Last month, my wife and I had an unfortunate experience: three lads drove up outside our house in Beeston Hill, in broad daylight, with crowbars, jacked up our car, sawed the exhaust off our car, and drove off.

It wasn’t a terrible thing (no-one got hurt, the car got fixed, and we did need a new exhaust anyway), but it was annoying and shocking: the sense of powerlessness; the brazenness; the insurance excess fee we had to pay. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I shared it on social media – and I sense it contributed to that pervasive sense that Beeston is a place where bad things happen.

Sadly, south Leeds generally has a bad press. And of course, Holbeck has a particular profile, in the light of the Managed Zone especially. But when I talk to people outside of south Leeds, and if you read the YEP, and amongst what we all see and share on social media, you consistently come across Beeston’s negative reputation: murders and attacks, drug raids, theft, and so on. And if you cast your minds back to 2005, terrorism.

This reputation is not of course groundless: there are plenty of distasteful things in Beeston. But at the same time, after 15 years here (so yes, I am still an incomer!), I love this place, despite the problems – and I see plenty of evidence of others who feel the same. So I’ve found myself wondering: is Beeston really substantially worse than (say) Gipton, Seacroft, Belle Isle, Bramley, East End Park, or similar communities?

I have a theory, and I’m not sure we are. Beeston’s problem is its size. Very simply, Beeston is very very big: I reckon it’s the biggest singular community (ie widely known by a single name) amongst the inner city communities of Leeds – where crime and other issues are unfortunately likely to be higher.

I’ve pored over maps and statistics (for instance, on the Leeds Observatory), and reckon the populations of different communities in Leeds pan out roughly as follows. It’s impossible to exactly work out numbers of residents for different areas – because there’s inevitably grey areas around where communities begin and end, around historical versus current naming, around overlapping names, and so on. I would genuinely welcome challenge and fresh insight on these figures, but here are my estimates…

Osmondthorpe: up to 5,000. Halton Moor: up to 7,000. Burley: up to 3,000. Hyde Park: up to 10,000. Woodhouse: up to 5,000. Little London: up to 8,000. Hunslet (not including historic Hunslet, eg Leeds Dock and surrounding developments in the city centre): up to 7,000. Gipton: up to 12,000. Harehills: up to 20,000. Chapeltown: up to 10,000. Armley: up to 16,000. Bramley: up to 21,000. Cross Green: up to 3,000. East End Park: up to 8,000. Burmantofts: up to 6,000. Linc Green: up to 6,000. Holbeck: up to 5,000. Cottingley: up to 3,000. Middleton: up to 20,000. Belle Isle: up to 11,000.

Beeston wasn’t always massive: it was once a village hemmed in between Hunslet (once seen as running all the way to Cross Flatts Park), Holbeck (once seen as running all the way to the top of Beeston Road), and Millshaw (for more on that community, read our April Fools article from a couple of years ago). But history (especially the M621) and new developments have meant Beeston – let’s call it Greater Beeston – is now widely if not universally seen as stretching all the way to the M621 by Holbeck and Hunslet Moor, encompassing everything along Dewsbury Road up to Middleton Park, and everything around Millshaw and Elland Road.

Here’s what I think most people nowadays recognise as Beeston:

I estimate that makes for well over 30,000 people. By the sheer law of statistics and probability, it’s utterly logical that Beeston experiences more reported crime than any other city community within Leeds – and suffers the poor reputation that follows. There are more of us here than any other community in inner Leeds, so more of us to be victims of crime. If for example, we fit the national statistics, and 1 in 5 of us suffer crime in a given year, that makes for over 6,000 that year. If by the same measure, 1 in 5 Chapeltown residents suffer a crime that same year, that’s only 2,000 victims.

This is not for a moment to gloss over the very real issues we face in this community, and others like it: crime is a reality here, sometimes brutally so. But I’m not convinced that Beeston suffers higher rates of crime per person than similar communities (we could and perhaps should do further research) – it’s just that our sheer size creates the impression that we do.

