Claire Heap, Head of ConferenceLeeds, delves into the long history of some of Leeds’ most interesting conference venues, and discusses why organisers are drawn to historical venues when making their selections.
Claire Heap, Head of ConferenceLeeds, explains why conference organisers are drawn to historical venues: “When it comes to organising a conference or event that will leave a lasting impression, historical venues appeal to organisers because of the stories that the buildings hold – from being opened by Queen Victoria through to being the first hotel in the UK to have en-suite bathrooms in the bedrooms – links to the past often leave delegates with an enduring impression of a conference, which lasts far beyond the closing session.
“These types of venues are often incredibly unique too and will present more than a blank surface for organisers to work with. Sometimes, a historical room can set an atmosphere or create an impression that’s hard to beat, and with Leeds being home to plenty of venues with historical and architectural significance it’s clear to see why organisers are drawn to the city, making Leeds the UK’s fourth most popular conferencing destination according to the 2018 BMIES report.”
Here are just some of the popular historic venues in the West Yorkshire city…
One of Leeds’ most iconic historical venues, The Queens Hotel, was built as a flagship hotel for the Leeds Train Station and opened in 1937, which along with the emergence of Leeds as an economic powerhouse was designed with this new status in mind. The Queens made its mark on the UK hotel scene, as it was the first hotel in the UK to have en-suite bathrooms, and as such was a grand way to spend an evening stay. The price of a night here in the 1930s was 10 shillings and six pence, which was roughly £18 in today’s money.
Although the building has been restored over the years, with a particular focus on its conferencing and events spaces, care has been taken to maintain its character features, which include the original lifts and the beautiful art-deco inspired windows. Today, however, The Queens is popular as a luxury hotel ideally located adjacent to the station and close to the M1 and M62 motorway networks. With 16 flexible conference and meeting rooms varying in size, including the magnificent Queens Ballroom that has a capacity of 500, The Queens is an ideal location for those looking to bring a touch of class and elegance to their conferences.
Known for being one of the most iconic buildings in the city, Leeds Town Hall provides a stunning setting for a conference or event. Opened by Queen Victoria in a lavish ceremony in 1858, the site is one of Leeds’ most well-known. The building has become famous as an example of a style of Victorian architecture that reflects the wealth, power and confidence of the age in which it was created.
The conference rooms are all named after the history of the building, including the Brodrick Suite named after Cuthbert Brodrick, the architect who designed both the town hall and Leeds Corn Exchange. This suite is the most modern of all the rooms available and is ideal for those looking for a smaller dinner space, holding up to 40 people.
If a larger space is needed then the Victoria Hall boasts a grand, traditional event space, making a great statement and holding up to 1,200 people. Leeds Town Hall is a perfect option for organisers wanting to tap into the iconic history of Leeds as a city and take delegates back in time to the Victorian era.
The renovation of the Cloth Hall Court is one of the most transformative projects to take place in Leeds over the last few years. The Grade II listed building was originally constructed in the 18th century for the purpose of trading cloth – specifically Yorkshire Broadcloths, which were cheap, good quality cloths produced in the surrounding areas. These specialised cloths formed the fabric of the city, as Leeds quickly gained traction in its status as a centre for commerce and trade in the wool and cloth industries.
In summer 2017, Cloth Hall Court went through a multimillion-pound regeneration in which it was lovingly restored, keeping the heritage of the site at its core during the process. Each of the sites’ 10 conferencing rooms have taken and retained inspiration from the textile industry and include Merchants Hall, Herringbone Suite and Seamstress Boardroom, reminding visitors of the building’s humble origins throughout the conference or event.
In addition to this, the venue exhibits artwork throughout from students at Leeds Beckett University, which all celebrate the venue’s history and Yorkshire’s textile industry, ensuring that it’s an interesting space which cleverly merges modern conferencing with the venue’s interesting past.
Jumping on the number 36 bus from Leeds train station will get you to Harewood House; one of the Treasure Houses of England which was built in the 18th century by the De Lacselles family. The house, steeped in history, was built by former West Indies plantation owners with a rich history, and as such has an array of fabulous art collections that can rival some of the finest in the country. Situated among over 100 acres of fantastic, award-winning gardens and grounds, the house is surrounded by a range of exotic and beautiful plants that make taking a walk around the land a beautiful way to spend an afternoon for any attending delegate.
The conference space, the Harewood Suite, is situated within the 18th century courtyard and offers a flexible and attractive event space that can be adapted for a variety of conference types. With sliding walls to alter the size of the room to suit, fast Wi-Fi, on-site parking, a great catering menu and the stunning surroundings, Harewood House is a venue that provides an extremely impressive experience, just a stone’s throw away from the central hub of Leeds city centre.