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24 September 2014

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Local History

Millennium Square looking towards the Civic Hall
Millennium Square with the Civic Hall

Hidden Millennium Square

Millennium Square, Leeds' flagship public space, cost £12m to construct and is never far from the news. What lies beneath the flagstones?

It is home to several large pieces of public art and the Mandela Gardens, and is the city's first new public square in over 60 years.

Opened in December 2000, it includes the main central square in front of the Civic Hall, a smaller space bordering Cookridge Street and a new garden and fountain area. Currently the city's newest theatre, the Carriageworks, is being built on the edge of the square with an expected completion date of Autumn 2005.

Watching England v Brazil in the square.

The square has hosted visits from Nelson Mandela, Meatloaf and the crew of HMS Ark Royal among others. For big events a large stage is constructed in the square, it is also the venue for big-screen TV events and the Ice Cube skating ring.

However, one local rumour continues to swirl around the square - does the site really include an underground nuclear bunker?

Posting on the BBC Leeds messageboard Rich Edwards says: "I've heard rumours and urban myths of everything from nuclear bunkers under the Civic Hall to a part-completed subway system abandoned in Victorian times"

See the article on Hidden Leeds on this website for an explanation of the 'subway'. As to rumours of bunkers under Millennium Square, a Leeds City Council spokesperson says:

"I have spoken with colleagues who were directly involved with the project and can report that none  of us have any knowledge or came across any evidence of the presence of secret bunkers under the square when the construction works were carried out.

"The remains of the old swimming baths (located on the west side of Cookridge Street) and various old house cellars were exposed when the square was constructed and these were filled in as part of the works.

Also known as Oriental or Central baths, the Cookridge Street Baths were opened in 1867. Designed by Cuthbert Broderick for £13,000, the baths remained in use until finally closing in 1965 and being demolished in 1969. Broderick was also responsible for designing the Town Hall, Corn Exchange and Civic Theatre buildings.

Public art in Millennium Square
Public art in Millennium Square

There is also a more recent reason why people may have heard of the existence of structures under the square. As the spokesperson explains.

"Underground changing rooms were built as part of the project and this might be causing the confusion. The changing areas were included to serve the demountable stage, normally located directly above them, and are to the north of Mandela Gardens with access to them via the circular and triangular shaped towers. Underground public toilets were also constructed to the north east of the square."

To see an article on Hidden Leeds or the square's sculptures, watch a 360 degree panorama, and the Millennium Square webcam use the links on the right-hand side of the page.

last updated: 12/05/05
Have Your Say
What do you think of Millennium Square? Which event in the square was the most memorable?
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I dislike the square. It was once a nice garden, now it's a load of paving slabs and chewing gum. Can't the council ever keep something natural?

I think the square is great. The Kaiser chiefs were splendid. Leeds has been in need of a venue to attract bands of this size. It is just a shame that it has to be boarded off for "one offs".

Richard Walton
The Square is next to a hospital. Surely not the best location?

An intrigued Kaiser Chiefs fan!
If there is no underground passage way/tunnel, how did Ricky Wilson, during the recent Kaiser Chiefs concerts in Millennium Square, manage to get from the stage to the back of the crowd and back again in a matter of seconds, without going through, over, or round 7000 people!!?? Hmmm.... :)

jonathan chapman leeds
I think it is o.k and the best memory is rhythms of the city 2004 final which was on millennium sqare

Stephen Sinnett , Boden,Northern Sweden
I used to live in Leeds for 12 wonderfull years and i must admit seeing Nelson mandela before my very eyes was a highlight, and made even better when i got my copy of his book autographed by him at the Queens Hotel after his appearence at Millennium square , also Bryan Adams in the pouring rain was terrific, and the big wash out of millennium was socold that night...never mind leeds , you have a star in the shape of millennium square will last a millennium.

richard poppa
I love the square and thinks it's a great asset to leeds. I was stood on it with my niece when the Queen visited Leeds and my niece gave her some flowers. we will never forget that moment!

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