Mark’s History: When Leeds residents tried to sue Benjamin Gott

22 April 2019

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When in 1628 Charles I needed some money, he sold off the Park Estate which was part of the manor of Leeds, writes Mark Stevenson.

The Park Estate stretched roughly from Park Lane to Park Place and from Park Row to Queen Street in town. By the 1760s the Wilson family had bought up large parts of Park Estate and had built nearly 100 dwellings for the middle-class on it.

In 1793 they sold Bean Ing to Benjamin Gott who, over the next 30 years or so, built Park Mills on the land he had bought. This greatly upset the residents of the Park Estate.

The Estate – as did much of Leeds – became covered in soot from Gotts new mill and other factories but it was Gott the residents of the Estate were gunning for the most.

They had to wait until 1821 when a change in the law made it easier to prosecute for smoke nuisance so in 1824 five residents of Park Place and one of South Parade was among the prosecution witnesses in an attempt to sue Gott.

What irked the residents the most was that Gott – who was now aged 62 and originally from Calverley – was living in a house well away from the pollution of Leeds in Armley.

Most of the prosecution witnesses were middle- or upper-class while the defence witnesses mostly depended on Gott to make a living. The judge found in favour of Gott because most of the prosecution witnesses had moved close to Gotts mill after it had started operating.

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