Briggate, Leeds

Picture of Briggate in the heart of the shopping district of Leeds, Yorkshire.

Briggate is one of the oldest streets in the city of Leeds and was founded in 1207 when the road began on the north side of the Leeds Bridge over the River Aire. The name ‘Briggate’ derives from ‘the road to the bridge’.

Today Briggate is a pedestrianised shopping street with most of Leeds department stores on it, including Harvey Nichols. There are also banks, restaurants and cafes along Briggate, there are also some old alleyways leading to old public houses including The Packhorse.


Duck in Snow Leeds Towpath

Today I walked along a section of the canal towpath just south of Leeds city centre not far from the City Inn hotel. Sadly I had no bread with me, because this mallard duck seemed to think that I might have some. He seemed cheerful enough though and was quite happy to pose in the snow for me.


City Square at Dusk

This picture is a photo of City Square in the heart of Leeds facing towards the old Post Office building.

The daylight was very nearly gone when I took this photograph last week on my way to meet and hopefully get some photographs of structural engineer Jane at work on Centenary Bridge on the Leeds waterfront.


Vera Leigh – SOE Secret Agent, Leeds

My photo today shows a Rose Valois brown wool felt hat with feather and wood ornament trims, c. 1940. Parisian millinery Rose Valois founded in 1927 had as a designer Vera Leigh who when the Germans invaded France in 1940 joined the resistance.

Vera Leigh was (born Vera Glass) here in Leeds on this day the 17th March 1903, abandoned by her parents as a baby she was adopted by American Eugene Leigh who trained horses in France. After training in the fashion industry Vera worked as a designer at Rose Valois.

After helping allied servicemen escape from France, in 1942 Vera too escaped and found her way to England. Vera volunteered her services to the war effort and I guess because she spoke French like and native and had lived and worked in France she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for dangerous work in France.

Given the codename Simone, Vera was flown back to France on 13 May 1943 as a courier and was arrested by the Gestapo in October the same year in Paris. Secret agents like Vera Leigh were subject to the Nacht und Nebel (German for “Night and Fog”) order that effectively meant that captured agents would disappear.

Along with fellow SOE agents Diana Rowden, Andrée Borrel and Sonya Olschanezky, Vera was taken to the Concentration Camp at Natzweiler on 6th July 1944. Later that same day (one month after the D Day landings in Normandy) the four women were injected with phenol and pushed into the furnace.

Vera Leigh was 41 years old at the time of her death in the only concentration camp run by the Germans in France (the French ran one at Drancy). Vera was nominated for the George Cross for her work in occupied France, but after the war the powers that be wanted to forget all about SOE so nothing came of it.

In France the SOE Memorial is a monument to the members of the Special Operations Executive F Section who lost their lives for the liberation of France. The memorial was unveiled in the town of Valençay in the Indre département of France on May 6, 1991. The memorial lists the names of the 91 men and 13 women members of the SOE who gave their lives for France’s freedom.

Vera Eugenie Leigh was one of 39 women agents sent to France from F section of SOE and you do not have to be good at maths to work out the odds. On this her birthday I thought it would be nice to dedicate this little post to Vera, a brave and resourceful woman.

This photograph is courtesy of Jonathan Walford at Kickshaw Productions and the Fashion History Museum.

Anyone wishing to know more of the women of SOE, I can recommend the following:

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE written by Sarah Helm, I have almost finished reading this book and it is well written and full of detail.

Les femmes de l’ombre (2008) AKA Female Agents, available on DVD, I saw this at the cinema and also have the DVD. Lest we forget says it all, this film is not for the squemish and like the book I think this film is well worth watching.


Outer Ring Road in Bloom, Leeds

This picture shows another view of the daffodils on the bank of the A6120 outer ring road, Leeds.

There are many thousands of daffodils along this stretch of road, on both sides of the roadway.


Tropical World – Roundhay Park, Leeds

This is a picture of the building that houses Tropical World, home to the Meerkats of Leeds.

There are Butterflies, Meerkats, Parrots, Iguanas, Lemurs and even a variety of crocodile within this building.

Yesterday I finally caught up with the Leeds Roller Dolls who were hosts to the Birmingham Blitz Dames here in Leeds at the Sports Hall, Leeds University. I had no real idea what to expect my only experience of roller derby being a viewing of the movie Whip It. It was faster than I thought and Leeds Roller Dolls were gracious hosts. When I have sorted through the photographs I took, I shall post several here on the Leeds Daily Photo.


