Victorian Professions


Situated in the eastern foothills of the Pennines in a narrow section of the Aire Valley, 19th century Leeds had a secure position as a major centre for the production and trading of wool and flax. Engineering, iron foundries and printing also contributed to making Leeds an industrial hub, accompanied by a brick-making industry, a pottery and a plethora of craft trades. There was also a strong interest in agricultural commodities, supported by the opening of the Corn Exchange in 1863. The earlier completion of the Aire and Calder Navigation (1699), followed by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816 and the opening of the railway (1834-1848) gave Leeds vital access to transport networks. The Leeds School of Medicine was established in 1831 and The Yorkshire College of Science in 1874, one of the first colleges for students of all faiths.

The 19th century brought the construction of the Town Hall in 1858 and Leeds' first Public Library in 1872. However the production and population boom had made town life increasingly cramped and dirty. The population of Leeds civil parish in 1851 was 120,624, rising from 94,421 in 1801. By the end of the century it would reach 177,920. Professional families took advantage of select housing developments such as the Park Estate, with views across the fields to the river where their neighbours were some of the leading families in Leeds, including merchants, lawyers, surgeons and members of the clergy. The estate had its own church, St. Paul's, built on the south side of Park Square. Eventually compromised even here by the smoke from new factories, many middle-class families moved outside the Leeds' township to neighbouring suburban townships such as Headingley and Burley, where the population increased in by 50 per cent between 1851 and 1861.

These are the people in Leeds we are interested in: