By now Hunslet was known for the manufacture of pre-dyed woollen cloth.6 Around 200 families lived there.5
Most people would associate Hunslet with the industrial revolution but its history starts in the Bronze Age. Its transition from a peaceful, rural area to the smoky, noisy workshop many of us remember is outlined in these pages. Hoards from the Bronze age (2300-700BC) and Iron age (700BC-43AD) have been found at Carr Moorside, near Hunslet Moor.1 However, the documented history of Hunslet starts just after the Norman conquest.
After the Norman Conquest in 1066, William the Conqueror divided the estates between his warriors: the era of manors under the Normans began. Ilbert de Lacy (who came from Lassy in Normandy) was given his lands in about 1070. In 1084 Hunslet was one of the manors held by him. He sub-let all of the parish of Leeds, probably, to Paganel or Paynel. Ilbert settled at Pontefract Castle.6
In 1086 the Norman Domesday officials arrived in the village of Leeds to value the manor. They noted a priest whose parish included not only the inhabitants of the manor of Leeds, but also those of the manors of Allerton, Gipton, Osmondthorpe, Beeston, Hunslet, Holbeck, Wortley, Farnley, Bramley, Armley and Headingley.1
“In Hunslet there are six carucates (a carucate was about 120 acres) of land for geld (i.e. to be taxed), where three ploughing may be. Eight villeins (i.e. agricultural labourers) are there having three ploughs and six acres of meadow. Wood, pasturable (i.e. pasture) five quarenteens (i.e. a strip of land - a furlong) in length and four in breadth.”
Beyond the Swan Junction is Old Mill Lane and on an island in the river stood Hunslet Soke Mill, mentioned in the Domesday Book. It had to supply 30 sheaves of corn annually to the Priory of Drax.12
De Lacy's family owned the manor until Alice (who married the Earl of Lancaster) died in 1348.
Hunslet then had various lords of the manor until the early 1400s, when Richard Gascoigne (c.1355-c.1423) bought a large estate there from Hugh del Hay and Margaret his wife.4
Sir Thomas Neville of Liversedge married a Gascoigne heir and became owner of Hunslet, (“a village of quiet cleanliness and repose”) in the 1500s.
“Under the Gascoignes and Nevilles, the features of Hunslet were a great manor house and park5: this was Hunslet Hall. Hunslet itself featured "a slender and obsequious population, a feeble and unskilful husbandry, but quiet, cleanliness and repose”. 5
Hunslet Hall was formerly a stately building surrounded with a considerable park and presenting all the indications of aristocratic consequence and affluence.5 It was demolished in about 19306.
In 1569 Sir John Neville was accused of joining the Northern Rebellion (The Rising of the North: an unsuccessful uprising against Elizabeth I by Catholics in northern England, whose aim was to replace her with Mary I of Scotland) and the estate was confiscated.
The estate was given by Elizabeth to Sir Edward Carey. His second son, Sir Philip Carey, with John Carey, his son and heir, sold all the lands, mills and wastes to the inhabitants, (principally to the Fentons, Baynes's and Cowpers).
When Sir Philip broke up his estate, the Hunslet Hall was abandoned. In the early 1700s it was renovated but soon again abandoned.5
Alf Mattison, a Hunslet antiquarian, said that in 1600 Hunslet was a tiny, isolated village with pleasant meadows. Agriculture gave way to cloth-making, then flax spinning, pottery, and chemicals.
Charles I granted a charter in response to a petition from Leeds people. Hunslet, up to then an independent township, then became part of Leeds borough.6
Hunslet Parish Church (St. Mary The Virgin) was founded in 1629 and consecrated in 1636.
Click on a period in the drop-down box on the right to read how Hunslet developed from a peaceful rural backwater to one of the leading industrial areas of Britain. In 1908 Alf Mattison wrote: "The Hunslet of today might well be termed the heart of industrial Leeds, throbbing with unceasing activity. The products of its forges, engineering shops, and great locomotive works carry its name and fame to every corner of the civilised world. In the closely-packed streets, with their teeming population, and amid the ordered turmoil of the busy works, there seems nothing to suggest that less than a century ago this smoke-clouded, begrimed district was one of the most favoured residential parts of Leeds, with stately mansions of the merchant princes set in the midst of fair gardens and orchards.” 12*
* A list of references marked by superscripts - for example, 12 - is at the bottom of the "1900 onwards" page.
Up to 1700
A short history
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