Hidden History – Headingley’s ‘Queen Victoria Monument’

Manning Stainton

History of Headingley's Queen Victoria Monument

Headingleyis home to many buildings with historical background. From the famous Headingley Bear Pit to our now student filled terraced houses; there is a lot of history in this lively little suburb. However, hiding in the woods up near the impressive buildings of the Leeds Beckett Headingley Campus is a small structure with an interesting story to tell.

Firstly… a little history on Becketts Park, and its creator, William Beckett.

William Beckett was an English politician and banker in the 19th century. An extremely wealthy man, Beckett flaunted his riches way back in 1832 when he bought and renovated his own private estate situated in Headingley, featuring a large house and extensive private grounds.

These grounds have since changed names, and hands. William Beckett passed the grounds onto his family, with his Eldest son Ernest Beckett selling the house and grounds in 1908 for a then very hefty fee of £48,000. This change of hands allowed for the grounds to be built upon and used as a teaching facility and public park, with its new, rather fitting name – Beckett’s Park.

‘Queen Victoria Monument’

Within the well-known Beckett’s Park, we find an interesting story of William Beckett’s attempts to flaunt his wealth and status.

In 1858, Leeds and the areas of Headingley and Hyde Park, in particular, were awaiting a visit from Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. A rather important, high profile visit lay ahead for The Queen, who was due to attend a gathering of a staggering 32,000 school children at Hyde Park’s Woodhouse Moor.

Knowing about the visit, William Beckett saw this as a perfect opportunity to flaunt his wealth and have The Queen herself stay within his private grounds, or at least visit them.

Although there is some enigma behind the origins, it is widely believed that Beckett built a monument for The Queen, in order to entice her to visit his grounds.

A rather expensive and extravagant way of inviting someone over to your house… although there is no evidence… it is understood that Beckett failed in his attempts, and Queen Victoria never actually visited the monument.

The events of this story are understood to be responsible for the naming of the surrounding woodland area as Queenswood, and the neighbouring streets Queenswood Drive and Queenswood Place.

With Beckett’s Park easily accessible to all, why not take a stroll and pay a visit to the famous (or infamous) ‘Queenswood Monument’.