The Round Foundry is the earliest surviving engineering works in the world and was the powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in Leeds with tales of espionage and innovation at its heart.
Round Foundry: Past
The Round Foundry was created in 1795 by a partnership between local entrepreneur John Marshall and engineering company Murray, Fenton and Wood. It was with this foundry that Mathew Murray, one third of the enterprising Murray, Fenton and Wood partnership, made his name with the production of textile machinery, steam engines and locomotives which he exported worldwide.
The local hostelry, now The Cross Keys, was the backdrop for scenes of industrial espionage as Matthew Murray’s competitors Boulton and Watt set up a base to spy on developments at the foundry. The Round Foundry wasn’t just a major innovation in terms of industry but the building was also ahead of the competition. It was the first site in Leeds to be lit by gas lighting and Murray lobbied extensively for the city to follow his example in lighting its streets. Murray made his home on a neighbouring strip of land to the foundry and ran steam from the foundry to his house which later became known as Steam Hall. It was the first centrally heated house in England.
The Round Foundry developed to become one of the world’s first specialist engineering foundries, incorporating a unique rotunda allowing more efficient access for machinery. Disaster struck the foundry in the 19th century when fire destroyed many of the original buildings, including the large rotunda that gave the foundry its name. Some buildings were saved, the earliest of which dates from 1798 and includes the Green Sand and the Dry Sand Foundries.
Round Foundry: Present
The first phase of the £30 million redevelopment of this groundbreaking foundry includes the award winning Round Foundry Media Centre, which provides fully serviced office space for creative and digital media companies. The development, by CTP St James, also includes a number of restaurants, cafés and bars set around a series of courtyards that retain as much of the old character of the foundry as possible. There is also an iron plate set into the pavement to show where the famous rotunda once stood.
Completed in 2004, Phase I of the redevelopment won numerous awards and accolades including: ‘Best Creative Land Use’ and ‘Best Urban Centre’, Yorkshire Urban Renaissance Awards 2005; ‘Project of the Year’, RICS Regeneration Awards 2005; ‘Excellence in Architecture and Built Environment’ and ‘Best Commercial, Industrial and Retail’, RIBA Yorkshire White Rose Awards 2005.
Phase II of this development was completed in 2008 opening up some of the oldest buildings on the complex, dating as far back as 1795. The first Leeds Brewery pub, Midnight Bell, is based here alongside Welcome to Yorkshire, the region’s tourism agency.
Round Foundry: Future
As part of this next phase of development a brand new building will be created adjoining the Phase II area. This new building, known as The Green Building, incorporates ground breaking technologies to reduce its carbon dioxide output to beat the 1990 Kyoto levels by 52%.
On completion the development will be more than halfway to meeting the Kyoto target set for 2050.