Studio visits at The Tetley

Printing blocks from The Tetley archive



I have had a range of studio visits during my residency so far, including visits from Derek Horton, curator and founder of AndModel, and Visiting Professor at Birmingham University, Kerry Harker, Co-founder and former director of The Tetley, Artists Hondartza Fraga and Holly Rowan Hesson, Hannah Gaunt, Educator at RIBA Projects, Bryony Bond, Creative Director of The Tetley, Zoe Sawyer, the The Tetley Curator and Sharon Bainbridge (Leeds College of Art) who I will be in conversation with on the 10th May at my launch for the This House for Building exhibition.

As always, it has been useful to get an outside perspective on my work and the ideas and processes I am considering and exploring during the project.

Right at the beginning of the residency, Derek Horton and I talked about the history of Leeds as an industrial city in relation to my project.

Original plans for construction of The Tetley, Leeds

Talking to Kerry Harker was crucial in learning more about the history of The Tetley building, how and when they entered into a partnership Carlsberg, as well as her research into the history of the building. Kerry explained that when the factory closed, many of the items from the archive were offered to the workers as souvenirs. This was of course an act of generosity but means a lot of the items from The Tetley are dispersed across the area in domestic properties.  In the 1990s, some items and records were taken to the West Yorkshire Archive, as well as items I have viewed in The Tetley building archive, Leeds Brotherton Library and Leeds Local Library.

We spoke about the redesign of the building initially with ARUP and Chetwood architects, and how The Tetley art centre, partly acting as a legacy project, after the closure of the brewery. We discussed how the building is not currently listed, and a there have been hearsay previous attempts to list it, but perhaps this has been rejected due to less awareness of the building as it was privately built and owned for The Tetley business and family.

It was useful to talk with Kerry about the design of the original building. For me it has elements of early modernism, the central ceiling lights to let in the light from above, the large internal foyer, that creates a feeling of light, air and openness, which was common during the mid-war period. The interior structure and external façade is still entrenched in classical and Edwardian architecture, which is also reinforced by the solid wood panelling lining every floor of the building.

Tetley Lift, The Tetley

The wood panelling is most detailed on the 1st floor of the building, and lessens as your travel further up the floor levels. As you can see from the photographs of the original drawings of the building, the first floor, where my studio is situated was the floor built for the wholly male board of directors, the majority of which were from the Tetley family. Each of the offices have a fireplace and wood panelling to waist height, parquet flooring, with a boardroom that is fully wood panelled ceiling to floor. On the second floor the offices have wood panelling of a simpler nature, and this is where the mid management were located. On the third floor, the offices were for administrative staff, with much lower ceilings, basic wooden fixings and skirting.

The Tetley Directors Boardroom

It was a heavily gendered business, during its prime, with a focus towards members of The Tetley family, with men in the decision making and authoritative positons, and women in the domestic roles, serving the men such as a tea trolley or secretary in the upper floors. In the 1980s, there was the first director Shirley Cooper, who by the documentation in the archive, was very well respected. Shirley donated money to The Tetley, and a gallery has now been named in her honour.

Right up until the offices closed, the Directors ate in the Directors dining room on the 3rd floor, where they were served meals through a dining hatch and served by waiting staff. In many ways the building is a reminder of traditional British life.

Like many buildings during the 1930s, they were constructed as a reassurance or showcase building, to create a presence of hope after the mid war years. We considered whether perhaps The Tetley, had ever had wallpaper or curtains in its offices. As there are no found images of the interior of the building, there is no evidence to say either way, but Kerry suspected it was kept in quite an austere manner, in line with a dour, Yorkshire approach to business.

Another interesting comment by Kerry was that John Thorpe, a former municipal architect of Leeds, had mentioned that The Tetley building had wanted to be a rectangle, but the corner had been shaved off. This was due to the shape and angle of the road outside The Tetley, which created a diagonal line and sectioned off area at the top right hand corner of the building. Looking at the drawings, and spending time in the building, I have been curious to this decision by the architect, and this reasoning makes a lot of sense.

Kerry mentioned that The Tetley is part of a larger complex to be developed in the area, further details of which can be found on the Vastint website

Thanks to Kerry for her generosity in helping me join a lot of dots between the archival research I have made so far on The Tetley.





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