Photographs show Leeds’ first lost and long-forgotten Corn Exchange


This grand but short-lived building on the Headrow was the city’s first dedicated corn hall

Leeds Corn Exchange, on Call Lane, is one of the city’s main landmarks.

But this distinctive rotunda, built between 1861 and 1863, is not the first corn market dedicated to the city. Its predecessor, on The Headrow, is much less famous perhaps because it hadn’t been around very long.

That’s not to say Leeds’ first Corn Exchange was insignificant. The first purpose-built corn exchange in the city was quite impressive, as these photos and drawings show.

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It also stood prominently, at the center of Upper Headrow and Lower Headrow, which later formed The Headrow as we know it today, overlooking Briggate. The maize trade had previously taken place in the Moot Hall in Leeds, at the junction of Briggate and Kirkgate.

The Moot Hall was demolished around 1825 and replaced by this handsome three-storey civic building which opened in 1829. Above the main entrance was a statue of Queen Anne (now in the Leeds City Art Gallery ) and a clock taken from the Moot Salle. As well as trading rooms, Leeds’ first Corn Exchange included a hotel, an inn, four shops and a warehouse.

Leeds was growing at a staggering rate, however, and by the 1850s the town’s corn traders felt neglected, especially as the council poured more money into other market facilities. They petitioned the council and architect Cuthbert Brodrick, who designed Leeds Town Hall, was hired to design a bigger and better corn exchange.

The current Corn Exchange opened in 1864 and four years later the original building was demolished and largely forgotten. Today the site is occupied by part of The Headrow and part of New Briggate.

All images were kindly provided by by Leeds Libraries.

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