The Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds. LS1 7BR
From Victorian Indoor Corn Market to Upmarket Grade I Listed Shopping Centre
The 7th May 1861 saw the first stone laid, and the following year saw Leeds' new Corn Exchange completed to a competition-winning design from Hull-born architect Cuthbert Broderick (1822 -1905). Before winning the design competition in 1860, Brodrick was also the architect for Leeds Town Hall, opened in September of 1858, but the Corn Exchange is his true legacy - still a fitting and worthy attraction for Leeds city centre.
The building officially opened for trade in 1863. The wide open space provided by its oval construction allowed its 75ft high glass-domed roof to supply sufficient light to sell corn by both sample and sack-load. Sale by sample was required by the council specification in order to justify both the £25,000 expense and the replacement of the existing exchange on Briggate. Its elliptical plan, which covers 1,718 sq metres, was determined by the irregular site between the White Cloth Hall and the former Assembly Rooms.
As it fell into disuse as a market throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, Speciality Shops plc won a competition in 1988 to redevelop the delapidated Exchange as a speciality shopping centre. The 2 year, £4m refurbishment involved adding new staircases for access to all levels and restoration of the ground floor and glazed dome, paying particular regard to the exchange's status as one of West Yorksire's 110 Grade I Listed buildings.
The Rise and Rise of The Corn Exchange
Spring 1998 saw a change of ownership for the corn-exchange and the following year saw a redecoration. Until this point, the ceiling of the building had featured a large vintage aeroplane suspended by wires. For better or worse, the aeroplane is now gone in favour of continually changing colourful and modern mobiles, but these are neither as striking nor as attractive. To their credit, however, the new owners have offered a new direction for the exchange, helping to keep Leeds competitive with the increasingly popular out-of-town shopping experience.
The change of ownership has also seen the redevelopment of the ground floor (or Piazza), the opening of Bar Elemental, and the addition of new glass-fronted shop units. Bar Elemental seems a natural addition to the Corn Exchange since it is situated in the heart of Leeds' bustling night-time hot spots. The redevelopment has also caused the rent for the existing ground floor units to almost double, driving out popular traders such as the import CD shop Trax, who are no longer able to offer value for money. The old shops have been replaced with up-market and fashionable units to attract the increasingly wealthly Leeds shopper away from the trendier Victoria Quarter and Harvey Nichols.
Today the Corn Exchange is home to all manner of small-scale, mostly independent traders and designers. Goods on offer include clothing, clubbing wear, footwear, records and CDs, jewellery and beads, glassware, pottery, DJ equipment, kites, juggling equipment and extreme sports supplies. A craft and design fair is held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, bringing the exchange to life as the bustling and vibrant location it deserves to be, reminiscent of the equivalent locations in other cities, such as Manchester's Afflecks Palace. Leeds' Corn Exchange offers the younger, alternative shopper a place to buy the latest in street fashion, and despite recent changes is still most popular with both clubbers and rockers alike.
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