Rare documents reveal how Leeds was planned – and Harewood saved

David Richardson with the Harewood ledger
David Richardson with the Harewood ledger

The first town plan drawn up for the centre of Leeds, in the years following the Second World War, is one of a raft of historic documents unearthed in an office move.

The cloth-bound book dating from 1947 – the first point at which local authorities were required to publish their proposals – includes the tunnels for the inner ring road, decades before they were built.

Some of the old documents

Some of the old documents

It also shows the city’s second railway station on Wellington Street, which was closed 50 years ago and whose surviving lifting tower is now surrounded by new office blocks.

The documents were uncovered at the city centre offices of the property consultant Sanderson Weatherall, whose staff are moving from the corner of Thirsk Row to the new Central Square block, 200 yards away.

Found alongside were files relating to the sale of thousands of acres north of the city which once comprised the “outer estate” of Harewood House.

The land took in the villages of Weeton, Dunkeswick and Kirkby Overblow, and is believed to have been sold to pay off crippling death duties incurred after the passing of the sixth Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, in 1947.

He was a World War One commander who had married Princess Mary and was brother-in-law to the reigning King, and his death came at a time when many stately homes were being demolished by their owners to avoid probate duties.

Mathematics saved Harewood from a similar fate, said David Richardson, a consultant at Sanderson Weatherall whose father, Nigel, was the auctioneer for the land sale.

“They would have worked out that if they sold enough of the outer estate they would be able to meet the tax bill and secure the house and inner estate,” he said.

The sale took place in 1950 and raised £256,000 – more than £9m at today’s prices. The average price of an acre at the time of the sale was just £50.

The files also take in the sale by Viscount Allendale of 3,334 acres of the Bretton Estate near Wakefield, in the 1950s. The land later housed part of Bretton Hall College and is now the site of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.