Kirkstall Weir

Think of Kirkstall and most people are likely to come up with the Abbey.  However anglers, canoeists and here at DNAire we are more likely to think of the weir…

The history of the weir

Kirkstall Abbey was built during the 12th century by monks.  These monks lived there until 1539 when it closed by Henry VIII. The Abbey was left to slowly fall apart until it was given to Leeds City Council in 1890.  It is now has over 170,000 visitors a year.


A Nineteenth century painting showing Kirkstall Abbey and weir
Romantic painting of the Abbey prior to restoration c. 1834 © Leeds Library & Information Services

There has been a weir on the river since the original Abbey.  Then it would  have powered the corn mill used by the monks.  The water held behind it would have held fish for the monks and allowed the movement of stone from quarries upstream.

The weir today

This 80m long weir was rebuilt in the 19th Century (and later modified in the 20th Century) to provide power for Burley Mills on Kirkstall Road.   At the East end sits an the unusual keeper’s cottage in a Gothic Revival style.  The keeper who lived here would have controlled the water flow to the mill using a set of eight sluice gates.

A visualisation of the planned fish and eel pass at Kirkstall Abbey

The mill race or “goit” that carried this water now runs through the strip of woodland called Kirkstall Valley Park.

A walk along the river bank will take you to two signs for fish passes previously installed by The Aire Rivers Trust at St Ann’s Mill and Burley Mills.

Photo taken in 2018
St Ann’s Mill fish pass (on the right)
Photo taken in 2018
Entrance to the fish pass at Burley Mills (the plastic tiles in the foreground are an eel pass)