Corn Exchange, Leeds

Leeds corn exchange interior_530x456

Corn Exchange, Leeds
Architect: C.B Brodrick (1860-3)
Drawing: C.B Brodrick (1860)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection

Exchanges were a prominent feature of the great Victorian commercial centres. Reflecting local industry, they specialised in one type of commodity, for example wool, cotton or coal. Forums for buying and selling, they required large trading floors, often resulting in innovative architecture. Sadly, however, few survive.

Leeds’ Corn Exchange, by C.B Brodrick, (built 1860-3), was one of the finest, and happily remains, converted to a shopping centre. Here the spectacular was combined with the practical. A vast, oval arena, this was a roofed Colosseum. It offered an ideal arrangement for businessmen to circulate, congregate, and react to market trends.

Brodrick’s watercolour impresses us in various ways. By keeping the viewpoint low, the full width, length and height can be appreciated. Placing the three traders in the middle, the building’s scale appears even greater. The treatment of light creates wonder: streaming from above, it picks up the delicate iron roof, the solid Classical walls, and casts deep shadows beneath the gallery balcony. No wonder Brodrick won the competition with this drawing.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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