Thirty people attended a meeting organised by South Leeds Life last night to hear about the history of Stank Hall Barn and discuss what could be done to preserve it.
As the meeting progressed, led first by Frank Goddard from Beeston Local History Society an then added to in discussion, it became clear the barn and the land around it have great historical significance.
The barn is a beautiful example of medieval wooden craftsmanship. It is one of the oldest secular buildings in Leeds. The only buildings definitely older are Kirkstall Abbey and Adel Parish Church. Stank Hall (the building next to the barn) was built at the same time and the architectural features point to it being built at considerable expense. The ownership of the land it stands on has been traced back to 1600 and at various times it has been owned by most of the key families in the development of Leeds including 14 Mayors and 2 MPs.
“The history of Beeston is the history of Leeds”
A full archeolgical survey of the wider site has never been undertaken, but there is clear evidence of fields, orchards and lanes as well as coal working and iron smelting. This site links medieval agriculture to the beginnings of industry that would blossom into the Industrial Revolution in the workshops of Holbeck and Hunslet. The meeting heard that there is no comparable site in Yorkshire with archeological evidence covering this span of time and activity.
The meeting also heard a statement from Leeds City Council who own the immediate site. Whilst they are keen to restore the buildings they want ensure an ongoing sustainable use for the buildings. They point to various constraints on developing the site in terms of it being on green belt land and being a scheduled ancient monument. However they welcome local interest and the idea of a Friends group.
The meeting discussed various options and issues including:
- some sort of “living museum” on the site
- making use of the White Rose Centre’s nearby car parks
- the Barn could host a “son et lumiere” (sound and light show) interpreting the history of Leeds
- It will be important for someone to live on site in the long term
- The buildings could be linked to other important historic buildings in the city
The meeting agreed to form a “Friends of Stank Hall Barn” group to take this work forward. A further meeting is to held during March to set up the group, but some aims have already been identified:
- to work with Leeds City Council to secure the future of the buildings and the wider site
- to organise work parties to tidy the outside of the site
- to raise funds for feasibility work
- to work with local schools and involve children and young people
- to raise the profile of the project at events such as Beeston Festival
If you would like to be kept informed of future meetings and developments please email firstname.lastname@example.org.