The oldest house in Leeds

Many people in South Leeds will have walked past Stank Hall Barn, but might not know the history of this magnificent medieval structure, or the two buildings next to it. The site is located off Dewsbury Road, across from the White Rose Centre.

Friends in medieval dress inside the barn

The barn itself is fifteenth century, think the Wars of the Roses and last year’s White Queen TV drama, and is potentially the newest of the three buildings. The legend that it was built with wood from Christopher Columbus’ ships is a little far fetched, but certainly the dates tally.

The Old Hall, closest to the barn, has a magnificent chimney which incorporates a ‘garderobe’. This feature points to the importance of the site’s occupants. In a time before mothballs, the garderobe was a wardrobe that used the fumes from the toilet below to preserve precious furs and silks.

Recent survey work on the New Hall has uncovered a medieval timber frame, which points to the Elizabethan house having been built around an earlier building.

Stank Hall was a very important site, almost certainly a hunting lodge for the King, when the Court visited nearby Rothwell Castle. Documents point to the lodge being rebuilt with a grant of money from the king in 1280 – making it now the oldest house in Leeds.

Unfortunately the halls are both in a very bad state of repair, despite having been lived in until the 1990s. Both are now derelict and the recent survey work had to be undertaken by a drone. Historic England is working with Leeds City Council to find a long-term solution to preserving these important buildings.

In the meantime the Friends of Stank Hall continue to promote the importance of the site. Their community grow scheme has seen fruit and vegetables growing again outside the barn. The raised beds have been laid out on the same design that a 15th century garden would have used. All the produce is given away to local people and is going some way to reduce food poverty in the area.

The group has recently been bolstered by a number of younger members. Calling themselves The Marauders they got involved after seeing work going on at the site and are equally interested in the archaeology as the vegetables.

New volunteers are always welcome to help with the gardening , the archaeology, or the historical research. The group are particularly looking for anyone with woodwork skills to help make raised beds for this summer’s planting.

Visitors to the garden are welcome whenever volunteers are on site, but the barn can only opened with agreement from Leeds City Council. The Friends of Stank Hall group was formed following a public meeting held by South Leeds Life in 2013. Contact them by email or find them on Facebook and Twitter @StankHallBarn.

Barn open days 2017 (12-4pm):

  • Sunday 7 May
  • Saturday 24 June
  • Saturday 22 July
  • Sunday 13 August
  • Saturday 9 September

The Friends will also be out and about at Beeston Festival on 15 July and Middleton Park Show on 23 September.