Kirkstall is a suburb of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, and is located on the eastern side of the River Aire. To the west is the suburb of Bramley, the easterly suburb is Headingley and the northerly one is West Park. Kirkstall is around 2 miles (3.2 km) out of the city centre and is becoming an increasingly popular area for Leeds’ student population to live, with its proximity to the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University. Its main visitor attraction is Kirkstall Abbey. Another notable architectural feature is St. Stephen’s church designed by the architect Robert Dennis Chantrell. Richard Oastler, a reformer and fighter for children’s rights, is buried in a visible crypt under the church’s east end.
Amenities in Kirkstall LS5
Kirkstall does not have so much a local centre, rather the amenities are stretched along Kirkstall Road and Abbey Road. There are several pubs in Kirkstall, a Morrison’s supermarket as well as several other shops set around it on the site of the former Waddingtons factory, including JJB Sports, Dunnes, Boots the Chemist, Halfords and the Carphone Warehouse. For many years Kirkstall boasted a department store called Clover; this was taken over by Allders and is now run by British Home Stores. Most of the independent shops are spread along the A65. Kirkstall also has a library and leisure centre situated on Kirkstall Lane. A small shopping precinct is situated adjacent to the A65 and Kirkstall Lane; this has become dilapidated in recent years, the centre has an independent discount supermarket, a private members club, library and a book makers, the Post Office and Kirkstall Lites public house have since closed. Amongst other shops there is a second-hand book shop and a shop specialising in selling home brew equipment. Kirkstall also boasts a recently opened tapas restaurant. For many years Kirkstall was known for its large American-style restaurant the ‘Boston Diner’, which burnt down in 2005, several years after closing.
The commercial heart of the area lies at the junction of Kirkstall Road and Kirkstall Lane (B6157). The recent renovations to the area has improved its popularity in recent years and it now boasts a wealth of facilities and shops including Morrison’s Supermarket, Dunnes clothing store, Boots, Aldi, and JJB Sports.
Kirkstall Post Office and library are found on Kirkstall Lane where there are also plans afoot to develop a new residential and commercial centre.
Housing in Kirkstall LS5
Typically you will find Victorian terrace housing, which is perfect for student house shares. It also has a good stock of semi-detached properties at affordable prices. In and around Kirkstall there are plenty of local pubs, restaurants and takeaways. There are regular buses into Leeds city centre.
Residentially, away from the dizzy heights of Morris Lane and the neighbouring lofty streets, most of the housing is in the form of semis and terraces, although some new-build apartments are beginning to make an appearance.
It’s still at the affordable end of the Leeds property ladder which means it’s becoming popular with students (it’s close to the universities), young professionals, and buy-to-let investors.
Of course, the downside to this affordability factor is that when prices are on the lower side it tends to be for a reason.
In Kirkstall’s case, this reason amounts to little more than a lack of facilities. While it’s not completely devoid of them, what’s there is a bit sparse and dated, and doesn’t seem at all geared towards its younger residents or any Abbey visitors who may have wandered into town.
Mainly a residential area with housing which ranges from attractive to stunning.
Between the busy Abbey Road (A65) and Morris Lane there are several streets made up of red-brick terraced housing (Norman group of roads, De Lacy Mount).
It’s quite a dense area and is built on a slope with a fairly steep gradient towards the top, and tends to be popular with students for rental properties, or young professionals and couples who are buying.
Between Morris Lane and the railway line right at the top of the hill is the crème da la crème of Kirkstall housing. Morris Lane itself has some stunning detached properties, particularly to the western end towards the Abbey.
These grand period residences would be impressive in any location but what makes you particularly envious of the owners here is their view: because of their hilltop position they have uninterrupted views of Kirkstall Abbey, not to mention the Abbey gardens practically on their front doorstep.
Naturally, some of these substantial homes have been sub-divided into flats but many remain intact.
There are a few small roads set behind Morris Lane (eg Morris Avenue and The Rise, and further towards town, the Hesketh and Morris group of streets) which contain mostly upmarket semis and detached homes, ideal for families and young buyers at the wealthier end of the scale.
As it approaches the town centre Morris Lane winds downhill. Between here and Headingley Station there are a few more terraced streets including the quaint and cobbled Glebe Avenue, and a cluster of new-build apartments (eg Abbey Court, Vicarage Mews) within a couple of minutes walk to the station.
