Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while in 2011 the entire city had an estimated population of 798,800.
Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the West Yorkshire Urban Area, which at the 2001 census had a population of 1.5 million, and the Leeds-Bradford Metropolitan Area, of which Leeds is the integral part, had a population of around 2.3 million, making it the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. In addition, the Leeds City Region, an economic area with Leeds at its core, had a population of 2.9 million. Leeds is the UK's largest centre for business, legal, and financial services outside London, and its office market is the best in Europe for value. Leeds is considered a Gamma World City, alongside cities such as Phoenix, St. Petersburg and Valencia under the 1998 GaWC study.
Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, its recorded history can be traced to the 5th century when the Kingdom of Elmet was covered by the forest of "Loidis", the origin of the name Leeds. The name has been applied to many administrative entities over the centuries. It changed from being the appellation of a small manorial borough, in the 13th century, through several incarnations, to being the name attached to the present metropolitan borough. In the 17th and 18th centuries Leeds became a major centre for the production and trading of wool. Then, during the Industrial Revolution, Leeds developed into a major industrial centre; wool was the dominant industry but flax, engineering, iron foundries, printing, and other industries were important. From being a compact market town in the valley of the River Aire in the 16th century Leeds expanded and absorbed the surrounding villages to become a populous urban centre by the mid-20th century.
Public transport, rail and road communications networks in the region are focused on Leeds and there are a number of twinning arrangements with towns and cities in other countries. Its assigned role in the Leeds City Region partnership recognises the city's importance to regional economic development.
The name Leeds derives from "Loidis", the name given to a forest covering most of the Brythonic kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century. Bede states in the fourteenth chapter of his Historia ecclesiastica, in a discussion of an altar surviving from a church erected by Edwin of Northumbria, that it is located in …regione quae vocatur Loidis (Latin, "the region which is called Loidis"). An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner, a word of uncertain origin.
Leeds developed as a market town in the Middle Ages as part of the local agricultural economy. Before the Industrial Revolution it became a co-ordination centre for the manufacture of woollen cloth and white broadcloth was traded at its White Cloth Hall. Leeds handled one sixth of England's export trade in 1770. Growth, initially in textiles, was accelerated by the building of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699 and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816. The railway network constructed around Leeds, starting with the Leeds and Selby Railway in 1834, provided improved communications with national markets and, significantly for its development, an east-west connection with Manchester and the ports of Liverpool and Hull giving improved access to international markets. Alongside technological advances and industrial expansion, Leeds retained an interest in trading in agricultural commodities, with the Corn Exchange opening in 1864.
Marshall's Mill was one of the first of many factories constructed in Leeds from around 1790 when the most significant were woollen finishing and flax mills. Manufacturing diversified by 1914 to printing, engineering, chemicals and clothing manufacture. Decline in manufacturing during the 1930s was temporarily reversed by a switch to producing military uniforms and munitions during World War II. However, by the 1970s the clothing industry was in irreversible decline, facing cheap foreign competition. The contemporary economy has been shaped by Leeds City Council's vision of building a '24 hour European city' and 'capital of the north'. The city has developed from the decay of the post-industrial era to become a telephone banking centre, connected to the electronic infrastructure of the modern global economy. There has been growth in the corporate and legal sectors and increased local affluence has led to an expanding retail sector, including the luxury goods market. In 2011 it was announced that Leeds would become an enterprise zone to help small businesses in the region increase economic growth. In a 2010 index for sustainable cities, the city placed 6th for the second year running.
Leeds was a manor and township in the large ancient parish of Leeds St Peter, in the Skyrack wapentake of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Borough of Leeds was created in 1207, when Maurice Paynel, lord of the manor, granted a charter to a small area of the manor, close to the river crossing, in what is now the city centre. Four centuries later, the inhabitants petitioned Charles I for a charter of incorporation, which was granted in 1626. The new charter incorporated the entire parish, including all eleven townships, as the Borough of Leeds and withdrew the earlier charter. Improvement commissioners were set up in 1755 for paving, lighting, and cleansing of the main streets, including Briggate and further powers were added in 1790 to improve the water supply.
