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History & Background

The Present - Housing, Sport etc

History & Background

The name Alwoodley is said to be of Saxon origin and a corruption of 'Aethelwaldley', as it was originally known in the Middle Ages, meaning clearing in the alderwood  or at Aethelwald's farm. (ley = wood) Alwoodley is referred to in the Domesday Book (1086) which reveals that the area was farmed in the late eleventh century by someone named Rosketill. In 1200 Adel Mill was the subject of a bitter legal dispute between the Abbot of Kirkstall and the Prior of Holy Trinity Priory, York.

From the Middle Ages until the end of the nineteenth century Alwoodley was ‘essentially a collection of dispersed farms with early enclosures, heath, marsh and woodland’ (Branston, 2004). Alwoodley was occupied by smallholders, eking out a meagre living in difficult conditions. The residents of the area farmed sheep and grew crops in sheltered places.

In the late medieval period, Alwoodley Old Hall was constructed and it was the seat of the Frank family until 1638. The Hall was included in the land leased to Sandmoor Golf Club and it was demolished in 1969 due it its dilapidated state. Alwoodley was largely untouched by the industrial revolution, though on its borders Scotland Mill on Adel Beck was the place where flax was first spun with water powered machinery by John Marshall in the late eighteenth century.

Sunset over Eccup Reservoir

Red Kite

In the 1840s, land acquired from the Earl of Harewood by the Leeds Waterworks Company was used to build Eccup Reservoir to provide the City of Leeds with clean drinking water. The reservoir was expanded in 1850 and again in the 1890s, bringing it to its present size. The reservoir became part of a system of reservoirs serving Leeds, most of which are located in the Washburn Valley. Four shafts, excluding the valve chamber, were constructed in Alwoodley to serve the tunnel from Eccup Reservoir to Seven Arches aquaduct.

Until the 1920s, Alwoodley was part of the Wharfedale Rural District Council under the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council. Under an Act of Parliament in 1927, Alwoodley was incorporated into Leeds. The residents of Alwoodley, represented by Alwoodley Parish Council, had originally been opposed to incorporation into the expanding city. However, they were persuaded to agree to incorporation when the City of Leeds offered Alwoodley ratepayers a preferential rate for 15 years. Incorporation provided Alwoodley with modern utilities and services, such as water, gas, electricity, street lighting, sewerage and improved roads.  

From the late nineteenth century, Alwoodley provided a rural retreat for residents of the expanding industrial city. Adel Craggs and the Seven Arches Aqueduct were popular attractions in the area. Verity’s Tea Rooms in Adel Woods and Carrie’s Café on the Avenue provided refreshments to these tourists from the city. In the 1930s, several people built their own holiday homes in Alwoodley. The constructions were considered insanitary by the City Council and most were removed after the Second World War.

Adel Beck

In common with most other Leeds suburbs, the development of private suburban housing began in Alwoodley in the interwar years.  A brochure for the  Alwoodley Park Estate  published in 1929 waxed lyrical about the natural attractions of the local area and promised modern houses in a healthy setting.  The development incorporated semi-detached houses, bungalows and detached ‘villas.’ By 1938, much of the western portion of Alwoodley Park had been built and the western end of Alwoodley Lane had been developed. The Primley Park estate was built in this decade.

Although a bus route served Alwoodley from the 1930s, the suburb was mainly designed for the private car, which enabled residents to access what was then a relatively remote area. Unlike other interwar suburbs, it lacked a rail link or a tram line. Several roads were improved in the 1930s including Alwoodley Lane, King Lane and Nursery Lane.

Development was halted by the Second War and as well as building controls and a shortage of material in the 1940s. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed rapid house building development. The Avenue was completed. Housing was built on the Mounts, the Buckstones and the Meadows. Housing was also constructed along the Fairway and Alwoodley Lane.

