The Victorian Arcades in Leeds

“Although the covered shopping arcade was fashionable with the aristocracy in the 18th century (for examples London’s Burlington Arcade ) it was the expansion of the wealth of the Victorian middle class in England’s major cities that prompted its popularity in the 19th century.” Or so says the LAB website.

There were 8 arcades built in Leeds in the 19th century, but only 4 of them remain today. Each is unique in use of color, but all have a similar design and overall feel. The picture below is of Thornton’s Arcade. I love the blue and white, and the extreme height of the glass ceiling. This is the narrowest arcade, and the dark black of the store fronts makes the upper level appear more expansive that it actually is.

This picture, with the green and orange design in the steelwork, is the County Arcade. The arches are semi-circular, which lowers the height. But the fruit-like designs in the details is quite charming. I think that this one feels particularly Victorian, especially with the uniform shop signage and all the columns!

This picture below is the same arcade, from nearly the same perspective, but a picture that was taken just after World War II. (Courtesy of RIBA, here.) Apparently Victorian Architecture was not as valued at that time, and the arcades were not well-cared for. Luckily the city has recognized the architectural heritage of these arcades, and they are now well-preserved!

This last picture is from the Victoria Quarter, and is the well-known Victorian Arcade. The use of color really phenomenal! Alex and I almost cricked our necks from looking upwards at the bright shapes. Alex really liked how the sun shone through, reflecting the colors from the glass onto the columns below. It looks like a giant mosaic!

The arcades in Leeds are really beautiful, and yet are somewhat hidden. You can very easily walk down the street and miss the entrances … which would be a pity. Some of the best stores, and the best venues, are hidden around the corner from the main drag.


Posted on 01/09/2010, in Exploring the UK and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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