It’s one of Leeds’ most noticeable landmarks and for over 150 years, Leeds Corn Exchange has been at the heart of commerce in the city – we follow its journey, from then to now.
Cuthbert Brodrick is a name synonymous with Leeds and its iconic architecture – but little of his work is as recognisable as Leeds Corn Exchange, which has been the centre point of the city since 1862. A symbol of Leeds’ longstanding economic prowess, it continues to this day, and hopefully into the future, as a vital part of the community.
Before It Was What It Is Today
The Corn Exchange we all know and love was not the first. That honour goes to an 1827 building at the top and middle of Briggate, but after just over 30 years, the traders of Leeds had outgrown their home.
The Modern Corn Exchange
To accommodate for the increase in trade in Leeds, as well as competition from elsewhere, Leeds looked to Edinburgh’s famous example for their next move. The responsibility for achieving that was down to famous architect Cuthbert Brodrick, whose catalogue of gems in the city was becoming more and more impressive.
A Catalyst For Growth
With its eye-catching domed roof, intricate architecture and imposing circular design, Brodrick’s Corn Exchange helped to kickstart Leeds’ growth through Victorian-era England on the back of a bustling agriculture trade.
A Centre of Commerce and Community
As the 20th century moved on, Leeds Corn Exchange was used for trade up to six times a week, while also becoming a focal point of the community, a war memorial and even putting on animal shows – nothing like a bit of versatility eh?
Falling Into Disrepair
The good times only lasted so long however, and by 1969 it was only being used by corn traders one day a week. The threat of demolition was there, but thankfully passed and while plans were initially approved for it to be turned into a concert hall, the building continued its steep decline, becoming empty by the mid-eighties.
A New Start in the 90s
Thankfully, the Corn Exchange was taken over in 1985 by Specialist Shops who transformed it ready for the 1990s. It was a big success, featuring a host of cool and kooky independent stores that were sorely missed when it struggled for support after a takeover in 2007.
Home to History
As if the building wasn’t historic enough, they managed to throw a bit more in there after its nineties renovation. For eight years from 1991, a pretty impressive model of a 1903 Wright Flyer was hung from the famous domed roof.
An Independent Haven
Despite riding a rough storm in the first decade of 21st century, Leeds Corn Exchange is now once again home to a creative array of independents that are helping to put Leeds on the retail map. From vintage threads to unique jewellery and record fairs, it’s proven that it can continue to be a vital part of Leeds’ retail offering.