Leeds has a lot to be proud of.
Over the years we made significant contributions to industry, culture, music, politics, film and TV.
We’ve decided to round up some of Leeds‘ best gifts to the world – from the people who shaped history to the inventions that changed how we live.
The list is in no particular order, and we welcome any additions you think we might have missed.
If you think there’s a Loiner achievement missing, let us know in the comments below or email email@example.com and we’ll get it added!
But for now, here are 19 brilliant things Leeds has given to the world.
The science that lead to the discovery of DNA
Father and son team William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg shared a Nobel Prize in 1915 for their discovery of the structure of crystals, using X-rays – a discovery that paved the way for future scientists to dig deeper into the make up of other entities including DNA.
The mineral Braggite, from the platinum group, was named after the Braggs, and William became Sir William in 1920.
An English Civil War leader
Born at Denton Hall, between Ilkley and Otley, nobleman Thomas Fairfax was the Parliamentary commander-in-chief during the English Civil War.
The 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron, or Sir Thomas, as he was known, led Parliament to many victories including the Battle of Naseby, destroying Royalist forces and costing King Charles all of his artillery, his personal baggage and around 7,000 men.
Sir Thomas was military ruler of England but was unhappy with the policies of Oliver Cromwell and eventually resigned, leaving Cromwell to it. His resignation saved his life – that and his honourable conduct in battle spared him from the retribution suffered by the other revolutionary leaders. He served as MP for West Riding, and, after the monarchy was restored, served as MP for Yorkshire.
Grand Theft Auto
Gamers can thank Leeds company Rockstar Leeds for the iconic game series, created in their City West office base, arguably not as glamorous soon as some of the series’ locations.
There are now 15 titles in the series, unleashing an action-packed world of driving, third-person shooting, carjacking and more on gamers around the world. It’s the fourth highest-selling video game franchise of all time and one of Britain’s most successful exports.
The man behind the fancy funiture that can now sell for millions was born in Otley.
Thomas Chippendale learned his trade in London and became famous for his mid-Georgian furniture designs and the book of designs he published – The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director.
Chippendale designs are now produced around the world and pieces can sell for millions – a padouk cabinet was sold at action in 2008 for over £2.7m.
A Spice Girl
That’s right, we helped give the world Girl Power. Spice Girl Mel B is one of Leeds’ most successful exports, conquering the world as one fifth of the Spice Girls, and as a reality show judge on America’s Got Talent, the X Factor and The Voice Kids in Australia.
Scary Spice is now dusting off her leopard print for the Spice Girls’ return in a huge stadium tour that kicks off in May – sadly she’s not bringing the show to her hometown, but you can pop to Manchester.
We’ve all heard the stat about Yorkshire ranking 12th in the medal table after the 2012 London Olympics – and Leeds were a big part of that success, with three Leeds athletes bringing home medals from the capital.
The Brownlee brothers did the city proud, with Alistair and Jonathan took home the gold and bronze respectively in the triathlon. Alistair is still the Olympic champion, and Jonathan beat his 2012 success by bagging the silver in Rio in 2016.
Nicola Adams made history in 2012 as the first woman to win a boxing title, and won gold at both the 2012 and 2016 games in the women’s flyweight division. She’s also been awarded an MBE and was named the most influential LGBT person in Britain by the Independent in 2012.
In the 2016 games, a new Leeds star bagged a bronze – Nile Wilson, an artistic gymnast. He won the medal in the men’s horizontal bar event.
Elsewhere, Wilson was a member of the British team at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, winning a silver – the first world men’s team medal in British gymnastics history.
The United States Capitol
Bear with us here, but what if we were to tell you Leeds also gave the world the US Capitol building in Washington DC? Well, we did. Benjamin Latrobe, born near Pudsey, emigrated to the US in his thirties, and went on to design the Capitol, located on Capitol Hill, home of the United States Congress. The original building was completed in 1800.
In the 1810s/1820s, Latrobe also designed the Old Baltimore Cathedral and the Merchants Exchange in Baltimore, the largest domed structure in America at that time.
City of Leeds Diving Club
Forget Tom Daley – the real epicentre of Great Britain’s diving talent pool is right here in Leeds.
The City of Leeds Diving Club isn’t just recognised as one of the best in the country, but one of the world’s greatest.
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears won Team GB’s first ever diving gold medals at the Rio Olympics, while Matty Lee, Lois Toulson, Becky Gallantree and Alicia Blagg are further proof of city’s pedigree in the sport.
Not only that, but another graduate of the prestigious club, Yona Knight-Wisdom, became the first ever diver to represent Jamaica at an Olympic Games in 2016.
Board game giant Waddington’s, founded by Leeds’ won John Waddington, not only brought Monopoly to the UK but was also the company behind murder-mystery game Cluedo.
