The Headrow, Leeds
The Headrow is an avenue in Leeds city centre, West Yorkshire, England. It holds many of the city's premier shopping, civic and cultural attractions including Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Central Library, Leeds Art Gallery, The Henry Moore Institute and The Light. Some of the largest retail floorplates in the city are on The Headrow, particularly between Park Row and Briggate, where major chains have opened flagship stores. The Headrow is part of a longer axis that includes Westgate, Eastgate and Quarry Hill, which also host significant civic and cultural destinations such as Leeds Combined Courts Centre and the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
The Headrow forms a spine across Leeds city centre between Westgate and Eastgate and is approximately 700 metres (½ mile) long. It was widened between 1928 and 1932 with the redevelopment designed by the architect Reginald Blomfield primarily as a way of improving traffic flow through Leeds city centre. The area is extensively pedestrianised and has an advisory speed limit of 15 miles per hour (24 km/h). The section between Park Row and Briggate is also reserved for buses and taxis only and cars/motorcycles are not permitted to use it between 5am and 10pm.
Appearing on maps as long ago as 1560, the Headrow once formed the northern edge or "head" of medieval Leeds' boundary, hence the street's name. To the east the street crossed Sheepscar Beck, a tributary to the River Aire now tunnelled below ground, where it continued on to York known only as "The Street". In the 17th century it was renamed Parke Lane, Burley Bar, Upper head Row and Lower head Row. Renamed again in the 19th century, at the junction with Albion Street the street ran to the east as Upperhead row and Lowerhead row and to the west as Park Lane and Guildford Street - once home to St Anne's Cathedral which was demolished in November 1904 and relocated a short distance to Cookridge Street. More recently, running east-to-west, the street became Eastgate, the Headrow and Westgate, though portions of Park Lane remain at the far end of Westgate.
Developments had included the construction of Permanent House, the headquarters of the Leeds Permanent Building Society, Lewis's department store and the Odeon Cinema which was originally opened as the Paramount Theatre. Headrow House was constructed in the 1950s. The redevelopment is noticeable for being designed in a uniform neo-baroque style which is similar to the better known Regent Street in London that was also designed by Reginald Blomfield. However there are differences in that the cladding is a mixture of red brick and Portland stone as opposed to the Portland stone only that is seen on Regent Street. Also the development as it was a road widening scheme had meant only one side of The Headrow has been constructed in this uniform style with the other side having a mixture of buildings from the 1800s to the present.
Today the street is one of Leeds' principal shopping streets. The former Permanent House, which is now known as The Light, houses numerous high end stores on the north side of The Headrow. There is ground floor retail in Direct Line House (originally known as Headrow House) on Dortmund Square. The St. John's Shopping Centre and The Headrow Centre are shopping centres that flank opposite sides of Dortmund Square, on The Headrow. Broadgate, formerly Lewis's and later Allders, now houses flagship branches of T.K. Maxx, Argos, Ark Clothing, Clas Ohlson and Sainsbury's. The former Odeon is now home to a major Primark store, at the junction of Briggate.
The Light houses a 13 screen multiplex cinema operated by Vue, as well as an Esporta Health Club, Radisson SAS Hotel and many restaurants and bars. There are several art galleries on The Headrow axis, including the major Leeds City Art Gallery and New Briggate gallery. On the south side is Leeds City Varieties, the world's oldest surviving music hall. The theatrical offering is balanced by the Grand Theatre, home of Opera North, just off The Headrow on New Briggate, on the north side. At the eastern end of Eastgate is the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the biggest producing theatre outside London.
At the western end of The Headrow is a large public space, Victoria Gardens. It is Leeds' Speakers' Corner, although it is best known for being the location where war memorial services are held, and where justice and anti-war rallies both gather and later terminate. The area is surrounded by some of the city's most important buildings including Leeds Town Hall, Leeds City Art Gallery, The Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Central Library. The Light shopping centre is on the eastern side.
In 1980, the area between Headrow House and Lewis store was converted to Dortmund Square. To celebrate the 10 years of twinning the people of Dortmund presented the people of Leeds the bronze statue, sculpted by Arthur Shulze-Engels, of the Dortmund Drayman which now stands in the square. In the Late 1980s to mid 1990s Leeds Sculptor Robert James White was granted special permission through his small family business The Robert James White collection consisting of family members, his wife Marion and son Anthony to reproduce monuments in miniature. The Drayman in Leeds Dortmund Square was reproduced and presented to visiting dignitaries and some years later when Leeds and Siegen were twinned Robert James White was commissioned to produce a special statue as a presentation piece to the city of Siegen. More significantly The Black Prince statue in leeds were reproduced in bronze. These were presented around the world to visiting dignitaries and to each Lord Mayor in office. Later Robert James White went on to do many other monuments and statues including one presented to HRH The Queen of the Queen trooping the Colors. The Black Prince statue was also presented to HMS Ark Royal.
Future developments on The Headrow include Eastgate Quarters a shopping centre to the East of The Headrow that is expected to open in 2011 which will include a John Lewis department store, over 100 new shops, bars and restaurants, cinemas, a gym, offices and flats. It could see Eastgate (the continuation of The Headrow eastwards) pedestrianised.
Cavendish House, adjacent to The Headrow Centre has been reclad and rebranded as Basilica. The tower comprises apartments and offices, while the podium is home to PC World, a name usually to be found on out of town retail parks.
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