The Museum of Leeds Facts 2 by Chris Nickson

As August is the height of the Silly Season, and this column can be as silly as anything on the planet (with the exception of those vying to be the Republican candidate for President of the US) it’s time for a second Museum of Leeds Facts. Think of this as the annex.

Leeds had a woman known as Mary, the Maid of the Inn, who worked at the Star & Garter when it existed in centuries past. She was celebrated locally for always being cheerful, but was in love with a feckless man named Richard. Out at Kirkstall Abbey one evening, she saw a murder, only to realise later that Richard was one of the killers. Robert Southey wrote a poem about it all.

Hull might have a street named Land of Green Ginger, but we once had one called the Isle of Cinder (cracking name!). It was off Swinegate, by the old Victoria flour mill, lost when they developed Sovereign Street, ending up as part of Victoria Wharf.

We’re familiar with the idea of pubs, taverns, and inns. But there were many more drinking establishments around Leeds, such as beer shops – guess what they sold – and gin shops, otherwise known as dram shops, that only sold mother’s ruin. 908 of these gin shops existed in Leeds in 1840. 908. Think about that for a moment. In 1879, 447 beer shops were noted.

Buffalo Bill Cody brought his Wild West Circus to Leeds twice, performing to huge crowds. However, following his first visit in the early 1890s, he supposedly got in a fight in the Horse & Trumpet on the Headrow and didn’t fare too well against some Leeds lads. Luckily, no weapons were drawn…

Soldiers Field, by Roundhay Park, was an airfield long before Yeadon aerodrome – Leeds Bradford Airport, as we know it now – sprang into being. There were flights from there to and from London and Amsterdam just after the First World War.

Leeds had one of the first Turkish Baths in England, opened in 1858 as St. Peter’s Sulphur Baths on Quarry Hill. The more appealing name came in 1870, then it became St. Peter’s Spa in 1876. How many Loiners went there for spa days isn’t recorded, oddly.

Tripe, the lining of a cow’s stomach, was a popular, nourishing, and cheap meal for the poor, and there were plenty of tripe butchers in Leeds. The most famous was actually in Pudsey, run by Job Ross, known locally as Tripey Ross. The most popular variety was blanket tripe, cooked in milk with onions. How long before hipster foodies rediscover it?

Until 1846, Leeds time was six minutes and four seconds behind London. Railways companies lobbied to have that change and for the country to have unified time, so we changed to the Greenwich clocks. And ever since we’ve been agitating to get those lost six minutes back.

18408078340_4afa1024c0_zChris Nickson’s latest books are Leeds, The Biography: A History of Leeds in Short Stories, published by Armley Press and Two Bronze Pennies, the second in his series of crime novels set in Leeds in the 1890s,

You can read the first part of the  Museum of Leeds Facts here.

There’s an excellent interview with Chris here for Society Nineteen.
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