Leek, Staffordshire

Leek is a market town and civil parish in the county of Staffordshire, England, on the River Churnet. It is situated about 10 miles (16 km) north east of Stoke-on-Trent. It is an ancient borough and was granted its royal charter in 1214.

Leek 4.JPG
Leek town centre
Leek is located in Staffordshire
Location within Staffordshire
Population20,768 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSJ984565
Civil parish
  • Leek
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLEEK
Postcode districtST13
Dialling code01538
AmbulanceWest Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°06′29″N 2°01′24″W / 53.108°N 2.0234°W / 53.108; -2.0234Coordinates: 53°06′29″N 2°01′24″W / 53.108°N 2.0234°W / 53.108; -2.0234

It is the administrative centre for the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. King John granted Ranulph de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, the right to hold a weekly Wednesday market and an annual seven-day fair in Leek in 1207.

Leek's coat of arms is made up of a saltire shield. On the top is the Stafford knot, either side is the Leek double sunset and below a gold garb. The crest is a mural crown with three mulberry leaves on a mount of heather on top of which a moorcock is resting his claw on a small-weave shuttle. The motto 'ARTE FAVENTE NIL DESPERANDUM' translates to: Our skill assisting us, we have no cause for despair.


1793 Leek commercial token half-penny.

The town had a regular cattle market for hundreds of years,[2] reflecting its role as a centre of local farming. Following the Industrial Revolution it was a major producer of textiles, with silk working in particular coming to dominate the industrial landscape.[2] However, this industry has now ceased.

The mills from the town's textile era remain and many have now been converted into housing.[3]

Britannia, the former Building Society, had its headquarters in the town and was a large local employer.[citation needed]


The River Churnet

Most of the town is at or above 600 feet (180 m) and is surrounded by the higher countryside of the Staffordshire Moorlands which is situated on the southern uplands of the Pennines.

Leek is built on the slope and crown of a hill which is situated just a few miles south of the Roaches; a gritstone escarpment which rises steeply to 1,657 feet (505 m).

Leek is situated at the foot of the Peak District National Park and is therefore often referred to as the Gateway to the Peak District, although the town is more often referred to as the Queen of the Moorlands.


Leek (Lee, Leike, Leeke) formed part of the great estates of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia; it escheated to William the Conqueror who held it at the time of the Domesday Survey. Later it passed to the earls Palatine of Chester, remaining in their hands until Ralph de Blundevill, earl of Chester, gave it to the abbey of Dieulacresse, which continued to hold it until its dissolution. The same earl in a charter which he gave to the town (temp. John) calls it a borough and grants to his free burgesses various privileges, including freedom from toll throughout Cheshire. These privileges were confirmed by Richard, abbot of Dieulacresse, but the town received no royal charter and failed to establish its burghal position. The Wednesday market which is still held dates from a grant of John to the earl of Chester: in the 17th century it was very considerable. A fair, also granted by John, beginning on the third day before the Translation of Edward the Confessor is still held. The silk manufacture which can be traced to the latter part of the 17th century is thought to have been aided by the settlement in Leek of some Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In the 17th and 18th centuries the town was famous for its ale. Prince Charles Edward Stuart passed through Leek on his march to Derby (1745) and again on his return journey to Scotland. A story in connexion with the Civil Wars is told to explain the expression "Now thus" occurring on the tombstone of a citizen, who by this meaningless answer to all questions sought escape on the plea of insanity.[4]

Architecture and developmentEdit

Listed buildings include the original parish church, St Edward the Confessor's, and a Victorian church, All Saints', designed by Richard Norman Shaw. Many Victorian period buildings still stand in the town.

Sugden buildingsEdit

Many of Leek's buildings were built by the family architectural practice of the Sugdens. In 1849 William Sugden (b. 1821 in Keighley) came to Leek. He was an architect and his work on the design of the railway stations for the Churnet Valley Railway brought him to the area. In the following year William's son, Larner Sugden, was born. After schooling in Yorkshire, Larner returned to Leek in 1866 to be apprenticed to his father as an architect, and thus was formed the famous Sugden & Son (Architects), whose influence on the town was to be profound. The firm had offices in Derby Street. The building still survives, the ground floor now being occupied by Boots the Chemist. Larner was a great supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and so Leek's development was in sympathetic hands.

