Located in Leeds’ famous waterfront district on the River Aire, this plush boutique hotel once stood at the centre of the city’s industrial heartland. As part of an era-defining hub, 42’s state-of-the-art corn mill sent hundreds of tonnes of expertly ground flour down the river to market every week. The mill prided itself on fairness, safe conditions for the workers… and of course, an exceptional product.
For almost 100 years the 42 the Calls mill was at the centre of industrial Leeds. New businesses sprung up around it, the river was jam packed with boats, boatmen, goods… and towns and cities across Yorkshire and the north had never had it so good. It was a new age, one of enlightenment and success.
And then it came to an end. In more of a whimper than a bang, the industrial heartland receded. Factories closed, businesses moved out and the waterfront district became a collection of derelict factories and makeshift warehouses - and so it remained… until the 1980s.
Rejuvenation: The Birth of a Boutique
“It all began to happen right around the time I was born,” begins 42 The Calls’ Operations Manager, Helen Cooper, “Leeds did really well that decade!” she continues. “Scores of disused factories, mills and other properties were bought up and converted. Restaurants sprang up, homes were created and the waterfront district around 42 buzzed back into life.”
In 1991, the former corn mill was transformed into a luxury four-star boutique. “We kept plenty of the original features and the working mill mechanisms – once used for hauling grain up from the River Aire – are now an integral part of many of the rooms.”
Looking around the hotel, it all seems to work well. The oak beams, industrial girders and mill gears adorn the hotel ceilings, combining the industrial with a homely touch that really makes you feel welcome. The exposed brick walls blend perfectly with the bold, modernist colour schemes and the lush interiors that the hotel now boasts.
“We’ve got a lot of character,” enthuses Helen, “It’s something our guests love and it keeps them coming back. They don’t just want to walk into a box. They want class, history, twisty corridors, original features and a little bit of boutique luxury. It’s not just the uniqueness of the hotel that the guests seem to warm to either. The staff offer a quirky northern charm that clearly resonates. Many of us have been working here for years and know exactly what the customers want and how to deliver it.”
“All of our rooms are originally styled, from the standard rooms to the Penthouse Suite, and each room has its own unique features and décor.” Most of the regular guests have their favourite rooms too, with many loving those overlooking the River Aire… and in particular the ‘Red & White’ room, a Director Room which juts out over the river.
All of the rooms offer the usual luxuries and amenities you’d expect from a four-star boutique, including complimentary tea and coffee, water, 24/7 room service, mini-bar, privacy hatches, shoe shining service and upmarket toiletries.
Offering Everything That’s Great About Leeds
“The guests have really taken to the way we do food and drink too, especially our Yorkshire breakfasts,” Helen continues, “we offer 12 different types of sausage, all locally sourced and freshly prepared.” They also serve a full complement of continental breakfasts, pancakes, fruit and other treats to get the day started. Whilst later in the day, the afternoon tea is particularly popular.
“We offer a great range of corporate and private functions too,” says Helen, “Our top floor meeting room even has a spacious balcony overlooking the river.” Helen describes this as being perfect for meetings and product launches… as well as wedding functions, baby showers and private parties. To go along with the functions and events, 42 The Calls provides a range of sit down and buffet menu options, ranging from light canapés to hearty gourmet fare.
“The thing is,” rounds off Helen, “we try and deliver a little selection of what helps make Leeds great: historic pedigree, quality food, modern luxury, classic architecture and top-notch service. We might not be able to offer music, theatre and education… but you don’t have to walk far to find it.”