60 Fun & Interesting Facts About Leeds, England

Gateway to several national parks and the far north of England, Leeds was an industrial powerhouse that is today known for its many Victorian relics.

On this page, you’ll learn all about the city through 60+ educational, interesting, and fun facts about Leeds, United Kingdom.  

General Leeds Facts

  • Leeds is the fifth-largest city in England, with an area of 552 km2 (213 mi2), almost two times as big as Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.
  • Leeds is the largest city in the Yorkshire (formerly called County of York), which is the largest county of England.
  • Leeds is the furthest north major city in England, located 165 km (103 mi) from the England–Scotland border.
  • Leeds sits at roughly the same latitude as Hamburg (Germany) and Edmonton (Canada). 
  • Metropolitan Leeds, which is also called West Yorkshire and includes the cities of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, and Huddersfield, has a population of 2.3 million, making it the 4th largest urban area in England, after London, Birmingham, and Manchester.
View of buildings and a large church in downtown Leeds England
The Leeds skyline
  • 92% of the population of Leeds speak the Northern accent of English, also called the Yorkshire dialect. The rest speak Polish, Urdu, and Punjabi.
  • The antipodal city to Leeds is Papatowai, Otaga in New Zealand.
  • The name Leeds is derived from the Celtic word Ladenses, which means “people of the fast-flowing river”, in reference to the River Aire that flows through the city.
  • A person from Leeds is called a Lioner, which is a name that’s thought to have originated from the city’s old name, Loidis.
A golden owl statue, which is a symbol of Leeds
The golden own, symbol of Leeds, stands outside Leeds Civic Hall.
  • The owl is the civic symbol of Leeds, and the Leeds coat of arms has three owls on it. There’s a 7 ft high gold-leafed owl sculpture outside Leeds Civic Hall.
  • The motto of Leeds is ‘Pro rege et lege,’ which is Latin for ‘For king and law.’

Random Interesting Facts

  • Leeds has 62 community parks, including Roundhay Park, one of the largest parks in Europe, at 700 acres (2.8 km2 or 1.08 mi2). The park sees over 1 million visitors per year.
A calm pond in Roundhay Park
Roundhay Park is one of the country’s largest city parks.
  • Leeds’s official football team, Leeds United, is also nicknamed The Peacocks and The Whites.
  • Team mottos/anthems include “Leeds Leeds Leeds”, Marching on together, and ALAW, which is an acronym for ‘All Leeds, Aren’t We?’.
  • There are many other sports teams based in Leeds, such as Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Leads Rhino Rugby team, and the American football team The Yorkshire Rams.
  • Leeds Bridge made an appearance in the first moving picture by the French artist Louis Le Prince. The bridge dates to 1870.
Leeds Bridge surrounded by typical Leeds architecture at night
Historic Leeds Bridge
  • Leeds City Museum contains the bones of a hippopotamus, believed to have roamed Leeds over 100,000 years ago.
  • Leeds is the home of The Royal Armories Museum of the UK, which features displays of Ancient and Medieval warfare till the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • The tallest maypole (a wooden pole erected for folk celebrations) in the UK stands proudly in Leeds. Called Barwick-in-Elmet, it stands 26 m (86 ft).
  • The 1,000 acres of land of Temple Newsam, which has 42 rooms, lakes, a farm, and a parkland, is described as one of the top heritage properties in Britain.
A path between two rows of trees in fall at Temple Newsam in Leeds
Tree-lined path at Temple Newsam
  • The Leeds Town Hall clock never chimes at midnight, except on the new year.
  • Leeds has an apartment block that was built upside down, mistakenly putting the ground floor wall panels on the upper floor.
Calm waters on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, with some boats and buildings on either side
The Leeds–Liverpool Canal
  • The famous candy Jelly Tots were accidentally invented by the Leeds scientist Dr. Brian Boffey and released in 1965.
  • On the first Monday in August, a public holiday, Leeds holds the annual Leeds Carnival. It is the oldest Caribbean Carnival in Europe, held since 1967.
  • The English writer and scholar J.R.R. Tolkien lived in Leeds before writing Lord of the Rings.
  • Before J. J. Schweppe developed carbonated water and started the Schweppes Company in Geneva in 1783, Joseph Priestley was the one who discovered the method of infusing water with carbon dioxide in Leeds in 1767.
  • Leeds is the birthplace and home of the famous comedian Ernie Wise.
Exterior of Leeds Town Hall
Leeds Town Hall
  • The famous crime drama Peaky Blinders has scenes shot at Leeds Town Hall and various studios in Leeds.
  • Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the father of American Architecture, was born in Leeds. Latrobe helped in the design of the White House, United States Capitol building, and the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in America.
  • Harry Houdini, the famous American magician, nearly killed himself in Leeds. He almost failed an attempt to escape a padlocked can, filled with beer, but was luckily saved by his assistant.
  • The University of Leeds is 1st in the UK for Business Administration, 7th for Accounting and Finance, and 10th for Business, Management, and Marketing.
Exterior of the Business School of Leeds University
Leeds University has had many famous graduates.
  • The founder of IMDb, Col Needham, studied Computer Science at Leeds University.
  • Triathlon World Champions, the Brownlee brothers, studied Sports Science and Physiology at Leeds University.
  • Sir Edmund Happold, the structural engineer who designed some of the most famous buildings in the world, such as Sydney Opera House, Hyde Park Barracks, and Riyadh Conference Center, was born in Leeds in 1930.
  • The Vicar Lane restaurant is the only Michelin-star restaurant in Leeds, but there are other restaurants that are recommended by the Michelin guide.
A motorway just outside of Leeds city center
Leeds is the original motorway city.
  • Leeds is the original Motorway City. Motorways have gone around and through Leeds since 1959, when the M1 was first opened.
  • Leeds has seven twin cities, including Brno (Czech Republic), Hangzhou (China), and Louisville (USA).

