It’s a well-kept secret, but Newlay weir is an absolute gem. Tucked in the valley below Horsforth and Bramley Falls Park, it’s hard to imagine you are in modern day Leeds. Its the perfect place to stand on the neighbouring 19th Century Pollards Bridge and watch the river.
The history of the weir
There have been at least six crossings of the River Aire at Newlay since 1154. The first would have been a ford. This was later replaced with a bridge by the monks of Kirkstall Abbey. In 1783 John Pollard built his first bridge. This was probably next to the current one. Each of the houses at the end of this bridge would have been a toll house. A free footbridge was built by the Midland Railway in 1886 for £600. However by 1928 this was in a dangerous condition. It was walled up before being demolished in 1934. If you look carefully in the wall to the North of the river you can still find the stones that marked the entrance to this bridge.
The present bridge was built by John Pollard in 1819 for £1500. It must have been busy as a toll of ½d made him £600 / year. In 1930 a speed limit of 3mph and a 2-ton restriction were introduced. After a crash in 1984 the bridge was repaired and closed to traffic in 1986.
The current weir dates from the late 19th Century. It marks the point where the Kirkstall Forge goit began. Metal has been smelted on this site since 1200 by the monks from Kirkstall Abbey. Records of Kirkstall Forge show that by 1690 the lease from Lord Savile had passed through several hands to the Spencer group of ironworks. The rent was increased in 1690 following the building of a new weir at Newlay to power the slitting and rolling mill.
The weir now
The forge was closed in 2002. This ending 800 years of metal work in this place. The water wheel will be restored and incorporated into the redevelopment of the site.