Moortown is within an area that was described as wasteland in the Doomsday book and would have been largely moor with some woodland and marsh until farming was developed, probably by monks from Allerton Grange (a Kirkstall Abbey farmstead).
A 1781 map still shows our area as being substantially moor, and names as Moortown Leys an area where two tracks cross, on the lines of King Lane and Stonegate Rd.
John Tuke 1781 map*
It also shows a first settlement, named Moor Allerton (Harrogate Rd. near the junction with Falkland Mt.) and followed later by Moor Allerton Bottoms (at the junction of Harrogate Rd. and Gledhow Valley Rd.) and High Moor Allerton (on Harrogate Rd. North of Sand Hill Lane).The hamlets were on an established route north from Leeds, now Harrogate Rd. on which a 19thC milestone remains (opposite Lidgett Lane); this was recovered and restored by Leeds City Council following a campaign by MCG who provided the associated plaque.
The largest hamlet was Moor Allerton itself and a number of stone Georgian houses, both small and large, remain including both our Grade 2 listed buildings.
The area had become almost entirely enclosed farmland (see Historic Map 1 - 1840).
There were several farms, no buildings of which remain, and a few traders with small businesses, particularly in High Moor Allerton. There is also evidence of quarrying for sand (Sand Hill Lane) and of clay for brick making (Southlands Crescent).
The three hamlets expanded, but remained discreet: various maps and directories called them either Moortown or Moor Allerton and the names seem to have become synonymous. New developments were limited in extent but significant, eg. the Chained Bull Coaching Inn (on Harrogate Rd., the site of M&S) and of some larger houses for the wealthier classes moving out from a grimy city centre eg. Allerton Lodge (off Falkland Mount).
Chained Bull Coaching Inn (photo. c 1925) *
Allerton Lodge (Grade 2 listed)
Moortown continued to be dominated by agriculture for the rest of the 19thC, although another clay quarry and brickworks opened on Street Lane, together with 8 adjacent cottages built in 1870. The quarry and brickworks soon closed but the cottages remain.
Brick workers cottages on Street Lane
The 1851 Directory of Leeds refers to the “small village of Moor Allerton or Moortown”, and in 1872 it records the “agricultural hamlet” of Moor Allerton as having “several good residences” and gives the population as 700. By 1900 Moortown had a new Methodist chapel and an elementary school, both on Shadwell Lane. There were also an increasing number of larger houses as those who could afford to escaped the centre of Leeds. These were mostly alongside existing roads extending the built environment outside the original hamlet centres. Many of these properties remain and there are good examples along Harrogate Rd. (eg. Keldholme and the Grange - now St Gemma’s), and on Lidgett Lane (3 pairs of semis from no.254).
Public transport reached Moortown in this period with a horse drawn omnibus service to the City, and later to feed the trams which initially ran only to Chapeltown. Street Lane was also straightened and widened with a view to the introduction of trams. (see Historic Map 7 1908-1910).
Little changed in the first decade of the 20thC, though the tram system was extended to Moortown Corner and along Street Lane, and this presaged the serious development of Moortown as a suburb of Leeds.
Tram on Harrogate Rd. passing Lidgett Lane*
The inter war years saw the elimination of farmland as mini estates of family houses were built throughout the area. They were often initially isolated, but soon linked to form a contiguous built up area.
A variety of businesses were established on Harrogate Road between Street Lane and what is now Scott Hall Road including garages, the building business of Leonard Lax (who built many houses in Moortown), shops and a Midland Bank branch (established in 1928) and in 1936 the Stainburn Parade shops were constructed.
Moortown Garage 1939 (398 Harrogate Road)*
Main routes were enhanced by the construction of Scott Hall Rd. and Street Lane West in the 1930’s and Ring Road extension in the 1940’s. The latter required the demolition of a number of small early 19thC “High Moor Allerton” stone houses on Harrogate Road, including Providence Place and its old smithy. Public transport was enhanced by the addition of motor buses to include new estates not close to tram routes, eg.Lidgett Lane, Scott Hall Road and Shadwell Lane.
Leisure facilities were also developed; the original Chained Bull Inn being replaced by a new Public House of the same name (demolished 2008 for M&S) with adjacent cricket, tennis and bowls facilities at different times; the “Yorkshire Bank” sports ground was also established. The Corner House cinema (Moortown Corner, later a casino and shops) opened in 1938 with squash courts and a café, but soon closed and became a dance venue. The Kingsway cinema on Harrogate Rd. (site of Beechwood Court flats) opened in 1937, this lasted longer but became the Central Vilna synagogue in 1959; the Art Deco building was demolished in the 1990’s after a fire.
Kingsway cinema 1937*
Moortown had transformed in some 30 years from an agricultural village on the outskirts of Leeds to a fully developed suburb (see 1933-1953 map) for the burgeoning middle classes, complete with shops, entertainment and established transport for commuting.