It was known as Wirkelay until about 1700. Wortley was a weaving township within the parish of Leeds before it became industrial with coal pits, brickworks, railway yards and engine sheds—including a roundhouse, on Wellington Road. This Listed building, originally constructed to house a dozen or so steam locomotives, is now the premises of a major commercial vehicle hire company. In the 1880s, Wortley became incorporated into the expanding (then) town of Leeds.
Wortley is divided into three areas: New Wortley, Upper Wortley and Lower Wortley.
Upper Wortley is situated between Armley and Lower Wortley; specifically between the boundaries of Tong Road to the north and Oldfield Lane/ Green Hill Lane to the south. It consists of a variety of Victorian terraces, 1950's semi-detached houses and modern low-rise flats and houses.
Lower Wortley is furthest from the city centre, closer to Farnley and between the boundaries of Oldfield Lane/ Green Hill Lane to the north and Gelderd Road to the South. Housing in Lower Wortley is predominantly 1950's semi-detached with some modern low-rise flats and houses. Lower Wortley is home to Makro and Matalan as well as many car dealerships, including main dealers for brands such as Lotus, Aston Martin, Kia, Maserati, Honda, Porsche, Ford and Mazda. These are popular in this area of the city due to Lower Wortley's convenient location close to the Leeds Outer Ring Road and the M621 motorway.
Wortley became a part of Leeds in 1835.
Wortley grew, much like surrounding areas during the industrial revolution. While Wortley was home to some smaller industrial works, its proximity to the industrial centres of Armley and Holbeck encouraged gradual growth. Perhaps Wortley's most notable features at this time were the vast array of railway junctions and its two gasworks, a smaller one in Lower Wortley and Leeds' largest gasworks in New Wortley which is still marked by the presence of a large spiral guided gasholder.
The landscape of Wortley changed considerably following World War II, when both the Leeds Corporation and private developers redeveloped the Victorian slum areas which had characterised Wortley since it developed. New Wortley was largely developed through the building of social housing, mainly in the form of high rise flats and prefabricted houses. Despite being built opposite what was then a gas works and is now a storage facility, the prefabricated houses were built with 'all-electric' heating, as was common at the time. In 2009, as part of a fuel poverty scheme the homes were connected to gas.
Lower Wortley and Upper Wortley saw less development than New Wortley with many of their larger Victorian through terracing still remaining and the redevelopment largely being undertaken by private developers who favoured low rise developments using more traditional methods of construction.