The invention was purchased from musician Anthony E Pratt, who originally named the game ‘Murder!’. Waddingtons bought it and renamed it Cluedo – a play on Clue and Ludo. The game was licensed to the US to the Parker Brothers (the company behind Monopoly), who renamed it ‘Clue’ for American players.
Prime Minister Asquith
Leeds also gave the world (well, the UK), a prime minister – Herbert Henry Asquith, who was born in Morley.
The Liberal Party politician had the top job from 1908-1916 and was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government.
H.H. Asquith played a key role in passing legislation that shaped the modern welfare state, including laws that provided pensions to the elderly, school places and healthcare for children, helped the unemployed find work and other measures designed to improve people’s lives. He also reduced the power held by the House of Lords. However, he opposed women’s suffrage, only coming round to the idea after he was out of power.
Asquith was PM when Britain and the British Empire entered the First Wolrld War – but by 1915 he was attacked for a munitions shortage and the costly defeat at Galipoli. He formed a coalution government but was still widely criticised, and forced to resign in December 1916.
The first ever film
Leeds also gave the world the first ever film – footage shot by Louis Le Prince, known today as the father of cinematography.
He moved to Leeds from Metz in France in the mid-eighteenth century, and became one of many inventors experimenting with the idea of moving photographs.
Le Prince was on the verge of making history, then at a family gathering in October 1888 in a garden in Roundhay he asked everyone to stand in front of is camera and walk around in a circle.
That footage, filmed and recorded 130 years ago, is known today as the very first film ever created, making Leeds the birthplace of cinema.
Kay Mellor dramas
Leeds has also been the inspiration for some top telly dramas, written by the city’s own Kay Mellor. From Playing The Field to The Syndicate and Fat Friends, the screenwriter has earned an army of fans. Many love her style of writing which includes lots of dry Yorkshire wit and warmth.
Some of her shows have also been converted for the stage – Fat Friends the Musical premiered at the Leeds Grand Theatre in November 2017, and the world premiere of the stage play based on Band of Gold, Mellor’s drama series about women working in Bradford’s red light district, will have its world premiere at the Leeds theatre in November.
In a little hut in Leeds, 90 years ago, Harry Ramsden opened his first fish and chip shop.
The humble chippy, in Guiseley, was based in a striped wooden hut near a tram stop, which cost Harry £150. You could order fish, chips, tea and bread and butter for 99p.
The restaurant chain went global in the late 60s, with venues opening across the UK and as far away as Hong Kong, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
The famous fish and chips were even served in the British pavilion at the Epcot theme park in Walt Disney World, Florida!
Automated traffic lights
Or at least, the use of them to make roads safer! Leeds was the first city to install a fully automated traffic light system, way back in 1928.
Park Row was the first street to give them a go – starting a revolution across the UK in road safety that saw accident numbers reduced.
Remember that the next time you’re cursing at a red light…
Blimmin’ brilliant beer
Leeds will always be associated with Tetley’s, founded in 1822 by Joshua Tetley of Hunslet. Once the largest brewer in Leeds, it produced bestseller Tetley’s Smoothflow, as well as Tetley’s Cask and Tetley’s Gold.
While these were firm favourites for beer suppers, Leeds remains on the beer map even without Tetley’s Brewery, with craft creations from North Brew Co and Northern Monk delighting craft and real ale fans – then there’s Kirkstall Brewery, whose tipples can be enjoyed across the city and in its two pubs, the award-winning Bridge Inn in Kirkstall and its latest refurb project, the Cardigan Arms on Kirkstall Road. Cheers!
The ‘father of civil engineering’, John Smeaton, was born in Austhorpe, Leeds, in 1724. The civil engineer designed bridges, canals, harbours and lighthouses – in fact, a lighthouse could soon appear in tribute to the Leeds industrialist.
Leeds gave the world another boxing world champion – in the form of Josh Warrington. The fighter beat bitter rival Lee Selby in front of 25,000 people to become IBF featherweight title in a battle which will be talked about for years.
He’s set to defend his title in June – the First Direct Arena will host the fight when the Leeds Warrior, 28, goes toe to toe with Kid Galahad.
While we’re hoping you all use more animal-friendly methods of dealing with mice, Leeds did give the world the ‘Little Nipper’ mouse trap.
James Atkinson, born in 1849, was a Leeds ironmonger who created the ‘Little Nipper’ mousetrap with a spring-loaded mechanism. His spring-on-board design was sold in 1913 for £1,000 to Proctor, who have been manufacturing it ever since.
Where would you be without your daily dose of Yorkshire farm-village based drama, eh?
Emmerdale is filmed in Leeds at the Kirkstall Road ITV studios and at its outdoor set near the Harewood Estate, Emmerdale has bagged the award for Serial Drama at the National Television Awards for the last three years. You’re welcome, soap fans.
So there you have it, world – 19 things you have Leeds to thank for.
Got number 20 for us? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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