This central area has access to the local shops around Commercial Road and Kirkstall Lane, as well as the large Kirkstall Valley Retail Park. There is also St Stephen church and connected primary school, Kirkstall Health Centre and Kirkstall Leisure Centre.
Hawskworth Wood Estate is the dominant feature in this part of Kirkstall.
Built post-war, it started life as a council estate but as is the case with a lot of these estates, many of the houses are now privately owned – and this can be a relatively cost-effective way of securing a place on the property ladder.
It consists mainly of family homes (semis, maisonettes, terraces) although there are also some flats.
The more recent Vesper and Abbeydale roads, at the southern part of the district, consist of attractive homes ranging from converted studio flats through to large five bedroom detached houses.
Vesper Road runs through the centre and has a few local amenities including a newsagent, post office, pharmacy and off licence, and there is a late night Co-op on Broadway (between Vesper Road and Cragside Walk).
There is a local primary school, church and youth club. The Vesper Gate on Abbey Road, just prior to the housing, is a popular local pub.
The other side of Kirkstall Lane stretching to the junction of St Ann’s Lane and Kirkstall Hill heading into Burley.
Another large chunk of housing but, in some parts, a world away from the elegant residences of the Morris Lane enclave.
There are a series of high rise tower blocks and lower level blocks of flats where Kirkstall Hill meets Argie Avenue (Grayson Croft & Heights, Eden Mount etc) which are unlikely to feature on anyone’s “favourite buildings” list.
Things improve somewhat as Argie Avenue carries on down the hill towards Burley, with a variety of semi-detached houses, some on the smallish side, being the upper-most property type (these are a mix of council and ex-council homes).
On the other (western) side of Kirkstall Hill there are more Eden roads (Crescent, Drive and Road). These consist almost entirely of 30s semis, and overall are smarter that their namesakes on the east side.
Slightly further on from Eden Drive is the St Ann’s group of streets (between St Anne’s Lane and Drive) which again consist mainly of 30s style semis, as well as a newer development (off St Ann’s Rise) which has flats, semis and townhouses.
Kirkstall Hill itself has townhouses, semis and detached houses along its length, as well as a few shops (newsagent, nail salon, hairdresser) and The Merry Monk pub. It continues over the peak of the hill, then becomes Burley Road (and Burley itself) at the foot.
There are more local shops at the junction of Kirkstall Hill and St Ann’s Lane (including sandwich shop, newsagent, post office, hairdresser, barber, keycutting and picture framer).
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Granted, there’s a large retail park which has good-sized stores including Boots, Morrisons, JJB and Dunnes, but it’s a bit on the soulless side.
Of the individual shops, only the bookshop and furniture store are really worth a browse – unless you’re in dire need of a wedding or evening dress in which case, rather strangely, you’re sorted.
There are, however, some suggestions of impending change, such as the award-winning organic restaurant on Commercial Road, the tiny tapas place on De Lacy Mount, and the planned redevelopment of Kirkstall Forge, which will include some trendy shops, bars and restaurants.
So, in investment terms, it may simply be a matter of time before property prices in Kirkstall catch up with nearby rival Headingley, making it one to watch on the up-and-coming map.
Kirkstall Valley Retail Park – retail centre which has a large Morrison’s supermarket, Leeds department store Dunnes, Boots, Halfords etc. Plenty of car parking space and well-served by local buses.
Commercial Road and Kirkstall Lane have a few shops including a Farmfoods, post office, newsagents, book shop, off licence, chemist, and, somewhat incongruously, the Abbey Wedding Warehouse.
Various local shops like takeaways, newsagents and off licences are dotted around the residential areas (St Ann’s Lane, Kirkstall Hill, Broadway etc).
There are a few local pubs in Kirkstall which tend to be on the more traditional rather than trendy side. Nearby Headingley provides a selection of the latter.
There are a handful of restaurants in the suburb including the upmarket organic restaurant and bar, The Mill Race (Commercial Road), which specialises in local Yorkshire produce.
Cardigan Fields Leisure Centre is close by in neighbouring Burley, just off the eastern side of Kirkstall Road, before the railway line at Viaduct Road.
