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Kirkstall Abbey
Kirkstall is located in Leeds
Kirkstall is located in West Yorkshire
Location within West Yorkshire
Population20,673 [1]
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLEEDS
Postcode districtLS3, LS4, LS5
Dialling code0113
PoliceWest Yorkshire
FireWest Yorkshire
UK Parliament
List of places
53°48′58″N 1°36′07″W / 53.816°N 1.602°W / 53.816; -1.602Coordinates: 53°48′58″N 1°36′07″W / 53.816°N 1.602°W / 53.816; -1.602

Kirkstall is a north-western suburb of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, on the eastern side of the River Aire. The area sits in the Kirkstall ward of Leeds City Council and Leeds West parliamentary constituency, represented by Rachel Reeves. The population of the ward at the 2011 Census was 21,709.[2]

To the west is Bramley, to the east is Headingley, and to the north are Hawksworth and West Park. Kirkstall is around 2 miles (3.2 km) from the city centre and is close to the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University. Its main visitor attraction is Kirkstall Abbey. Another landmark is St. Stephen's Church designed by the architect Robert Dennis Chantrell. Richard Oastler, a reformer and fighter for children's rights, is buried in a crypt under the church's east end.

In the 12th century Cistercian monks founded Kirkstall Abbey, a daughter house of Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. The Abbey House Museum opposite the abbey tells the story of the community and the town. Henry De Lacey, Baron of Pontefract, gave the land for the foundation of the abbey, and Kirkstall has a few roads named in his memory. The Abbey Light Railway, which connected the grounds of the abbey with the Bridge Road commercial area, was closed down in 2012.


The name of Kirkstall comes from Old Norse kirkja ('church') and Old English stall ('place') and means 'site of a church'.[3]

During the English Civil War, the bridge over the Aire at Kirkstall (referred to in a contemporaneous account as 'Churchstall') was destroyed by Royalist troops from Leeds. After discovering this, a Parliamentary force led by Ferdinando Fairfax, 2nd Lord Fairfax of Cameron - from Otley - had to cross the river upstream at Apperley Bridge before retaking Leeds in January 1643.[4]

Kirkstall was historically an important centre of industry. Kirkstall Forge lays claim to being the longest continually used industrial site in Britain founded in the 13th century by the Cistercian monks of the abbey, and a number of printers. The earliest known activity on the site was a medieval mill race which supplied water to power the corn mill at Kirkstall Abbey. Iron production took place at the forge from the 1580s onwards. During the late 18th century the reconstruction of the upper and lower forges allowed 'shovel and spade production' to commence. A railway was built at the forge in 1830 and sustained growth at the plant. The First World War brought about large scale growth, providing axles for military vehicles and by 1930 most lorries and buses made in the UK had a Kirkstall back axle casing. In 2002 the owners of the site, the Dana Holding Corporation announced the closure of the works, shifting production to India and Spain.[5] The site is undergoing major redevelopment, as is the old Waide's Printers & Kwik Save site. Printing has, like iron-founding, suffered a decline, several printing companies remain.

Until 1976 when it was closed, Kirkstall was dominated by a coal fired power station.[6] It was replaced by larger power stations away from town at Ferrybridge, Eggborough and Drax. The power station was demolished in the early 1980s.[7]

Kirkstall Abbey[edit]

Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery set in grounds which are now a public park on the north bank of the River Aire. It was founded in about 1152 and took over 75 years to construct.[8] It was closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the auspices of Henry VIII.[9] The ruins have been painted by artists such as J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Girtin.


Kirkstall Leisure Centre

Kirkstall's amenities are stretched along Kirkstall Road and Abbey Road. There are several pubs, a Morrisons supermarket and several other shops around it on the site of the former Waddingtons factory, including Matalan, Boots the Chemist, B&M and Halfords. For many years Kirkstall had a department store, Clover; this was taken over by Allders and was then run by British Home Stores. This has now been demolished and the Kirkstall Bridge Shopping complex has been built in its place. This includes Costa, Pure Gym, The Works, Specsavers, Smyth's Toys, The Food Warehouse, Holland & Barrett, JD Sports, Home Bargains and Pets at home. Most of the independent shops are spread along the A65. Kirkstall a leisure centre on Kirkstall Lane and an award winning fish and chip shop on Morris Lane (Kirkstall Fisheries). A hairdresser/Barbers shop with a passage under the stairs leading to Kirkstall Abbey. A small shopping precinct is situated adjacent to the A65 and Kirkstall Lane has become dilapidated in recent years soon to be rebuilt on with houses and shops. The centre had an independent discount supermarket, a private members' club and a bookmakers. The post office, the library and a public house have closed. The site is owned by Tesco who have now put it up for sale through Savills UK after cancelling plans for a new store. For many years there was a 2nd hand book store but this closed in May 2016. There is a shop specialising in selling homebrew equipment, a beauty salon, a mobile phone repair lab and a pub The New George.[10]

St Stephen's C of E (VA) Primary School has a coat of arms that reflects Kirkstall's rich history.[11]


Kirkstall is situated on the A65 road which links it to Leeds city centre, Guiseley, Yeadon and Ilkley. This is crossed in the town centre by the B6157 road between Stanningley and Moortown. The latter crosses the River Aire on the Grade II listed Kirkstall Bridge.

