From the Leylands to Leeds 17

When does a group of Jewish people who find themselves in a city like Leeds become a community? This book tells the story of the growth of the Jewish community in Leeds through anecdotes recalled by the present day Leeds Jewish community. Some are sad, some amusing and some thought provoking and are illustrated by a range of photographs and memorabilia.

Our story begins in the mid nineteenth century with the very early settlers, usually single men, who were skilled craftsmen, shopkeepers, pedlars and wool merchants. These men put down roots and were followed, in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century by Jews fleeing the anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe who were mainly poor and unskilled.

This surge of immigration coincided with the growth of the tailoring industry that was to bring such wealth to the city. The community grew and prospered, contributing to all aspects of city and communal life. Through the ten chapters you will read about daily life, religious traditions, work, the Jewish role in the founding of large companies such as Marks and Spencer and Burtons, the growth of the middle class, education both secular and religious, contribution to the military and politics, the arts including the founding of the Leeds International Piano Festival, sport and welfare.


Diane Saunders and Philippa Lester have chronicled the arrival, growth, highs and lows of the Jewish community in Leeds with meticulous attention to detail and immense pride in their mission. It’s historically fascinating as well as warm and human in its portrayal of a group of people who have, over generations, added richly to the warp and weft of a great city.
Sheena Hastings
"From the Leylands to Leeds 17" is a journey of just 5 miles that takes place through a historical prism of over 150 years. With 402 pages and ten chapters the book covers huge areas of Jewish life in Leeds, with photographs, anecdotes, memories, invitations, poems and songs. Diane and Philippa have captured in words and pictures the essence of a fast changing community not just moving physically to suburbia but moving in class terms from working class to middle class. The book documents the context of this change as social history.
Nigel Grizzard
We’d really been looking forward to seeing the completed "From the Leylands to Leeds 17" and were not disappointed. The book’s a real tour de force, a tribute to the Jewish community of Leeds as well as to Diane’s and Philippa’s dedication. We were so moved when we saw a form on page 21, pertaining to our late father, Jack Wilton (then Jakob Weihshaar), who came to Leeds as a refugee from the Nazis. We had no idea that such a document existed, and we’re sure that others who see the book will be equally moved when seeing such evidence of chance in the seeking of refuge.
Val Mogendorff and Vivienne Mountain
The book tells the stories my mother used to tell me.
Rosemerry Venet
It is a magnificent achievement to portray the sufferings and the triumphs of those who laboured intensely to build a community in alien territory.
Ronald Teeman
It is fantastic and what a legacy for future generations. Not being from Leeds it certainly has opened my eyes! I love the layout too.
Richard Stroud

Book reviews

Check out what people are saying about our book

The Yorkshire Post

Look inside

A snapshot of what you'll find in the book

Through ten chapters of moving, entertaining and thought provoking anecdotes, illustrated photographs, documents and memorabilia contributed by members of the community, “From the Leylands to Leeds 17” tells the story of the Jewish community in Leeds in their own words.

A word from the Authors:

Diane Saunders

Diane Saunders:

In the summer of 2010 we were semi retired and separately looking for a new challenge. Makor, The Leeds Jewish Cultural Centre, was planning a day to celebrate 150 years of the Jewish community in Leeds. The interest in the event was overwhelming and we knew that we had to make sure the legacy of our forefathers and mothers would be alive for future generations.

Philippa Lester

Philippa Lester:

With the community helping us and after four years of fascinating research, collecting anecdotes, photographs and documents we published our book "From The Leylands to Leeds 17". The response was amazing and we are now into our third publication. We have set up this website to reach the many people who have a Leeds connection and want to know more about the community that shaped their family history.


To order our book please get in touch with us:

* These fields are required.