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Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:50 UK
Last chance for Leeds' first White Cloth Hall
Kirkgate view
The view towards the Parish Church from outside the White Cloth Hall site

The first White Cloth Hall is a Grade 2* listed building in Kirkgate, hidden behind years of dilapidation and lengths of scaffolding.

A stretch of the city centre road has been closed allowing some demolition work to take place.

The cloth hall's frontage is to be taken down and a neighbouring building demolished.

An archaeologist is recording the work and material from the hall will be stored ahead of any restoration.

According to the Director of Leeds Civic Trust, Kevin Grady, the cloth hall, built in 1711 is one of the most important buildings in Leeds.

The hall oversaw the economic development of Leeds and was crucial in the battle with neighbouring Wakefield for supremacy in the cloth trade.

Last chance

The White Cloth Hall
The Eastern range of the building was more recently an amusement arcade

Grady stresses this is the 'last chance saloon' for the building that could be one of the symbols for Leeds.

He says: "The essential structure of the cloth hall is there... It is hugely important because it saved and guaranteed the success of Leeds to become a city because it was the foundation cornerstone of the key Leeds industry, wool and cloth making but in particular merchanting of cloth.

"It is a very rare survival."

During the 17th century Kirkgate was a prosperous street of merchant houses but the onset of the Industrial Revolution changed that. A multiplicity of trades moved into the street and by the 1820s around 100 trades were represented just in Kirkgate.

Notorious yard

The White Cloth Hall (Peter Brears)
How the building would have looked when first built

The notorious Boot and Shoe yard was off Kirkgate. During the 1831-32 cholera outbreak 39 cartloads of human excrement were removed from the yard. There were around 10 people living in each back to back house.

In the 1830s a Leeds town guide noted, "If not a route to the Parish Church, it is a street that no one would wish to know".

In the early 20th century the area's surroundings improved a bit and the relatively modern north side of Kirkgate is in much better repair.

At the start start of the 1990s a scheme for a complex of speciality shops in the cloth hall nearly came to fruition.

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