Changing Times In The Largest Indoor Market In Europe

Kirkgate Market In Leeds

Kirkgate Market In Leeds

Kirkgate Market
Kirkgate Market in the center of Leeds in Yorkshire in the north of England is the largest indoor market in Europe.

There were five markets in Leeds at one time – some dating back to the Middle Ages – but as the city became richer and the middle of Leeds became ritzier, the markets were amalgamated in the early 1800s in one central location that expanded until it reached the size it is today.

Although I left Leeds when I was eighteen and came back just three years ago, I still feel that I know the market well. I used to walk through it every day on my way to and from school. I remember varying my route so that I would through different sections of the market on different days.

My mother and grandmother bought fish in the market so I had a certain liking for the fish stalls and would mentally acknowledge that when I passed them.

It was from listening to my mother talking with the stallholders that I learned a little about what to look for in a fish – from the way the fish would curl at the head and tail to the way its eye sinks slightly into its head when it has lost its freshness.

Map of Kirkgate Market

Map of Kirkgate Market

The ‘New’ Building
The building you can see in the photograph above dates back to 1904 – to the heyday of Edwardian England when Leeds was proudly ensconced as a national and international center of the woollen industry.

This new building with its fancy cupolas provided a more upmarket frontage onto Vicar Lane and was built onto the existing market buildings.

Behind The Facade
This map shows the full extent of the market. It is all the of the area shown shaded blue. Within it, the part shown shaded dark grey is the building in the photograph.

As you can see, the posh building is only a comparatively small part of the whole area over which the market extends. The less grand buildings run for hundreds of yards with an open air market at the very far end.

The Origin Of Marks & Spencer
Many firms started their businesses in the market and generations of immigrant and native-born entrepreneurs have passed through on their way to better things.

Marks & Spencer, the world-famous store with branches all over the world started life in Kirkgate market in 1884 as the ‘Penny Bazaar’.

From Destruction By Fire To Architectural Recognition
The market suffered terribly when a fire swept through it in 1975. A large part of the market was destroyed, but the famous glass roof and the cupolas were saved from destruction and no one was seriously injured in the fire.

The building was refurbished and was then placed on the statutory list of buildings of ‘Special Architectural or Historic Interest’. It was given a Grade 1 listing – the highest rank given in England to buildings that are recognised as being of special importance.

That means that every architectural feature of the building is noted, and any changes to the building that are proposed have to pass a stringent set of checks to ensure that the character of the building is preserved.

In a nutshell, it means that very little can be done to the building.

In the case of great public buildings like Kirkgate Market, it means that the site is safe from the hands of developers who might see a chance to build another carbuncle in the city.

Kirkgate Market Glass Roof

Kirkgate Market Glass Roof

The Crowning Glory
The market’s crowning glory is the series of cupolas and towers that you can see in the photograph at the beginning of this article.

Behind those is a central glass roof that sits high above the bustle below. I photographed it from the vantage point of an upper floor balcony and it was only while I was doing so that I noticed the colorful design that reminds me of Scandinavian architecture.

Photography And ‘Looking’
As an aside, that is one of the things I love about photography – how it insists that the photographer ‘looks’.

Seeing the photograph at 100% on a computer screen makes it all the more easy to let the eye follow the curves and features of the design of the glass roof. Don’t you think the colors are attractive?

Kirkgate Market Glass Roof Detail

Kirkgate Market Glass Roof Detail

In The Market
The abattoir that stood next to the market is gone but early in the morning the workers still carry whole animal carcasses in from the out-of-town abbatoir and through to the butchers stalls.

The butchers stalls run down one side of the market, while fish and delicatessen stalls line the other side. Meat, fish, flowers, biscuits, and a million other things that are sold in the market continue to contribute to a unique smell that has been ground into the Yorkshire stone flagstones (local paving stones) by generations of tradesmen and customers.

Changing Times
Some of the businesses in the market have been there for a long time.

T.E. Bethel fishmongers is one such, having operated from Kirkgate market for more than 100 years.

