SE3033 : County Arcade, Leeds

taken 4 years ago, near to Leeds, Great Britain

This is 1 of 17 images, with title County Arcade, Leeds in this square
County Arcade, Leeds
County Arcade, Leeds
Ornate ironwork above the entrance from Queen Victoria Street.
County Arcade and associated buildings

County Arcade is the centrepiece of a major redevelopment around 1900 of the area which today has become the Victoria Quarter.

The core of the original development was the Empire Palace, for the Moss and Stoll theatre group, and the London theatre architect Frank Matcham was employed to design the whole complex, for the Leeds Estates Company, as a new retail centre for Leeds. The theatre was the first part of the development, opening in 1898. County Arcade is dated 1900 on the Vicar Lane frontage, the block between Queen Victoria Street and King Edward Street is dated 1902, and the southern side of King Edward Street is probably slightly later still, although undated

The design included the County Arcade, stretching between Vicar Lane and Briggate, with its associated Cross Arcade which runs south from Queen Victoria Street to King Edward Street. Arcades had become a feature of central Leeds following the building of Thornton's Arcade in 1879, and the County Arcade/Cross Arcade interiors are the most luxuriant of all in their detailing.

The development included continuous facades on both sides of Queen Victoria Street and King Edward Street, as well as the sections facing onto Briggate and Vicar Lane, to give a coherent appearance to the whole of the area. The principal material chosen was buff terracotta from the local Burmantoft works, developed with extensive ornamentation of swags and strapwork in derivate neo-Jacobean style. This is used both for the external facades and the interiors of the Arcades.

The Arcades themselves are distinguished by their high level of ornamentation, including marble pilasters, painted plasterwork with fruit, rich mosaics in the three domes surmounting County Arcade, and elaborate wrought iron screens at the arcade entrances.

The Empire Palace theatre closed in 1961 and was replaced by a new arcade named Empire Arcade, which in turn has been superseded by a modern single retail store. The only remaining element is the entrance from Cross Arcade with the name Empire Palace in terracotta.

Queen Victoria Street was roofed over in 1989-91 with a stained glass roof to create a new arcade.

The block containing County Arcade is Listed Grade II*, the other two elements are Listed Grade II. The listing of the block between Queen Victoria Street and King Edward Street specifically excludes the area originally occupied by the Empire Palace, and the new roof to Queen Victoria Street is similarly not included.

Architectural terracotta and faience in Leeds

The terms terracotta and faience can be used more or less interchangeably for the structural and decorative ceramic material used extensively on buildings from about 1880 to the 1930s. Faience is more generally applied to the type which has high glaze, often multicoloured, as featured for example on The Grand Arcade, and The Three Legs pub.

The material is similar to the denser bricks developed in the 19th century and has a generally impermeable surface compared with softer stones and common bricks. Compared with stone, where every stone had to be individually carved (even when done mechanically), terracotta decoration could be produced in numbers from a single mould.

The presence of large numbers of buildings using the material in Leeds is connected with the fact that one of the major British manufacturers was the Burmantofts pottery and brickworks in the eastern suburbs of the City. Around 1900 Burmantoft developed a very pale version, in imitation of white marble, which was given the trade name 'Marmo'. As well as being used for buildings in the more 'Rococo' style of the early 1900s (e.g. Scottish Union and National Insurance Company building on Park Row) it was much favoured in the Art Deco period for major cinema and shop frontages.

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SE3033, 3014 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Thursday, 12 April, 2018   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 25 April, 2018
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Business, Retail, Services  City, Town centre 
Date (from Tags)
Building Material (from Tags)
Material (from Tags)
Wrought Iron 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 3033 3362 [10m precision]
WGS84: 53:47.8804N 1:32.4610W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 30330 33629
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Other Tags
Shopping Arcade  Archway  Grade II(star) Listed 

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Image Type (about): close look 
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