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How We Built Britain
Corn Exchange (interior)
...is arguably the man who built Leeds. A mysterious figure whose grand designs still affect the look of modern-day Leeds.
As a city, Leeds really arrived in the Victorian era. As the industrial age advanced Leeds' finances swelled leading to many fine buildings being commissioned as the city sought to become a regional centre.
Cuthbert Broderick (sometimes spelled Brodrick) arrived in Leeds like a bolt out of the blue in 1852, with a winning design for Leeds Town Hall. Over the next decade or so he changed the face of Leeds forever, with just four buildings, before disappearing as quickly as he arrived.
Broderick, from Hull, learnt his trade in a seven-year apprenticeship to architect Henry Lockwood .The pupil was largely unknown until his winning design gained him the £200 prize. Broderick’s mother did not want her son to enter a design for Leeds but he disobeyed her and won.
Leeds Town Hall
Throughout his architectural career Broderick could not resist entering these competitions. The first stone of Leeds' landmark town hall was laid in 1853. The sky-scraping tower and dome were added in 1857 before the building was opened with the visit of Queen Victoria in 1858.
As with many big projects the final cost - £122,000 - was three times the original estimate. The building has been described as the first municipal palace in the world. Originally the building housed law courts, police headquarters, the council chamber and the Lord Mayor's room all under the same roof.
Built of hard millstone grit the former poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, said the town hall 'understood the skyline' and loved the 'immense solidity of the platform'.
Broderick then turned his attention the commercial side of Leeds. His building for the corn exchange was the hub of the once-thriving grain trade. The building, inspired by Paris' corn exchange, is oval in shape and the domed glass roof floods the building with light onto the trading floor. This allowed corn merchants at one of the 170 desks to inspect the colour of the grain without a shadow being cast.
Within a short time Broderick completed the third of his renowned buildings. The formidable Mechanics' Institute was built for the educational needs of Leeds' workforce.
It says much for the skills of Broderick that these three buildings are still in use. The Town Hall dominates the western end of the Headrow. And its four white stone lions still guard the sweeping steps of the entrance.
The Mechanics' Institute still looks over the recently-created Millennium Square. It became the Civic Theatre and the building is about to enter a new phase of its life as the city's new showpiece museum.
Corn is no longer traded at the exchange but during 1989/90 it was transformed into a selection of designer shops and bars.
Cookridge St baths (1928) www.leodis.net
One of his lesser-known buildings was the Cookridge Street baths, opened in 1867, costing £13,000. His initial florid oriental-influenced design was modified but the building was still known as the Oriental and General Baths. With some alterations in 1882, they remained in use until finally closing in 1965, and demolition followed in 1969. The site is now part of Millenium Square.
Broderick's expertise isn't just limited to Leeds, though - Scarborough's imposing Grand Hotel, completed in 1867, is a lasting monument to Broderick's genius despite the fact that it basically bankrupted the initial investors! Yet again he was unable to stick to a budget.†
Oriental baths proposal - www.leodis.net
Despite dominating Leeds' skyline Broderick was always a shadowy figure and he did not design another building after retiring at the early age of 47.†He moved first† to France and then the Channel Islands, were he died in 1905.