Finally, I was really struck and humbled by the local response to our (far from terrible) event last month: people generously gave us donations to help cover the insurance claim fee; no fewer than three neighbours offered to lend us their cars; and we got a lot of sympathy and solidarity from a very wide range of people. And whilst talking about the woes of Beeston last week, another local resident was arguing that Beeston has far more active groups and projects than similar communities (which again, statistically, you’d expect): there’s much to be proud of in our area.

And wherever you live, I’ve been thinking: a community isn’t (or at least, needn’t be) defined by its struggles and problems, but by the way it responds to them. For sure, we face our fair share of battles – but, on this basis, I don’t Beeston’s doing too badly at all. What do you reckon?


PS: For the record, the police told us – based on their traffic camera records – that the thieves seemed to come in from near Wakefield to nick our exhaust. Just saying.

11 Replies to “Is Beeston so bad?”

  1. Hi Ed. I live on Dewsbury Road near the Shell garage and that is in Hunslet so don’t start annexing us. I’ve lived here for 43 years and the people have changed greatly, we’ve gone from a community that knew everyone to a community that is devided by language but not by spirit. Making friends when we don’t all speak the same language is hard but the universal language of the smile wins through.
    I believe that a community looks after it’s own and that criminal activity decreases when we have “Nosey Neighbours and curtain twitchers” so for me the better the community the less the crime.
    Really sorry for what happened but so long as you and the family are ok that’s just another piece of life shite.

    Regards Steve Topp

    1. Hi Steve, good to hear from you. Yes to smiling / curtain twitching / being bothered! Perhaps like yours, our street is massively diverse, and always changing (although not too fast) – and it’s undoubtedly the friendliest place I’ve ever lived in my life. Not perfect, but that sense of looking out for one another is priceless.
      On geographies, this is fascinating. You still see this area (our area – you’re just down the road from me, as you know) to be in Hunslet? You are one of the diehards! And/or would you also recognise that it’s Beeston as well as Hunslet? Even people on the Longroyds and Garnets typically see themselves as Beeston (even the old guard). Perception and identity are fascinating and ever fluid commodities…
      Take care, catch up again soon.

  2. My son was robbed of his bike at knifepoint two weeks ago….Reported to Police. We have told them of five separate sightings of brand new bikes identical to his…..We have heard nothing…..Absolutely nothing. We have been informed of each person who has had that bike in their possession since it was stolen….. Some meant to be his friends! But I believe what comes around ,goes around…..they all stick together no matter what….! Beeston has had its fair share of troubles but it’s still my home.

    1. I live just around the corner from you by St Lukes church. My exhaust pipe was robbed off of my car, parked on the driveway behind closed gates, on the morning of Sunday the 30th of December in broad daylight while I slept. It was jacked up as I was replacing the clutch.
      I believe it was taken by some white men in a white Transit pick up as I saw them watching me intently not long before that on a number of occasions on consecutive days, then after the crime they seemingly disappeared. Then, my girlfriend saw them recently driving past slowly staring at my car at about 8:30am on Tuesday the 29th of January and when she approached them they drove off quickly.
      The crime was reported to the police but nothing has happened.
      My insurance excess isn’t far off the price of a new exhaust pipe, approximately £400, so I’ll be paying for it out of my own pocket as soon as I can afford to, and until then I’m walking and using public transport.
      I’m quite paranoid now and jump up and run to the window whenever I hear a noise. I’ve bought a padlock for the gate and am considering a CCTV system.
      It’s really sad these predatory lowlife scumbags can get away with routinely patroling the streets, brazenly robbing peoples’ hard earned property with impunity and no recourse.

      In response to the title of the article, no, it’s not so bad, but it’s brought down greatly by a small percentage of criminals who ruin it for everyone else.

      In resonse to Sue, I was robbed at knifepoint a very long time ago, not in Beeston. It’s not nice. I hope he’s alright, and you’re right: What goes around comes around.

