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Hunslet is an inner-city area in south Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is mentioned as Hunslet in the 1086 Domesday Book. It is immediately south east 1 mile (1.6 km) of the city centre and has an industrial past.The brewers Joshua Tetley and Son set up business in Hunslet in 1822 and are still producing beer and bitter today as part of Carlsberg Tetley group. However, the brewery is due to close in 2011.
The area of Hunslet had many well known engineering companies based in the district, such as the world famous Leeds manufacturers of Steam engines & rollers John Fowler & Co., the Hunslet Engine Company builders of works locomotives (including for the Channel Tunnel), as well as engineering firms Kitson & Co., Manning Wardle and Hudswell Clarke. Many railway locomotives were built in the Jack Lane area of Hunslet.
There is a mixture of modern and 19th century industrial buildings, terraced housing and 20th century housing. It is an area that has grown up significantly around the River Aire in the early years of the 21st century, especially with the construction of modern riverside flats. It was at one point the main production site for Leeds Creamware, a type of pottery (still produced) so called because of its cream glazing. Hunslet is now prospering as it follows the trend of Leeds generally and the expansion of office and industrial sites south of Leeds city centre.
The Hunslet Feast in 1850.Ever since its very early days Hunslet has been the 'Workshop of Leeds'. Although from the Industrial Revolution onwards there have been other areas in Leeds to have a large industrial base, such as Holbeck, Armley, Kirkstall and Harehills, none so much as Hunslet. Hunslet grew from an unremarkable area at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to a major industrial area only a few years later.
Hunslet was very much a Victorian zeitgeist, exactly the sort of place that made Britain rich at this time. By 1906, Hunslet was home to Leeds' second largest gas works, the city's main rail goods yards, known at the time as 'Midland Goods Station' (now the site of Crown Point Retail Park), as well as a large number of factories. The area was redeveloped in the 1960s, the main feature of this being the Hunslet Grange (Leek Street) flats. In the 1980s it was again redeveloped, and in the 2000s, the area around the River Aire and Clarence Dock was redeveloped.
Hunslet is commonly divided up into different areas. The area surrounding the Tetley's Brewery and Crown Point Retail Park is often referred to simply as Crown Point, while the area surrounding the Meadow Lane Gas Works and the council depot is often referred to as Pottery Fields. The more residential side of Hunslet around Church Street and the Penny Hill Centre is sometimes referred to as Penny Hill.
Crown Point was once home to a large railway depot which contained Leeds' main goods station. Although it has since been redeveloped into the Crown Point Retail Park, the main railway cutting into the terminus station can still be seen at the southern end behind Mothercare. The former track beds are currently let for storage and contain timber and brickwork. Tetley's Brewery is to the northern side of this area, as was the former Yorkshire Chemical Works, which is currently undergoing demolition. Behind this area is Clarence Dock.
Pottery Fields is the industrial area around Kidacre Street, Leathley Road, Ivory Street, Meadow Lane and Cross Myrtle Street. This area is home to Leeds City Council's Pottery Fields Depot, the former Meadow Lane Gas Works (pictured), which are now branded as Pottery Fields House and contain administrative and engineering functions for Northern Gas Networks. The area is also home to Merlin Gerin medium voltage electrical supplies and a small scrap yard as well as a Volkswagen auto breakers. Leeds' DVLA motorbike test centre is also situated in this area. There are many disused railways crossing the roads in this area, which in the past brought coal from Middleton Colliery to the Meadow Lane Gas Works for the production of town gas, before the conversion to North Sea natural gas.
Penny Hill is the area surrounding Church Street.This is the traditional 'centre' of Hunslet. While the Hunslet Grange Flats (commonly referred to as the Leek Street Flats) stood (1968 to 1983), the area was referred to as Hunslet Grange. The Leek Street Flats covered most of this area, but developed problems with crime and condensation and so the several thousand flats that were supposed to be on the zeitgeist of modern living were demolished only fifteen years after their construction. Despite their negative connotations, the flats had large windows and were light and spacious and were popular for the first few years, before their problems became apparent. The area was redeveloped in the 1980s with small council houses, which proved more popular. The area contains the Penny Hill Shopping Centre which is anchored by a large Morrisons.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. There has been a church on or near this site for nearly 650 years. This is the third church on the site. the victorian church (of which the spire remains, and is the tallest in Leeds) was built in 1864 and the present building was built in the 1970's.
Most notable in the 1960's for the construction of the Hunslet Grange Flats, usually called informally the Leek Street Flats. Construction of the 2,500 flats started in 1968 following a widespread slum clearance project in the area. The flats were commissioned by Leeds City Council and constructed by Shepherd Construction. The flats were built as a large complex, sprawling over much of Hunslet. The construction was of a maisonette style with many overhead walkways connecting blocks. Each block had an individual name, such as 'Pottery Vale', giving reference to the area's pottery heritage. The flats had large windows and were spacious and light and for the first few years were very popular. Hidden in the sprawling complex, on the second floor were some shops and a public house. All of the blocks of flats were six storeys in height.The popularity of the flats was short-lived however, the convection heaters were completely inadequate for heating the poorly insulated concrete prefabs, the buildings suffered from severe condensation, only a few years after their construction and the 'rabbit warren' style of construction made them hard to navigate and even harder to police. Until the building of the Penny Hill Centre there were very few amenities in the area, the nearest supermarket being in Leeds city centre. Demolition of the flats started in 1983, less than fifteen years after the first tenants moved in. The flats were replaced by small, low rise council housing which was completed in the late 1980s and proved more popular with tenants.
Each block was six storeys high and was entered via the second floor, residents on the ground floor and first floor would go downstairs to their flats, whilst everyone else would go up. In one part the second floor of the maisonettes had a pub and shops on it. The buildings were grey and pebble dashed in style, with windows stretching the width of each flat. The grey look to the buildings led to them being nicknamed Armley Gaol. Each floor had a rubbish disposal unit. The buildings often suffered from draughts coming in from between each prefabricated section. Condensation and damp problems occurred very early on in the life of the flats. Because the flats were draughty and poorly insulated their heating costs were generally high. The flats were 'all electric' with convection heaters which were inadequate for heating the flats.
The area is home to a number of voluntary organisations servicing the community, this includes The Hunslet Club, a youth organisation established in 1940 which provides sport, dance and drama activities for hundreds of young people in the area as well as offering vocational education courses for 14 to 16 year olds.
More recently, the M621 and A61, two major arteries for Leeds, pass through the area, providing convenient access to the whole of South Yorkshire and through the M62 to Manchester. This was completed in 1971, and sliced off a large chunk of Hunslet Moor with it.
The area also possesses a historic rugby league club in the form of the Hunslet RLFC who play at the John Charles Centre for Sport formerly known as the South Leeds Stadium. Other local rugby league clubs include Hunslet Warriors and Hunslet Parkside.