Relics of Old Leeds (1896). [Click on image to enlarge it.]. by Percy Robinson. Source: Robinson's
One of the most interesting relics of the domestic architecture of Old Leeds is the Red Hall in Guildford Street. In its early days it was no doubt the finest residence in the town, and occupied one of the choicest sites. In those days it would be quite suburban, very few buildings being in existence west of it, while southwards to Boar Lane were fields and orchards. Barely sixty years ago it had poplar trees growing in front of it, and a large garden behind — now King Charles' Croft. The house was built in 1628 by John Metcalfe, under-bailiff of Leeds — the same who plundered the "toll dish" and robbed the poor of their revenues — and it is said to have derived its name from being the first house built of brick in Leeds.
It was here that King Charles was lodged when passing through Leeds on his march northwards to Newcastle, after surrendering himself to the Scots in 1646. In connection with this event two interesting episodes are related: — A maid-servant of the house, named Crosby, entreated the King to make his escape, offering to lend him her clothes in which to disguise himself, and assuring him she would conduct him in the dark out of the garden door, into a back alley called Lands Lane, and thence to a friend's house, whence he might escape to France. The King, however, declined the woman's offer, but with many thanks, and gave her for a token "the garter," saying, that if it were never in his power, on sight of that token, his son would reward her. After the Restoration the woman presented the token to the King, and told him the story. The King enquired from whence she came? She said from Leeds, in Yorkshire. Whether she had a husband? She replied yes. What was his calling? She said an under-bailiff. Then, said the King, he shall be chief bailiff in Yorkshire. The man afterwards built Crosby House in Upperhead Row.
The other anecdote relates to John Harrison, who, it is said, obtained permission to present to the King, during his stay at the Red Hall, a tankard of excellent ale, but on the King opening the lid of the tankard he found, instead of the expected beverage, that the vessel was filled with gold, which he contrived to hide about his person.
The house has had other noted occupants besides Royalty. John Wesley was a guest there when visiting Leeds. In Thoresby's time it was the residence of Richard Thornton, the Recorder of Leeds. It is now converted into offices, and occupied by Messrs. Newstead and Wilson. [54-55]
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Robinson, Percy. Relics of Old Leeds. Leeds: Percy Robinson, 1896; London: B. T. Batsford. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 23 January 2013
Last modified 23 January 2013