Two centuries of service to the Woodhouse community
Woodhouse, like many other inner city parts of Leeds has experienced huge changes in the last two hundred years. Quarries opened only to be abandoned; many new houses were erected only to be demolished and replaced by others; people flowed into and out of Woodhouse. Yet throughout these great changes, the building currently occupied by Woodhouse Community Centre, along with an earlier building on the site, has acted as a beacon guiding and assisting the inhabitants of the Woodhouse Street area. From this building people have been given opportunities for spiritual, educational, and recreational pursuits. The significance of each of these has varied over time.
Sunday school to Community centre
In Victorian times the Wesleyan Methodists, whose Sunday school occupied the earlier and later buildings, were instrumental in providing children with a basic education. Emphasis shifted sharply in the first half of the twentieth century when the Sunday school building came to host many varied social activities. Times change and in 1951 the building was bought by Leeds City Council. This almost brought a return to its Victorian role as primary school children were again taught in the building. Then in 1975 the building became the home of Woodhouse Community Centre. Over the years this centre has been very active in providing a wide range of services to local people. March 2011 saw Oblong take over the lease of the building from Leeds City Council. And after the current refurbishment of the building, Oblong’s plans are to co-ordinate and run a variety of services from this improved environment.
Chronological History of Woodhouse Street Wesleyan Sunday School Buildings
Year 2011 Oblong acquires long-term lease of the former Sunday school building.
1975 Woodhouse Community Centre Management Committee established and the centre is based in the former Sunday school building.
1975 Building under threat of demolition.
c.1972 Building occupied by Reception Centre for Immigrant Children, though this was probably part of Quarry Mount School.
1951 The building becomes an annexe for Quarry Mount School.
1951 The 1891 building is sold to Leeds City Council.
1892 Some classes for Leeds School Board still being held in the Sunday school.The new building must have been open by 1892.
1891 Foundation stones laid for a new building to house the Sunday school.
1874 Leeds School Board uses the building for day school classes. Classes in spelling, after Sunday school, cease.
1855-74 The most likely period when a wing was added to the building.
1842 Evening classes in writing are being held by this year.
1840 Library known to exist.
1840 Sunday school building known to exist.
1780 Wesleyan Sunday school opens. It is not known when the school occupied the building on the site of the present building.
1770 Wesleyan Methodist Chapel is built on land currently occupied by the Woodhouse Methodist Church early in 2011.
Woodhouse Community Centre is based in the former Woodhouse Street Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School. Until the mid-twentieth century, it was the Wesleyans who were based in these buildings.
In the early nineteenth century, there were no public libraries so the establishment of a Sunday school library in 1840 was an additional means of educating the poorer inhabitants of Woodhouse. The library could be used both by pupils and teachers. In 1874 Woodhouse Street Methodists let the premises to Leeds School Board for the use as a day school. These changes led to the opening, in 1887, of a newly built council school, called Quarry Mount, in the neighbourhood. Not only is the building, with its clock and spire, a local landmark but also the building is still a Leeds City Council school. Nevertheless, Leeds School Board continued to make some use of the Sunday school premises for elementary education; for example, an infants department was located in the Sunday school in 1892. In the late nineteenth century, Wesleyan faith in its Sunday school must have been very strong for a decision was taken to re-build its premises. G.F.Danby designed the building. The same site was chosen and foundation stones were laid in 1891. Attached to this building is a tablet that proclaims: ‘Wesleyan Methodist Sabbath School’. We suspect this tablet had been part of the pre-1891 building.
The First Half of the Twentieth Century
This period witnessed national growth in educational provision and the start of national insurance. The type of community work undertaken by the Wesleyans in Victorian times was no longer needed. Instead the Sunday school, whilst continuing its religious teaching, became a focus for the teetotal social life of the district. Otherwise social life lay in public houses and, from 1911, in The Picture Palace. Occasionally the new premises were let to other bodies, in particular, the Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society.
After the Second World War
Following upon the 1944 Education Act, Leeds City Council re-organised its elementary schools into primary and secondary schools. Quarry Mount School became a primary school, but in so becoming was short of space. This extra space was potentially available at Woodhouse Street Sunday school. In January 1950 Woodhouse Street Methodists had approached Methodist Church Chapel With some reluctance Chapel Affairs agreed to the sale, and Woodhouse Street Methodists sold the Sunday school to Leeds City Council for £4000 in 1951. For a number of years, the building was used as an annexe to Quarry Mount School. This was probably still the case in 1973 when the building was a Reception Centre for Immigrant Children. However, in 1975 the building was under threat of demolition. Reprieve arose through the formation of a joint body of elected managers and the education authority that established Woodhouse Community Centre, and based it in the building. The building’s future was further secured in 1979 when it obtained an Inner City Programme Grant that enabled the building to be refurbished. In April 2011 Oblong acquired a long-term lease from Leeds City Council for the building. Investment was secured and the building has been refurbished and reopened in 2012.
Written by: Anthony Silson. Edited by: Margaret Plows