It’s that time again – Local History Month!
As a Leeds resident I will be exploring the history of my wonderful adopted city (as I did last year when I wrote about Leeds’ First Theatre & Leeds Library). This year I’m going to be focusing on iconic buildings in Leeds City Centre, starting with the Leeds Corn Exchange on Call Lane. The current building was not the original Corn Exchange for the area. The first one was built in the 1820s by Samuel Chapman and was located north of Briggate, but it was decided after the creation of Leeds Town Hall that a more impressive Corn Exchange was needed.
The Corn Exchange we know and love today was designed by architect Cuthbert Broderick between 1861-1863 at the cost of £360,000, opening in 1864. Broderick is a well-known name in Leeds as he also designed the Town Hall and Mechanics Institute, both of which can still be seen today. The exchange’s dome was inspired by the dome on the Bourse de Commerce in Paris which was created by architect & engineer team François-Joseph Bélanger and François Brunet. Leeds Corn Exchange was one of many corn exchanges built across the country, which allowed traders to sell and buy corn.
Over time corn exchanges were no longer needed and the buildings began to be utilized in other ways, with the Leeds Corn Exchange going through a “period of disuse”. Many British cities required a lot of re-building after the damage caused by the Second World War, but thankfully Leeds fared pretty well so the Corn Exchange exterior remains relatively unchanged. It received Grade 1* on the 19th October 1951, which shows it is a building of great historical interest. Grade 1* listing protects the Leeds Corn Exchange from being demolished or radically changed, any suggested changes to the building have to go through the local planning authority.
In 1988 the Corn Exchange started a new chapter in its life, with shops and restaurants opening inside. With further restoration work undertaken the late 2000s the Corn Exchange is now a wonderful hub of independent stores like Northern Acoustics and The Plant Point (where I got a rather lovely Crassula ovata not long ago!). It’s pretty awesome that the Leeds Corn Exchange has remained a trading centre since its opening 157 years ago, and is one of only 3 remaining Corn Exchanges where this is the case. The building was taken on by the property investment company Rushbond in 2017 who focus on investment in Yorkshire.
Leeds Corn Exchange has been described as an “unforgettable landmark” and I would have to agree, it remains one of my favourite buildings in Leeds City Centre.
Have you visited Leeds Corn Exchange before? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
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Leeds by Susan Wrathmell, John Minnis and Janet Douglas
Historic England: Corn Exchange, Leeds, West Yorkshire
Structurae Database and International Gallery of Engineering and Civil Engineering Works: Bourse de Commerce
Business Up North, New Owners For Leeds Corn Exchange: https://www.businessupnorth.co.uk/new-owners-leeds-corn-exchange/