbey’s flocks, it is likely they also kept cattle and grew crops. In effect, the lay brothers may have acted as overseers, with the Abbey employing local labour to run their farm. Due to its proximity to the Abbey, New Grange may have acted as the home farm and been a mixed arable and pasture farm. Granges further afield helped establish the Cistercian monks at the root of the wool trade in Leeds and the city’s subsequent prosperity.

What's all this about Waterloo?

View from Beckett Park towards The Grange and college buildings

One of the more persistent stories associated with Headingley Campus relates to the trees on the Acre being arranged to record troop positions at the Battle of Waterloo. Like Chinese whispers, the rumour has been told and retold, sometimes distorted to incorporate the Battle of Trafalgar! The story appears in Joseph Sprittles’ 1961 essay about New Grange published by the Thoresby Society. He speculated that John Marshall who was tenant after the Battle was responsible for instructing that: ‘trees should be planted to represent the position of troops’. Sprittles made no mention where the trees were planted. The assumption has always been that they were on the Acre but Sprittles interpretation left open the possibility that the trees had been arranged over the wider parkland.

The Wade family who owned the land had not lived in the New Grange mansion since 1798 and showed little interest in its subsequent development. The Wades did have strong Army and Navy connections but on the whole, it seems unlikely that they were predisposed to undertake such a patriotic arboreal project.

A chance conversation with, local historian and former student of the City of Leeds Training College, David Thornton has offered up an alternative origin to the story. He recounted that during the late 1950s a member of the Beckett family had given a lecture to staff and students. The lecture was about this gentleman's time as a child living at what was then known as Kirkstall Grange. He recounted that there had once been a half-acre flower bed designed to represent the troop arrangement at the Battle of Waterloo.

Before demolition of the gardens and immediate grounds of Kirkstall Grange, to make way for the permanent home of the City of Leeds Training College, there had been an enclosed roughly rectangular garden on the site of the present Acre. Throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it had been used variously as formal, ornamental and kitchen gardens, at other times containing an orchard and fruit garden. Could this Beckett gentleman's account be the origin of the fabled Waterloo story passed down by staff and students at the College?

The Genealogy of Leeds Beckett University

Click on pdf link above to view

This chart, created by archivist Keith Rowntree, shows how the different colleges in Leeds gradually came together to form our University. The chart has been updated recently to acknowledge name changes to Leeds College of Art in the 1850s.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, Leeds City Council began to draw together the senior colleges under their control onto one unifying site. The plot chosen was an area just north of the Civic Centre bounded by St James Street (now Portland Way), Calverley Street, Woodhouse Lane and Fenton Street with Cankerwell Lane running through the middle. A maze of nineteenth-century close-knit squares that included housing, warehouses, shops, pubs and a former eighteenth-century mansion and its pleasure gardens.

This was not the first time such an idea had been put forward, in 1936 a similar scheme was devised to bring the colleges of Art, Technology, and Commerce together on a site based around the Leeds Institute, City of Leeds and Thoresby High Schools further down Woodhouse Lane. The Second World War ended this scheme, but the idea was re-examined in post-war Leeds.

On the new site, the first building begun in 1953 was the Leeds College of Technology, Mechanical Engineering, built on the site of a former wood yard at the junction of Calverley Street and St James Street. This became known as A building and it was demolished in 2007 and is now the site of the University's new Creative Arts Building.

Throughout the 1960s new buildings for the Colleges of Commerce, Technology, Art and Housecraft emerged adjacent Mechanical Engineering. Creating a startlingly new, vision of concrete surrounded by a sea of Victorian red brick. However, even as the college buildings emerged the surrounding landscape was changing with the excavation of the Leeds Ring Road only yards away and the wholesale demolition of the surrounding streets.