Friday, 4 December 2009

Goodbye world...

That - the title of this post - is what these naval signal flags said on the roof of Leeds' famous (or notorious to some) Quarry Hill flats in 1978 when the huge complex was doomed. Disgruntled tenants, who wanted to stay, nearly chose a different message, also only two words, the first beginning with F and the second with O. But in the end, polite melancholy won more votes than outraged defiance. The story of the flats is told marvellously in Memento Mori by Peter Mitchell, published by Smith Settle in 1990 with a foreword by Bernard Crick. It has a particularly good selection of photographs and although the story doesn't really run in an organised way from A to Z, the anecdotes and facts are real treasures.
I met Peter at the launch of a book I did earlier this year for the RIBA (Leeds - Shaping the City, RIBA Publications 2009) and he said that he was considering something similar to the Quarry Hill book on Spencer Place, where he lives. I really, really hope he does, as both my paternal grandparents were born in Spencer Place, and its history, along with that of the surrounding Chapeltown area, is rich indeed - all the way through from the bourgeois 'New Leeds' of mid-Victorian times to today's cosmopolitan community. Here are a couple of pictures of my granny with her parents and brother outside their house (now part of Leeds Islamic Centre and well looked-after) and at her wedding reception in the front garden, where the mosque now stands. Wasn't Leeds dark in those days? Or is it my scanner...?

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