Archive and Special Collections

Cankerwell Lane

It recent months I have spent some time at Civic Quarter Campus working with our Special Collections, and I have tried to find out a bit more about the ‘local history’ of the campus.

One part of that history is Cankerwell Lane which ran through the heart of Civic Quarter campus roughly from the Leslie Silver Building entrance running south west to Calverley Street, the steps running past the coffee shop are roughly on the line of the lane.

Originally the Cankerwell Lane meandered over fields towards Little Woodhouse but development of the area, including the 1914 northern extension of Calverley Street, truncated the lane. Somewhere under this road extension is the site of the Canker Well, clearly marked on Netlam and Giles 1815 map. It was thought that drinking the waters from this well would cure ulcerous sores of the mouth, other sources thought it a cure for cancer.

As the town of Leeds grew the rural aspect of the lane dissappered and by 1832 the Leeds Mercury carried  reports of cholera describing the Cankerwell Lane as in a “abominably filthy state”. Dr Robert Bakers Cholera map of Leeds shows the area was an enclave of working class housing pocked by cholera cases, although within a stones throw of “houses of the first class”.

Now sitting, sipping a Starbucks with a little imagination  it is just possible to conjure up the old lane in all its different guises of healing and disease.

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