This trail is based on one created by Hilary Dyson of Oakwood and District Historical Society which was published in the Autumn 2009 edition of their publication Oak Leaves. We thank her for giving us permission to use it as the basis of this trail.
This trail is intended to be an introduction to Oakwood and is suitable for families – although it may be advisable to wear stout shoes in wet weather and, of course, anyone undertaking the walk should exercise caution and use their own judgement regarding all health and safety issues. For the avoidance of doubt anyone undertaking the walk does so at their own risk.
You can do the walk in about one hour but, of course, you can take as long as you like over it.
Start the walk at the Clock Tower at Oakwood. The Clock Tower was restored in 2015 after a huge fundraising effort by local residents and businesses. You can find out further information about the clock both on the panels of the clock itself and the interpretive signage near the clock. Originally placed in the market in Leeds the clock was moved to its present position in 1913. Some sources say that it came to Oakwood in 1912 but that was the date that it was moved out of Leeds Market. It took some time to find a home for it.
Further information can be found here: Oakwood Clock and on the interpretive board near the clock.
There is a blue plaque across the road on the Estate Agent’s building related to the clock (but even it states that the clock was moved to Oakwood in 1912).
The Estate Agent’s building itself has a bit of a past because before it was an estate agents it was, from 1962 to 1991, a branch of Lloyds bank and before that it was the original Oakwood Post Office.
Next door to the Estate agent there is an Indian restaurant called (2015) the Nawab Khan. The site that the restaurant occupies was previously a Garage owned by the father of the current (2015) owner of the Fish Restaurant, Steve Webster. It itself occupies the site of what used to be the end terrace of the parade of buildings that make up Oakwood’s original parade of shops. We will return to this at the end of the walk.
That end terrace had to be demolished at sometime in the past apparently because of the subsidence caused by previous quarrying activity. A lot of the early mansions built in Oakwood during the 18th and 19th centuries are made from stone quarried in the area.
Before we move away from the clock you should look north to Roundhay Park. Here you will see Soldiers’ Field which is where a young Robert Blackburn tested some of the earliest ever planes at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a salutory thought that manned flight, which we now all take for granted, only became a reality in December 1903 when Orville Wright flew the first powered aircraft 120ft in a flight lasting 12 seconds.
Very shortly after that our very own Robert Blackburn began testing his own aircraft right here on Soldier’ Field. We will find out a bit more about that when we reach the site where Tesco now is.
It was on Soldiers’ Field, in 1917. that a huge crowd of spectators witnessed the untimely death of William Rowland Ding.
Head down the hill with your back to the park. Cross Gledhow Lane with care. See the two stone built semi detached houses in front of you. They were built in the latter half of the 19th century. One of the houses is called Woodland Cottage and the basement was used as a doctors’ surgery before the new surgery was built (see below)
Turn right and almost immediately cross Gledhow Rise and up a slight incline along Fitzroy Drive until you come to the Roundhay Parochial Hall which houses the Parochial and Home Guard Club. Further information about it can be found at Parochial and Home Guard Club
Retrace your steps until you see the Co-op building on your right.
Walk down behind the parade of shops built in 1925. Originally these had gardens at the rear and living accomodation over the shop premises. However the gardens are now a car park serving the office premises that now inhabit what used to be the living quarters. On your right and you will see the Oakwood Surgery. This is on the site of the former yard belonging to members of the Lax family who were responsible for the development of Harehills at the end of the 19th century.
The Co-op car park itself is the site of one of the quarries of which mention has been made above. If you are interested in seeing the evidence of the quarry then walk over to where the glass recyling units are in the far end of the car park and there, in the corner, you will see the outcrops of rock which bear witness to the quarrying that was the principal industry in the area in the 19th Century.
The Co-op building was originally built as a Co-op but went through a number of other guises including as a Safeway and a Somerfield before becoming a Co-op again in around 2010. The original building has had some additions to it over the years and the upper floor has been turned into offices.
