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Leek town centre.
Leek shown within Staffordshire
|Population||18,768 (2001 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||Staffordshire Moorlands|
Leek is a market town in the county of Staffordshire, England, on the River Churnet. It is situated about 10 miles (15 km) NE of Stoke-on-Trent. It is an ancient borough and was granted its royal charter in 1214.
It is the administrative centre for the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. King John granted Ranulph de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, the right to hold a weekly Wednesday market and an annual seven-day fair in Leek in 1207.
Leek's coat of arms is made up of a Saltire Shield. On the top is the Staffordshire Knot, either side is the famous Leek "Double Sunset" and below a gold garb. The crest is a mural crown with three Mulberry leaves on a Mount of Heather on top of which a Moorcock is resting his claw on a small-weave Shuttle. The motto 'ARTE FAVENTE NIL DESPERANDUM' translates to: Our skill assisting us, we have no cause for despair. The Coat of Arms was granted on 7 May 1956. In recent years has become home to a large branch of the UK roundabout appreciation society.
The town had a regular cattle market for hundreds of years, reflecting its role as a centre of local farming. Following the industrial revolution it was a major producer of textiles, with silk working in particular coming to dominate the industrial landscape. However, this industry has now ceased.
The mills from the town's textile era remain and many have now been converted into houses. The town's markets continue to steadily decline, but remain in operation.
Britannia, the former Building Society, has its headquarters based in the town and is a large local employer. Britannia is a trading name of The Co-operative Bank since the merger of the two companies in 2009, and it is likely that the Leek head office will close within the next couple of years in order to make the business more efficient.
Leek is built on the slope and crown of a hill which is situated just a few miles south of The Roaches; a gritsone escarpment which rises steeply to 505m.
Leek is situated at the foot of the Peak District National Park and is therefore often referred to as the Gateway to the Peak District, although the town is more often referred to as the Queen of the Moorlands.
Architecture and development
Many Victorian period, and older, buildings still stand in the town, many built by the family architectural practice of the Sugdens. In 1849 William Sugden (b. 1821 in Keighley) came to Leek. He was an architect and his work on the design of the stations for the Churnet Valley Railway brought him to the area. In the following year William’s son, Larner Sugden, was born. After schooling in Yorkshire, Larner returned to Leek in 1866 to be apprenticed to his father as an architect, and thus was formed the famous Sugden & Son (Architects), whose influence on the town was to be profound. The firm had offices in Derby Street. The building still survives, the ground floor now being occupied by Boots the Chemist. Larner was a great supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and so Leek’s development was in sympathetic hands.
The architectural output from Sugden & Son was both prolific and varied. Some of the buildings designed by the Sugdens are as follows: the Congregational Church with its 130’ spire, (now Trinity Church), built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style (1863), Myatt’s Mill in Earl Street (1864), Mill Street Methodist Chapel and Ragged School (1870), the Cottage Hospital, in memory of silk manufacturer James Allsop (1871), their own houses in Queen Street, complete with monograms for William, Larner and for Larner’s French wife (1877), West Street School (extended in 1881), the District Bank, which exhibits a strong Richard Norman Shaw influence (1882) and the Leonard Street Police Station in Scottish Baronial style (1891). This last was probably the last joint venture of the father-and-son team because William Sugden died in 1892.
The Sugden masterpiece was, perhaps, the Nicholson Institute, built in the Queen Anne style, in 1882. The fact that this building is tucked away behind the 17th century ‘Greystones’ is a further indication of Larner’s regard for old buildings. Larner would not countenance demolition of the old building, and so, as the Nicholson’s owned the land to the rear, that is where the Institute was built. Larner cleverly incorporated the busts of Shakespeare, Newton, Reynolds and Tennyson into the building representing 400 years of artistic and scientific achievement from the 16th to the 19th century and embracing literature, science, art and poetry.
In 1899 came the Technical Schools and the Co-operative Society Hall. Although the original town centre cattle market was demolished and replaced with a bus station and shopping centre in the 1960s. The new cattle market was built on the edge of town adjacent to the railway station. Later, this was one of the stations closed following Dr. Beeching's recommendations. It was later replaced with a supermarket now owned by Morrisons.
