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UK Dark Arches, Leeds - October 2015

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History

The land on which the arches now stand, including the River Aire that runs beneath part of the city, was originally occupied by peasant farmers. People had farmed this area as early as the 1086, when the region was known as Loidis in the Celtic Kingdom of Elmet. During these early years, a medieval dam was constructed in the river, to divert water to the manorial corn mill at Swinegate, on the orders of the Lord of the Manor, Ilbert de Lacy whose fortified manor stood on the site that is now occupied by the Scarborough Hotel. The original dam is still visible to this day.

Construction of the Victorian Dark Arches began much later in 1866, when most of the small railway groups were merging into larger companies. By this time, Leeds prospered as a result of the woollen industry and the wider industrial revolution occurring across England at the time. In response to this a new station in Leeds city centre was required, so more passengers and goods would be able to move through the city. After the completion of the arches, which used over 18 million bricks, the station was built above, on the surface level. However, despite the completion of something that was indeed awe-inspiring, especially since nothing on this scale had ever been accomplished in this area before, the Chief constable of Leeds at the time, writing in 1892, filed a report requesting an urgent expansion of the police force because the Dark Arches attracted many sorts of idlers, criminals and loose women. Since the arches were constructed with walkways and passages, and a number of small businesses and workshops, not just the waterway, people were able to walk freely beneath the city of Leeds. It was well-known though that people should avoid these areas if they did not want to be beaten or robbed.

By the 1990s, the entire development had been cleared of most of its former problems and it was considered and advertised as being Leeds’ ‘best kept secret’. The Granary Wharf shopping centre is located within and around the arches and several other small businesses and restaurants were located there, although a number of these have closed and been redeveloped into car parking spaces. While the Granary Wharf area was in financial decline for a number of years throughout the early 2000s, since 2009 the Wharf has been improved considerably.

Our Version of Events

It has been a wee while since all of us went off on an exploring trip together, so we decided to pile into a couple of cars and see where the road took us. The first point of call thereafter was Leeds, to visit the Dark Arches we’ve heard so much about. Unfortunately for us, it had been raining a lot in the days leading up to our visit, so when we first arrived to access the underground passages the water depth had surged quite considerably and the flow of the water was pretty dangerous to say the least. We did, however, manage to find a way inside the ‘non-public’ part of the Dark Arches and they were very different to how we first imagined they would be. They were, as we’d been told, ‘awe-inspiring’ and had to some extent a pleasant piratey underworld feel to them, but they were much shorter than we’d anticipated.

On a more personal level, I was a little disappointed that we weren’t able to get the waders on to have a deeper gander inside the arches, but, in hindsight, if we had done that I think we would have been swept away by the torrent of water. Although we had considered getting the dinghy out, to raft our way down the river, we decided against it since we didn’t fancy getting caught paddling the open river in broad daylight on our first explore of the trip. Perhaps when winter comes though, a little revisit might be on the cards.

Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do, Rizla Rider and Husky.

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2:

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3:

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5:

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6:

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7:

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9:

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10:

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11:

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12:

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Some absolute belters there mate, number 1,2 + 5 especially dude, quality stuff :thumb

:comp:

Thanks mate. Was a bit disappointed with the white glare in some of them, but am happy with some of the detail in them. Need to go back and get between those arches like.

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Really nice mate liking number 10 :D

Nearly been swept off my feet in there more times than I would like to remember! :mrgreen:

Cheers mate :thumb

Haha, I can completely understand why, the water flow going through there is incredible.

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Good to see some more of the place and glad to hear you didn't end up going for a swim :D

Cool write up and shots :beer:

Thanks mate. Was told the water flow in there is fast, and the stories were true ;) Looking forward to going back and getting the waders on.

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