The Kirkgate Triptych

The Leeming Building, Leeds is a creative space for creative thinkers. It engenders an environment of growth and progress, through acknowledgement of our heritage and also our future. An understanding of those values is the core thinking behind the Kirkgate Triptych. This artwork takes its inspiration from a plethora of rich visual source materials, all found within the historic Kirkgate Market, around which The Leeming Building is wrapped, on its western flank, fronting Vicar Lane. Below are listed the imagery and symbolism incorporated within the landscape of this artwork.

Joseph and John Leeming
Originally from the local town of Halifax, John Leeming (1849-1931) and Joseph Leeming (1850-1929) took their architectural design expertise into new ground, when Kirkgate Market became the biggest indoor market in Europe, when it opened in 1904.

Two-legged dragons 
As part of their design, the Leemings installed numerous cast-iron wyverns (each a dragon wrapped around a structure) as brackets supporting the gallery level above. A common Victorian motif for decorating civic buildings, these forms make a connection with our heraldic past, and a fascination with the orient.

The Owl 
The owl is a civic symbol of Leeds, and is part of the city’s coat-of-arms. These birds are featured across many of the city’s buildings, to such as extent that there is a recognised Leeds Owl Trail. Antonia Stowe, one of the artists responsible for the trail, states “The owls are part of the city’s heritage. [The trail] anchors people in their city. It’s all about connecting to our city.”

The Wool Industry
Another component within the city’s coat-of-arms is a fleece, here symbolising the wool industry, about which the seventeenth and eighteenth century city of Leeds prospered during the Industrial Revolution. Subverting this image, through application of the Pure Wool symbol provides an updated, 21st-century proposition.

Within the market, Lithuanian Michael Marks once set up a stall called the Penny Bazaar. This went on to become the Marks & Spencer brand we know today. This ampersand [&] is taken from an original Penny Bazaar advertisement.

William Potts & Sons
Established in Leeds, in 1833, William Potts & Sons became a major manufacturer of public clocks. Among these are the clocks on the Town Hall and Corn Exchange, Oakwood Clock (originally created for, and set in, the centre of Kirkgate Market) and the mechanically animated time pieces that sit up on high in both the Thornton’s and Grand arcades. The newly restored Oakwood Clock was unveiled in 2015. Its crown boasts four golden pegacorns (a fusion of unicorn and winged Pegasus), and an owl as part of the wind vane.

The Kirkgate Triptych is a project created in association with

All artwork and images © James Straffon 2018.

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