While the city lost its gloss, creative hotspot Chapel Allerton proved one of the few urban postcodes to boost its curb appeal over the past year. Featured in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2021 guide, we find out why this creative village hub is deserving of its plaudits.
While the past 18 months have been tough for communities, especially their lifeblood of independent businesses, that hasn’t stopped Chapel Allerton from being acknowledged as a village brimming with community spirit, as it copped a well-deserved mention in in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2021 guide.
The popular north Leeds neighbourhood secured an accolade as one of the top 10 places to live in the north of England in the esteemed guide, despite being pipped to the top spot by the Victorian spa town of Ilkley. In particular, the judges celebrated the “inspiring and imaginative” work of local community group CA Spaces: “I’m so impressed with the energy and activities aimed at families,” said the annual guide’s editor Tim Palmer. “The group has done things like an advent calendar trail and provided a mud kitchen. They’re quite unusual and they’re using space really well.”
The Sunday Times judge continued: “A well supported independent high street – with a fishmonger, bookshop, cheese shop and much more make this urban village our favourite corner of Leeds. I hope it bleeds into its surroundings and its good influence spreads, because it’s the right sort of gentrification.”
The latest Rightmove figures show the average Chapel Allerton house price clocking in at £262,839, significantly higher than the Leeds average of £216,392. Yet chief personalities in the Leeds property market maintain this price reflects the overwhelming demand, as homeowners seek to become a part of this close-knit community.
Mark Manning, managing director of Manning Stainton estate agents, agrees that the draw of the village has never been so strong: “It’s a real buzzy, almost bohemian kind of place. There are a lot of great independent places like the fishmongers, cheese and sweet shops, galleries, arts and lots of great food and drink.”
“If you go on a weekend, people are queuing up the street to buy fresh food from the independents. It’s lovely to see because even though it has those big shops like Aldi, it manages to maintain the smaller shops too, which can be quite rare. Alongside this, you’ve got great sports facilities and parks, with the lovely walks of Gledhow Woods.
“Behind the high street, you’ve got some nice, period terraced properties which are well-suited to wealthier young professionals and first-time buyers. It’s one of those areas that can cater to a range of people because everything is very close by, but all this means it is quite expensive and does tend to attract a slightly wealthier demographic. However, it is just a nice part of the world.”
One such demonstration of this power of community collaboration is the Chapel Allerton Arts Festival, a week of events in and around Chapel Allerton followed by a weekend of live music in street, craft ales, family activities, stalls and street food. After a year off, the festival was back in fine fettle in celebration of the green spaces we’ve all come to appreciate this past year, with its theme of ‘dreaming green’. With the sun shining, local venues from The Mustard Pot, Dapur Malaysia, Seven Arts, House of Koko and Alley Cats hosted local artists for exclusive performances, many of which were livestreamed for the community’s remote viewing pleasure.
Sarah Priestly, chair and founder of CA Spaces, which she started in 2017 after discovering the area with daughter Sylvie and son Reuben, said: “We started by planting a dozen cherry trees on a grass verge, and it was lots of little gestures like that, reclaiming bits of space that were wasted and turning them into something people could enjoy.
“It grew from there and now there’s seven of us on a committee and lots of volunteers in the community that just want to join the journey and create spaces that brighten up people’s day. It is all about celebrating Chapel Allerton and showcasing our pride and identity in a very visual way. We also work with the local businesses in the area because our independent shops are at the heart of our community here.”
One of these independents is The Country Crust Sandwich Shop and Cafe, which was recently voted sandwich shop of the year in the North England Prestige Awards. Owners of the family-run cafe, Michelle and her husband Jason Burns, who previously worked for a big gourmet baking company, purchased the shop seven years ago on ‘a whim’ after a glass of wine. Since then, the café, which sources 88% of its produce from fellow small businesses, has become something of a local treasure among a raft of similarly high-calibre eateries.
After a spell of dormancy during the pandemic, non-profit community group Cara has been excited to get back to doing what it has done best for the last 12 years – bringing back its calendar of social events for the Chapel Allerton community. Its activities, run by an impressive roster of dedicated volunteers, range from supper clubs and kids’ fun days to bring and buy sales, quizzes and classes, a book club and a new knit and natter group. There is also a fundraising campaign to ensure the area has defibrillators in and around the area.
“To help make all this happen, we could do with a couple more pairs of hands, so if you’re interested in joining a very friendly team of volunteers, please get in touch!”
If you love Chapel Allerton and would like to volunteer your time, email firstname.lastname@example.org