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Despite still hosting a mixture of many shops, bars and homes, the Headrow today would be almost unrecognisable to someone from the seventeenth century.

Some of the current buildings, like the Guildford Hotel, have their origins in the early Head Row, and street names like Butts Court are a reminder of when Leeds was a medieval borough with the Head Row as its northern boundary. Some of the nineteenth century buildings still remain too, like the former Jubilee Hotel and of course the Town Hall. But with several refurbishments and redevelopments throughout the years, the Headrow has changed in both style and character and is now firmly established as one of Leeds’ favourite retail destinations, as well as a popular place to live.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most of the old residential properties in the city centre were demolished or converted to shops and offices as people moved out to live in the suburbs. Now the city centre has one again become a vibrant place to live, with the conversion of old buildings to smart new city centre apartments. Victoria House, opposite the Garden of Rest, has undergone a big refurbishment and the stylish building is now home to luxury apartments.

The central kiosk at the bottom of Eastgate is now a fountain, and the location for the statue, by Graham Ibbeson, of Flight Sergeant Aaron. However, the view from the bottom of Eastgate has changed; Quarry Hill flats are gone, demolished in 1975-78, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse now stands on part of the site.

In 2001, exciting shopping and leisure complex The Light opened on the Headrow, centred on the old Leeds Permanent Building Society offices, Permanent House. The £100m project began in 1999 when the 1960s office block, Albion House, the interior of Permanent House and the adjoining buildings were demolished. Sir Reginald Blomfield’s original design of the exterior has been retained, and the Permanent House building has now become the impressive 150-bed Radisson Hotel.

Originally called the St. Anne’s Quarter, The Light houses the fourteen screen Vue cinema, which is one of the largest in the UK, as well as a fitness centre, numerous shops, bars and restaurants. The main entrance to the complex is through the archway that once led to Cross Fountaine Street. This, along with Upper Fountaine Street, has been given a glass roof to make a huge arcade.

In 2009, the Headrow shopping centre was also refurbished and re-opened as The Core shopping centre, which is striking in design and home to a variety of shops and restaurants as well as a gym. A short walk away from the Core is St. John’s Centre, an indoor shopping centre home to yet more high street retailers. The Headrow is also occupied by several smaller shops which continue to prosper.

A further development of the Headrow, and by far the most significant in recent times, is the £150m Victoria Gate project. With Leeds’ flagship four-storey John Lewis store scheduled to open in autumn 2016, the whole south terrace of Eastgate has been demolished to make way for the developments.  

Construction work for Victoria Gate began in 2014 with the architectural design being strikingly reminiscent of Leeds’ textile heritage, with further inspiration taken from the architectural character of the Blomfield buildings. The store will bring with it not least a multi-storey car park with spaces for up to 800 cars but also a two-street arcade which will host over thirty shops and restaurants, many which are major high-street and designer establishments.

This game-changing development is set to play a huge part in the new chapter of retail in Leeds, and breathe new life into Eastgate and the Headrow, providing a contemporary shopping destination whilst still honouring the city’s heritage and architecture. Though different in both style and substance, the Victoria Gate development will be hoping to emulate the success of the award-winning Trinity Leeds shopping centre, which propelled Leeds from seventh to fourth in the CACI UK retail rankings when it opened in 2013.

Another significant event on the Headrow came in 2014, where over 200,000 people gathered to watch the spectacular Grand Départ of the 101st Tour de France. People from Leeds and all over Yorkshire came together, welcoming the world-class riders with warmth and pride as the sporting event began in the city for the first time. It was a special occasion that has left a lasting mark on Leeds and the Headrow.
Click images to enlarge
Thornton's Buildings
Thornton's Buildings
The Guildford
The Guildford
The Three Legs
The Three Legs
Headrow Shopping Centre
Headrow Shopping Centre
Headrow Shopping Centre, interior
Headrow Shopping Centre, interior
Headrow House
Headrow House




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