Thornton's Arcade, Briggate, Leeds. Listed Building. Designed by George Smith, a Leeds architect practising in the mid-Victorian period. 1877-78; restored 1992-94. Photographs, captions and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images for larger pictures.]

From medieval times, a series of yards had linked Briggate to parallel streets, and Charles Thornton, a local entrepreneur, had the idea of constructing a shopping arcade along one of them. He commissioned George Smith, who had previously designed his City Varieties Music Hall for him in Swan Street (1865), for the task. Developed on what was previously the old Talbot Inn and its coachyard, and going back to Land's Lane, Thornton's Arcade was the first of several such arcades. These, along with the grand City Markets, absolutely transformed the centre of Leeds (see Fraser 194-95). This first one has a "[m]ixed Gothic Renaissance façade of brick and painted stone with a high arch and pavilion roof ... carried on cast-iron pierced Gothic cross-arches rising from slender shafts with foliate capitals and brackets with dragons [cf. the brackets supporting the City Markets' gallery]." With rooms over the shops, this produced a three-storey or "tripartite Gothic composition of arcade, triforium and clerestory" (Leach and Pevsner 443).

The Ivanhoe Clock made by the famous Leeds clockmakers, Potts & Sons, at the west end of the arcade. The painted wooden figures here are about lifesize. Carved by the Leeds mason and sculptor John Wormald Appleyard (active 1875-1891), they are all from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Left to right, they are Robin Hood in green, Friar Tuck in black, Richard the Lionheart in red, and Gurth the Swineherd in khaki. They have moving parts, each one helping to strike the quarter.

Sources

Fraser, Derek. A History of Modern Leeds. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980.

"John Wormald Appleyard." Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture. Web. 17 October 2011.

Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

"Thornton's Arcade." British Listed Buildings. Web. 17 October 2011.


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Last modified 29 September 2012