A new version of this article is available here
From roof-grazing sheep to Sherlock Holmes-inspired flashmobs, it’s all happened in our fair city.
Take a stroll through just 20 of our home town’s most bizarre and surprising facts.
1. It’s big. Really big.
According to the good folks over at worldpopulationreview.com, the Leeds City Region holds a population of over 3 million people, which, let’s face it, is a whole lot of Loiners. That means that Leeds has more residents than countries like Mongolia and Jamaica, and twice the number of residents of Qatar!
2. We hosted the world’s biggest wedding ever
Well, sort of. In February 2015, local radio DJ Alex Simmonds married Amy Ewing in front of a huge number of their friends and family at Rudding Park. Nothing strange about that you might think, but 233 of those guests were part of the wedding party itself – 103 ushers and 230 bridesmaids. This is an official Guinness World Record, in fact.
3. We kept rooftop sheep
Eh? Stay with us. The iconic Temple Mill building in Holbeck was once home to a flock of sheep, who were kept there to maintain the grassy roof, which was in turn used to maintain a level of humidity in the building itself, which in turn kept the wool yarns from separating. Phew!
4. The Who’s ‘Live at Leeds’ album was nearly recorded in Hull
Live at Hull doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but that was nearly the name of one of music’s most iconic records, as Roger Daltrey’s mob were set to record the show at Hull University the day after that famous Leeds set. The story goes that a roadie failed to set up the recording equipment properly and the Leeds gig was consigned to greatness forever.
5. Houdini almost died here
Leeds folk have threatened to be the death of many a man over the years, but when the world famous escapist and illusionist Harry Houdini came to perform at The Tetley way back when, he nearly met a particularly sodden end. Vowing to break out of a case of finest ale, Houdini failed, and would have died had it not been for the intervention of his assistant.
6. Hippos once roamed the city centre
True story. Back in 1851, workers found enormous bones as they were digging out sections of Leeds for regeneration works of sorts. Upon closer inspection, archaeologists confirmed the bones to be that of ancient hippopotamus believed to have livd here around 100,000 years ago.
7. The Kaiser Chiefs are named after a South African football team
Credit – Wiki / CC
Bizarre but true. Leeds’ most famous sons took their name from the former club of former Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe.
8. Sooty and Sweep were the product of a fish and chip family
There’s a fair chance your childhood was interspersed with the adventurs of grubby hand puppets Sooty and Sweep, and that your birthday party was held at Harry Ramsden’s. But did you know that you owe the creation of both these Leeds institutions to the same family? Sooty and Sweep were the brainchild of Guiseley resident Harry Corbett, the nephew of Harry Ramsden himself.
9. Avid Merrion was not named after the Merrion Centre
It would be sound logic to presume that Leigh Francis named his celebrity-obsessed alter-ego after the city centre shopping facility. But you’d be wrong. Avid Merrion was named after Laimonis Mierins, one of Francis’ tutors at the Leeds College of Art, and the inspiration behind the character.
10. We held the biggest event in golf
Local hackers will appreciate that Moortown Gold Club is pleasant enough, but a Ryder Cup host? Surely not? The fact is it did, back in 1929. Move over Valhalla.
11. Our shopping is bigger than Heathrow
Our city’s shopping space is enormous, and it’s expanding at a rate of knots. At a current estimate, it boasts over 3.5 million square feet of retail space, meaning that if you laid it all out, you could fit Heathrow Airport inside with room to spare.
12. A gladiator almost bought our football team
THE gladiator to be precise. In the Summer of 2015, Academy Award winning actor Russell Crowe made enquiries into buying Leeds United, the team he has supported since he was a child, eventually backing out citing time away from his family as the deal breaker.
13. 100,000 people pass through per day
It’s a whopping statistic, but over 100,000 people use Leeds Train Station every single day. That includes 900 trains, and makes it it by far the busiest UK train station outside of London.
14. We own the world record Sherlock dance session
And if that’s not something to be proud of, what the hell is? In 2014, an incredible 443 people dressed up as Sherlock Holmes and met at Temple Newsam. It gets weirder – they did a flash mob dance to The Bee Gee’s immortal classic ‘Staying Alive’. Whatever floats your boat.
15. A French dude shot the first moving image here
Bon chance, French visionary Louis Le Prince (what a name, by the way), recorded moving images for the very first time not on the banks of the Seine, or at the Sacre Coeur, but at Oakwood Grange and on Leeds Bridge, back in 1888.
16. Mel B wasn’t in the original Spice Girls line-up
And how musical history would have been different. Leeds very own contribution to international Girl Power was a late and abrupt addition to the Spice Girls line-up, when the original Scary Spice didn’t get on with the other four girls. A similar thing happened with Sporty. How gutted must they be?
17. We’re the home town of the biggest Oscar nearly man
Peter O’Toole is one of Leeds’ favourite sons, having racked up a whopping eight Oscar nominations across a long and hugely respected career. O’Toole sadly died in 2013, holding the dubious record of the most nominations without a win, although the Academy handed him an honorary award in 2003.
18. Our economy is bigger than New Zealand’s
According to The Guardian, Leeds’ GDP is estimated to be around £55bn, which is again the biggest UK economy outside of London. Surprisingly, it’s also higher than that of New Zealand, three times the size of Turkey’s, and over ten times the size of Barbados’.
19. We attract more tourists than Brighton
Not much to see, huh? But it’s true – Leeds is a tourism hot spot nowadays, attracting more Summer visitors than traditional British holiday destinations such as Torquay and Brighton. This is according to national tourism board VisitBritain, who damn well know their stuff.
20. One of our residents has the world’s most inappropriate name
‘Dominic Andrew Lukic Newsome Fairclough Whyte Dorigo McAllister Batty Strachan Speed Chapman Cantona Cazaux’. Not exactly your classic name, and it doesn’t fit onto a passport too easily. Eagle-eyed football fans will notice that Dominic Cazaux’s middle names are also the surnames of Leeds United’s Championship-winning side of 1991/92, named so by his football mad, Whites fan parents. The punchline? Dominic is now 23, and supports Arsenal.
Liked this? Try these:
Featured image courtesy of Brad Montgomery / Flickr / CC