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It was known as Wirkelay until about 1700. Wortley was a weaving township within the parish of Leeds before it became industrial with coal pits, brickworks, railway yards and engine sheds—including a roundhouse, on Wellington Road. This listed building, originally constructed to house a dozen or so steam locomotives, is now the premises of a major commercial vehicle hire company. In the 1880s, Wortley became incorporated into the expanding (then) town of Leeds.[dubious ]
Wortley is divided into three areas: New Wortley, Upper Wortley and Lower Wortley.
Upper Wortley is situated between Armley and Lower Wortley; specifically between the boundaries of Tong Road to the north and Oldfield Lane/ Green Hill Lane to the south. It consists of a variety of Victorian terraces, 1950s semi-detached houses and modern low-rise flats and houses.
Lower Wortley is furthest from the city centre, closer to Farnley and between the boundaries of Oldfield Lane/ Green Hill Lane to the north and Gelderd Road to the South. Housing in Lower Wortley is predominantly 1950s semi-detached with some modern low-rise flats and houses. Lower Wortley is home to Makro and Matalan as well as many car dealerships, including main dealers for brands such as Lotus, Aston Martin, Kia, Maserati, Honda, Porsche, Ford, Mazda, Mini Cooper, BMW and Vauxhall. These are popular in this area of the city due to Lower Wortley's convenient location close to the Leeds Outer Ring Road and the M621 motorway.
Wortley grew, much like surrounding areas during the industrial revolution. While Wortley was home to some smaller industrial works, its proximity to the industrial centres of Armley and Holbeck encouraged gradual growth. Perhaps Wortley's most notable features at this time were the vast array of railway junctions and its two gasworks, a smaller one in Lower Wortley and Leeds' largest gasworks in New Wortley which is still marked by the presence of a large spiral guided gasholder.
The landscape of Wortley changed considerably following World War II, when both the Leeds Corporation and private developers redeveloped the Victorian slum areas which had characterised Wortley since it developed. New Wortley was largely developed through the building of social housing, mainly in the form of high rise flats and prefabricted houses. Despite being built opposite what was then a gas works and is now a storage facility, the prefabricated houses were built with 'all-electric' heating, as was common at the time. In 2009, as part of a fuel poverty scheme the homes were connected to gas.
Lower Wortley and Upper Wortley saw less development than New Wortley with many of their larger Victorian through terracing still remaining and the redevelopment largely being undertaken by private developers who favoured low rise developments using more traditional methods of construction.
Between 1851 and 1852 the bones of the Armley Hippo, a great northern hippopotamus now extinct in the United Kingdom, was found in the ancient former southern channel of the River Aire, in an area previously part of Wortley, where the Armley Gyratory now stands.
Wortley is largely a residential area, with a fairly high population density. Although it is close to Leeds city centre and Armley Town Street (which offers a broader range of amenities than Wortley), there are still many parades of smaller local shops. There is a supermarket in Upper Wortley on Oldfield Lane, which was originally owned by Asda from the mid-1960s until 1992. The store was then sold off and converted to Netto and was changed back to Asda in 2011, when the company acquired the stores of the original Netto UK supermarket chain . There are about 12 pubs, and although there are no restaurants there are numerous take-away establishments.
There are three main parks: Wortley Recreation Ground, Cliffe Park and Western Flatts Park
Wortley Recreation Ground is closest to the city centre, and offers surprisingly good views of surrounding areas, including the city centre. Often also referred to as New Worley Recreation Ground, it includes a children's playground, a skateboard park, three bowling greens and a number of pitches are marked out for football and rugby. The bowling greens and club building were a major filming location for the four-part Yorkshire Television comedy drama the Beiderbecke Connection, broadcast in 1988. Other brief scenes were filmed in the locality, including on Colmore Grove and Highfield Avenue.
Cliffe Park and Western Flatts Park form one large park, though they were once the grounds of separate mansions – Cliffe House and Western Flatts House. The latter was demolished a long time ago, but in the 1930s the former was handed over to the then Leeds Education Committee and turned into a residential school for 'difficult' boys, though now it has been lying derelict for many years.
Wortley has one high school, Dixons Unity Academy, based at the former West Leeds High School site. Close by, in Old Farnley, is The Farnley Academy, and further west, in Pudsey, is Crawshaw Academy. The former Wortley High School (which merged with West Leeds High) is awaiting redevelopment, while the listed former West Leeds Boys' High School building was converted into apartments. There are three primary schools: Five Lanes, Lower Wortley, and Whingate primary schools.
Perhaps the two most prominent structures in Wortley are the New Wortley gas holder (the largest in Leeds) situated on Wellington Road adjacent to the Armley Gyratory and the Clyde Grange Flats situated off Tong Road which are the tallest buildings in the Wortley area. In 2011, the old Netto building closed after being bought by Asda. Asda reopened the building in September.
The area has associations with three first world war Victoria Cross recipients. George Sanders was born in New Wortley in 1894, while the grave of Arthur Poulter is located in New Wortley cemetery and the grave of Wilfred Edwards is in Oldfield Lane cemetery.
- http://www.wortleytoday.co.uk/4270/New-Wortley-300-households-are.5758780.jp New Wortley: 300 households are hooked up to gas ... at long last
- "The Leeds hippo". bbc.co.uk. BBC. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
- Lower Wortley Methodist Church, accessed 7 August 2016
- Leeds North and West Foodbank - Locations, accessed 7 August 2016
Wortley: People & Places in Wortley by Wortley Local History Group 1993
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