Trinity Church, Leek

The architectural output from Sugden & Son was both prolific and varied. Some of the buildings designed by the Sugdens are as follows:

  • the Congregational Church with its 130 ft spire, (now Trinity Church), built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style (1863)
  • Myatt’s Mill in Earl Street (1864)
  • Mill Street Methodist Chapel and Ragged School (1870),
  • the Cottage Hospital, in memory of silk manufacturer James Allsop (1871),
  • their own houses in Queen Street, complete with monograms for William, Larner and for Larner's French wife (1877),
  • West Street School (extended in 1881),
  • the District Bank, which exhibits a strong Richard Norman Shaw influence (1882)
  • the Leonard Street Police Station in Scottish baronial architecture (1891). This last was probably the last joint venture of the father-and-son team because William Sugden died in 1892.
Nicholson Institute

The Sugden masterpiece was, perhaps, the Nicholson Institute, built in the Queen Anne style, in 1882. That this building is tucked away behind the 17th-century 'Greystones' is a further indication of Larner's regard for old buildings. Larner would not countenance demolition of the old building, and so, as the Nicholsons owned the land to the rear, that is where the institute was built. Larner cleverly incorporated the busts of Shakespeare, Newton, Reynolds and Tennyson into the building representing 400 years of artistic and scientific achievement from the 16th to the 19th century and embracing literature, science, art and poetry.

Market Place, Leek

In 1899 came the Technical Schools and the Co-operative Society Hall. Although the original town centre cattle market was demolished and replaced with a bus station and shopping centre in the 1960s, the new cattle market was built on the edge of town adjacent to the railway station. Later, this was one of the stations closed following Dr Beeching's recommendations, and a supermarket (Morrisons) now stands on the site.

The Nicholson War Memorial was dedicated in 1925.[5]

Leek offers some contemporary architecture, most notably the alterations and refurbishment to Trinity Church on Derby Street (2011) and new teaching building on Horton Street for Leek College (2013).

Notable residentsEdit

Brindley Water Mill

Leek was the home of James Brindley,[6] the 18th century canal engineer. He built a water-powered corn mill in 1752. This watermill is now preserved as Brindley Water Mill and Museum.[7]

William Morris,[8] founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, often visited Leek between 1875 and 1878. He studied dyeing with Thomas Wardle,[9] owner of a dyeworks in the town, and it was Leek which provided his firm with silk. It was through the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which he founded in 1877, that he came into contact with Larner Sugden, the local architect, who went on to publish some of Morris' speeches and essays in a series called the Bijour of Leek.

Dame Averil Cameron[10] Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History in the University of Oxford and former Warden of Keble College grew up in Leek.

Anna Watkins

Dave Hill,[11] vocalist for English new wave of British heavy metal band Demon, lives in Leek and currently operates rides at Alton Towers. Jeff Janiak, American born vocalist of influential punk / metal band Discharge and former vocalist of Broken Bones currently resides in Leek.[12] James Ford,[13] English musical composer, record producer and musician in the band Simian Mobile Disco was born in Stoke-on-Trent and grew up in Leek "playing bass and singing in bands by the age of ten."[14] Also, he is currently the producer of the Arctic Monkeys and Depeche Mode.

Amongst sports people associated with the town, the best known person is former five-time world professional darts champion Eric Bristow[15] who used to live in the town. Anna Watkins,[16] born in Leek, won a gold medal for rowing in the 2012 Olympics. Footballer Arthur Hulme (1877–1916)[17] was born in Leek. Former England test cricketer Kim Barnett[18] was born and lives in Leek.


Tourist attractions and leisureEdit

Leek with the Roaches behind

Nearby Rudyard Lake is a popular tourist attraction and home to the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway, running along its eastern shores. Other nearby local attractions are the local football club Leek Town F.C., Alton Towers, the cultural and leisure facilities of the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and the Peak District National Park. The Churnet Valley Railway at Cheddleton also attracts several thousand passengers a year, and they are currently working in partnership with Moorlands & City Railways to extend the CVR the 1 mile from its current northern terminus at Leekbrook back into Leek itself along the former North Staffordshire Line.[34] Longer term plans include the development of a North Staffordshire museum alongside the new railway station, and a new canal marina.

