Leeds Book of Days

Taking you through a year, day by day, The Leeds Book of Days contains quirky, eccentric, shocking, amusing and important events and facts from different periods in the history of the city. Ideal for dipping into, this addictive little book will keep you entertained and informed. Featuring hundreds of snippets of information gleaned from the vaults of Leeds archives and covering the social, criminal, political, religious, agricultural, industrial and military history of the region, it will delight residents and visitors alike.

Extract from the book

6th May

1823. A case was reported today about the fate of climbing boys [chimney sweeps] ‘whose abolition was required by the populous of Leeds and the country in general’. The Leeds Mercury gave details of his miserable life. ‘The boy, Thomas Lee was born an illegitimate son of an African woman, who had died from drowning the previous year. At the age of nine he was apprenticed to Joseph Haddock as a climbing boy, and the township of Leeds agreed to pay Haddock 2s a week. As was usual with this trade, the child developed sore knees and elbows which were exacerbated by being forced to sweep as many as seven chimneys in one day. He was not allowed respite, despite his wounds and was often goaded up the chimneys with a fork. On several occasions when he said he could not work, he was taken to a nearby lane and beaten severely. On Wednesday last he ran away and was brought back to the workhouse where his sores were attended to. Mr Haddock was reported as being ‘a good master’, but the newspaper asked ‘if such revolting scenes are what boys can expect under good masters, what must be the situation of those in the hands of bad ones?’ (Leeds Mercury)


27th June

1812 On this day was printed an account of the first journey of a locomotive in Leeds which had been made by Messrs Fenton, Murray and Wood for the purpose of substituting steam for horses. The machine which had a steam engine of four horse power, which with the agency of cranks turning a cog wheel, and iron cogs which were then placed at one side of the railway, allows the locomotive to be capable of moving at ten miles per hour. The article stated that ‘at four o clock in the afternoon of June 24th, a machine ran from the coal staithes to the top of Hunslet Moor, where six and afterwards eight wagons of coal, each weighing 3¼ tons, were hooked to the back part. With this immense weight, to which, as it approached the town was added to the weight of about fifty of the spectators who had climbed upon the wagons. The locomotive set off on his return back to the coal staith, and performed the journey, a distance of about a mile and a half, principally on a dead level in twenty three minutes without the slightest accident’ (Feather, J W., Leeds: The Heart of Yorkshire (Leeds, Basil Jackson Publications, 1967)

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