For many people, the first reason they stumble across Joseph Longley bedsteads is when they happen to look up at the roof of Pret a Manger in Leeds, and see “Longley” carved into the stone. Given the central location and pedestrian foot-fall, it remains a widely recognised name in Leeds to this day.
Joseph Longley Bedsteads
To have such a central location in a thriving part of Leeds city centre, with a building built specifically for them that stands to this day, they must have been quite a business.
The firm began trading in 1835 as “Joseph Longley Bedding Manufacturers”. It is variously also known as “Longley Bedding and Bedsteads”, “Joseph Longley mattress and bedding manufacturer”, “Longley’s bedsteads”, and “Longley’s Slumber Specialists”.
Before diving into the history, below is a map showing the locations of Lands Lane, Borough Mill and New York Street (which we will come to). In addition to this I have marked two of the most notable Longley’s in my ancestral line.
Joseph Longley (b1813, d1865)
Joseph Longley was born in 1813 in Morley to Joseph (b1776, a clothier) and Mary, though he wasn’t baptised until November 1835. His date of birth is asserted in his baptism record, and the baptism was presumably conducted in order for a church wedding to take place the following May.
1835 was a busy time for Joseph, as not only did he get baptised, but he began planning for a wedding, and also started the bedding manufacturing business. The date that the business began is corroborated by a flyer from much later. The initial shop fronted onto Lands Lane, opposite Albion Place. The company showroom at this time was numbered 51 and 52 Lands Lane, though this was on the previous numbering system.
In 1841 he is living in New Batley, and others on the census record are all cloth or clothing related trades.
In 1851 he is living at 139 Fishers Yard, which is immediately to the South of/ adjacent to the Leeds New Gas Works, with a warehouse and a foundry to the West and South. I don’t have any pictures, but this sounds like a fairly grim place to live.
In 1861 he has moved to 143 Lands Lane, presumably to be close to the premises at 51/ 52 Lands Lane. While away from the smoke, noise and smell of industrial Leeds, Lands Lane was starting to come towards the end of it’s time – being redeveloped at the turn of the century.
Joseph dies on 2nd January 1865 leaving under £2,000 to his wife (Rachael) and eldest son, Alexander. At his death Joseph is recorded as a flock (a soft material for stuffing cushions etc.) dealer and mattress maker.
The business transfers to the second son, Walter (b1845), in 1865 while the family were living at Lands Lane.
Map showing the location of the original warehouse/ shop before it was demolished. The old site is now under Albion Place, which was extended to the East. The current building broadly occupies the building previously occupied by E. Morley Bookbinders and Thornton & Gypson Ironmongers.
Walter Longley 1865 (b1845, d1930)
Walter Longley was born in 1845 at the Batley Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. The parents address is shown as Leeds, while all others on the document are shown as Batley. Based on the census record for 1841, it is likely that they were living in New Batley.
In November 1871 while living in Wood Street Walter marries Emma Dearden (of Lovell Street) at the Parish Church, Leeds. Wood Street runs East/West between Vicar Street and Briggate street, so is centrally located. They soon set about raising a family, having 11 children (8 males and 3 females).
The central location on a wide street, and a family with 11 children indicates rising wealth.
Shortly after the marriage, but before the census, the family move North to Headingley-cum-Burley, and then on to Potternewton (Franklin Villas, Sholbroke Avenue and Newton Road). Sholebroke Avenue is leafy and wide, and looks like a great place to raise a family, away from industry, pollution and noise.
The 1911 Electoral Register records Walter as living at Park View, Newton Road, Leeds, with a freehold of shops on Vicar Lane. Park View is a relatively substantial detached home.
The 1911 Census Summary Book records Mr Longley as head of the house at Park View, Newton Road, Leeds, with 4 females at the property. However the census detail record shows the only Longley present as being Miss Olive Longley, spinster, aged 24, with a friend and 2 servants.
Walter dies in January 1930 having lived in Potternewton for some years. Living next-door-but-one in 1911 is Lord Airedale, so he’s not living in a shabby part of town! He leaves over £118,000 to three of his sons – Alexander (manufacturer) and Percy (fern preserver), and a nephew James Dearden Longley (manufacturer). Using an inflation calculator, that’s about £5M in 2018 money.
Alexander, the elder of the two, continues to run the business.
c1900. View of New York Street showing the Leeds Ice Works under construction. The tall building in the centre background comprises nos. 8-16 Harper Street, while behind this to the right is Joseph Longley, bedding manufacturer, at nos. 22-26 New York Street.
1902. Premises of Longley Bedding and Bedsteads, prior to demolition. A sign on the window says that they will be moving to new show rooms around the corner. Between the windows on the 1stfloor a sign proudly advertises their New York Street warehouse.
Un-dated A very early image showing Lands Lane as it looked before the redevelopment which took place C 1902. On the left is the well-established firm of Joseph Longley, at numbers 51 & 52 Lands Lane. Longley’s had new premises built at the junction of Lands Lane with Albion Place – just the other side of the extended Albion Place. In the centre of this image there is the entrance to William lV Yard which led to William lV Inn, and a passage giving access to Minor & Scurr’s Yard.
