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Hunslet started life as a series of hamlets, separated by common land, streams and ponds, which amalgamated in due course to form the Hunslet of the late 19th, early 20th centuries. Of Hunslet Lane, Ralph Thoresby commented:- "It is especially noted by travellers, being on the London Road, for the pleasant gardens and delicate seats of many gentlemen". This was, of course, the middle of the 18th century!
The population of Hunslet has fluctuated over the years. At the time of the 1801 census, the village contained 5,799 inhabitants, but by the 1920's, this had swollen to almost 80,000. By the time of the 2001 census however, this had dwindled to 16,155, no doubt due to the building of the motorway, which restricted the building of residential areas, and the increasing industrialisation of the area.
The derivation of the name 'Hunslet' probably comes from the Old English 'Hun's inlet', simply meaning an inlet running in from the R. Aire. However, a more colourful meaning was put forward in the local press of the 1890's - Hound's Let, meaning a place with dog's for hire! The idea was that the local accent had contracted Hound's Let to Hunslet. This probably came from Ralph Thoresby's history of Leeds, The Ducatus Leodiensis, in which his description of Hunslet dwells at some length on place-names beginning with Hun/Huns, and the canine connection!
Sadly, this historic area has, over the last few years, been somewhat brutally divided by the motorways, but there are still some remaining vestiges of history to be found.
Hunslet was once the home of several wealthy families, and had it's share of mansions and halls, sadly all now disappeared.....Hunslet Hall formerly the ancestral home of the famous Leeds families, the Nevilles and the Careys, now long since demolished. It's name lives on in Hunslet Hall Road. It was also, at one time the home of a wealthy merchant, Henry Sykes, who repaired the Hall after it fell into disuse. On his death, it was tenanted by a former mayor of Leeds, Rowland Mitchell (1707-08). Sadly, it fell into decay and ruin, and was demolished some time in the 1930'
The Hunslet Engine Co.was Founded in 1864 and is one of the world's oldest train builders. Hunslet already had a well-established engineering base, going back to the Middleton Light Railway, but the Hunslet Engine company has assured this historic suburb of Leeds of it's place in engineering history. Famous for it's locomotives, the company also made underground tractors for the pits, forklift trucks, and even some early radiology equipment for Cookridge Hospital. At one time, Hunslet's rich industry had many mills, which kept the population in employment. Many of these no longer survive, such as Larchfield Mills, built in the late 18th or early 19th century, by an Irishman name Pym Nevins. Nevins was said to be descended from a long line of Irish chieftains, although a distant descendant of his dismissed this idea. He came to Leeds at the end of the 18th century, and married into the Jowitt family. He became a wool merchant, and Larchfield Mills, apparently, produced some of the finest cloth in the country. It boasted a steam engine built by a Hunslet mechanic named Pullan, and, although the mills no longer stand today, they, and Nevins, are commemorated in the street names Larchfield Road and Pym Street.
- Hunslet in the 18th century by John Goodchild in Aspects of Leeds 2, chapter Hunslet in the 18th century by John Goodchild in Aspects of Leeds 2, chapter 5. Wharncliffe publishing,19995. Whacliffe publishing,1999
- Hunslet de Ledes by Wilfred Calvert. 1st written 1950, unpublished.
- Creamware by Donald Towner. Faber and Faber, 1978
- Yorkshire Pots and Potteries by Heather Lawrence, pub. David and Charles, 1974.
- Hunslet Moor Case by John de Morgan, Commoner's Agent. Pub. 1878
- Hunslet Engine Works by Don Townsley, Plateway pubs. 1998
- Hunslet Rugby League Club 1883-1973 by Les Hoole, Tempus pubs,1999
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