St John the Evangelist Church in Spring, Leeds

Picture of the church of St John the Evangelist, Leeds in springtime.

This is not the first time I have featured this fine old church building that is located in Leeds city centre. Because of its location I suspect quite a few people in Leeds never notice this old church. Since St Johns was built in the early part of the 17th C there is today a much more recent shopping centre standing between the church and the Headrow.

Here you can see another view of the church of St John, Leeds taken in the last of this winters snow but from the other side.


Arthur Aaron – Statue Eastgate

The above photo shows a detail from the much larger statue in memory of this brave young man.

Arthur Aaron VC DFM was a pilot in WW2 who was awarded the VC in recognition of most conspicuous bravery.

On the great many war memorials in the villages, towns and cities of Britain quite a few have an inscription which is a quote from the bible… “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. John 15,13.

Born in Leeds in 1922, Aaron was a pupil at Roundhay School in the city, later he went on to study architecture in the city.

In March 1941, Aaron became one of 23 cadets who formed the inaugural Flight of Leeds University Air Squadron. Aaron learnt to fly in Texas in the USA at the Number 1 British Flying Training School at Terrell where he received his pilots wings.

Arthur Aaron was captain and pilot of a Stirling bomber of 218 Sqn RAF based a Downham Market in Norfolk when on a raid on Turin on 12/13 August 1943 the aircraft was hit and several crew members were wounded and the navigator, Canadian Cornelius A. Brennan killed. Arthur Aaron was badly wounded and so was the aircraft, but he guided the bomb aimer and enabled him to fly the plane to a base in Algeria.

With a crew of 7, less the navigator Arthur Aaron saved the remaining crew and his aircraft but died of his wounds a few hours after the aicraft landed safely at an airfield in Algeria.


John Speed – A Brave Man

Picture of memorial to PS John Speed on Kirkgate in Leeds.

I never knew John Speed, he was a police officer, a sergeant here in Leeds and in 1984 he was shot and killed when he went to the aid of a colleague who had just been shot and wounded. This happened near the Leeds parish church on 31st October 1984 and today a marble memorial stands testament to the bravery of an unarmed officer who long before health and safety became an issue died in the service of the public.

The memorial was unveiled in a ceremony in 1986, the police never caught the man responsible and living in the city back then I remember it was a big story then.

Later when the investigation was going nowhere I was visited by a couple of officers who came to my home to ask me if I had done it. The police back then had decided that because it was someone with a firearm perhaps the killer had been in the forces. There was a problem with that theory, I had won a shooting competition, in a joint services competition. So yes I could have handled a gun and shot the officer but the killer shot at 3 officers, wounding one, killing one and missing the 3rd. I said sorry but dead men tell no tales, when they left they were not amused.

The killer of John Speed, David Gricewith, was only identified as the gunman after his own death, more than two years later in a police chase after an armed robbery.

My uncle was for many years a police officer and when I was a boy we lived across the road from the local police HQ so I knew quite a few policemen and women. In those days being a copper was about nicking the local ne’er-do-wells and the oath taken by officers included the words “without fear or favour, affection or ill will”. Upholding the law was a lot simpler back then in the days before ACPO and political correctness gone mad.

In my book all three officers on that day in 1984 were brave men, armed with nothing but a warrant card, a wooden truncheon (that had not really changed since Victorian times) and a uniform.

Madge said…
Lovely post about this memorial to the public servants, the police (can I add the firemen too) who put their lives on the line daily for the better good of all of us…

JULY 29, 2011 11:36 PM
Gerald (Hyde DP) said…
I remember that event – and yes I know who much things have changed – there was a glimmer that things could have been getting better but now I’m not sure.

JULY 30, 2011 9:50 PM
Gunn said…
Yes, there are some brave people around….
And there are things I can not understand could happen.
Thanks for your concerns about what took place here in Norway on July 22.

JULY 31, 2011 10:37 PM


Route 66 Leeds

Picture of Route 66 sign in Leeds, Yorkshire.

I smiled when I saw this sign down on Granary Wharf on the Leeds waterfront. This is National Route 66 of the National Cycle Network which when it is finished will run from Kingston Upon Hull and Manchester with a branch to Ashton-under-Lyne. The route will run via York, Leeds, Bradford, and Rochdale.

In the back of the photo is a glimpse of the Mint Hotel, this was from launch until around a year back called the City Inn.