Horsforth (pronounced with the emphasis
on the first syllable) has many times been described as England’s largest
village. Once a village making woollens and quarrying stone, Horsforth is now
principally a dormitory town for people working in Leeds and, to a lesser
extent, Bradford. It has been absorbed uneasily into the Leeds Metropolitan
Area and retains its own identity and local pride.
About six miles north west of Leeds, it derives its name, it is thought, from a horse ford, perhaps across the Aire in the valley below. It lies midway between London and Edinburgh, a fact celebrated and marked on a pillar on Kirkstall Road. A Roman road ran nearby to the camp at Adel a few miles to the east. It is in the Domesday Book. The monks of Kirkstall Abbey possessed a vast estate in Horsforth before the Dissolution of the Monasteries. There are some lovely place names - Pimlico, the Plumb, Bluebell Woods, Flaggy Beck, Bachelor Lane, Oliver Rocks. Doubtless, all have a tale to tell.
The Old Kings Arms
Horsforth was viciously cut in two by
the Leeds ring road during the twentieth century. South of it is New Road Side
whilst Horsforth’s main street, Town Street, is to the north. Beside both are
largely old stone buildings though the west side of Town Street is hideously
disfigured by a ghastly ‘sixties shopping development.
Around and beside Town Street and New Road Side are inter-war and post-war housing developments. Building continues whenever developers get the chance. But green areas do remain around West End, north of the station (on the Harrogate line) and, to an extent, at Woodside and Outwood. There is a cricket ground next to the Old Ball roundabout, a college at Trinity and All Saints, a golf course up Brownberrie Lane and an airport north of the area called Scotland.
The Church of St Margaret was built in
1883 and a tower added in the following century. It stands blackened on a hill
visible for miles around, the usual firm Victorian statement of God’s grace
and the area’s prosperity. There are over twenty arches within the church and
a fine stained glass window showing the Crucifixion, Christ crowned and the
saints and angels.
After the Great War an avenue of 212 trees was planted to line Stanhope Drive. Each tree represented one of Horsforth’s sons lost in the war. On a boulder were written the words, ‘we lie in many lands that you may live here in peace’. There is also a fine cenotaph at the corner of Hall Park.
In the garden of the museum at the bottom of Town Street is a stone to commemorate the endeavours of the people of Horsforth and the crew of HMS Aubrietia:
'During Navy week in 1941 Horsforth residents raised £241,000 to adopt this corvette which in May 1941, together with HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway attacked and disabled the German submarine U110 in the north Atlantic. The submarine's crew abandoned their boat and a boarding party successfully recovered a working Enigma coding machine together with other documents. This enabled the Allied Code-Breakers to decipher German transmissions leading to the ultimate defeat of the German Navy and victory in the Atlantic.'
St Margaret's Church
The Queens Arms
There is no shortage of pubs in
Horsforth from old hostelries like the Queen’s Arms and the Black Bull to the
contemporary Suburban Style Bar on New Road Side. The shops among the usual
banks and building societies are in many cases owner managed providing helpful
and friendly service. There are bistros like the Outside In, unpretentious but
reliable. And there are some of the best fish and chip shops in the world.
Traffic is a nightmare and parking isn’t easy. And Town Street can be a little
too lively in the evening for more mature tastes.
Like Pudsey across the Aire valley (‘ducks fly backwards in Pudsey’), Horsforth is too big to be a village any more but it has its own soul and remains one of the many separate villages with their own character and ethos which now make up Leeds.
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