Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 302 337

Archaeology & History

Remains from Briggate’s tomb

We don’t know for sure whether the burial site that once stood near Leeds city centre was a cairn, a tumulus, or just a stone-lined cist (stone grave), but due to the prevalence of similar prehistoric sites in the neighbourhood, it’s most likely to have been a small tumulus that once existed here.  All trace of it has obviously gone.  The most detailed reference we have of this place was the account given by the 19th century Leeds historian, James Wardell (1853), who thankfully gave us the drawing of remains found within the tomb and who wrote:

“In the year 1745, a most interesting discovery occurred, of an urn containing ashes, calcined bones, and a stone axe perforated for a shaft, which were found by a carpenter at a depth of about two feet, on sinking a tenter post, in a field near to the top of Briggate, in Leeds. The urn was of rude formation, imperfectly baked, and ornamented after the usual maimer of the Britons, with encircling rows of indentations; it measured about twelve inches in height, and was placed with its mouth upwards, having a cover, wliieh was broken by the workman. The whole of these artielt^s were taken pos- session of by Mr. Alderman Denison, the owner of the field, who resided near ; their subsequent fate is unknown, and their loss as a local one is to be deplored; but fortunately small sketches of them were made at the time, which has enabled me to give the drawings contained in Plate I. These relics lay claim to an earlier date…and have appertained to some warrior of the prehistoric period, whose simple, yet solemn funeral rites, were here performed, and in memory of whom the cairn, or the barrow was raised.”

There is a remote possibility that the position of St. John’s Church, a short distance north of Briggate, may have had some relationship with this sacred burial site.  St. John was the christian church’s midsummer saint.


  1. Wardell, James, The Antiquities of the Borough of Leeds, John Russell Smith: London 1853.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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