Mark’s History: How sleepy Newlay was at centre of industry


Newlay today for the most part is quiet, but go back a hundred years or more and it contained a variety of industries, writes MARK STEVENSON.

Included in these industries were dyeworks, mills, tanneries, quarries and glue factories which were mainly situated in a very small area between the river and canal bridges. 

Photo: Mark Stevenson

During the first world war in 1916, a National Ordnance Factory opened in Newlay, manufacturing shells. It was situated down Hunters’ Greave, which lies between the river and canal and covered five acres. Such was the urgency of the time it only took six months to erect.

Photo: Mark Stevenson

The factory was staffed by men at first, but one day in June 1916, thirty women took their place in the machine shop; this was absolutely unheard of in those days! It caused great discussion amongst the men on how they would ‘stick it’.

Stick it they did though, their numbers swelling to several hundred and bringing the total workforce to over 1,000.

Photo: Mark Stevenson

There were many social and sporting activities organized, where the workers could find relief from their long hard days in the sheds. These included male (and female) football and cricket teams, angling and tennis clubs, quoits and gymkhanas to name some.

Photo: Mark Stevenson

The workers came from all walks of life including many Newlay, Horsforth and Bramley residents. Others came from further afield, arriving at Newlay Station by train to face their arduous day in the factory. 






    • Hi Lynn

      When i was there i looked and could find no inscription on the cross and was not sure if it was connected to the Scouts or something else…

      • Hi Mark,
        Was the old “St Margaret,s Church” around that area if so did it have a Churchyard ? Guess it will never be known why it is there!!


        • Hi Lynn

          You are right St Margaret’s Church was close to the site. As Keith says in his comment the Cross is for the Scouts own services…

      • When were you there ? This is the Scout activity centre which we have loved, nurtured and transformed over the years we have been custodians. The cross marks our place to undertake ‘scouts own’ services when our members have camps or run activities at the site, in a clearing made in-between the Scout activity fields.
        … also interested where you obtained the photos as they are remarkably like those we have taken and published in our booklet on history of the ‘Hunters Greave’ site.
        maybe if you would like to contact us we can illuminate you further… about the site and the buildings in ‘your’ photographs…. and you may be able to highlight our aim in trying to maintain the site for outdoor education for young people as it has been for decades. Our landlords and the massive building investments that have taken place close by don’t seem to have brought any support for what we try to provide for the local communities.
        feel free to get in touch….

        • Hi Keith

          I took these pics in 2016 there was a caretaker? doing so work and he was kind enough to show me around and tell me a bit about the place. Always happy to learn more about an area i visit often so will be in touch as other local people are concerned about recent planning applications for the area…

  1. I found your article regarding Newlay very interesting.My Great Grandad & Grandmother(Mr & Mrs F W Lenton)lived at Newlaithes and my Great Uncle Arthur worked at the Dyeworks.To be honest I never realised the areas in your photographs existed,as although the cottages at Newlaithes still exist so much of the area,including Parkers farm,is now a housing estate.

    • Hi Martin

      You are right it was the site you mention i got some of the information from i did try to find the site again as it was a few years ago i got it but it did not show in the results, although i am sure it looked different then “not as good” as it does now. It was this site that sent me off exploring down there in the first place it is a very informative site. Apologies for not been able to quote the source.

  2. Its a real pity the council seem to be oblivious to this location…. the local Scout groups have been custodians of this location for the best part of 45 years.
    The Scouts have repeatedly tried to ensure the security of this building with absolutely no support or involvement from the council…. in fact when you ring the council and ask them if they would consider ‘shuttering up’ the old wood-yard foreman’s flat they didn’t even know it existed or its location or who had responsibility for doing so !
    so the Scouts at their own expense have tried repeatedly to secure the upper floor of the building but have been unable to do so properly due to the cost it bore.
    This substation till very recently was the only storage for the scout site and they recently cleared the store to allow the removal of the ‘electrical transformer equipment’ at the request of the power companies. Now the council without even so much as a courteous discussion have decided upon this action of demolishing the building…. which coincidently still controls the water and electric supply to the Scout activity site… that they haven’t considered !
    The Scouts have for the last 15 years been without a lease on their centre because of Council ineptitude, which has led to an inability for them to be able to plan for the future in delivering much needed fun and activities for the young people in the area ! … repeated requests to the council and its leaders have met with little or no response to open a dialogue about renewing a lease.
    40 million pounds in funding has been given over to the council for the Kirkstall forge project by the contractors…. not one single penny has been invested in this local site to assist the very people that provide activities to the likely people who cause the vandalism due to a lack of such.
    the problems on the activity site compounded by the lack of cooperation around security, once again caused primarily by the Council.
    its a joke what’s taking place here with this !


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.