William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, lived and worked in Leek between 1875 and 1878. He studied dyeing and it was Leek which provided his firm with silk. Local rumour suggests that he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877 as a result of his successful campaign to prevent the demolition of the building that now houses Greystones tearoom, winner of the Tea Council's Tea Room of the Year award for 2000. It was through the SPAB that he came into contact with Larner Sugden, the local architect, who went on to publish some of Morris' speeches and essays in a series called the Bijour of Leek.
Tourist attractions and leisure
Nearby Rudyard Lake is a popular tourist attraction and home to the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway, running along its eastern shores. Other nearby local attractions are the local football club Leek Town F.C., Alton Towers, the cultural and leisure facilities of the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and the Peak District National Park.
Leek's "Double Sunset" on and around the summer solstice also attracts many tourists. This event, first recorded by Robert Plot, occurs when the sun sets behind The Cloud, subsequently partially reappearing in the hollow of the hill's steep northern side, before setting again. Plot's detailed account can be found in his book The Natural History of Staffordshire. Traditionally, the best location for seeing the double sunset was in the grounds of the parish church, but it is no longer visible from there. Currently, the best location to witness the spectacle is from the road to Pickwood Hall, off Milltown Way. The phenomenon and its possible observation points are described in detail in Jeff Kent's book, The Mysterious Double Sunset.
In May of every year, Leek Arts Festival takes place, celebrating the cultural heritage of the town. According to the festival's website, it began as a weekly event but soon expanded to last a whole month.
The surrounding countryside of the Staffordshire Moorlands and the Peak District makes the area a popular tourist destination. Just outside the town is Blackbrook Zoological Park, which is renowned for its large collection of birds.
The town of Leek is served by First with a regular number 18 bus service (or 16 on an alternative route via Cellarhead). There are also bus services to the nearby town of Buxton using 118 bus.
Leek was served by Leek railway station which was opened by the North Staffordshire Railway on 13 July 1849 but was finally closed in the 1960s. (The Leek - Stoke line had closed in 1956, the Macclesfield line in 1960 with the Uttoxeter line closing last in 1965).
Leek is home to two football clubs. Leek Town F.C., founded in 1946, are based at Harrison Park and currently play in the Northern Premier League Division One South. The club played in a variety of local leagues, including the Staffordshire County League, Manchester League, Mid-Cheshire League and Cheshire County League, before becoming founder members of the North West Counties Football League in 1982 and from there progressing to the Northern Premier League in 1987. In 1997 they were Northern Premier League champions and gained promotion to the Football Conference, the highest level of English non-league football, although they only spent two seasons at that level before being relegated.
Leek CSOB, founded in 1945, groundshare with Leek Town at Harrison Park and play in the North West Counties Football League Division One. They were founder members of the Staffordshire County League in 1984, and were league champions in 1996. In 2005 the club announced plans to build their own stadium.
Leek Cricket Club compete in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire Cricket League, operating 4 senior sides as well as junior sides ranging from under 9 to under 17 age ranges. The club, based at Highfield, has also hosted top level county cricket with Derbyshire CCC using their ground for both Twenty20 and Domestic 40 over games.
Leek is also home to Leek Hockey Club, who train at Leek High Specialist Technology School and are based on Mill Street at the edge of the town. Leek Rugby Union FC bears the name of the town but is based in nearby Cheddleton.
- All Saints' Church of England First School
- Beresford Memorial Church of England First School
- Churnet View Middle School
- Leek First School
- Leek High Specialist Technology School
- Springfield Community Special School
- St. Edward's Junior High School
- St. Mary's Catholic Primary School
- St. Michael's Church of England First School
- The Meadows School
- Westwood College
- Westwood First School
- Woodcroft First School
Notes and references
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leek, Staffordshire.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Leek.|
- . Retrieval Date: 29 July 2010.
- "The Memorial". Nicholson War Memorial. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
- Brindley Mill. Retrieval Date: 22 August 2007.
- The Tea Council. Official website. Retrieval Date: 22 August 2007.
- Averil Cameron (28 October 1994). "Past Masters". The Times. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- The Mysterious Double Sunset, by Jeff Kent, ISBN 0-9529152-5-1.
- All Saints' Church of England First School. Retrieval Date: 22 August 2007.