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Charles Thornton, (1820-1881), was the owner of the Old White Swan Inn in Swan Street, and the proprietor of the Varieties Music Hall. (Now the Leeds City Varieties.) In 1873 he built a block of shops and offices, Thornton's Buildings, at the junction of the Upper Headrow with Lands Lane.
In 1875 Thornton applied for permission to demolish the Old Talbot Inn on Briggate, and to build a new arcade of shops on the site. The Talbot was one of the oldest inns in Leeds. Thoresby writing in 1715, describes frescoes painted on the walls of a room in the Inn. The Inn was used for cockfighting, and in the 17th century was where the circuit judge stayed when he was in Leeds.
The arcade was originally designed by Charles Fowler, a Leeds architect, but the Borough Engineer would not agree to the designs because of problems with the drainage. Charles Thornton changed his architect, and engaged George Smith, whose altered plans met with approval. The arcade was opened in May 1878.
The arcade is three storeys high, with a glass roof. At the northern end is a clock with a mechanism made by William Potts and Sons of Leeds. It has four life-size figures of characters from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and Friar Tuck who strike the hours, and Robin Hood and Gurth the Swineherd who strike the quarters. They were made by the Leeds sculptor John Wormald Appleyard. At the other end of the arcade is the head of a woman, with long curling hair and a large hat. It is modelled on the painting of the Duchess of Devonshire by Gainsborough. Thornton's Arcade was refurbished in 1993.
Open all the time
- Coach parties accepted
- Accepts groups
- Children welcome
- Disabled access
- Dogs not accepted (except guidedogs)
- Smoking not allowed