29th January 1903. Lands Lane – rear of Longley’s Bedsteads and Bedding warehouse. The buildings are derelict and partly demolished.
29th January 1903. View of Longley’s Bedstead and Bedding warehouse. Iron bedsteads can be seen through the window. The signage above the door shows that the New York Street warehouse already exists.
c1902. Partially demolished buildings on Lands Lane. A sign reads ‘Longley’s Bedsteads and Bedding’. This was the showroom for the firm addressed as numbers 51 and 52 Lands Lane. Longley’s also had manufacturing premises at 22 New York Street. The new, impressive, showroom was also built in Lands Lane at the junction with Albion Place just across from the old building. It was numbered 6 Lands Lane and sometimes 27 Albion Place.
c1902. View of a partially demolished building numbered as 51 and 52 Lands Lane, former showroom of Longley’s Bedsteads and Bedding. The factory premises were at number 22 New York Street. Longley’s was subsequently rebuilt, still in Lands Lane but on the other side of the junction with Albion Place. The building still stands today at number 6 Lands lane (the area was re-numbered after the development which began in 1902.)
In November 1903 Longley’s buy a new site at the junction of Lands Lane and Albion Place for £4,550, with the total cost of the land, build and fit out being £7,040 18 shillings and 1p. Work was completed in January 1905 allowing the business to move into the newly constructed building. Family records from the 1880’s show that the family owned a significant number of properties in Leeds. (It would be interesting to know which ones, to look for overlaps with other Longley lines).
In 1903 the company also had manufacturing premises located at 22-38 New York Street, on the junction with Harper Street, and diagonally opposite the old abattoir (now an NCP car park). A bill and receipt show the building as it was at the time. After the business closed the building became a bank, and then an amusement centre. As of 2018 it is occupied by Cashino.
They also had premises in Borough Mills at 21 Great Wilson Street (Hunslet/ Holbeck) where they manufactured bed-springs and wires for their beds and mattresses.
6 July 1916. Receipt, “Joseph Longley mattress and bedding manufacturer”, central show rooms, Lands Lane, Leeds. The receipt appears to be made out to/ on behalf of an individual named at the bottom, being typed.
24th April 1920. Bill. Joseph Longley, mattress and bedding manufacturer, New York Street, Leeds, with pictures of premises – notably Lands Lane and New York Street.
An early image of a motorcar, registration U-358, belonging to the firm of Joseph Longley, Bedstead and Bedding manufacturers of Lands Lane. © James T. C. Longley.
Registrations in this format were used between 1903 and the mid 1930’s. The car references the premises at Lands Lane. U was the prefix for Leeds. Assuming that registrations were released in numerical order, this was one of the earliest cars in Leeds. It may well put this picture at circa 1903.
This promotional flyer from 1926 confirms the year in which the business was established. Based on some simple calculations, this bed would cost circa £350 in 2018. Given it’s got a hardwood frame, it’s an absolute steal!
13th February 1933. On the left is Great Wilson Street. Behind the cottages is number 21 Great Wilson Street, Borough Mills and Borough Mills Yard. It was occupied by a variety of businesses including Longley’s. The chimney on the left has the company name printed on it. Facing the camera are 29 and 31 Fleece Cottages, 29 is on the left. Number 31 has a pile of boxes outside.
Great Wilson Street is located South of the city centre, below the River Aire, frequently referred to as being in Holbeck. It’s a light industrial area – a transition area between the commercial centre of the city, and the heavy industrial Hunslet. It’s a little over half a mile from Lands Lane, presenting few challenges in moving finished items to the shop or warehouse.
13th February 1933. This building is Borough Mills. Here it is shared by J. Longley with Overtons Tailors shop. Down the side, at right angles are Fleece Cottages.
Alexander Longley 1930 (b1874, 1935)
Born in October 1874 in the Bethel Chapel, Holbeck, Alexander can be found living with his parents as far as 1901. After this point, little information is readily available. Neither he nor his father can be found on 1911 UK census – though his sister Olive Longley can be found at Newton Road. It seems possible that he moves with his father to Australia, as there is a marriage record with a Beatrice Annie Harrison (this may not be the correct Annie) in 1913 in New South Wales, Australia.
The 1925 Electoral Register shows Alexander then living in King George Avenue, Chapel Allerton, North Leeds with Annie Beatrice. A couple of doors away we find Deardens living, so this looks like the bedstead Longleys. They’re still found here in 1928, but by 1930 have moved to 1 Kings’s Mount – Alexander’s address at his death. Kings Mount is a pleasant residential road of detached properties, and #1 is a corner plot with a family home.
Alexander dies in March 1935 after 5 years running the business. He leaves £17k (£1.1M in 2018) divided between his widow Beatrice and his fern-preserving brother Percy.
Immigration lists show Annie Beatrice Longley travelling from Sydney to Leeds in April 1938. Has she decided to return home after the death of her husband?
Annie then sails from Leeds to Sydney, Australia on the 2ndMarch 1950, travelling 1stclass.