Leek's "Double Sunset" on and around the summer solstice also attracts many tourists. This event, first recorded by Robert Plot, occurs when the sun sets behind the Cloud, subsequently partially reappearing in the hollow of the hill's steep northern side, before setting again. Plot's detailed account can be found in his book The Natural History of Staffordshire. Traditionally, the best location for seeing the double sunset was in the grounds of the parish church, but it is no longer visible from there. Currently, the best locations to witness the spectacle are from Lowe Hill, on the outskirts of the town, and from the private road to Pickwood Hall, off Milltown Way. The phenomenon and its possible observation points are described in detail in Jeff Kent's book, The Mysterious Double Sunset.[35]

Every year in May, Leek Arts Festival takes place, celebrating the cultural heritage of the town. According to the festival's website, it began as a weekly event but soon expanded to last a whole month.

The surrounding countryside of the Staffordshire Moorlands and the Peak District makes the area a popular tourist destination. The town is on a key route north to Buxton via the A53 road. Just outside the town is Peak Wildlife Park, which is renowned for its large collection of birds. Also nearby is Coombes Valley RSPB reserve, an RSPB reserve since 1963, with walks and trails through a wooded valley.[36] Deep Hayes Country Park, created around a former reservoir, is a short distance south-west on the A53 road.

Leek came second in the Telegraph's "High Street of the Year 2013", behind winner Deal in Kent.[37]

Local transportEdit

The town of Leek is served by First with a regular number 18 bus service (or 16 on an alternative route via Cellarhead). There are also bus services to the nearby towns of Buxton and Macclesfield.

Leek was served by Leek railway station, which was opened by the North Staffordshire Railway on 13 July 1849 but was finally closed in 1965. (The Stoke-Leek line lost its passenger service in 1956, whilst the Northern section of the Churnet Valley Line to Macclesfield was closed in 1960 before the Southern section to Uttoxeter closed in 1965). Leek railway station was completely demolished in 1973.

Plans are afoot to build a new station roughly half a mile south of the original, as part of bigger plans to develop the Barnfield area of Leek as a tourist attraction.[38] The re-introduction of a railway service is being directed under the "Reconnect Leek" banner,[34] and forms part of proposals to reopen the Stoke - Leek line which survived as a goods only line to serve the former sand quarry at Oakamoor.


Harrison Park, home of Leek Town F.C.

The town's first known football club was Leek F.C. It was formed in the late 1870s, and wound up in the 1890s.[39][40]

Leek has four football clubs. Leek Town F.C., founded in 1946, are based at Harrison Park and currently play in the Northern Premier League Division One South. They were founder members of the North West Counties Football League in 1982 and in 1997 they were Northern Premier League champions and gained promotion to the Football Conference. Leek CSOB, founded in 1945, groundshare with Leek Town at Harrison Park and play in the North West Counties Football League Division One. They were founder members of the Staffordshire County League in 1984, and were league champions in 1996. Ball Haye Green FC founded in 1880 play in the Staffordshire County Senior League and most recently won the Staffordshire FA Vase in 2017.[41] In 2016, Staffordshire Moorlands FC were set up in the town and began their first season in the league pyramid.[42]

Leek Hockey Club is based on Macclesfield Road at the edge of the town where they have a club house and four grass pitches, although all League matches are played on their own astroturf pitch at Leek High School as well as using synthetic pitches at Westwood College. Previous players have included Olympic gold medallist Imran Sherwani and England and GB international Scott Cordon.

Leek Archery Club use the Macclesfield Road site for outdoor shooting, but have shot indoor at Biddulph High School since 2011.[43]

Leek & District Gun Club host monthly Clay Pigeon shoots at Westwood Farm, west of Leek.[44]

Leek Rugby Union FC bears the name of the town but is based in nearby Cheddleton.

Twin townEdit

Leek is twinned with:[45]


  • All Saints' Church of England First School[46]
  • Churnet View Middle School

Westwood First School

Leek retains the three-tier schooling system.

