Friday, 9 October 2009

An addition to Fred's search for Thorp Arch Grange

It seems many of us have tried like Fred to find the old hospital building, though not with such scientific care – thanks Fred. It’s also good to have more information about what has happened to Potternewton Mansion School, Leeds. Many contributors to the blog have good memories of this place - it obviously did a very good job of helping kids back into normal school life. As someone who got plunged in very much at the deep end, I must say I've envied their experience.

What Fred writes about his search for Thorp Arch Grange reminded me of a very interesting document I found while googling some years ago – after failing to locate anything resembling the hospital on a trip to Newcastle. This is a Thorp Arch Village Plan, apparently approved in 2004. It seems to be used still as the basis for planning decisions. I’ve often thought of putting some extracts from it onto the blog, so now seems a good moment.

The plan starts with a history of the village, going right back to the Domesday book. It has pictures, too. The whole document shows clearly how the places and buildings we all knew have been adapted to new uses, and partially or wholly disappeared in the process. No wonder it’s hard to find anything!

About Thorp Arch Grange it says: “A new boarding school for young gentlemen [!!] was built at Thorp Arch Grange in the 1840s. The school later went through a number of uses until it eventually came under the control of Leeds City Council and was used for young people in local authority care. It was then sold to a builder who developed it as office accommodation. Leeds United Football Club became interested in the playing fields in 1993 and bought Thorp Arch Grange to create their football academy.”

I wonder what purpose it serves now - is it still the football academy? and who the new “driveway owner” is that Fred mentions.

The history section of the plan also mentions the Ordnance Factory that comes up in so many contributions to the blog: “Of the 13 ordnance factories built during the war, Thorp Arch is the only one where buildings and blast berms can still be preserved as a historical site. The site was used to store surplus war material between 1945 and 1950 and reopened for munitions manufacture during the Korean War (1950-53). After that war the site was partly decontaminated. A local entrepreneur bought the site in the early 1960s and developed the Trading Estate and the Buywell shopping centre. The site, now employing some 2500 staff in 90–100 commercial enterprises, is currently owned by Hanover Properties who plan further development including up to 1500 new homes, subject to planning consent. The National Lending Library for Science and Technology occupied part of the site, in Walton parish, in the 1960s. It became the Lending Division of the British Library in 1973, steadily growing and now employing some 2000 staff. It, too, is looking to expand its floorspace.

“In 1950, near the main entrance to the munitions factory, a remand centre was
built to house about 200 young offenders; a third wing was added in 1980 to house
a further 100. It was converted into a Category C prison for adults in 1988 and a fourth wing added in 1996. In 1995, the Thorp Arch Category C prison and the
open Rudgate Category D prison next to it were merged to form Wealstun Prison. It
now holds 750 inmates and there are expansion plans to increase the number to 892”.

There are two pictures of these changes, showing the “Thorp Arch trading estate new buildings” and “evidence of historic ordnance factory". Unfortunately, I can't add them to this posting, as I don't know how to save them in a suitable format for the picture-adding facility!

Finally, it has this to say about “The Marguerite Hepton Memorial Home”.
“Mr Arthur Hepton provided the site for the Memorial Home to the Leeds Invalid children’s Society in gratitude at the recovery of his daughter, Marguerite, from
tuberculosis. Opened in 1910 as a home for up to twenty children with tubercular
related orthopedic problems, by 1942 it accommodated 80 children and thirty
seven staff. Its final use was as an old people’s home and a children’s nursery.
The owner closed it in about 2000 because it was claimed to be uneconomic.
In 2003, following an appeal against refusal of planning permission, the Public
Inquiry Inspector found in favour of the developer and allowed development of 7
flats and 55 houses on the site”.

The whole report is worth a look - especially for the pictures! It can be seen still on the Internet, on the Leeds local government site at:

The simplest way in is to google for “Thorp Arch Parish Plan”. About 8 options down the list comes ‘Village Design Statement’ which leads you to the document.