A Garden Through Time

Technology revives stories of forgotten botanical garden.

‘A Garden Through Time’ has created an interactive audio walk and a new map of Headingley Zoological and Botanical Gardens, of which there are few remaining traces. The project has been created and developed during and since the first COVID lockdown this year, recognising an increased interest in walking and in local history.

Traces of the fountain

The gardens, an ambitious project which was, sadly, doomed, were open in the mid 1800s and were neighbour to Headingley Cricket Ground. Public funds were used in an attempt to match Kew Gardens and to bring zoological specimens from around the globe.

Local residents, artists and historians can explore the history of the gardens either on foot or online, enjoying historical narratives from a variety of perspectives – including the bear, whose pit is still to be seen in Cardigan Road.

The Bear Pit

Mathew Bellwood, a local writer and leader of the project, teamed up with Rosie Parsons, audio producer, supported by funding from the City Council’s Leeds Inspired.

Mathew: “This is a really fascinating and unreal part of our local history which, even though it’s largely forgotten about today, can still be seen around Headingley if you know where to look. It’s also a great way into exploring the legacy of our ancestors and the ways our attitudes and ideas have changed in the intervening years.”

Contributors include:

Carol Sorhaindo, artist and botanical researcher
Pauline Mayers, multidisciplinary theatre-maker
Oscar Stafford and Alison Andrews from performing arts company A Quiet Word
Joe Williams, actor and local historian
Local residents also contribute readings from the press and correspondence of the time.

‘A Garden Through Time’ can be explored online, downloaded or accessed via a phone app which uses geographical locations to trigger audio clips when walking the former route of the gardens.

For more information please visit here.

Feature photograph shows the site of the original entrance to the Gardens.

Adam Kershaw

Adam combines his interest in Leeds with a flair for writing discovered back in school days. He says he'll tackle any topic as long as it's Leeds.

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