Leeds is famous for its wealth of culture, knowledge and for having a lively nightlife. But did you know, there are some unusual, weird and interesting facts that you may not know about this beautiful city?
Every city has its share of skeletons in the closet, history and more. But we’ve dug up some really weird stuff—you may be surprised at what else makes Leeds a famous place.
Leeds has been inhabited since ancient times. The area was first settled by the Elmets, a Celtic tribe, and later became a manor under Illbert de Lacy, in about 1086. The town had its first charter in 1207, under Maurice de Gant and has been on the books ever since.
With this much history, Leeds has been thought to be haunted by ghosts and poltergeists. Paranormal activity has even been noted in the city. Some of the most haunted places in Leeds include:
• Armley Mills: has a long history of poltergeist activity, including the slamming and opening of doors—apparently done by no apparent human hand. They say the site is haunted by a small boy that can be heard crying at times, a man in a top hat and a Victorian lady dressed in black.
• The House of Hassetts: is a famously haunted spot in Leeds that’s even been included on the show Haunted Homes. According to the stories, the Hassetts, a family who lived there for 20 years, experienced paranormal activities. Another story says that dogs won’t even inspect scary noises—they tend to run away instead! Who can blame them!
• Kirkstall Abbey: this monastery was closed when Henry VIII forced many Catholic religious communities to be eliminated. One story says there’s a rather hazy figure of a woman who appears—people think her name is Mary. The story says that she saw her husband commit murder, and then turned him in. No wonder her soul’s restless!
A Guinness Word Book Record for the Largest Wedding Party
Not only is Leeds a very haunted place, but it holds another unique distinction—it was the setting for the world’s largest wedding party! The wedding of Amy Ewing to DJ Alex Simmons featured 230 bridesmaids and 103 ushers. There were only 20 official guests who were not part of the wedding party!
Amy and Alex had planned on a small wedding, but had entered a competition by a bridal shop in the area owned by Abbi Lewis. They won a £15,000 ceremony, a reception at the exclusive Rudding Park Hotel and more. Amy received a beautiful bride’s gown that would have run them about £2,000, along with all of the bridesmaid dresses and usher’s suits. The couple also received free flowers, photographs and more. What a lovely, interesting tale for this bride and groom!
The Biggest Golf Event
Back in 1929, Moortown Golf Club (founded in 1909) was chosen as the setting for the Ryder Cup. Not only that, but this was the first-ever Ryder Cup event in Europe. The golf club’s course was designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, a famous golf architect who also designed the Masters golf course in Augusta, Georgia.
The event drew in 15,000 + crowds, who had to endure some nasty weather during the event. Hail and snow came down—you know these people were die-hards.
Hippo Bones in Leeds
It’s hard to imagine hippos running around Leeds, but it’s true. Hippo bones were unearthed in 1851, by workers who were working on Leeds regeneration works. The bones were confirmed by experts to be from a hippo that most likely lived in the area over 100,000 years ago.
These days, the area is not as temperate as it was when the hippos roamed the area. However, back when the hippos lived, it was quite pleasant in that interglacial period. The climate most resembled some areas you can find in Africa. In fact, other interesting finds in the Leeds area have included the bones of an elephant and even an auroch!
Sheep Grazing on a Rooftop
At first glance, sheep grazing on a rooftop could come off as rather peculiar. However, these days with innovative houses built into the ground and/or the sides of hills, you may have encountered this strange phenomenon.
The rooftop sheep were grazing on the Temple Works, a former flax mill dating from Victorian times. Why did they have sheep eating on the roof, you may ask? Well, it seems the sheep were actually performing a service—they helped to maintain the building’s humidity.
This beautiful building also has the distinction of having the largest room in the world!
Carbonated Water Originated in Leeds
Do you love your fizzy drinks or carbonated mineral water? Then you’ll have to be grateful to Joseph Priestley, who discovered fizzy water about 250 years ago. He didn’t set out to create bubbly water but discovered this treat quite by accident.
The story goes that Priestly first discovered how to carbonate water by suspending a bowl of water over a beer vat. The water became carbonated from the air over the fermenting beer. Priestly tried the water and liked it. He quickly served it to others, who found the drink both refreshing and invigorating.
So, be sure to say a thank you to Joseph Priestly for the carbonated water and soda we now enjoy. Who would have thought the idea came from Leeds?
Cluedo, the Famous Board Game
Do you enjoy playing board games? Did you know Leeds was the place where a famous board game was developed? Have you ever heard of or played the game called Cluedo? This game is also known as Clue in other countries, including the U.S.
The game was originally developed by Anthony E. Pratt. The game went by another name in the beginning—it had the moniker “Murder!” Cluedo just sounds so much more pleasant.
This famous who-done-it game was first created in 1944, when Pratt and his wife, Elva, first presented the game to Waddingtons in Leeds. Interestingly, the game had a delayed start due to shortages after the war. The game was finally out in 1949, and from there it’s become a world-famous game enjoyed by kids and adults around the globe.
Leeds has so much history and culture, with many a weird tale. From the paranormal and rooftop-grazing sheep, to the largest wedding and the game of Clue, Leeds is a famous city with much to offer—you should visit sometime, and learn some more unique facts about this beautiful city!
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.