Travelling aboard the same ship with Annie Beatrice is Gwendolen Helena Dunderdale Lowley Harrison, who travels to Sydney, Australia on 2ndMarch 1950 aboard the Stratheden, travelling 1stclass. Their respective ages are 72 and 53, presumably being sisters (shown by 1911 census), albeit with quite an age gap.
In May 1953, Miss Gwendolen H D L Harrison is shown on the outward passenger list travelling from the UK (address Thomas Cook & Son, 55 Boar Lane, Leeds). This time Annie Beatrice is not with her.
When Beatrice Annie dies on 3rdJanuary 1965 at 23 Clarendon Road (living at 18 Sandringham Way, Moortown, Leeds), probate is granted to a Gwendolen Helena Dunderdale Lowley Harrison.
A 1920s view looking along industrial premises on Great Wilson Street. On the right, the Borough Mills can be seen, premises of Longley’s wire mattress makers.
9th May 1930. Lands Lane, junction with Albion Place. Number 6, Longley’s Slumber specialists Ltd, bedding manufacturers, from the top of the building. Longley’s have numerous signs. A large electric sign protrudes from the corner of the shop with elevation marks.
Un-dated View of the junction of Lands Lane with Albion Place, showing Lands Lane in the foreground. A crowd of people are gathered to view the results of a competition ‘as advertised in the Yorkshire Evening Post and Leeds Mercury’. The results are on display in the windows of Longley’s, a long-established Leeds firm. Longley’s were manufacturers of bedding and bedsteads. In the background, the premises of Ediswan are visible at numbers 6, 7 and 8 Albion Place. This is the name for Edison Swan Electric Co. Ltd., manufacturers of ‘electrical lamps’.
James Dearden Longley 1935 (b1876, d1948)
On the death of Alexander in 1935, James Dearden Longley takes over the business, at the age of nearly 60. By now he is re-married after the death of his first wife Maud (nee Chapman).
James dies on 7th June 1948, leaving £72,000 to his son James Chapman Longley and daughter Marjorie Evens (nee Longley). £72,000 is worth circa £2.5M in 2018.
16th February 1937. View looking along Great Wilson Street from Victoria Road. The chimney of Borough Mills (Longley mattress manufacturers) can be seen on the right.
James Chapman Longley 1948 (b1905, d1981)
The business now passes to James Chapman Longley, son of James Dearden Longley who assumes control in 1948.
James and his wife Gwendolin (Gwendolen) marry in her home town of Barwick-in-Elmet, and in the 1930s live in Potterton Lane – to the East of Leeds.
The business is voluntarily wound-up in July 1965. Changing times? The continued impact of WWII?
James Chapman Longley passes away at The Coach House, Mark Lane, Deighton in October 1981. Probate is granted at over £107,000.
Alan Timothy Chapman Longley (b1931)
James Timothy Chapman Longley (b1959)
The present day – 2018
The premises at Lands Lane and New York Street still stand, though Borough Mills would have been pulled down when the area was redeveloped.
The junction of New York Street and Harper Street. The building once occupied by Longley Bedsteads is called “New York House”. New York House is adjacent to the I. J. Dewhirst Drapery Supplies building. It was Isaac Jowitt Dewhirst who lent Michael Marks£5 to set-up his original penny stall. When Marks opened a permanent stall in the Leeds covered market, he asked Dewhirst’s cashier (Thomas Spencer) to join him in business. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Promotional picture for the sale of New York House, showing the architecture and size (20,000 Sq Ft). It was bought by a property developer in November 2016. Director of Rushbond, Mark Finch, said: “New York House is another heritage gem within the vibrant Kirkgate neighbourhood. We are absolutely delighted that a great company such as People’s Holdings have seized the opportunity to offer a truly inspirational workplace and play a part in the ongoing revival of this historic part of the city.”
6 Lands Lane, with “Longley” at the top of the Pret outlet. This location is very central to Leeds shopping. The building was given Grade II listed status in 1996, with the following commentary:
Shop and storerooms. c1900, altered late C20. For Joseph Longley, bedding manufacturer and flock and feather merchant. Steel frame with glazed and terracotta facades, roof not visible. 4 storeys, corner site with 4 second-floor windows to Lands Lane and Albion Place, (left return) facades. Late C20 ground-floor shop windows following original divisions; first floor: full-height windows with probably original glazing bars with scrolled ogee form to transoms, curved glass to corners, plain signboard above. 2nd and 3rd floors: tall rectangular windows have moulded corniced heads and frames with carved transoms; triglyph frieze, moulded cornice, pierced parapet with ‘LONGLEY’ on each facade, scrolled coping with ball finials. Moulded plaque to 2nd-floor corner; right return: details similar, 1 bay.
Who built the Lands Lane and New York House buildings?
Great Wilson Street (A61), looking South to where Borough Mills was previously situated. This is now the A61, and DWP One City Park Place is where the Mills used to be – between Victoria Road and Meadow Lane.
If I’m going to find a connection with my ancestral line, then it is going to lie in Joseph Longley (b1813), his ancestors (Joseph b1775) or his siblings.
I have a number of relatives in Morley and Batley, so this all needs checking out.
Images © Leeds Library and Information Service (except where otherwise noted), and re-produced with their kind permission (7thAugust 2018).