Stepping Into Armley’s History: A full circle and Botany Bay

Ever wondered about the history of 'Botany Bay' in Armley? Photo: Susan Johnson

By Susan Johnson

It seems a far cry from the grime and poverty of industrial Leeds in the early 19th century to the wide open space of the Australian Outback, but there is a close connection.

Not only were some of the Leeds felons languishing in Armley jail bound for Australia, they actually were transported for life. Some worked on or founded sheep farms and found their produce bound for Leeds.

With wool being suck an important textile in England, long before the ascendancy of cotton, it was inevitable that wool from Australia, an English colony, would find its way to the wool capital of the industrial world, Leeds.

The first shipment of Australian wool arrived in Armley in 1808 destined for the mills of Armley’s Benjamin Gott.

It was despatched by Farsley-born Samuel Marsden, a magistrate in Sydney. Marsden owned large sheep farms and wanted an outlet for his wool. Fittingly, the place where the wool was off loaded on the wharves near Armley Mills is now known as Botany Bay in tribute to its antipodean counterpart.

Read more of Susan’s ‘Stepping Back’ column here. The column looks at the history which is etched beneath our feet into heritage paving stones in Armley Town Street.

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