Headingley hill


A ‘Victorian Villa’ Townscape dominated by leafy avenues characterised by large stone Victorian villas set back in large plots with mature trees and stone boundary walls, on either side of Headingley Lane which is similarly lined by stone walls, mature trees and stone paving.

11.1 The Area

11.1.1 Headingley Hill lies along Headingley Lane between Woodhouse Ridge and Victoria Road. The majority of the area is north of Headingley Lane and is laid out around a number of parallel access roads ending at The Ridge.

11.1.2 The process of suburbanisation in Headingley began with the sale of villa building plots on both sides of Headingley Lane, to cater for well-to-do families who wished to escape the smoky atmosphere of Leeds. Headingley Hill was bought by the Walker family from the Earls of Cardigan in the seventeenth century. In the early nineteenth century, it was sold for building plots. Much was purchased by George Bischoff, a woollen merchant-cum-property speculator, who constructed new roads such as North Hill Road, to allow for the erection of villas set in large grounds. Headingley Lane is lined with remarkable villas, but the most prominent landmark is the former Wesleyan College, opened in 1868 (now Hinsley Hall). The arrival of Leeds Girls’ High School in 1905 helped to preserve some, though not all, of the grand houses on the south side of Headingley Lane.

11.2 Buildings and Layout

11.2.1 The streetscape of Headingley Lane is central to the character of the area. It is lined by original stone walls and gate piers (or new walls and appropriate railings), and by mature trees, especially on the north side, and still retains stone kerbs and stone-flagged pavements. This gives a unity to the streetscape which only breaks down where the dry-cleaning depot, on the site of an old petrol station, is located. The overall ambience of the road is, however, marred by high volumes of traffic.

11.2.2 Headingley Lane was originally flanked by villas on both sides. On the south side, only half the original Victorian villas survive, but all those remaining are listed. They turned their backs to Headingley Lane, to face south to take advantage of the sunny aspect and the views over the Kirkstall Valley. All originally had gardens running down to Victoria Road, but the only surviving remnants are at Spring Bank, Ford House (Buckingham Villas) and Rose Court (1842) whose gardens are now school playing fields. The remaining outbuildings, mature trees and boundary walls, however, continue to add to the character of the area. Otherwise, the villas’ grounds have been developed for offices, school buildings or for housing (Buckingham House). Many of the twentieth century infill buildings do not relate comfortably either to the streetscape of Headingley Lane or Victoria Road, or are out of character with their surroundings such as Headingley Office Park.

11.2.3 On the north side of Headingley Lane all but one of the original villas still remain. They are set well back from the road with very long front gardens, except in the case of Headingley Terrace which has a service road at the front. All but one of them is listed but this has not prevented a totally unsympathetic extension to the rear of Highfield House. Also on the frontage is the former Congregational Chapel, attributed to Cuthbert Brodrick in 1864-6, and which is also listed.

11.2.4 Behind these frontage properties, four leafy avenues run north: Grosvenor Road, Cumberland Road, North Hill Road and North Grange Road. They were originally developed in the mid-nineteenth century with very large, predominantly stone detached and semi-detached villas set in large plots. The exception was a row of terraced houses, Grosvenor Terrace (1841-3 and listed). A second phase of building took place in the later Victorian period and included Ashwood Villas and Terrace.

11.2.5 One particularly unusual development took place in 1912 with the construction of the first block of mansion style flats in Leeds at Grange Court on North Grange Mount.

11.2.6 Infill development continued throughout the twentieth century, many in brick, but the basic character of the area remains, reinforced by extensive stone boundary walls, mature trees, stone kerbs and flags and in the case of Ashwood Villas and Terrace, stone setts too.

11.2.7 One key unifying feature is the narrow ginnel with high stone walls on both sides which leads from Woodhouse Ridge diagonally across the area to Woodhouse Cliff and thence to Woodhouse Moor. Other ginnels and footpath links add interest and permeability for those exploring the area on foot.

11.2.8 The coherent character of the area breaks down in the vicinity of Hinsley Hall with the three short cul-de-sacs of Orville Gardens, The Poplars and Oakfield, although the latter is built sympathetically in stone. The recent development at the entrance to the Poplars (the site of an original Victorian villa) with a stone clad block of flats and a new stone boundary wall does contribute positively to the streetscape of Headingley Lane.

11.2.9 One other significant area has remained undeveloped (firstly because of a proposed Headingley by-pass road, then a super-tram route,and now a possible New Generation Transport scheme which would bisect the site), which is the field used for horse grazing on Headingley Lane between the entrance to Hinsley Hall and St. Columba’s Church. A fine row of trees lines the road behind a stone wall which continues the attractive streetscape of Headingley Lane, particularly on the northern side.

11.3 Spaces

11.3.1 Despite the infill over the last century significant spaces remain, partly as private gardens, e.g. Hilly Ridge House, Ridgeway House, Hinsley Hall and Rosehurst, partly as school playing fields at Spring Bank, Ford House and Rose Court, but also as public space at Dagmar Wood on Grosvenor Road where community events take place.

11.4 Key Features of Headingley Hill

1.4.1 The area is dominated by Headingley Lane, a broad avenue lined by stone walls, mature trees and stone paving, accompanied by avenues at right-angles, also tree-lined, with stone walls and setts.

11.4.2 The avenues are dominated by very large buildings, often three or more storeys, of brick or stone, in a variety of grand styles with distinctive features/ornamentation.

11.4.3 The houses are set in spacious, wooded grounds.

11.4.4 The avenues are linked by ginnels and other footpaths which enhance permeability, most notably the diagonal route from Woodhouse Cliff to Woodhouse Ridge.

11.4.5 Many twentieth century infill buildings do not relate comfortably either to the streetscape or to their surroundings.


Extracted from Headingley & Hyde Park Neighbourhood Design Statement, Leeds City Council, 2010. The whole document comprises 56 pages, in twenty chapters, with 150 illustrations in full colour. Copies are available online at <http://www.leeds.gov.uk/docs/Headingley%20and%20HP%20NDS.pdf> or in print at HEART on Bennett Road.