St. Edwards Academy (previously St. Edwards Middle, then St. Edwards Junior High) has the highest student capacity of any 'middle school' in Staffordshire, at 768 students.[47]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ "Town population 2011". Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b [1]. Retrieval Date: 29 July 2010.
  3. ^ Burnett, Tom (5 April 2019). "Regeneration of the mills - what does the future hold for town's past?". stokesentinel. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  4. ^   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Leek". Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 370.
  5. ^ "The Memorial". Nicholson War Memorial. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Brindley, James" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 04 (11th ed.). 1911.
  7. ^ Brindley Mill. Retrieval Date: 22 August 2007.
  8. ^ "Morris, William" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). 1911.
  9. ^ "Wardle, Thomas" . Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1912.
  10. ^ Averil Cameron (28 October 1994). "Past Masters". The Times. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  11. ^ Demon discography at Discogs retrieved 6 March 2018
  12. ^ Stone, Drew. "The NYHC Chronicles LIVE! Ep. #58 Jeff "JJ" Janiak (Discharge / Broken Bones / Dead Heros") YouTube, uploaded by stonefilmsnyc, Streamed live on 9 Sept 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oExCPVUjUYk . Acsessed March 26, 2021
  13. ^ James Ford, Allmusic retrieved 6 March 2018
  14. ^ Mixmag Interview 14 May 2012 Archived 28 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine Interview for Mixmag. Retrieval date: 28 December 2013.
  15. ^ Eric Bristow's profile and stats on Darts Database retrieved 6 March 2018
  16. ^ British Rowing, Profile retrieved 6 March 2018
  17. ^ Playing record: Arthur Hulme, Swindon-Town-FC.co.uk retrieved 6 March 2018
  18. ^ ESPN cricinfo Database retrieved 6 March 2018
  19. ^ AIM25 project, Parker Manuscript retrieved 6 March 2018
  20. ^ Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Clulow, William Benton" . Dictionary of National Biography. 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  21. ^ Alice Tredwell's Photographs, VADS retrieved 6 March 2018
  22. ^ Hansard 1803–2005 → People (B), Mr William Bromfield retrieved 6 March 2018
  23. ^ Art UK site, 18 Painting(s) by or after John Platt retrieved 6 March 2018
  24. ^ Staffordshire:The Great War, Brocklehurst Brothers retrieved 6 March 2018
  25. ^ Visualarts, britishcouncil.org, Geoffrey Heath Wedgwood retrieved 6 March 2018
  26. ^ The Guardian, 29 May 2012, Obituary retrieved 6 March 2018
  27. ^ The Guardian, 19 Mar 2015, William Bowyer, Obituary retrieved 3 March 2018
  28. ^ SoccerBase Database retrieved 6 March 2018
  29. ^ The Guardian, 29 Jun 2010, Obituary retrieved 6 March 2018
  30. ^ IMDb Database retrieved 6 March 2018
  31. ^ Stats at Neil Brown stat site retrieved 6 March 2018
  32. ^ TheyWorkForYou, Tom Levitt, former MP, High Peak retrieved 6 March 2018
  33. ^ SoccerBase Database retrieved 6 March 2018
  34. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ The Mysterious Double Sunset, by Jeff Kent, ISBN 0-9529152-5-1.
  36. ^ "Coombes Valley". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  37. ^ The Daily Telegraph Telegraph online article
  38. ^ http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/21-million-plans-housing-marina-railway-station/story-22916285-detail/story.html
  39. ^ Leek Town F. C. Wn.com. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  40. ^ Leek Football Club History database. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  41. ^ http://www.staffordshirefa.com/news/2017/apr/13/ball-haye-green-3---v---0-newcastle-town-u21
  42. ^ http://www.leek-news.co.uk/8203-introducing-staffordshire-moorlands-fc/story-29715156-detail/story.html[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ "Home Page - Leek Archery Club". www.leekarcheryclub.co.uk. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  44. ^ "LGC Home Page". www.leekgunclub.com. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  45. ^ Leek Town Council, Twinning retrieved 19 January 2019
  46. ^ All Saints' Church of England First School. Retrieval Date: 22 August 2007.
  47. ^ [2] Retrieval Date: 15 July 2021.