Middleton is a largely residential suburb of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England and historically a village in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is situated on a hill south of Leeds city centre and north north-west of London. In 2001 the population of the Middleton Park ward of Leeds City Council was 27,487.
Middleton was occupied before the Norman Conquest and recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. It developed as a manorial estate and its owners began to exploit the coal seams which outcropped within its boundaries. At the start of the Industrial Revolution a wooden waggonway was built to link the coal pits to Leeds. The colliery agent, John Blenkinsop designed an iron railway and its first steam-powered locomotive which was built by Matthew Murray in Holbeck. The coal mines on which the local economy was based lasted until 1967 and the railway is a preserved and run by a trust after operating for 200 years.
Middleton Park, a remnant of the manorial estate, contains a large area of ancient woodland and parts of it, where coal was mined, are designated a scheduled ancient monument. It was the location of Middleton Hall and Middleton Lodge homes to the local gentry.
The village developed along Town Street, a school, chapel and church were built in the 19th century but after the land was acquired by Leeds Council in 1920 a large council housing estate was built on the flatter land to the south, completely changing the rural nature of the settlement. Early transport was provided by a tram line and the Leeds Ring Road was built to Middleton. After the colliery closed the area began to decline and by 2001, had areas of multiple deprivation and high levels of unemployment and anti-social behaviour. The Middleton Regeneration Board has been established with the remit of addressing these issues.
Middleton was absorbed into Leeds in 1889.
Flint and bronze weapons have been discovered in the neighbourhood showing evidence of habitation during the Palaeolithic and Bronze Ages. Roman discoveries were made in 1607 and 1823. Middleton was mentioned as Mildentone and Mildetone in the Domesday Book as having three carucates of land much of which was woodland. The land was given to Ilbert de Lacy who had a castle at Pontefract. Middleton Park is a remnant of the manorial estate which existed after the Norman Conquest. In the 13th century the boundary between Middleton and Beeston became the focus of a protracted dispute over where it lay in the dense woodland which covered the area. The dispute between William Grammary and Adam de Beeston was settled in 1209 by single combat and resulted in the construction of a boundary bank and ditch, a stretch of which can still be seen in Middleton Woods.
The Creppings were lords of the manor followed by the Leigh or Legh family. John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, held the manor from 1363 to 1370 and Simon Simeon, whose will mentioned coal mines, from 1401–1406. The Leighs held the manor for much of the time between 1300 until 1697 when Anne Leigh married Ralph Brandling of Felling in Durham. The Leighs once occupied New Hall whose name is recalled in the street names in the area. William Gascoigne, who invented the micrometer and died fighting for the Royalists at Marston Moor in 1644, was another resident of New Hall.
Middleton Hall on Town Street was built in the 18th century for the Brandlings but they chose to live mainly in Durham. Charles John Brandling of Gosforth House, the Member of Parliament for Newcastle between 1798 and 1812 and for Northumberland from 1820 until 1826, married Henrietta Armitage of Middleton. The Brandlings appointed John Blenkinsop to manage their collieries in Middleton and he was the hall's occupant in 1809. The hall was destroyed in a fire in 1962.
In 1760 the Brandlings built a new residence, Middleton Lodge, designed by James Paine. It was situated in what is now the park possibly on the site the original manor house. Members of the family lived there until 1860 including R.H. Brandling who donated land on Town Street on which the church is built. The Brandling's fortunes declind and the estate was sold to the Middleton Estate & Colliery Company in 1862. William Henry Maude, a partner in the company, occupied the house with his sister in 1871. He died in a carriage accident in the park in 1911. His sister remained at Middleton Lodge after the land had been acquired by the council until her death in 1933 after which the house became the headquarters of Middleton Golf Club. Middleton Lodge was demolished in 1996.
There is evidence of coal mining dating to the Middle Ages in the shaft mounds, waggonways and similar archaeological features resulting from early mining activity in Middleton Woods. Before the 17th century the pits were bell pits and adits or day holes dug horizontally into the hill sides where the coal seam outcropped. In 1669 Frances Conyers of New Hall had "cole pits" in Middleton. The pits were small and numerous and many worked for a short time. Gin pits using horses to turn the windlass were the next development and the deeper pits had brick-lined shafts and wooden headgear for hauling tubs of coal and miners out of the workings. This type of mine was in operation when Anne Leigh married Ralph Brandling whose family owned collieries in Durham. Brandling's 1,200 acre Middleton estate supplied coal to Leeds but was disadvantaged in the trade by poor roads. Deep mining arrived with the advent of steam engines to pump water out of the mines and keep the workings dry making it possible to raise coal from greater depths. In 1780 a Newcomen engine was installed at Middleton and by 1808 the mine employed 90 hewers and 60 putters. The market for coal grew as Leeds and its industries expanded.
The Middleton Railway, founded in 1758, is the oldest continuously working railway in Britain to be established by an Act of Parliament; the first such act in England. The railway, owned by Charles Brandling, (1733–1802) was a horse drawn wooden waggonway linking the collieries at Middleton to Cassons Close near Leeds Bridge in the centre of Leeds. In 1810 John Blenkinsop, Brandling's agent at Middleton, was looking for cheaper ways of moving coal to Leeds. He designed the rack railway and Matthew Murray built the first Middleton Railway locomotive, "Salamanca", at his Round Foundry in Holbeck. The locomotive's first run, reported in The Leeds Mercury on 27 June 1812, was "witnessed by thousands of spectators and crowned a complete success....". Three more locomotives were built. The Middleton Railway locomotives had a toothed cog wheel which meshed into a rack on the side of the rail, as it was felt this would provide the engines with a better grip when hauling coal wagons.
Before 1840, women and children were employed in coal mines and there were frequent accidents. The worst disaster occurred in 1825 at the Gosforth Pit, named after the Brandling's Durham estate, where an explosion of firedamp caused 24 deaths; the oldest a collier aged 48 and the youngest a child of seven.
Broom Pit was the deepest at , and longest-lasting of the Middleton collieries. In 1896 the Middleton Broom, Little and Middleton Main Pits, all managed by John Neal, employed over 600 workers. By 1923 just the Broom Pit was working, employing over 1,000 men and suppling coking, gas and household coal and fireclay to the brickworks. Nearly 900 men were employed there in 1940. At the time the collieries were nationalised in 1947, the workforce had reduced to 436. Operations at the pit ended in 1968 as the productivity of the colliery declined.
In 1919, the grounds of Middleton Lodge were leased by Leeds Council for use as a public park. The rural nature of the area changed soon after 1 April 1920 when the township was incorporated into the County Borough of Leeds. Leeds Council acquired land to construct "a vast low-density corporation built cottage estate with circuses and avenues". The houses were built using bricks from the fireclay works at Broom Pit on land once used for agriculture including West Farm and parts of Sissons Farm. By 1934, 2,377 council houses had been built and the housing estate was considered to be a "garden suburb", but was found to be remote and lacking in facilities by the residents. An early resident was Keith Waterhouse, who wrote about his childhood exploits as the only member of the Middleton Hiking Club, in his book, City Lights.
The area attracted more social housing when the Westwoods and Manor Farm estates were developed in the 1960s. A large private housing estate was built at Sharp Lane after 1972 and 1,300 houses were built at Leeds New Forest Village after 2005.