Wellington Place, Leeds

West Yorkshire

Client

Wates Construction

Services

Consultancy

Excavation

Post Excavation

Wellington Place lies between Wellington Street and Whitehall Road, on the south side of Leeds City centre. Northern Archaeological Associates’ involvement with the redevelopment of Wellington Place began in 2003, when our desk-based assessment identified that the 5.7ha site was formerly occupied by the Leeds Central railway station and goods yards. The station complex was on two levels; the upper was for passengers and the lower level housed the goods and warehousing facilities. Transfer between the two levels was via three mechanised wagon hoists, one of which survives on the site and is listed Grade II. The station was closed in 1967 and the site cleared and partially redeveloped with office and warehouse buildings.

The redevelopment of the site comprised the demolition of those 1960s/1970s buildings, and construction of a series of office blocks of between four and eight stories. Northern Archaeological Associates monitored the ground clearance for each building and recorded the exposed archaeological remains.

The debris from the demolition of previous buildings was 2m deep in places, and below that were substantial remains of structures associated with the station in its various manifestations. Cross-checking with historic mapping allowed the dates of some elements to be pinpointed.

The earliest datable feature was the base of a train turntable, constructed from large sandstone blocks around 1850 but no longer present by the time of the 1890s map revision. This was the most intriguing feature on site, as it appeared circular on the map, but was actually constructed as a regular curved hexagon, that is, with six slightly curved sides (pic). A second turntable constructed to replace the first survived only as a brick-and-concrete ring with a central pier, the stone facing having been stripped during demolition.

The excavations also revealed the remains of several ‘truck turntables’, designed to manually turn individual trucks through 90ᵒ to transfer into the goods sheds. A circular iron plate with tracks affixed was rotated using motorised capstans (similar to those used on docks). The remains visible at Wellington Place included brick and concrete foundations, segments of the cast-iron plate, and lengths of drive shafts running beneath the paved yard.

The drive shafts were originally powered by steam engines, which also provided the motive force for three wagon hoists. Adjacent to the surviving wagon hoist was the base of a steam engine’s chimney, formed from massed brickwork.

The majority of the site was dominated by the massive foundations of the viaduct piers, some standing over 2m high and with stones more than 2m in length. The goods sheds were less substantial and constructed of a mixture of stone and brick with stone-flagged floors. Between the buildings, some of the railway tracks were still in situ, and between them were whinstone pavers.

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