There are two railway lines: The Bradford line passes along the Aire Valley and has a railway station at Kirkstall Forge which opened in June 2016. The Harrogate line passes near Kirkstall and Headingley station is a few minutes walk from the centre of Kirkstall. The former Leeds tramway ran through Kirkstall until it was dismantled in 1959, a substation used by the tramway is still visible on Abbey Road. There are many bus routes through Kirkstall. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal also passes through Kirkstall close to the river and its tow path provides walking, running and cycling routes to Leeds and also west to Rodley and Shipley.

Company Route Destinations
First Leeds 33 & 34 Leeds city centre, Horsforth, Rawdon, Guiseley, Yeadon, Menston, Otley
First Leeds 49 Monkswood Gate, Oakwood, St James' Hospital, Leeds city centre, Bramley
First Leeds 50 50A Seacroft, Harehills, St James' Hospital, Leeds city centre, Hawksworth, Horsforth
Keighley Bus Company 60 Leeds city centre, Rodley, West Yorkshire, Greengates, Thackley, Shipley, Saltaire, Bingley, Keighley.
First Leeds 91 Pudsey, Bramley, Headingley, Meanwood, Chapeltown, Harehills, Halton Moor.
First Calderdale & Huddersfield 508 Leeds city centre, Thornbury, Odsal, Shelf, Halifax
Team Pennine A1 Leeds city centre, Horsforth, Leeds Bradford Airport.


Notable events[edit]

Abbeydale Oval. The house on the far left was extensively used in filming The Beiderbecke Affair.

The Kirkstall Brewery site was converted into a large hall of residence for students of Leeds Metropolitan University. Other developments in Kirkstall include the Morrisons shopping complex, off the A65 road, by the river.

Filming of The Beiderbecke Affair took place partly in Kirkstall, using houses around Abbeydale Oval with other scenes shot throughout the area and Moor Grange.

The Kirkstall Festival takes place every year in the grounds of the abbey[14] on the second Saturday in July since 1981. It is a festival of music, local arts and crafts, and is organised by volunteers of the KVCA (Kirkstall Valley Community Association).


Equidistant from London and Edinburg (sic)
'Drink and be Grateful' fountain
St. Stephen's churchyard monuments

Kirkstall is rich in historic sites and monuments. St. Stephen's churchyard has fine 19th century grave markers. Other landmarks include an elegant early 19th century stone monument on the A65 road near the Kirkstall Forge site. A plaque on the monument indicates that Kirkstall is 200 miles from London and 200 miles from Edinburgh.

The re-located 19th century drinking fountain near the demolished police station at the junction of Abbey Road and Bradford Road proclaims 'Drink and be Grateful'. The fountain's little garden had been neglected for many a year until local community gardening group Kirkstall-in-Bloom made it their initial project in 2012.[15]

2015 Boxing Day Floods[edit]

In 2015 Kirkstall was subject to major flooding, affecting over 3,000 properties. The River Aire banks broke leaving vast areas of Kirkstall under deep water, reaching record levels according to the Environment Agency.[16][17]

During the floods which reached national news, two local men were pictured at a pub the ‘Kirkstall Bridge Inn’ in the beer garden submerged in water drinking pints, the image has since become viral.[18]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Leeds City Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  3. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Namee, Eilert Ekwall, Second edition, Oxford 1940.
  4. ^ D. C. Wilcock. "Later Rawdons and the Laytons". Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  5. ^[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Kirkstall Power Station". A new Public Park in the Kirkstall Valley. Association of Kirkstall Valley Park. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  7. ^ Peter Mitchell. Planet Yorkshire. Exhibition Guide (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  8. ^ Historic England. "Kirkstall Abbey (1256668)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  9. ^ "The Dissolution: the end of monastic life at Kirkstall". University of Sheffield. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  10. ^ "KIRKSTALL ONLINE - The community website for Kirkstall, Leeds". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Kirkstall Abbey: Guest Post". Twitter. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Bus timetables for services 1 to 99 in West Yorkshire". Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  13. ^ [1][bare URL]
  14. ^ "KIRKSTALL ONLINE - The community website for Kirkstall, Leeds". Archived from the original on 26 October 2000. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Kirkstall In Bloom". Kirkstall In Bloom. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Leeds floods from the air: See full extent of the devastation". Yorkshire Post. 29 December 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  17. ^ "2015 Leeds floods: The day that will leave lasting memory". Yorkshire Evening Post. 26 December 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Leeds pub garden floods, men go for pint anyway". BBC Newsbeat. 16 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  19. ^ "Throwback Thursday: DIED 100 YEARS AGO - THREE YORKSHIRE CRICKETERS". Yorkshire County Cricket Club. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2018.

External links[edit]