Leeds Corn Exchange: What a Gem of a Building

In Leeds City Centre we find a magnificently preserved gem of Victorian architecture known as the Corn Exchange.

Leeds Corn Exchange

Completed in 1864, this grade 1 listed building, designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, designer of Leeds Town Hall, is still one of the most emblematic buildings in Leeds City Centre, along with other works of art such as Leeds Market and the arcades that score the city.

Leeds Corn Exchange is one of only three corn exchanges in the country still operating in their original capacity as a centre of trade, albeit no longer trade in corn.

There is very little information about the history of this building available online and to really get a feel for the corn trade and the hustle and bustle of a late 1800s marketplace you would have to go to the town hall and dig out the records.

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However, it is known that it has not always been in the immaculate state in which we find it now and that after it closed as a traditional corn exchange it became run-down and was neglected almost to the point of dereliction, until that area of the city was given a facelift and was regenerated.

Looking at the Corn Exchange nowadays, one would never imagine that it had ever been anything other than the proud and solid centrepiece that it is today, located in a bohemian area of town, surrounded by cobbled streets, trendy bars and funky shops.

And indeed, there is much of the same inside the great domed hall, which has balconies on different levels all around the edges with great sweeping staircases leading to them. The balconies are lined with funky artisane shops selling hand-made jewellery, clothes, body art and paintings and it has been this way since 1985 when it became a shopping centre, so for as long as I have known the building.

Leeds Corn Exchange

There was a restoration project in 2007 when Leeds-based chef Anthony Flinn took over the basement floor and many of the shops, with plans to convert it into a food emporium. There was some outcry from the locals as many traders were forced out of their shops.

There have always been events and fairs in the Corn Exchange, such as handicraft fairs and music fairs when the spacious ground floor is converted into a market place with plenty of stalls while the permanent businesses continue as usual. For example, there is a unique gift fair taking place on the 7th, 8th and 9th of this month and a record fair at the end of the month. For up-to-date information about events taking place in the Corn Exchange, click here.

Make sure you pay a visit to Leeds Corn Exchange, even if there is no event on, and make sure that you allow yourself at least an hour and a half for browsing, eating and soaking up the atmosphere.

Find out more about Leeds here.

Leeds Corn Exchange

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  1. susan sykes says:

    Fabulous photos I was in there last Saturday and I will be going for the craft fair this week-end, I didn’t know Cuthbert Broderick had designed it, I knew about the town hall but not the corn exchange, there is a pub in Millenium Square named after him.

    • Lisa says:

      Oooh careful, don’t give the game away; I’ve got a post planned about Leeds architecture and Whetherspoon’s! Glad you have learnt something about your own city from my blog though 🙂 Glad you like the photos, it’s hard to fail with such a photogenic building…

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