The last major housing development in Alwoodley on a greenfield site was built in the late 1970s when Moor Allerton Golf Club moved to Scarcroft and sold its former site. There was one small encroachment into open countryside in the 1990s when Windermere Drive was built. Since the 1980s, new building in Alwoodley has been largely limited to infilling, most of which has blended into the existing urban fabric. A number of bungalows and larger detached houses have been replaced by small blocks of flats or several smaller single family houses.

Adel Crags

The Present

Alwoodley is a well kept residential suburb, built mostly after World War II. The area has lots of green spaces, woodland and golf courses. It is 5 miles (8.0 km) north of the city centre and is one of the city's most prosperous areas.

There is a local community group ( Alwoodley Community Association and Social Club) which has a large community centre on The Avenue. On either side of Alwoodley is Adel, to the west, and Shadwell, to the east. There are a number of commuter villages to the north such as East Keswick and Wike

Alwoodley is home to a sizeable proportion of the Leeds Jewish community. The area contains one of Leeds' Synagogues, and the well-known Brodestky Jewish primary school, though the synagogue is a hundred metres or so outside of the parish boundary!

A large area of the parish is countryside, mainly farmland. Nearby is Eccup Reservoir. It was constructed in 1830 and is the largest area of water in West Yorkshire. Sandmoor Golf Club is just to the south and Harewood House to the north. The reservoir is now home to a growing population of red kites. These were introduced into the area as part of a national programme in 1999 and now number over 100. The reservoir was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1987.

Much of the open spaces in the Parish have protection via a variety of designations.

Adel Woods with its beck, moorland, bog and acres of woodland interwoven with miles of paths now benefits from the tlc of Friends of Adel Wood. It is a special place with rare bog orchids, the only place in LCC domain to host smooth lizards and several crags. A 5000 year old carving can be seen on one of the outcrops of a fierce warrior, probably raiding from Scotland - one of the oldest bits of ‘I woz ‘ere’ graffiti you are likely to see!

Our local, The New Inn at Eccup, is a lovely forty-five minutes walk across beautiful countryside - good beer - good food - a real fire in winter and a walk welcome to walkers (hikers and doggy walkers as well!)


In Alwoodley there are a number of different areas of housing which are popular with middle and high class families such as Alwoodley Park, the Primley Parks, the Sandmoors, the Turnberrys, the Sunningdales, the Birkdales and the Wentworths as well as the Buckstones . The residential areas on and around Alwoodley Lane and Wigton Lane are among the most exclusive in Leeds, and indeed the entire region. Wigton Lane is just outside the parish boundary

The majority of homeowners are professionals or self employed people who live with their families in semi-detached and detached housing. There are a number of apartment blocks, which are popular with the retired section of the population. Recently a number of large properties have been sold and replaced by luxury flats. This is especially true in the Alwoodley Gates area, and increasingly along Harrogate Road, leading towards Alwoodley Gates.


There are two international class golf courses within the parish, namely Moortown and Sandmoor Golf Clubs. Moortown Golf Club was also the home of the 1929 Ryder Cup. A cricket club, squash club and two rugby clubs (are also situated in the area - Alwoodley Cricket Club, Leodensian R U F C, Moortown R U F C, and Moortown Squash Club. The Alwoodley Community Association also has tennis facilities

Alwoodley’s ‘local’ - The New Inn at Eccup

Thanks to John Websdale, Tom Swire and Dave Kent for permission to use their photographs

Thanks to David Ellis for producing the detailed materials of which this page is but a condensed version and for making the full version available (see link at top of page

In 2008, Alwoodley Parish Council was created, after a campaign by local residents. The Parish Council represents the interests of the people of Alwoodley. Supported by the Parish Council the Friends of Adel Woods was formed shortly afterwards to conserve and enhance this woodland.

A very comprehensive History of Alwoodley has been created by David Ellis. The information shown on this page is based on it. You can download the comprehensively referenced, six page original version in pdf format here.