In days gone by, Bethel’s sold cod, haddock, hake, plaice, and mackerel from the fishing grounds off the British coasts and the north Atlantic.

But times have changed and Leeds is now more cosmopolitan than at any other time in its history. And to meet the palates and tastes of this new customer base, Bethel’s now offer many fish that would have seemed exotic just a few years ago.

Tilapia From Mozambique

Tilapia From Mozambique

These include:

    Golden Pomfret from India and China
    Snappers from the Carribean
    Dorade from Greece
    Tilapia from Mozambique
    - and others.
Red Mullet From The Channel Islands

Red Mullet From The Channel Islands

Jamie Oliver’s Ministry Of Food
When I came back to live in Leeds three years ago, I noticed empty stalls and a lack of ‘sparkle’ in the way the market operated.

Over the last year however I have seen more stalls opening up and the market is open for longer hours and the future may look brighter than it did a little while ago.

As a sign of this revival, the nationally famous chef Jamie Oliver has opened a stall named the Ministry of Food in Kirkgate Market.

As long as I have known Kirkgate market it has been the province of ‘working class’ Leeds. Some people in Leeds never shop there, preferring to shop in more upmarket places.

So to see Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food in Kirkgate market helps to bring about a paradigm shift in the way markets are seen.

Jamie also has Ministry Of Food stalls in the markets in Rotherham and Bradford, so all three are in West Yorkshire. I was surprised to learn that there were only these three in the country. I would have expected him to have stalls in markets ‘down South’ near London.

The Ministry of Food offers taster sessions for the courses it runs. The courses themselves run over ten weeks and are dedicated to helping anyone learn how to make ‘fabulous tasty, healthy and simple meals from scratch.’ To join a course, no qualification is needed beyond a desire to learn how to cook.

This is of course in line with Jamie Oliver’s mission to bring healthier eating to the tables of British households.

Golden Pomfret

Golden Pomfret

The Language Of The Market
As I walked through the market today, I was thinking about the give and take, the banter and the discussions and the exchanges – and I took a few photographs as I walked along.

It was while doing this that I saw the same action over and over again.

Of course, it was the exchange of money for goods, and of change given.

As I thought about life in the market, I couldn’t help but think that the human contact is in marked contrast to how we shop in the supermarket.

A Customer Getting Change From A Stallholder In Kirkgate Market - Leed

A Customer Getting Change From A Stallholder In Kirkgate Market - Leeds

This article appears in the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa carnival “The Marketplace” at IndianBazaars where you will find links to more articles about markets around the world!

Going Back To Waterloo Lake

Back To Waterloo Lake

I have been making some loose panoramas, including some of Waterloo Lake in Roundhay Park, Leeds.

I call them ‘loose’ panoramas because of how I shoot them.

Articles and tutorials on how to make panoramas by blending a number of photographs say you should place your camera on a tripod. Then the idea is to pan around taking a series of photographs, overlapping each shot with the next.

Then you should raise the tripod head and shoot another string of photos.

And then raise the tripod again, and shoot a third set.

The next step is to merge all these separate photographs in Photoshop using the Automate > Photomerge tool that combines all the individual shots to make one huge composite photograph.

There are also special tripod heads that eliminate parallax distortion.

That is the distortion you get when you hold your finger up in front of your face and look at it with one eye closed, then with just the other eye closed, and your finger appears to move.

These special pano-heads as they are often called, sit on top of the tripod and offset the camera on the tripod so as to eliminate that distortion.

Back To Fast And Loose

Which brings me back to the ‘loose’ panoramas I prefer to take because frankly, sometimes I don’t care about the distortion, which anyway is much less for objects that are further from the camera.

So my technique is to do away with the tripod completely and just take a whole series of overlapping shots handheld.

Why Not Just Take One Photograph

One reason for making panoramas from a number of photographs is to cover a larger area than can be covered in one shot.

That leads to the second reason. While, of course, you can often move back to take a single shot, you cannot get the perspective you can get by raising, lowering, and panning the camera for a whole series of shots that you combine into one photograph.

