Archive and Special Collections | Blog

The Mystery of William Waud

In the Summer of 1907 Ernest Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe, began negotiations with Leeds Corporation to sell Kirkstall Grange.

This was the first move in establishing what we now know as our Headingley Campus. Just a few months earlier, a strange and unsettling event had shocked the neighbourhood. A 26-year-old under-gardener named William Henry Waud was found dead, with local newspapers reporting the unexplained death as an ‘A Kirkstall Mystery’. William Waud worked for the Beckett family at Kirkstall Grange, the nineteenth century name for the Grange. Waud lived with the head gardener William Frazer in the Gardener’s Cottage then known as the Lodge. Built in 1838, the Lodge still exists on Campus near the Churchwood Avenue entrance and is now used by the Campus Services team.

On Monday 25 March 1907, at about six in the evening, Waud left home to go into Headingley. He was later sighted visiting the fish shop on Cottage Road that evening. No one saw him again until the following Wednesday when George Harrison, the estate woodsman, found his body floating in the estate’s private reservoir. This reservoir once stood on or near the site of the Athletics Pavilion next to the university’s athletic tracks. The reservoir supplied the house and ancillary buildings with fresh water. In the eighteenth century John Smeaton, the celebrated engineer, designed a hand pump for then owner Walter Wade, possibly for use in the filter bed’s attached pumping house.

On discovering the body, Harrison contacted PC Atkinson. a local bobby, who raced to the scene. He and head gardener Frazer, extracted Waud from the water, noting that his watch had stopped at 10 past 10. Waud’s father, John, summoned from his home in Moortown, formally identified his son’s body. The Coroner’s inquest took place at the New Inn on Otley Road. Family and friends reported the young man to be in good health, all agreed he ‘never had the slightest trouble’ and that he always appeared cheerful. The perplexed Coroner had no evidence that Waud had taken his own life nor was there any sign of foul play. In the end, he entered a verdict of ‘Found Drowned’.

Within four years most of the gardens of Kirkstall Grange had been swept away. In the fields behind the house, the reservoir filled in and levelled. The estate transformed into the City of Leeds Training College and the tragic mystery of William Waud lost and forgotten.

Posted in

About the Author

Keith Rowntree

Keith Rowntree maintains the University's Archive and Special Collections which are currently held at the University’s Library, situated on our Headingley Campus. We collect, describe and preserve material for future generations while seeking to promote knowledge of, and access to this rich heritage for educational, professional and research purposes.

View Profile

Archive

Syndication