This has a Vue cinema, restaurants, pub, nightclub, bowling alley and Virgin Gym and Fitness Centre.
Leisure – Kirkstall has its own leisure centre situated on Kirkstall Lane. Despite its dated exterior the facilities are good and include two swimming pools and a fitness centre with a varied programme of activities (eg yoga, five-a-side football, martial arts, gymnastics and Kirkstall Harriers Running Club).
Leisure and Sports in Kirkstall LS5
Leeds Rugby Ground in Kirkstall is home to both Leeds Tykes and Rhinos and is located at the heart of the locality’s commercial centre.
Public recreation sites are Kirkstall Leisure Centre (to contact call 0113 214 4556) on Kirkstall Lane, the Abbey gardens and parkland and Burley Rugby Football Union (to contact call 0113 275 7400) on Kirkstall Road.
Multi-million pound improvements to the area include a walkway at the famous Liverpool-Leeds canal and the River Aire both of which run through Kirkstall. Its most famous landmark is Kirkstall Abbey, which is situated next to the River Aire and is surrounded by green fields.
Entertainment in Kirkstall LS5
The Warner Village complex at Kirkstall is a large entertainment complex, which includes multi-plex cinema, Virgin Active gym, a bowling alley, the Evolution club as well as many different restaurants.
The restaurant choice has to satisfy any taste from Nando’s to Frankie & Benny’s, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Here’s Johnny’s bar and grill.
The organic Millrace – they use organically certified ingredients to ensure the highest and freshest quality in all their produce. They support the use of local and speciality produce from throughout the Yorkshire region.
Location – the millrace organic restaurant lies just down the road from kirkstall abbey at the intersection between the A65 (from Leeds City Centre to Ilkley, Skipton and beyond) and the B6157 (Bridge Road / Kirkstall Lane, from Headingley to Stanningley and Bradford), close to Morrisons supermarket and Kirkstall Leisure Centre.
Amigos tapas bar – the food is good, nice choice of tapas dishes all reasonably priced. The atmosphere is warm and cosy. This is also at the intersection.
Viva Cuba – you will love this restaurant, ideal for any sort of meal; romantic, friends, family, or with student mates. Amazing food, generous portions too! We recommend the meatballs, calamari, patatas bravas and paella! Prices are very reasonable too, around £4 a tapas and fully licensed so you can get shozzled.
There are also a number of traditional style pubs dotted along the A65 if you don’t fancy popping in to Headingley for the madness there.
History of Kirkstall LS5
In the 12th century Cistercian monks founded Kirkstall Abbey, a daughter house of Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. The Abbey House Museum opposite the Abbey itself tells the story of the community and the town. Henry De Lacey, Baron of Pontefract, gave the land for the foundation of the Abbey, and Kirkstall has a few roads named in his memory. The Abbey Light Railway, in the grounds of the Abbey, is another tourist attraction, where several historical engines are preserved in working order.
The Kirkstall Festival is a popular annual event, held in the Abbey grounds on the second Saturday in July since 1981. It is a festival of music, local arts and crafts, and fun, and is organised by volunteers of the KVCA (Kirkstall Village Community Association).
During the English Civil War, the bridge over the Aire at Kirkstall (referred to in a contemporaneous account as ‘Churchstall’) was blown up by Royalist troops from Leeds. After discovering this, a Parliamentary force lead by Ferdinando Fairfax, 2nd Lord Fairfax of Cameron – who was from nearby Otley – had to cross the river upstream at Apperley Bridge before its successful capture of Leeds in January 1643.
Kirkstall was historically an important centre of industry, with the large Kirkstall Forge (which lays claim to being the longest continually used industrial site in Britain), founded in the 13th century by the Cistercian Monks of the Abbey, and a number of printers. The earliest known activity on the site was its use as a medieval Mill Race which supplied the corn mill at Kirkstall Abbey. Iron production took place at the forge from the 1580s onwards. During the late 1700s the reconstruction of both the upper and lower forge allowed ‘shovel and spade production’ to commence. A railway was brought to the forge in 1830 and sustained growth at the plant. The Great War brought about large scale growth at the plant, providing axles for military vehicles, by 1930 most lorries and buses made in the UK had a Kirkstall back axle casing. In 2002 the then owners of the site, the Dana Corporation announced the closure of the works, shifting production to India and Spain. The site is currently under planning or major redevelopment, as is the old Waide’s Printers & Kwik Save site. Although printing has, like iron-founding, suffered a decline, several printing companies remain.
