In the mid-nineteenth century, the Victoria Cricket Ground on Cardigan Road in what we now call Hyde Park, was considered to be in Woodhouse. The area we now think of as Woodhouse, was known as Great Woodhouse, and included what we now call Hyde Park Corner. All of the area between Headingley and the town centre was known as Woodhouse. Little Woodhouse was called Little Woodhouse, and covered the same area as it does now. It too was a part of Woodhouse.
In 1920, the Yorkshire Evening Post published a series of articles by Edmund Bogg entitled ‘The Roots of Modern Leeds.’ The seventh in the series was . . .
The Village of Little Woodhouse . . . Ancient Features that still remain.
A century or more ago, the old-time village of Little Woodhouse stood quite apart from the mother town of Leeds. It was reached by footpaths running through meadows, and between hedgerows scented with clover and woodbine. There still remain such names as Woodbine Place and Woodhouse Square. At that date the only buildings standing between Woodhouse Lane and the hamlet were the Priest’s House and the stone mansion of the Calverleys, which stood on the site of the present Town Hall.
Calverley Street still remains. The house stood amid pleasant surroundings. And a veteran still living tells how he helped in the hayfield. Near the hall was the eighteenth century house of Dr Price. On its site now stands the School of Medicine.
Ralph Thoresby speaks eloquently of the beauty of Little Woodhouse in his time – “It was the most picturesque and pleasant hamlet in the Parish of Leeds.”
And even Dr Whitaker, who was not given to over-praise, describes it as being “most beautifully situated,” with its stately homes, and sweet-scented gardens, orchards, and groves; beyond, meadows and crofts, reaching down towards the Aire, then clear, clean and trouty.
During the reign of Elizabeth this manor was bought from the Crown by one Kendal, and from him Kendal Lane doubtless derives its name. A clear spring of water gushing out in an adjacent wood is named Kendal spring. From it the cottagers of Little Woodhouse obtained their supply of water.
Thomas Metcalfe dwelt here prior to the building of the big red brick house in Guildford Street, from that time known as the Red Hall.
Here also, in the seventeenth century resided Madame Isobel Leighton, whom Thoresby speaks of as “that pious and venerable lady, most kind to the poor.” She was three times married and three times a widow. She left the income of three fields for the better education of poor children.
Leighton Lane derives its name from this lady.
Here in Little Woodhouse during the reign of Religious Intolerance (1670) Oliver Heywood was arrested. To evade publicity he was preaching privately to his friends here. But during the sermon he was taken into custody and brought before the Mayor, who relates Heywood, “put me to the common prison, then known as Cappon Hall, a most vile place.”
The Mayor was Godfrey Lawson, an ancestor of Sir Wilfrid Lawson.
There are several bits of domestic architecture remaining, quaint corners and little squares hidden away, with the breath of old time still lingering there.
Another cottage at the top of Leighton Lane has seen generations of people pass its portals, and was of old the Half Way House Inn. Near by stood the toll bar.
Another notable building thereabouts is the princely looking stone mansion, Denison Hall, erected by John Wilkinson Denison in 1786.
The builder received his great wealth from his uncles, Robert and William Denison. William Denison was an alderman of Leeds and was thrice selected for the office of Mayor, but each time he declined to accept office and so was subjected to a fine. A fourth time he was chosen, and again declined. Eventually, after a strong protest by the Corporation, he consented, only on condition that his brother Robert became his deputy.
The poor of Leeds found in him a most generous friend in 1776. During a period of great depression he bought 20 loads of corn and 40 corves of coal and distributed them to those in want.
He died in 1782, leaving a fortune of half a million. His brother Robert, who succeeded, died three years later, also issueless, leaving his estates to John Wilkinson, his nephew, who adopted the family name. A year later he began to build Denison Hall, for in June, 1786, he was advertising for three or four score masons to assist in its erection.