Return to Roundhay Road and continue down the parade of shops, Cross Oakwell Mount to the parade of shops built in the 1960s which are representative of a great number of the buildings and the architectural merit of the period. They should serve as a warning as to the importance of maintaining vigilence where planning matters are concerned.
Carry on down the Parade until you reach Ravenscar Avenue. This is a terrace of houses built for the quarry workers in about 1840. Turn up Ravenscar Avenue past the first house which is now (2015) a hairdresser and beautician shop on the ground floor. This is larger than the cottages that make up the terrace and was built in about 1900 by the Lax builders. When the Lax brothers bought the land for the Ravenscar development there were cottages in the way – across what is now Ravenscar Avenue. They knocked these down to provide access and built the magnificent house, end on to the old terrace cottages. It is thought to have always been a shop of one sort or another.
As you go up Ravenscar Avenue with the pretty workers’ cottages on your right you will notice a public house on your left. It has had several names including the Gipton but now (2015) it is called the Roundhay. There was a pub on this site for nearly one hundred years before the present building. It was called the Gipton Wood Inn or Hotel and was built, complete with its own brewery right up to the pavement end by the same person who built the cottages, no doubt with thirsty quarrymen in mind. In the last few decades of its existence there was a bowling green behind it apparently of county match standard which was used by the Gipton Wood Bowling Club until the pub was demolished a few years before WW2.
Retrace your steps back down Ravenscar Avenue to Roundhay Road. Turn right and continue down Roundhay Road until you reach the car park of what is now (2015) a Tesco supermarket.
This site has a rich history. At the beginning of the 20th century it contained a huge covered roller skating rink.
That was used for quite a short time before it was seen as an ideal building into which Robert Blackburn could expand his fledgling aircraft production company. What had been the Olympia Roller Skating Rink became the Olympia Works.
This picture gives you some idea of the scale of the operation and also has the benefit of showing the route of the tram tracks up the right hand side of Roundhay Road towards the clock.
Walk to the entrance of Tesco and you will see, on the right of the door, the blue plaque, telling that the site was once the Blackburn Aircraft Factory.
Return to Roundhay Road and continue to the right to the light controlled crossing. Before you cross the Road look to your right and you will see a modern block of flats. That is where the Astoria Ballroom used to be.Cross the road and turn left. Notice the wide grass verge next to the pavement. This is where the trams used to travel on their way up to Oakwood and then on towards Roundhay Park. Walk on until you reach the stone steps at the tiled entrance, done by the local school children, leading into Gipton Wood. The Friends of Gipton Wood are very active in promoting and preserving the flora, fauna and history. There is some evidence of C4th Romano British farms and dwellings as well as late prehistoric settlements.
Take the steps leading into the wood and follow the tarmac path. At the Y fork near a street light, turn left, go up the shallow steps and follow the tarmac path to the cross paths. Turn left and follow the path to reach Oakwood Boundary Road. The last 20 or 30 yards that you walk before you reach the Boundary Road are over the site of the prehistoric enclosed settlement referred to above. Oakwood Boundary Road is still surfaced with stone setts and marked the outer edge of the City of Leeds until Roundhay and Seacroft became part of Leeds in 1912.
Do not go downhill. Turn right up to reach Oakwood Drive with its early 20th century large terraced or detached houses built in the grounds of Oakwood House. Take the second entry on the right, Oakwood Mount to see the back entrance of Oakwood House – now Sabourn Court. It was built in the early 19th Century – probably by Abram Rhodes – who died in 1838. The Hudson family later occupied the house and it was then that the name Oakwood House emerged. Prior to that it had been called Woodend when it was owned by the Cadman family.
Return to Oakwood Drive and continue to the right to Oakwood Lane. Turn right uphill, turn right on Oakwood Grove and look through the front gates of Sabourn Court, now a nursing home, to admire the house and grounds.
Return to Oakwood Lane to see the imposing gate posts at Tudor Lodge.
These formerly marked the entrance to Towerhurst, the home of William Penrose Green the Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1909. Towerhurst was demolished in the 1960s.
