Up until the mid nineteenth century Horsforth was a small agricultural community. It expanded rapidly with the growth of the nearby industrial centre of Leeds. Industrially, Horsforth has a long history of producing high quality stone from its quarries. Not only did it supply Kirkstall Abbey with building materials and millstones in the medieval period, it provided the stone for Scarborough seafront and sent its prized sandstone from its Golden Bank quarry as far afield as Egypt. Situated on Horsforth Beck (Oil Mill Beck) were a string of mills serving the textile trade, but a large area of the town still reflects its original function as an agricultural community.
The three unnamed Saxon thegns that held the land at the conquest gave way to the king and then lesser Norman nobles,but it was not long after this that most of the village came under the control of Kirkstall Abbey, a nearby Cistercian house founded in 1152.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, Horsforth was partitioned and sold off to five families, one of which was the Stanhopes who achieved supremacy and controlled the village for the next three hundred years. The estate record of the Stanhopes are regarded as one of the most extensive and important collections of its kind, complementing the extensive mediaeval record associated with Kirkstall Abbey's activities.
During World War II the £241,000 required to build the corvette HMS Aubretia was raised entirely by the people of Horsforth. In 2000 the then US President Bill Clinton acknowledged Horsforth's contribution to the war effort in a letter sent to local MP Paul Truswell The letter now resides in the museum.
Between 1861 and 1862, there was an outbreak of typhoid in Horsforth.
In the late nineteenth century it achieved note as the village with the largest population in England. Railways, turnpike roads, tramways, and the nearby canal made it a focus for almost all forms of public and commercial transport and sealed its fate as a dormitory suburb of Leeds. Despite its large population and extensive commercial activity this role appears to have stopped it achieving independent town status and it remained a village (as Horsforth urban district) until its inclusion in the City of Leeds metropolitan district when this was created in 1974. However, in 1999 a parish council was created for the area, which then exercised its right to declare Horsforth a town.
Horsforth is a town and civil parish within the metropolitan borough of the City of Leeds, in West Yorkshire, England, lying to the north west of Leeds. It has a population of 18,928.
Horsforth was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Horseford, Horseforde, Hoseforde and its name derives from horse and ford. This refers to a river crossing situated somewhere in shallow water along the River Aire, probably used for the transportation of woollen goods to and from Pudsey, Shipley and Bradford. The original ford was situated off Calverley Lane (near the Calverley Bridge Zero Waste Sort Site), but was replaced by a stone footbridge at the turn of the 19th century.
Horsforth was considered to have the largest population of any village in the United Kingdom during the latter part of the nineteenth century. It became part of the City of Leeds metropolitan borough in 1974, and became a civil parish with town council in 1999
Horsforth Village Museum has collections and displays that aim to illustrate aspects of life set against the backdrop of the changing role of the village.
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