Leek: Local History In Old Photos & Film

Leek Staffordshire UK

The market town of Leek is in the English county of Staffordshire. It’s about 10 miles (or 16 kilometres) north east of Stoke-on-Trent, next to the River Churnet, and has easy access to excellent walking terrain in the Peak District National Park.

A Brief History Of Leek

In 1207, the right to hold a weekly Wednesday market and an annual seven-day fair in Leek, Staffordshire, was grated to Ranulph de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, by King John. Then in 1214, the borough received a Royal Charter.

The town has a coat of arms made up of a Saltire Shield. The Stafford Knot sits at the top, on either side is the Leek “Double Sunset”, then a gold garb is placed at the bottom. The crest is a mural crown with three Mulberry leaves on a Mount of Heather. Finally is added a Moorcock, which rests its claw on a small-weave shuttle. The motto ‘ARTE FAVENTE NIL DESPERANDUM’ means ‘Our skill assisting us, we have no cause for despair’.

Today the town is home to the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. Although it’s no longer known for its textile industry, the stone-cobbled market square and historic buildings preserve its sense of tradition and history.

In particular, Leek’s connection with the Arts & Crafts movement is remembered through the local buildings that William Morris lived and worked in during the 1870s. He studied and developed printing and dying techniques. In the Parish Church of St Edward the Confessor, you can still view the stained glass designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

Leek In The 1930s

The Leek and Manifold Railway, 1930’s – Film 12074

The Leek and Manifold Railway, narrow-gauge train. The LMS narrow-gauge railway of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway was opened in 1901 and closed in 1934.  The section filmed is between Waterhouses and Hulme End on the Staffordshire and the west Derbyshire border.

HuntleyFilmArchives: Uploaded to YouTube on 12 Aug 2014.

View of scenery in the Manifold Valley.

The film begins with shots of the rivers Hamp and Manifold and a 1930 Austin Car with butterfly radiator cap crossing an unbridged ford.  View of track from the train. The unidentified station is viewed in passing. Passengers boarding. The guard waves a flag from the back of the train.  Details of the locomotives ” E. R. Caltrop ” and ” J.B.Earle ” with American stock. Guard and footplate men. Train departs. Thor’s Cave Halt.  Long scenery shots. More details of train and locomotive. Coming out of Swainsley Tunnel. Final view as the train goes on its way.

A Quaint Little Railway (1930)

This short, silent film captures one of Britain’s minor little railways: the Leek and Manifold Light Railway on the Staffordshire Moorlands. The railway opened in 1907, linking the villages of Waterhouses and Hulme End, and was built mainly for agricultural traffic, with a passenger service being a secondary consideration. Its route went through beautiful countryside in Staffordshire, and it is unfortunate that the intertitles state it as being shot in Derbyshire!

Uploaded to YouTube by BFI on 10 Oct 2008

“In 1934 the entire line was closed by the North Staffordshire Railway. There is little in the way of recorded film material of this quaint little train, so this gem gives an invaluable insight into the railway.”

Stuart Smith, Midland Railway Centre

North Staffordshire Railway

Black & white historic footage.

Uploaded to YouTube by Rudyard Lake on 27 May 2015

Leek In The 1940s

New Challenge to Steam , 1940’s – Film 39362

Leek and Manifold Railway. Quick shot of LMS 6256. Diesel-electric Locomotive No 10000.  Derby to London. Men stand looking at the passing train which was the new challenge to Steam.

Uploaded to YouTube by HuntleyFilmArchives on 23 Jul 2014

Leek In The 1960s

Rolls-Royce Farm (1964)

Racing driver David Scott-Moncrieff lived in Leek with his son Humphrey. Injured and requiring the aid of a stick to walk, he found a new car-related occupation: vintage car restoration.

He obtained old Rolls-Royces from around the country. Some of them were pre-1914 and were bought for parts. He then restored the beautiful vintage cars before selling them to enthusiasts.

Uploaded to YouTube by British Pathé on 13 Apr 2014

leek touttoxeter and the last passenger train from leek

Leek touttoxeter, and the last passenger train from Leek on the 2nd January 1965.

YouTube channel ian burgess: uploaded on 15 Oct 2010

leek touttoxeter and the last passenger train from leek part 2

Leek touttoxeter, and the last passenger train from Leek on the 2nd January 1965.

YouTube channel ian burgess: uploaded on 15 Oct 2010

The Nightman’s Morning

“A film made by my grandfather Herbert Whatley in the 60s. Filmed in Leek, Staffordshire.”

Uploaded to YouTube by whooligan 100 on 13 Mar 2013

Leek In The 1970s


Colour footage taken in 1977 of the Pied Poudre Celebrations in Leek, Staffordshire, marking the Queens Silver Jubilee in Derby Street.

Uploaded to YouTube by marc Gallimore on 18 Sep 2012

Leek Staffordshire 1978 -2018 – in response to Ed Ruscha’s Hollywood Boulevard, 1973 and 2002

Iconic Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha photographed iconic Los Angeles streets beginning in the 1960s. By mounting a camera to a moving car, Ruscha documented sequential storefronts on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard between McCadden Place and Hudson Avenue, and on the south side of the street between Wilcox Avenue and McCadden Place. He produced a black and white sequence in 1973 and a colour one in the same locations in 2002.


Uploaded to YouTube by Howard Pratt on 21 May 2018. Black and White stills – Rolleiflex Rolleicord V + Schneider Xenar75mm F3.5 TLR film camera. Colour stills – Nikon D600 + 50 f1.8 lens.

Leek In The 1990s

Staffordshire Funfairs during the 1990s

UK Funfairs: Stoke on Trent 1994, Leek 1994, Newcastle Under Lyme 1994, Tamworth 1998, and Cheadle 2001.

Uploaded to YouTube by Tigeriffic46 on 11 Jan 2011

Starting The 21st Century

Leek Rugby Club

Uploaded to YouTube by Thomas Kennedy on 1 Apr 2009.

Ryan Sidebottom plays for Leek Cricket Club

In April 2009 Leek Cricket Club welcomed an international to Highfield in a special day for the club.  Ryan Sidebottom turned out for Jamie Cullerton’s side in a bid to improve his fitness ahead of the summer’s Ashes. 

Uploaded by YouTube channel Staffslive on 27 Apr 2009

Market In Leek Staffordshire


Uploaded by YouTube channel Staffordshire on 3 Jul 2009.

2010 Onwards

Rudyard Lake Steam Railway 23rd May 2010

Uploaded to YouTube by Mollsmyre on 26 May 2010

Leek Brewery Bottling Beer Part 1

Uploaded to YouTube by Leekbrewery on 17 Feb 2011

Olympic torch in leek Staffordshire

Elliot Boyle carrying the Olympic Torch in Leek, Staffordshire.

Between 19 May and 27 July 2012, the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay event took the Olympic Flame to within 10 miles of 95% of the UK population. In total, 8,000 miles (12,800 km) were covered.

Uploaded to YouTube by MrDiscountDiscs on 30 May 2012

There were 7,300 confirmed torchbearers (an average of 115 torchbearers a day) taking it in turns to run a section of the route, whilst holding the flame high.

Many routes attracted crowds of supporters, especially where celebrities were involved. But the huge distance involved meant many routes and runners gained little attention as history was made.

More Staffordshire pages


Thanks to Natalie White for use of the image shown at the top of this page.

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