Future secure for First White Cloth Hall
Picture captions: [Top] how the First White Cloth Hall could look following restoration. Image courtesy of Ian Tod Architects. [Bottom] the current condition of the hall.
The secret to the city’s success as an industrial textiles powerhouse is set to see a facelift thanks to a cash-injection from the National Lottery.
Erected in 1710, the First White Cloth Hall on Lower Kirkgate was a response to news that a covered cloth market was to be built in Wakefield in a bid to tempt trade of undyed cloth away from Leeds.
The Hall was a huge success and Leeds’ dominance in the cloth trade was assured, creating the conditions for the city’s growth and prosperity from then on.
While the First White Cloth Hall itself was quickly superseded by other cloth halls, it has great historical significance for the city.
Sadly, the building itself, now a Grade II* listed building, is in a fragile state and needs considerable investment to ensure its survival. Options for its restoration are being considered by Leeds City Council.
The Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to regenerate not only the First White Cloth Hall but other buildings on what could be the city’s oldest street.
There are several vacant properties and the THI scheme aims to provide an area for independent retail close to the busy city centre.
It is hoped the £2.4m investment will help bring close to 100 jobs back into the area and almost 3000sqm of floor space back into use.
Grants will be available for repair and restoration of shop fronts, structural issues, roofing and key architectural features. It is hoped some of the improvement works can begin this summer.
Leeds City Council executive member for Transport and the Economy councillor Richard Lewis, said:
“This funding package is a fantastic opportunity to save a building that represents a significant piece of our city’s heritage. The development of the First White Cloth Hall was a major step forward on the path to making Leeds a powerful and wealthy industrial city.
“Leeds has a strong and proud industrial heritage - restoring the First White Cloth Hall will help preserve that history for future generations to enjoy.
“But it’s not just about this building alone: the Initiative will also regenerate Lower Kirkgate, which is a centre for the independent retail sector. Leeds city centre is not just about Trinity and John Lewis -Lower Kirkgate is one of the few parts of the city that remain in need of regeneration.”
An agreement is being brokered with the owners of the First White Cloth Hall to enable work to be carried out involving safe access, surveys, conservation and archaeological investigations.
These works will help inform a feasibility study and further public consultation with the aim of helping to facilitate the eventual repair and restoration of the building.
Notes to editor
There are three types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales
• Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest,
• Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
• Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.
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