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Leeds Peace Trail

Walk around many of the places in Leeds associated with Peace and Peace making.

1. Carlton Hill Friends Meeting House, Woodhouse Lane

The Society of Friends (or Quakers) first held meetings in Leeds in 1651. The organisation is internationally renowned for its peace-making initiatives, which includes the creation of the ‘Leeds Tapestry’ (currently in the Royal Armouries Museum) and heavy involvement in the many peace groups in Leeds.

The Friends Meeting House was originally held in a building lower down Woodhouse Lane, which was later used by the BBC. The current building was built in 1983. It holds the annual Concord Multi-faith Peace Service and is always open to community groups to promote their works.


2. Eric Gill War Memorial Sculpture, Michael Sadler Building, Leeds University

The University of Leeds was formally constituted in 1904 and is one of the largest academic institutions in the country. The university and its forerunners were specifically established to allow members of all religions (and none) to reach their academic potential – previously universities were for the exclusive use of the Anglican aristocracy and gentry.

The radical sculptor, Eric Gill, was commissioned to produce a war memorial for the University of Leeds. In 1923 he presented a frieze of the gospel story of Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple. Those expelled were dressed as contemporary Leeds merchants. Gill’s message was that the ‘money men’ were a key cause of the war. This controversial artwork challenges us to ask whether the pressures of wealth and human greed still lead to war in the 21st century.

3. Peace area, Leslie Silver Building, Leeds Metropolitan University

The origins of Leeds Metropolitan University’s began with the creation of the Leeds Mechanics Institute in 1824 and the Leeds College of Art in 1846. A number of these and other colleges amalgamated into the Leeds Polytechnic in 1970. In 1992 the Polytechnic changed its name to the Leeds Metropolitan University.

The University set up a formal twinning agreement with Hiroshima University in 1990 and hosted a major Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb exhibition in 2004. The ‘peace area’ in the Leslie Silver building hosts a version of the‘World Peace Flame’, which formally resides in front of the Peace Palace and International Court of Human Rights in The Hague. The area will also include a rolling series of peace exhibitions organised by the Praxis Centre, which is within the School for Applied Global Ethics.

4. Leeds Civic Hall

Leeds Civic Hall is the administrative centre of Leeds City Council. The building was opened in 1933 and was built as a depression alleviation project by unemployed workers from the Leeds district.

The City Council has been involved in promoting peace and justice in many ways. In 1980 the City Council declared itself a ‘Nuclear Free Zone’ and shortly after established a Peace and Emergency Planning Unit to promote its peace policies. The Unit pursues a number of continuing projects including Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Chernobyl Children’s Project, Peacelink and Mayors for Peace. It is a leading partner in the Leeds Together for Peace festival. In 2004 the City Council also declared itself the UK’s largest ‘Fairtrade City’.

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5. Mandela Gardens

Mandela Gardens were first instituted in 1982 to encourage solidarity with the plight of Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress in South Africa, who had been imprisoned by the ‘apartheid’ state in 1963. Support for the anti-apartheid movement had been strong in Leeds since the South African cricket and rugby team’s tour of the UK, which visited Headingley in the 1970s. The gardens were rededicated on the occasion of South Africa’s first full democratic election, at which Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black President.

The gardens, in the south-east corner of Millennium Square, feature a 16-foot high bronze statue entitled 'Both Arms' by internationally renowned Leeds-born sculptor Kenneth Armitage. A water feature with two circular, interlocking pools of water and ripples, cascades, jets and a mini canal forms a focal point for the garden and provides an attractive setting in which people can relax. The re-designed Mandela Gardens was officially opened by Nelson Mandela in April 2001, at a ceremony in which he was given the ‘Freedom of Leeds’.

6. St George’s Church and Crypt, Great George Street

St George’s Church was consecrated in 1838 and is one of a number of fine churches in Leeds city centre, all with a progressive history, including St Anne’s RC Cathedral, Oxford Place Methodist Church, Mill Hill Chapel and Holy Trinity Church.

In 1930, Don Robins became vicar of St George’s and, concerned with the conditions of the poor in Leeds, transformed the crypt into a centre for the unemployed and homeless. In his prayers, poems and sermons he rejected war and promoted peace. The first Leeds branch of the pacifist Peace Pledge Union met in his vicarage, yet he also maintained solidarity with ordinary soldiers. He denounced war yet embraced those caught up in it. The Church continues to help the homeless of Leeds, but has also branched out recently to assist refugees and asylum seekers.

