Generations of local residents and visitors have known and even loved the Headingley Arndale Centre. Black Forest Gateau at Silvio’s Alpine Coffee Shop, teenage parties at the bowling alley, cabaret shows at the Cigany, and even a cowboy and horse - memories are made of these. The Centre itself has gone through many iterations. Now, after being taken over by Schroders, it is undergoing further modernisation and improvement and is renamed Headingley Central.
Arndale Centres were built in the 1960s to mirror the new shopping malls being developed across America. They quickly spread across the country including two built in Leeds, in Headingley and Crossgates. The name Arndale itself comes from Arnold Hagenbach and Sam Chippendale, both Yorkshiremen who merged parts of their own names when they formed the Arndale Property Trust. Their new shopping centres were conceived as replacements for out-of-date, often empty and decaying town centres.
But they were controversial from the start. In 1964 architectural writer James Lees-Milne complained bitterly that they were destroying historic Victorian town centres and replacing local independent shops with new large, concrete, ‘brutalist’ buildings filled with chain stores, supermarkets, and blocks of offices and flats.
However over time Arndale Centres came to be widely accepted as the centre of many communities. They were popular as they symbolised changing times. They served a new consumerist revolution which included modern buildings, shopping by car, wider walkways often sheltered from the weather, and the convenience of “precinct shopping”.
So what do we remember of the old Headingley Arndale Centre? Its supermarkets included Woolworths, Carlines, and Safeways. For money and stamps there was a Lloyd’s Bank and the Post Office. Cowley’s Fruit and Veg shop, Dorothea’s Wool Shop, Rumbelows the electricians, Walkers Bookshop, Radio Rentals, My Cleaners were all there. For eating and leisure there was Silvio’s rather exotic Alpine coffee shop and bakery, a KFC (one of their earliest UK take-aways), and the one and only Headingley Bowling Alley.
There was also Cigany’s, a rather infamous ‘revue bar’ which was reputedly frequented by the Leeds United football stars. In addition the Centre had its very own cowboy called ‘The Colonel’. He claimed to know famous cowboy stars and regularly paraded up and down outside the shops on his horse greeting everyone cheerily.
Over the years the Headingley Arndale Centre has changed its looks. Different shops, offices and leisure activities have come and gone. Yet it is a landmark building which continues to dominate the Headingley skyline and influence the lives of all who live, work and visit the place. After all, it always was “let’s meet at the Arndale Centre”, and now we will all be meeting at Headingley Central.
Helen Pickering, May 2019
Historic photos © Francis Frith & Co