North Leeds suburbs full of Victorian architecture, history and quirky shops
PUBLISHED: 19:07 09 July 2012 | UPDATED: 01:47 24 October 2015
The affluent suburbs of North Leeds are full of Victorian architecture, history and quirky shops. Ruth Addicott goes exploring Photographs by Hannah Ali
There aren’t many places that can lay claim to hosting The Ryder Cup, a U2 concert and the first ever motion picture, but the leafy suburbs of Roundhay, Oakwood, Alwoodley and Moortown in North Leeds have played host to all three. Known for its Victorian architecture, quirky boutiques and sense of community, the area has become popular with young professionals and families looking for a relaxed place to live yet within convenient reach of the city.
Roundhay is an affluent district with Victorian villas and terraces and a huge park which provides a respite from city life all year around. Spread over more than 700 acres, Roundhay Park has two big lakes, woodlands, formal gardens, lawns and an adventure playground. Along with wildlife, sports and leisure facilities, it has also held major events, including concerts by U2 and Robbie Williams and an annual firework display. Most of the shops, pubs and restaurants are centred on Street Lane, including The Flying Pizza which has become something of a local institution.
Val Berry, owner of popular deli, Haley & Clifford, has lived in Roundhay for nearly 25 years. ‘Although it’s in a big metropolis, it has a real sense of community which is quite unusual,’ she says. ‘The neighbours know each other by name and it’s only a hop, skip and jump and you’re out in the country. It’s very leafy and feels quite rural yet the centre of Leeds is only a 10-minute drive away. It’s a lovely place to live.’
Val took over the deli four years ago and revamped it, after being a customer for many years. It sells local Yorkshire cheese, artisan bread, jams and chutneys from Perfectly Preserved in Oakwood along with fresh soups and salads daily.
Roundhay’s other star attraction is Tropical World, which is home to the largest collection of tropical plants outside Kew Gardens. The park draws more than one million visitors every year and features different eco systems from around the world. Look out for the Giraffe Fish and White Faced Whistling Ducks as well as crocodiles, snakes and the cute baby meerkats. ‘When my son was little I used to go there at least three times a week because they had a tarantula which he was obsessed with,’ says Val. ‘He’s 19 now so I don’t get to go so much.’
Head south through the park and you’ll come to Oakwood which attracts a huge crowd on the third Saturday of the month when the Farmer’s Market is in town. Get there early to get a parking space. Also at the bottom of the park stands the Oakwood Clock, built in 1904 by famous Leeds clockmakers William Potts and Sons.
It was originally designed to be the centrepiece of Kirkgate Indoor Market in Leeds before being deemed unsuitable and taken down and relocated to Oakwood. Opposite the clock, is the Fish Bar, popular with locals (and the late Jimmy Saville). Housed in a Grade 11 Listed building with an Art Deco front, it has been selling fish and chips since 1934.
If gourmet marshmallows are more your style, you’re in the right place as Oakwood-based mum Philippa Quayle has just launched a new company Art Of Mallow. Inspired by the craze in the US, Philippa makes the marshmallows by hand, in a selection of exotic flavours such as chocolate chip, honey and pistachio and caramel fudge (they’re also available at Haley & Clifford based in Street Lane, Roundhay).
Philippa has lived in Oakwood for six and a half years after moving up from London with her husband and two children. ‘We really love it here, it’s so central and we’re surrounded by young families, it’s quite a special area,’ she says. ‘There are some fabulous restaurants - tapas, Thai, Italian and Indian, there’s even a milkshake bar.’
Aprofessional running trainer, Philippa is also a fan of Roundhay Park. ‘I used the park to train for the London Marathon,’ she says. ‘There are lots of hills so it’s really good and I love running around the lake.’
The district’s other claim to fame is the garden of Oakwood Grange where Louis Le Prince filmed the Roundhay Garden Scene in 1888 - believed to be the first motion picture. Oakwood Grange was sadly demolished in 1972 to make way for a housing estate and Oakwood Hall, the former stately home, is now a nursing home.
Further north lies the suburbs of Alwoodley and Moortown, widely known for their golf courses. Moortown Golf Club staged The Ryder Cup in 1929 whilst Alwoodley (founded 1907) has been dubbed ‘one of the best-kept secrets in British golf’. They were both designed by leading golf architect, Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Augusta National and Cypress Point in the US. ‘They are steeped in history,’ says Joe Tinsley, assistant pro at Alwoodley Golf Club. ‘Alwoodley is also a really nice place to work, it’s relaxed and there’s a good community feel.
‘I was new to the area and people Cupwere very welcoming.’
Along with a local tennis and cricket club, there are scenic walks and the chance to spot a red kite around Eccup Reservoir.
Moor Allerton Sports and Social Centre has nearly 500 paid up members and runs activities such as table tennis, snooker and zumba. (The Bridge Club alone has 300 members.) Moor Allerton Library is also popular having undergone a £170,000 refurbishment in 2009 including the creation of a new children’s area.
For shopping facilities, however, head to Moortown Corner which has a good choice of supermarkets, banks and shops including Anita Massarella Design Couture which has supplied weddings gowns for Emmerdale and real life WAGAG Sheree Murphy. Owner Anita also designed six items for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
With a strong Jewish community, one thing you can be sure to find in Moortown is freshly baked bagels. After a long day at the park or a few rounds of golf, who can resist?