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7. Swarthmore Education Centre, Hanover Square

The Swarthmore Centre was set up by members of the Quaker movement in 1909 with the aim of including and involving working people in learning activities and encouraging that all people are treated with equality and respect. It was expressly aimed at people who do not feel comfortable learning in traditional educational establishments and gives working and unemployed people the chance to reach their potential.

As well as hosting many progressive courses, the Centre is home to over 40 community groups and promotes a culture of tolerance and understanding to the city of Leeds. It also provides courses for refugees and asylum seekers.

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8. Leeds Town Hall

Leeds Town Hall was designed by the famous architect Cuthbert Brodrick and opened by Queen Victoria in 1858. In its long history it has been the administrative centre of the Council, the home of the City Centre Police Station and Magistrates Courts and now holds an annual International Concert Season.

The cavernous Victoria Hall has held many major peace meetings, including the 1936 Congress of the National Peace Council. It is believed to be the place where local trials of conscientious objectors took place during the Second World War. The building hosts a memorial to the Leeds volunteers who took part in the Spanish Civil War. In 2003 the Victoria Hall hosted the Leeds premiere of the major concert ‘The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace’, which had been commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum, and which was the focal event of the first Leeds Together for Peace festival. It also hosts the annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.

9. Victoria Gardens and the Leeds War Memorial

Victoria Gardens, in front of the City Art Gallery and Henry Moore Sculpture Gallery, has traditionally been seen as Leeds’ version of ‘Speakers Corner’. It has been the venue for many peace and justice demonstrations, including the pre-war suffragette rallies and anti-war demonstrations over conflicts such as in Vietnam and Iraq. It was the venue for the official declaration of Leeds as a ‘Fairtrade City’, seeking fairtrade between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world.

Victoria Gardens is the site of the Municipal War Memorial, at which annual Remembrance Sunday parades to remember the thousands of Leeds men and women killed in wars take place each November. The statue that adorns the top of the memorial is called the ’Angel of Peace’ by the sculptor Ian Jubb. War memorials are a fixture of all towns and cities across Europe. They remind us of the futility and destruction of war and a desire for a more peaceful world.

10. Mayors for Peace monument, Park Square

Park Square is one of the most elegant areas of Leeds city centre. Built in the late 18th century its Georgian townhouses are now mainly used by prominent legal firms in the city. The small park in the middle of the square allows workers with the opportunity for a few minutes peace and quiet in a busy day.

The Square is home to a number of notable peace monuments, particularly the Mayors for Peace monument. This memorial stone was unveiled by the Mayors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Leeds in 2003 and remembers all the innocent civilian populations killed in conflicts since the atomic bomb blasts of 1945. Mayors for Peace seek to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. Other notable monuments in the Square also include the Sri Chimnoy World Peace City tree, awarded to Leeds in 1995, and the Polish Solidarity movement memorial tree.

11. Barrel Man statue, Dortmund Square

Dortmund Square and the ‘Beer maker’ statue were dedicated in 1980 to celebrate the twinning agreement between Leeds and the city of Dortmund in Germany. The statue, often called the ‘Barrel Man’ was a gift from the city of Dortmund and is a symbol of the city’s main industry – brewing. Within the city of Dortmund can also be found a Leeds Platz (Square).

Twinning arrangements between towns and cities was a major development at encouraging friendship between former enemies of the last World War. They have allowed populations to meet each other in a new spirit of friendship and understanding. Leeds is also formally twinned with the cities Lille (France), Brno (Czech Republic), Hangzhou (China), Durban (South Africa), Siegen (Germany) and Louisville (United States).

12. Nuclear test veterans memorial stone, Leeds Parish Church

The British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association (BNTVA) was set up to campaign for justice and compensation for its members who were involved in the British government’s atomic bomb testing programme in the 1950s and 1960s. The veterans claim that many of the illnesses they have incurred are due to radioactive exposure from the tests.

In 1998 the Yorkshire branch of the BNTVA unveiled a memorial stone to all deceased veterans and their families. Since October 2002, the 50th anniversary of the first British atomic test, the BNTVA have held an annual remembrance service at Leeds Parish Church, with the support of Leeds City Council, local MPs and representatives from Commonwealth embassies.

Content courtesy of Sean Morris Leeds City Council

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Last modified 27-10-2006 01:39 PM

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