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Flickr: Véronique Debord-Lazaro

True or false? Check out these five urban myths about Leeds

Written by
Chris Parkin

Once you know every little thing about a city it's probably time to move on and find somewhere else to explore. It's a good job, then, that there are still plenty of questions about Leeds' urban myths that still need answering because we rather like the place. Here are just a few of Leeds' best-loved folk tales…

There’s a nuclear bunker under Millennium Square
Threads, the BBC’s terrifying 1980s drama about nuclear wipeout, might have been set in Sheffield but the spectre of nuclear annihilation is enough to spawn myths about any city’s readiness and Leeds is no different. When Millennium Square and the surrounding area was being redeveloped, rumours of a nuclear bunker began circulating. The council claim they have no knowledge – or any direct evidence – of these secret bunkers. Instead, they say, the remains of old swimming baths and cellars and underground changing rooms encouraged the idea. But they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Flickr: Steve Fair

Leeds Town Hall clock doesn’t strike at midnight because of ghosts
New Year’s Eve aside, this is true. The bit about it not striking at midnight, that is. But no one has ever really agreed on the reason why. Will the stone lions wake up at the strike of midnight and go on a killing spree around town? Or will the chimes of midnight wake up the ghost of Mary Blythe, the young lady who threw herself off the clocktower in 1867? A more plausible reason is that patients at Leeds General Infirmary nearby need a good night’s sleep.

Flickr: Carl Milner

Sheep used to graze on top of Temple Mill
Not only was the design of this Grade I-listed building in Leeds based on a copy of the Temple of Horus in the Egyptian city of Edfu when it was built during the Industrial Revolution, it’s also claimed that sheep used to graze on its roof. Well, you know what? This one is actually true. Apparently the building was covered in grass, which the sheep were invited to munch on to keep the humidity in the flax mill below just right for making fabric. Well I never…

Flickr: Tim Green

Monks at Kirkstall Abbey built underground tunnels
The Kirkstall Abbey Tunnel is one of Leeds’ longest-running folk tales. The city is already home to underground rivers and becks, which makes the idea more plausible than it might otherwise have been. The lack of any hard evidence, though, makes it a myth… for now. The story goes that monks at Kirkstall built the tunnels to escape persecution when Henry VIII dissolved the country's monasteries. There are also rumours of buried papal treasures in them. Perhaps Leeds’ urban explorers have the answer?

Flickr: Tim Green

Someone beat up Buffalo Bill in the Three Legs
William F Cody, who's better known to us all as Buffalo Bill, visited Leeds twice in his later years with his Wild West travelling show. He performed at Cardigan Fields in 1892 and 1903, which is why Leeds’ Royal Armouries have his Sheffield Scalpel – a Sheffield-made Bowie knife – in their collection. But whether Bill had his jaw put out of place at last orders at city-centre pub the Three Legs or not is still very much up for debate.

Flickr: Adam Bruderer

Learn something about Leeds you probably didn't know

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