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Yards and Courts

The Ordnance Survey map of Leeds made in 1847 shows a maze of yards and courts behind the buildings on both the Upper Head Row and the Lower Head Row. The strips of land behind the properties fronting the street were filled with cottages and workshops, until only a narrow alleyway remained between them. Often this was accessible from both ends, like the Wheatsheaf yard off the Upper Head Row, which runs through to Mark Lane, and North Passage which connects the Lower Head Row to Harrison Street.

Living conditions in these areas were crowded, and initially there was no proper sanitation. By the 1920s a proper sewerage system had been installed, but the photograph of Hope's Yard taken in 1924 shows that the open drains running down the centre of the street were still in place.

A typical example  of one of these yards was Malt Mill Yard, off the Lower Head Row, named for the Malt Mill Inn which was situated in the centre of the west side of the yard. We can find out the names of the people who lived there and their occupations from trade directories, and from the census returns.

A directory of 1847 tells us that that the landlady of the Malt Mill Inn at that time was Elizabeth Whitaker. The 1851 census returns list 9 other families living in malt Mill Yard. Charles Craven is listed as a 'family waiter', and his wife, Jane, was a launderess. They had 2 children, Elizabeth, 11 and Charles, 6, and had 3 lodgers, John Smith, a cab driver, Edwin Roebuck, a warehouseman at a cloth warehouse, and John Peters a gold beater from Germany.

In 1901 the census tells us that living at No. 7 Malt Mill Yard were Rose Dalton and her four children, Harry, William, Clifford and Elsie. Rose must have found life difficult as her husband, Richard Henry Dalton had died in 1900, and she was left to bring up the children on her own. Her husband had been a wire-worker, making dartboards for use in the public houses in the town. After his death, Rose carried on the family business. She is listed in the 1901 census as a wire-worker, at home. Harry at 17 contributed to the family income, by working as a bolt maker, and William at 14 was already employed as an iron moulder.

In 1901 the landlord of the Malt Mill Inn was Richard Rhodes. He had a wife named Elizabeth, and they employed one servant, Jessie Landley from Kippax.

All the houses and workshops were demolished when the Headrow was widened, so we only have photographs and prints to remind us of what they looked like. They were classed as unhealthy areas, but were not real slums. In 1924 a few years before their demolition, a report in the Yorkshire Evening Post described the yards at that time:
'Dotted between the shops are narrow tunnel-like passages, leading to courts or yards, narrow, tortuous, with the walls of the buildings bulging and bent with age. In some of them people still live, and bright paint and cleanliness make them picturesque. Others have their workshops and warehouses………... Others have people neither living nor working there ……none having that meanness which is typical of a really bad slum.'

Click images to enlarge
Upper Head Row, 1847
Upper Head Row, 1847
Lower Head Row, 1847
Lower Head Row, 1847
Hope's Yard
Hope's Yard
Marquis of Granby Yard
Marquis of Granby Yard
Malt Mill Inn Yard, looking south, c.1928
Malt Mill Inn Yard, looking south, c.1928
Malt Mill Inn Yard, no.7 at the end, c.1928
Malt Mill Inn Yard, no.7 at the end, c.1928




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003