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Area Guide

Leeds is located on the River Aire in West Yorkshire, England. It is the urban core and administrative centre of the wider metropolitan borough of the City of Leeds. The county borough of Leeds was awarded city status in 1893. Since 1974 city status has been held by the wider City of Leeds district. Thus Leeds, although commonly referred to as a "city", does not have this legal status unless the wider area is being discussed.

Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, the recorded history of Leeds can be traced to the 5th century when the Kingdom of Elmet was covered by the forest of "Loidis", the origin of the name Leeds. During the Industrial Revolution, Leeds developed into a major industrial centre for the production and trade of wool, before emerging as a centre for commerce and higher education, being the location of the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University and Leeds Trinity and All Saints. Today Leeds is one of the largest financial and legal centres outside London.

The name "Leeds" is thought to be derived from "Loidis", a word of Celtic origin. Bede wrote: "...regione quae vocatur Loidis" — region known as Loidis. This root also survives in the nearby place names of Ledston and Ledsham. Leeds was mentioned as "Ledes" in the Domesday Book of 1086, after which the name evolved into "Leedes" and finally "Leeds".

Leeds was an agricultural market town in the middle Ages, and received its first charter in 1207. In the Tudor period Leeds was mainly a merchant town, manufacturing woollen cloths and trading with Europe via the Humber estuary. The population grew from 10,000 at the end of the 17th century to 30,000 at the end of the 18th. At one point nearly half of England's total exports passed through Leeds.

At the time of the Industrial Revolution Leeds grew rapidly and the population rose to over 150,000 by 1840. The city's industrial growth was helped by the building of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699, Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816 and the railway in 1848.

In 1893 Leeds was granted city status. The industries that developed in the Industrial Revolution included making machinery for spinning, machine tools, steam engines and gears as well as other industries based on textiles, chemicals, leather and pottery. Coal was extracted on a large scale and the Middleton Railway, the first successful commercial steam locomotive railway in the world, transported coal from Middleton colliery into the centre of Leeds. The first permanent set of fully automatic traffic lights in the world were installed at the junction of Park Row and Bond Street, Leeds, in 1928.

By the 20th century this social and economic base started to change as Leeds saw the creation of the academic institutions that are known today as the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University and Leeds Trinity & All Saints.

By day, the prosperous business centre offers a diverse range of working opportunities. The fast-paced, buzzing city centre is complemented by stunning local countryside, including the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, which lie within easy reach. There is also an assortment of flourishing local communities - from hidden gems in the inner suburbs to tranquil country towns on the outskirts.

By night, Leeds really comes alive with its wide array of restaurants, bars, clubs and other entertainment. There is a broad range of cultural attractions, including renowned theatre, opera and ballet companies, with something to appeal to every palate.

Sport remains central to city life, especially with the successes of the Rhinos in Rugby League and Leeds Carnegie in Rugby Union. The rugby sides share their home at Headingly Carnegie Stadium with Michael Vaughan’s Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Football fans around the world will be familiar with Leeds United and Elland Road. Owner Ken Bates is currently building the team up from its position in Football League One.

Leeds has an extensive and diverse range of shops and department stores, and has been described by the Lonely Planet guides as the 'Knightsbridge of the North'. The diverse range of shopping facilities, from individual one-off boutiques to large department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton outlets, has greatly expanded the Leeds retail base.

The Victoria Quarter, several existing arcades connected together by roofing the entirety of Queen Victoria Street with stained glass, is located off Brig gate, Leeds' main shopping street. Other popular shopping attractions include Leeds Kirk gate Market, Granary Wharf, Leeds Shopping Plaza, Headrow Shopping Centre, The Light, The St John's Centre, The Merrion Centre Leeds, Birstall Retail Park and the White Rose Centre.

In addition, there are also two proposed shopping developments, namely the East gate Quarters and Trinity Quarter, the former due to be anchored by John Lewis and a second Marks and Spencer store for the city. Leeds is vibrant city ideally located at the very heart of England. An extensive rail, road and air network makes travelling to Leeds both quick and easy.