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Gledhow Valley Woods:
A Brief History of the Area

The following information was kindly provided by Pavinder Chana (originally as part of a case study for a Landscape History course) and has been reproduced with his permission.

Geological origins of Gledhow and Leeds were laid down about 300 million years ago, long before mankind was around. Lush swamp forests grew on the mudflats of a great delta that covered most of Yorkshire. Dying plants formed layers of peat which were covered by mud and sand as the sea flooded over the land. Over many thousands of years the sediment layers were compressed and the mud and sand became shale and sandstone whilst the peat was converted into coal. Weathering and tilting of these rocks resulted in coal seams being exposed at the surface. The formation of coal laid the foundations for the future of Leeds.

There have been many changes in the climate of the region. About one million years ago the earth's climate cooled resulting in a series of Ice Ages or glaciations.

About ten thousand years ago the last Ice Age came to an end. Plants, trees, animals and people returned to the North of England. These people though, moved from place to place living as hunters, gatherers and fishermen.

About six thousand years ago newcomers from the continent brought a new, more settled way of life based on farming. The first farmers used stone axes to clear the landscape and create fields. About four thousand years ago the first metal working technology was introduced using copper and tin to make bronze. The use of iron came later. From archaeological finds we know that people in this area worked copper and lead in prehistoric times.

About two thousand years ago much of Britain became a province or part of the Roman Empire. The native people lived in tribes. The place which is now Leeds was part of the tribal territory of the Brigantes. When the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century A.D. people from the other side of the North Sea started to settle in England. The newcomers were called Angles and Saxons. Leeds was part of the Kingdom of Elmet. In A.D. 617 Edwin, the Anglo Saxon king of Northumbria, conquered Elmet.

After 1066 William the Conqueror crushed Anglo Saxon resistance to the Norman Conquest in the north of England by destroying settlements and laying the land waste. This was known as the Harrying of the North. The area of land known in medieval times as the Manor of Leeds seems not to have been affected by the Harry of the North.

Most people made a living by farming, but it was soon realised that the soft waters of the River Aire were also useful for cloth-making. In the 17th century Leeds was a small bustling town, manufacturing course woollen cloth known as "Northern Dozens". In 1770 Leeds handled one third of all the woollen cloth exported from England.

Leeds has changed during recent history, especially since the Second World War. Even its boundaries have altered and the population growth has slowed. Today the city has around 700,000 citizens and is the administrative, financial and legal capital of Yorkshire.

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