Historical Facts

  • The first mention of Leeds dates to 730 AD; little is know about the area before that time, although some Bronze and Iron Age objects have been found.
  • In 2008-9, the West Yorkshire Hoard was found, a collection of treasures dating to the 10th or 11th centuries, suggesting an important Anglo-Saxon settlement.
Farmland in West Yorkshire, around Leeds
Leeds and West Yorkshire was primarily agricultural for much of its early history.
  • Leeds remained primarily agricultural in the following centuries, with only a few hundred people living in town. It was also an important river crossing on the route from York to Chester.
  • Kirkstall Abbey northwest of the Leeds city center was first built in 1152. Its ruins can still be visited today.
  • By the 16th century, Leeds was strongly competing with York and Beverly in the wool industry and trade.
  • A piped water supply was pumped to those who could pay in the 17th century.
Ruins of Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds
Ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, dating to Medieval times
  • In 18th century Leeds, other industries blossomed, such as pottery and brick-making, as well as other crafts like clockmaking, jewelry, and ironwork, transforming Leeds into an Industrial Revolution powerhouse.
  • By the 19th century, Leeds had gas-lit streets, started building and connecting dwellings to sewers, and was connected to Selby and York by railway.
  • Leeds holds the unfortunate record of the first rail fatality, which happened in 1821.
A brick warehouse along the river in Leeds
Former industrial warehouse along the River Aire
  • The landmark Leeds Corn Exchange building was built in 1864 in the Victorian era. Today it is a luxury shopping mall, and one of the only original corn exchange buildings in England that is still used for commercial activities today.
  • The famous Marks and Spencer clothing retail store started as a market stall in Leeds in 1884.
  • Leeds gained its title as a city in 1893.
  • The largest animal armor in the world has been displayed in Leeds City Museum since 1996. 
Exterior of the Leeds Corn Exchange building
The Leeds Corn Exchange today houses luxury boutiques.
  • The world’s first double hand transplant surgery in 2013 was successfully completed in Leeds General Infirmary.
  • In 2020, Leeds United, the city’s official football club, returned to the Premier League after 16 years of absence.