Let me tell you a story…
…but it’s not about a person. It’s about a place.
A street called Rosebud Walk.
In Leeds. Of course.
A lovely, romantic name that conjures up country air and the scent of flowers. Quite bucolic.
Except for the fact that it stands on the edge of Sheepscar, running between Roseville Road and Dolly Lane Not long ago it was a short street of terraced houses, their brickwork covered with soot and smut. It’s little more than a good stone’s throw from the Victoria, the public house on Roundhay Road that Annabelle Harper runs in my Tom Harper novels; Rosebud Walk even gets a mention in one of them.
This is how the area looked in 1903. You can’t quite see the street, it’s off to the right.
This is the way it looks now. Not exactly pretty or rose-filled, is it? You at that low wall with the street sign? That’s the wall at the right-hand edge of the 1903 picture.
Yet it wasn’t always this way. Rosebud Walk has a history that reaches to the early part of the 19th century, and back then it earned its name.
We think of Sheepscar as part of the inner city, transformed from working-class housing into light industrial estate. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was countryside; hardly more than a few houses and farms. It had a bridge over the beck, carrying a turnpike road heading north towards Harrogate. A rapeseed oil mill and a ground redwood mill, along with the dye works, were the only businesses. The area, according to historian Ralph Thoresby, was “mostly inhabited by clothiers” – men who. wove wool into cloth and took it into Leeds to sell at the cloth market.
In 1810 another major road was constructed, branching off the turnpike just north of the bridge towards Wetherby – what we know today as Roundhay Road and the A58.
Nine years later, a cavalry barracks, locally known as Chapeltown Barracks, was erected over 11 acres to the east of the Harrogate turnpike and north of the Roundhay turnpike.
Curiously, this didn’t bring an immediate flux of businesses to Sheepscar. The trade directory for 1823 lists a pair of grocers, a seed crusher, a whitesmith, a painter, Holroyd’s dye works, and one cloth dresser. By 1828, a joiner was listed in Skinner Lane. They were the sole tradesmen listed in the area.
By 1834, there was a little more, but this was still very much well outside Leeds. A map from 1834 shows that the few buildings were clustered around the junction where the Roundhay turnpike, Sheepscar Lane, and Manor Street came together. But there was a new addition.
A little further up the turnpike you’ll notice a tea and pleasure garden across from the barracks, probably for the officers and their families. Owned by Mr B Beverley, it extended to Gipton Beck and beyond, stretching the track that would soon be called Dolly Lane.
This map from 1837 shows the extent of Beverly’s holdings. By this time they only seem to extend from Gipton Beck at the west to Dolly Lane in the east.
By 1839, the tea garden is listed on Roundhay Road, and run by Edward West.
Let’s move on to 1847. The tea garden has a name now – Rosebud Garden – and a house called Rosebud stands by to Gipton Beck. At this point the water would still be pure there, before it reached the piggery at the end of Manor Street and Holroyd’s Dye Works.
A path connects the garden to Roundhay Road and the barracks. Sadly, we have no information as to what the tea gardens were like. Very likely there was entertainment, musicians playing, possible more, but we’ll never know the details.
Rosebud Gardens still existed in 1866, and the house named Rosebud was still there. Even at that point, there was very little building in Sheepscar. It would have been green, the air reasonably clean, pretty much semi-rural.
Everything began to change soon after, in 1870. The streets began to rise up in Sheepscar. Housing for the growing numbers of the working classes, back-to-backs and through terraces. By 1890 Rosebud Gardens had gone. The top boundary was now Roseville Street, and the bottom had become Rosebud Walk, a line separating the backyards of Roseville Terrace from the land behind. That name would be the only way the place would live on.
By 1906 it was even more hemmed in, with the Keplers to the north, and then the Andersons as Harehills grew.
That was how it would stay for a few decades, until the demolition of Sheepscar. Roseville Terrace has been pulled down, although one side of Roseville Street remain.
And Rosebud Walk is there, a single lane through from Dolly Lane to Roseville Road. Not even a memory of the tea garden, or even of the houses that were once there. Only a name.
It could almost be Orson Welles…