The borough corporation was reformed under the provisions of Municipal Corporations Act 1835. Leeds Borough Police force was formed in 1836 and Leeds Town Hall was completed by the corporation in 1858. In 1866 Leeds, and each of the other townships in the borough, became a civil parish. The borough became a county borough in 1889, giving it independence from the newly-formed West Riding County Council and it gained city status in 1893. In 1904 the Leeds parish absorbed Beeston, Chapel Allerton, Farnley, Headingley cum Burley and Potternewton from within the borough. In the twentieth century the county borough initiated a series of significant territorial expansions, growing from in 1911 to in 1961. In 1912 the parish and county borough of Leeds absorbed Leeds Rural District, consisting of the parishes of Roundhay and Seacroft; and Shadwell, which had been part of Wetherby Rural District. On 1 April 1925 the parish of Leeds was expanded to cover the whole borough.
The county borough was abolished on 1 April 1974 and its former area was combined with that of the municipal boroughs of Morley and Pudsey; the urban districts of Aireborough, Horsforth, Otley, Garforth and Rothwell; and parts of the rural districts of Tadcaster, Wetherby and Wharfedale. This area formed a metropolitan district in the county of West Yorkshire. It gained both borough and city status and is known as the City of Leeds. Initially, local government services were provided by Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire County Council. When the county council was abolished in 1986 the city council absorbed its functions and some powers passed to organisations such as the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority. From 1988 two run-down and derelict areas close to the city centre were designated for regeneration and became the responsibility of Leeds Development Corporation, outside the planning remit of the city council. Planning powers were restored to the local authority in 1995 when the development corporation was wound up.
In 1801, 42% of the population of Leeds lived outside the township, in the wider borough. Cholera outbreaks in 1832 and 1849 caused the authorities to address the problems of drainage, sanitation and water supply. Water was pumped from the River Wharfe, but by 1860 it was too heavily polluted to be usable. Following the Leeds Waterworks Act of 1867 three reservoirs were built at Lindley Wood, Swinsty and Fewston in the Washburn Valley north of Leeds. Residential growth occurred in Holbeck and Hunslet from 1801 to 1851, but, as these townships became industrialised new areas were favoured for middle class housing. Land south of the river was developed primarily for industry and secondarily for back-to-back workers' dwellings. The Leeds Improvement Act 1866 sought to improve the quality of working class housing by restricting the number of homes that could be built in a single terrace. Holbeck and Leeds formed a continuous built-up area by 1858, with Hunslet nearly meeting them. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, population growth in Hunslet, Armley and Wortley outstripped that of Leeds. When pollution became a problem, the wealthier residents left the industrial conurbation to live in Headingley, Potternewton and Chapel Allerton which led to a 50% increase in the population of Headingley and Burley from 1851 to 1861. The middle class flight from the industrial areas led to development beyond the borough at Roundhay and Adel. The introduction of the electric tramway led to intensification of development in Headingley and Potternewton and expansion outside the borough into Roundhay.
Two private gas supply companies were taken over by the corporation in 1870 and the municipal supply provided street lighting and cheaper gas to homes. From the early 1880s the Yorkshire House-to-House Electricity Company supplied electricity to Leeds until it was purchased by Leeds Corporation and became a municipal supply.
Slum clearance and rebuilding began in Leeds in the Inter-war period when over 18,000 houses were built by the council on 24 estates in Cross Gates, Middleton, Gipton, Belle Isle and Halton Moor. The slums of Quarry Hill were replaced by the innovative Quarry Hill flats, which were demolished in 1975. Another 36,000 houses were built by private sector builders, creating suburbs in Gledhow, Moortown, Alwoodley, Roundhay, Colton, Whitkirk, Oakwood, Weetwood and Adel. After 1949 a further 30,000 sub-standard houses were demolished by the council and replaced by 151 medium-rise and high-rise blocks of council flats in estates at Seacroft, Armley Heights, Tinshill and Brackenwood.
Leeds has seen great expenditure on regenerating the city, attracting in investments and flagship projects, as found in Leeds city centre. Many developments boasting luxurious penthouse apartments have been built ref name=leeds_apartments></ref> close to the city centre.