The Society makes grants both to individuals and to organisations in support of cultural and scientific activities which increase innovation, outreach and diversity in Leeds and its immediate area. It also supports local museums and galleries and publications relating to the city.

About the Society

The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, founded in 1819, is a charity that promotes interest in science, literature and the arts – in the city of Leeds and beyond. We have meetings, lectures, entertainments, publications and visits.

Leeds in 1821

A Leeds Phil & Lit talk at Leeds City Museum 10:30am Thursday 2 December 2021. Rachael Unsworth, Urban Geographer and Tour Guide.

02 Dec 2021

Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 8BH

10:30am BST


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A Leeds Phil & Lit talk at Leeds City Museum 10:30am Thursday 2 December 2021

Rachael Unsworth, Urban Geographer and Tour Guide

Book here – organised by Leeds City Museum

In the late 18th century, a few Leeds men tried to form a Philosophical and Literary Society. The time wasn’t quite right and it didn’t get off the ground. By 1819, in the thick of the ‘industrial revolution’, there was a sufficient head of steam and the founders quickly commissioned their own building. The Philosophical Hall in Park Row opened in 1821 and provided a lecture theatre, library and museum – the predecessor of today’s Leeds Museum.Who were the men who founded the ‘Phil & Lit’? How did they fit into the economic, social and political scene of the times? What role did the Society play in the Georgian town?

This talk sets the Phil & Lit in its historical and geographical context. We have Baines’ Directory of early 1822 with Fowler’s contemporary map included, and also the 1821 Census. We have some newspaper reports and other sources. We can glimpse aspects of a growing and dynamic place, through ever-denser smoke.

If you’d like to follow this up with tours on the ground, join Rachael on Wednesday 29th December. More details and booking here.

Historic map of Leeds 1821 with inset drawing of Leeds Philosophical Hall
Map of Leeds 1821 showing the location of the Philosophical Hall and also an illustration of the building, just opened that year.

After studying geography at the University of Cambridge, Rachael Unsworth stayed on to do a PhD. In the mid-1980s she moved into commercial research and worked for a firm of surveyors in London. Back in Yorkshire from the mid-1990s, she was a part-time lecturer at the University of Leeds until 2013, specialising in urban development and the geography of natural resources.

From around 2000 she became involved in research, policy and practice in the city of Leeds: planning, urban design, development and regeneration, housing and environment. Consultancy work from 2003 has encompassed case studies on housing, regeneration and regional development.

She was co-writer and editor of ‘21st century Leeds: geographies of a regional city’ (published 2004) and project managed and compiled ‘Leeds: Cradle of Innovation’ (published 2018).

Since 2018 she’s been running Leeds City Walking Tours, taking groups of locals, visitors and professionals on a range of tours in different parts of the city. Covid-19 restrictions led to Zoom ‘tours’ and in future there will be a mix of on-street and on-line events.


Tour guide Rachael Unsworth + group outside Leeds Museum

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