Leeds United Stories, Vol. 1

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the city talking: john baron on kirkgate market

the city talking: john baron on kirkgate market


We’ve been working with Leeds-based journalist John Baron to make some short films about stories he’s been covering in the city in the last few years; stories from the heart of the city. First from John: Kirkgate Market.


For more than a century, Leeds Kirkgate Market has been a grand Gothic home for traders touting their wares, as shoppers scout the stalls for the best bargains.

In 1858, a guide to Leeds said: “At night this beautiful crystal market hall is well illuminated by 200 gaslights, arranged round handsome cast iron pillars. Altogether it is the most complete structure of its kind in England” — and this was even before the grand frontage was added, that has stood proudly on Vicar Lane since 1904.

As the biggest indoor market in Europe, Kirkgate Market was designed to meet the needs of shoppers in Leeds — a role it still performs to this day.

For much of 2016 large parts of the market were hidden behind hoardings as the first phase of a £13.7million refurbishment took place, while on the other side of George Street Hammerson a building Victoria Gate, developing a new John Lewis department store and high-end shopping arcades.

Changes at the market include a new indoor performance space and new places to eat. By combining the traditional butchers’ and fish rows, a new fresh food area has been created.

But what impact will these changes have on Kirkgate Market? Can it remain embedded as a shopping destination in the heart of the city? In looking to the future — and a life alongside the new Victoria Gate development — is there a danger that the market may leave its traditional customers behind?

We spoke to traders, shoppers, academics and councillors, as the market prepares to unveil its new look and steels itself for future challenges.