A third reason for making composites is that the resulting photograph is very big. Instead of the 6, 10, 12, or whatever number of megapixels the camera has in its sensor, the finished panorama can be 100 megapixels or more.

That means you can print the photograph as big as the side of a bus if you wish.

Waterloo Lake Roundhay Park Leeds

Waterloo Lake - Roundhay Park - Leeds

This is a ‘loose’ panorama I took today of the head of Waterloo lake in Roundhay Park in Leeds under a leaden sky.

The park is over 700 acres (280 hectares) and is owned by the local council for the benefit of the public.

Roundhay Park – A Very, Very Brief History

The park was laid out in 1815 and the lake was made by damming up the far end of the quarry that was there.

The work was done by the then recently-unemployed soldiers who had ended their service following the battle of Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon’s forces earlier that year.

And that is why the lake was named Waterloo Lake.

When I Was Little

When I was very little – perhaps two or three years old – my mum, dad, and I would go out on the lake in one of the rowing boats you could hire.

I can picture my dad rowing, with his shirt sleeves rolled up.

Faintly in my memory I can hear the boatmaster calling out to boats on the lake: “Come in number nine, your time is up,” but I may be confusing this with other boating lakes that hired out boats.

A Phrase That Entered English Folk Language

Certainly the phrase ‘Come in number nine, [or whatever number you want] your time is up,’ became part of English folk language used by comedians and raconteurs in all kinds of situations.

It was so much a part of the language that it was used as the title of a song by Pink Floyd, who re-recorded and retitled one of their tracks to “Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up” for the film Zabriskie Point.

Foreign Shores

When my parents and I were out on the lake, they would tell me that we were rowing to another country.

At three years old that bothered me because I couldn’t reconcile the idea of ‘another country’ with the knowledge that I could see the land around the lake encircling us.

The Seed That Sowed The Travel Bug

Looking back, I wonder whether the travel bug that bit me was sown when I was told we were traveling to a foreign country on Waterloo lake.

Waterloo Lake Today

Tamara and I came to live in Leeds three years ago, temporarily while we consider our next move.

The boats that used to be for hire on the lake are no longer there, but the cafe above the former boathouse has been spiffied up and we often drop in there after a walk around the lake and through the woods that dot the park.

This article is part of the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa series, hosted this time by Natalia, Willem, and Steve who are exploring the world their way over at No Beaten Path. Why not take a look at their roundup of really great articles on the theme of Going Back.

There are times when ‘loose’ panoramas produce some wacky results, such as when photographing large buildings close up. I will post some of these photographs in another article shortly, so why not sign up for the RSS or email so that you know when the article appears.

Advance Planning For Spring Lambs In The Yorkshire Dales

Ewe With Lamb In The Yorkshire Dales

Ewe With Lamb In The Yorkshire Dales

The Farmer And His Sheep

Sheep farmers in the Yorkshire Dales in the north of England face a short spring and summer season.

Therefore it is important for them to put their lambs out in the fields as soon as the new spring grass starts to come through so that the lambs can benefit from the fresh young shoots.

All About Gestation

The average gestation period for a ewe is 147 days but, unlike humans, sheep only have an average of 17 days in the year when they are in estrus, as the breeding cycle is called.

Furthermore, within that 17 days, they are only receptive to being mated for approximately 24 to 36 hours!

So getting the timing of the lambing right that far in advance of spring is a challenge for the farmers.

A Heady Brew

Now fast forward to spring. As we wrote about when we visited Hurries Farm in the Dales two years ago, once one ewe goes into labour, the others in the flock are affected by the heady brew of hormones.

The result is that all the flock gives birth over a very intensive one-or-two-day period.

The Lambs Are Let Into The Fields Soon After They Are Born

The farmer lets the ewes and their lambs loose into the fields as soon as possible, and the two lambs in this photograph are just 24 hours old.

I photographed them with their mother yesterday in a field near the village of Burnsall deep in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

I hope to go back to the Dales in the next week or two, and I expect to see many more lambs in the fields that fill the valleys there.

Ewe and newborn lambs in the Yorkshire Dales

Ewe And NewBorn Lambs In The Yorkshire Dales