Betjeman stands in City Square, 1968, commiserating and lamenting over the modern architecture sprouting up around the city. “This monstrosity” he croaks energetically while the camera directs itself at the old Norwich Union building “has no artistry, it says nothing but CASH”. It was really interesting to see Leeds in the 60s, the Town Hall and Queen’s Hotel are both pitch black, the railway station has wooden ticket barriers and the women on benches sport green shift dresses and beehives.
The university is spoken highly of, although I was intrigued to learn that some of our campus was built on top of the demolished Woodhouse Cemetery! The streets of Hyde Park were cobbled too, with washing lines hanging across the air. Betjeman condemns Leeds as a dark city, but claims that the new era of the University of Leeds shows promise of a bright future and a much needed boost to the economy. How right he was.
Words: Jack Cullen