Until the late 1970s when it was closed, Kirkstall was dominated by a coal fired power station, however the general move towards larger power stations away from town, such as Ferrybridge, Eggborough and Drax. The power station was demolished in the early 1980s. The larger Leeds Corporation power station in Stourton remained open until the 1990s.
Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery to the west of Leeds city centre in West Yorkshire, set in grounds which are now a public park on the north bank of the River Aire. It was founded c.1152 and was over seventy five years in construction. It was closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the auspices of Henry VIII. The ruins have been painted by artists such as J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Girtin. Located in parkland by the banks of the River Aire, this breathtaking structure dates from 1152, when its first foundations were laid by a small group of Cistercian monks. Construction was completed around thirty years later and the Abbey remained a functioning monastery until 1539 when it was forced to close its doors under Henry VIII’s infamous Dissolution of religious houses.
Nowadays, Kirkstall Abbey is the most complete set of Cistercian ruins in Britain, and following a recent £5.5 million makeover it has a new Visitor Centre, a summer terrace overlooking the river, and landscaped gardens providing the perfect place for a picnic.
The Abbey is also the main setting for the annual Kirkstall Festival and various other outdoors events such as firework displays and theatrical performances; Denmark aside, it’s hard to imagine a better setting in which to hear Hamlet’s procrastinations.
Affluent property-hunters who know they’ll never tire of gazing at this 12th century wonder should seek out the grand period homes on Morris Lane; from their hilltop position they have spectacular and unspoilt Abbey views.
Transport in Kirkstall LS5
Located just outside Leeds Kirkstall is on the First Leeds and Keighley & District major bus routes so is an easy commute to University of Leeds centre. Headingley Train station is as much in Kirkstall as its neighbour, and can be accessed off Kirkstall Lane. For those of you with your own transport the motorways are a mere ten minute drive away.
Kirkstall is situated along the A65 road which links it with Leeds city centre, Guiseley, Yeadon and Ilkley. There are two railway lines running through Kirkstall. The Bradford line passes along the Aire Valley but there is no station, a station is however proposed at Kirkstall Forge. The Harrogate line passes near Kirkstall and the Headingley station is a few minutes walk from the centre of Kirkstall. The former Leeds tramway ran through Kirkstall until it was dismantled in 1959, a substation used by the tramway is still visible on Abbey Road. There are many bus routes through Kirkstall. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal also weaves along the River Aire through Kirkstall and its tow path provides walking, running and cycling routes to Leeds and also west to Rodley, West Yorkshire and Shipley.
15 – To Bradford, Farsley, Leeds city centre
18 and 18a – To Tinshill, Ireland Wood, West Park, Leeds City Centre, Whitkirk, Garforth, Colton
33 and 33a – T0 Leeds City Centre, Horsforth, Rawdon, Guiseley, Yeadon, Menston, Otley
38 – To White Rose Centre, Wortley, Headingley, Gledhow
49 – To Monkswood Gate, Oakwood, St James’ Hospital, Leeds city centre, Bramley
50 and 50a – To Seacroft, Harehills, St James’ Hospital, Leeds City Centre, Hawksworth, Horsforth
91 and 91a – To Pudsey, Bramley, Headingley, Meanwood, Chapeltown, Harehills, Halton Moor.
757 – To Leeds city centre, Horsforth, Leeds Bradford International Airport, Otley
The old Kirkstall Brewery site was recently converted into a large Hall of Residence for students of Leeds Metropolitan University. Other developments in Kirkstall include the Morrisons shopping complex, off the A65 road, by the river.
Road – easily accessible from Leeds City Centre via Kirkstall Road (A65).
Train – Headingley train station is minutes away from Kirkstall Lane and Abbey Road and has a twice hourly service into Leeds city centre (Harrogate line). This line also runs to York and Knaresborough.
Bus – First Metro Buses operate regular services between Leeds City Centre and Kirkstall Abbey and Kirkstall Retail Park (known on the bus route as Kirkstall Morrisons).
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