Go a little further along Oakwood Lane and you will see a house called Springwood. This is the gatehouse of a mansion that used to be called Springwood (but is now called Fraser House). If you look at the wall of the gatehouse you will see an excellent example of “Harehills tooling” which is described in the article on quarrying
Go back down Oakwood Lane towards the clock and turn right on Springwood Road to see Oakwood Church. (formerly Roundhay Methodist Church). This building was erected in 1986 replacing the earlier Church built in 1874. This in turn replaced the meeting House in North Lane which was used before 1815, From 1st December 2013 it also became the successor to Roundhay St John Church of England parish Church when the Methodist and Church of England congregations entered a covenant to work and worship together as Oakwood Church.
The history of Roundhay St John can be found here:Roundhay St John
Return to Oakwood Lane, turn right downhill to pass Ladywood Cottage. Formerly known as Ladywood Farm, the 19th Century stone and brick buildings are still in evidence.
Continue down the hill to see Oakwood Library.
This was once a private house with stables which are now used as a garage, In 1898 it was owned by Benjamin Robinson who was connected with the well known Leeds Jewellers, Owen Robinson.
Cross Oakwood Lane at the traffic lights to see the large stone building which was previously a pair of semi detached houses before becoming the local Post Office then a private dwelling. It is now Browns estate agency office.
On the wall of the estate agent’s building there is a blue plaque dedicated to Oakwood Clock, which was unveiled by the now dead and disgraced Sir James Savile. He was a Leeds celebrity who lived in the area. As mentioned earlier the plaque is wrong in that it states that the clock was moved to Oakwood in 1912. That was the date that it was moved from Leeds Kirkgate Market however it was not moved to Oakwood until 1913. Maybe it is time for a new plaque to be unveiled.
Next door to that building there is (2015) an Indian Restaurant known as the Nawab Khan. It stands on the site of what for a time was a garage. Prior to the purchase of the Park by Leeds Corporation there were across the road, where the trees now are at the Junction of Wetherby Road and Park Avenue, a group of cottages called Horseshoe Cottages among which was also a smithy. Indeed what is now Oakwood Lane used to be called Horseshoe Lane. The Cottages were demolished shortly after the acquisition of the Park by Leeds City Council.
Originally, the site of the Nawab Khan was occupied by the end terrace of the terrace of shops but sometime in the 20th Century that end terrace had to be demolished probably as a result of subsidence – which may have been a consequence of previous quarrying.
The next building in the Parade is the Fish and Chip shop with its distincrive frontage in the 1920s 1930s style.
The early history of the shops is very interesting and you can find out more about it here:
Moving down th parade you will come to what is now (2015) The Bathstore. From 1917 to 2005 this was the site of Jones of Oakwood – a well known and popular electrical appliance store.
Below is a fascinating recording of Rowland Jones of Jones of Oakwood reminiscing about his times in Oakwood
Continue down Roundhay Road to number 468 where the name Preston is picked out on the tiled entrance floor. Thomas Preston was a grocer from Chapel Allerton who built this shop and the one next door to it (City Stationers 2015) in 1898 and who put the date on the gable. He died in 1902. His son Thomas Issott Preston was a chemist who occupied the premises for three decades. It is now a popular Public House – appropriately called Preston.
Go on further down the road to Oakwood Boundary Road – you will recall that you crossed this up at the top of the hill earlier in the walk.
If you look at the first floor above Rico’s Restaurant this used to be a gym which was frequented by, amongst others, a number of the wrestlers who spent time the area in the middle of the 20th Century.
You should now cross Roundhay Road at the pedestrian crossing and walk up the road in front of the Parade of shops built in 1925 again carefully crossing Gledhow Lane and make your way back to the clock. Before finishing the walk have a look up the left hand side of Prince’s Avenue. You will see a parallel avenue lined by trees. It was up this route that the trams went on their way to Roundhay Park and the tram terminus at Canal Gardens.
For a good proportion of its existence (1913 – 1958) Oakwood Clock served as a tram shelter. Whilst the trams are long since gone it remains a meeting point and resting place for residents and visitors to Roundhay. Why not sit for a while under its canopy and think of the many people who have sat on that spot before you and the lives they led.