      1. Hey Sue. Obviously really gutted to hear about that situation with your son – but glad you’ve also not given up on the community yet..! It’s a long shot, but want to head down to down in Wortley, and see if they can rustle up a replacement for him, at cost, or maybe free. They’re very good hearted folk (although also need to pay the bills, of course).
        And Mark: again, really gutted; and yes, the brazenness is totally galling, isn’t it? Apparently these exhaust / catalytic converter thefts are really on the rise at the mo. I think we’re going to fit CCTV too, but I wish we didn’t have to.
        Cheers both.

      2. If people are after CCTV cameras, I myself have set up 2 home indoor security cameras from the company NEOS. They are an online insurance company and the internal cameras when set up near windows are just as good as having an external system and a lot cheaper. The prices of each camera are only £19.99 and work through your Wi-Fi and are accessible via an App. I have also since found you can share this with friends and neighbours who then can keep track while you are away, without having to have access to you house. It’s help put my wife’s concerns at ease and has also helped out already with an elderly neighbours issues at 4:00 a.m. one morning. The footage is stored in the Cloud for 3 days and accessible at anytime.

  3. Hi Ed, Hunslet boundary’s goes along Hunslet Moor Road up Lady Pit Lane and down Colwyn Road. Heritage is we’re you are from not from someone who decides where the boundaries are.
    Boundaries are important I’m from Hunslet but we need to show our community spirit

    1. Hi Steve. I don’t for a second question the historical boundaries, but what do you make of the fact that many people who live within the historical boundary of Hunslet now consider themselves to be in Beeston? Don’t boundaries change over time..? Sorry to be difficult!

  4. Good piece on the stats, makes sense… I’m happy you got such a response from neighbours and co. I wonder though, how well a person of no influence would be supported if something like this happened to them. Just playing devil’s advocate haha.

    I am happy to see that even though you’ve experienced this that you still continue to be positive and celebrate the area 🙂

  5. My father’s family moved to the Beeston area of Leeds in the 1800’s. My Dads birth certificate says he was born in 1917 at Stank Hall (although it was probably a building attached to it. ) I was christened at St Mary’s Church, Beeston, & numerous members of my family are buried in the graveyard there (7 in one grave would you believe!) Beeston, which included the lower end of Cottingley & also Holbeck, was Leeds 11.
    Hunslet, which included some parts of Middleton & Belle Isle, was Leeds 10. Within these Leeds 10 & 11 areas many communities had their own identities, which most residents proudly championed. Someone living up the hill near Cottingley Crematorium would say they lived in Cottingley, not Beeston, the same with some of my family who lived near Brown Lane. They lived in Holbeck, not Beeston. Middleton is also fiercly proud of its heritage, someone born near the old Miggy Arms (now Aldi!) wouldn’t t dream of saying they’re from ‘Beeston’, they would be from Miggy. When the ‘powers that be’ decided to bunch areas together, they did the local residents no favours. Statistics can be manipulated, and there should be a breakdown showing the individual areas within the total area. This would give a truer picture.
    On a slightly different note, I was also really annoyed when the three Yorkshire Ridings were joined together as ‘Yorkshire’. Proud as I am of being born and bred in Yorkshire, I will always put ‘West Yorkshire’ on any forms I have to fill in, or anywhere I have to write my address.
    Finally (sorry for the long post!), car crime might be more prolific today, but it certainly isn’t new to Beeston. Thirty years ago when I lived in Hird Street, off Tempest Road, my hubby was going to work one morning, went out the door to get in his beloved Rover car, only to find it jacked up & all the tyres stolen!!

    1. Hi Sue, many thanks. Yes, identity and place names are funny things. I would add though that many of those names you’ve mentioned there remain: Cottingley is still very much recognised as Cottingley (not Beeston), and likewise Holbeck (north of the motorway only though, I’d suggest). And certainly the Miggy Arms neighbourhood is still Miggy, not Beeston in a million years!
      But place names do evolve over time – sometimes due to bureucrats, but more often due to infrastructure etc. The M621 played a huge part in the expanded sense of where the Beeston boundaries were.
      And both good and tragic to hear that crime isn’t a new idea in Beeston…! Thanks.

Comments are closed.