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Clarence Dock – Thwaite Mills Walk

Looking over the river channel is hard because it is now overgrown with trees, but there lay Knowshorpe village. J Atkinson Grimshaw 1836-93, the painter of night scenes, lived at Knowsthorpe Old Hall between 1870 and 1893. Now under Cross Green industrial estate after sale for £50 and swift demolition in 1960. Appears as Knavesthorpe in 1628 survey of Leeds, and official version is Knowsthorpe, but Knostrop is the name applied to the waste treatment works across the river.


IWA West Riding Branch

3km (1.9miles)



activity image

On far bank opposite note Leeds weir, which may become moveable, and British Waterways’ Fearn’s Wharf building. Just below the weir the beck variously known as the Timble, Sheepscar or Meanwood Beck enters the Aire through a culvert. It once provided water for the citizens of East Leeds, but was a major health hazard. The Knight’s Way bridge provides a link to the far bank, but access to the waterside is incomplete on that bank. Start the walk at the sign for the Trans-Pennine Trail, along the towpath next to the Armouries building.

Walk Detials


Trinity Leeds Car park is right next to Leeds railway station. Both are a 7 minute walk to Clarence dock.

Clarence Dock – Thwaite Mills Walk Map

Find directions to the Activity

Begin The Route

1. The lock close to the Knight’s Way footbridge

‘New’ Dock built 1843. Also known as ‘Tatie basin’ because of Jersey potato cargoes, but also coal, timber aggregate and later petroleum products. Some of the dates, and names of former businesses who were clustered round the dock are to be found on stones let into the dockside on the Mumtaz side. ‘Clarence’ Dock after Clarence Road, part of which disappeared under the Royal Armouries building (designed by Derek Walker and Buro Happold).
At Illingworth Ingham’s timber yard in the 70s you brought your own saw, cut your wood and took it to the gate for charging. Redevelopment by Leeds Development Corporation 1995. Armouries stood alone till after 2000.

2. Leeds Lock No 1

In usual operation mode this takes vessels 62’ long and 17’ 8” wide, in extended mode it can take vessels up to 142’.

3. Armouries Tilt yard

The Armouries tilt yard was used for jousting and other live displays until economies struck in 2010.

4. Clarence Dock student flats

Soon to be renamed ‘Liberty’ Flats after new owner. The riverbank here shows a fine growth of two pest plants – Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed. Do not touch the latter.

5. Converted mills on the opposite bank

Rose Wharf and Roberts Wharf (sometime ‘Mart’). Converted Flax mills. Coal depot just upstream. Once past these, on Richmond Hill above them, Mount St Mary’s church is visible; a former convent church, its rich interior was plundered by a vandal owner.
On the towpath bank a stretch of dull industrial walls, belonging to a former Vickers works which seems about to be demolished.

6. Airebank Works

Former Hadfield’s foundry (you have to come up onto South Accommodation Road to read the old name) now occupied by Albion Electrical Wholesalers
On the opposite bank, beyond a cleared site on which a noted, but now bankrupt, Leeds developer planned to build a block of flats leaning over the river, you will see St Hilda’s Church (Catholic) with a rich interior (Grade 2 listed).

7. Richmond Bridge

South Accommodation Road. Third bridge on site after recent road widening. Route to bypass city centre for traffic coming in from S on A61. Name ‘Richmond’ new and not accepted by Hunslet locals, who resent attachment to Richmond Hill district of the city on the other bank.

8. Hunslet Mill and Victoria Mill

Grade 2* Listing. Drying out for redevelopment. Hunslet Mill built 1838-42 as a flax mill. On site of former oil tanks at Hunslet Wharf. Goodman St Wharf and Hunslet Wharf used latterly for petrol products and also sulphur, pig iron, sand. Petrol stopped 1988.
Path works its way round three sides of an inlet, a stub end which marks old course of river which ran on the other side of the canal after Knostrop Cut was made in 1775. River moved to the other (N) side of the canal in late 19th C. Hunslet Old Mill was here (hence Old Mill Lane).

9. Knostrop Flood Lock

The path reaches the start of the Knostrop Cut and crosses the bridge to the island that once formed part of the land separating the cut from the river. Cross the second bridge, leading over the river and follow the path east along the riverbank.

10. Knostrop Cut

Knostrop Cut among many paintings of the area made by Grimshaw.

11. The narrow island between river and canal

The new Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme removed a section of the bank between the River Aire and the Knostrop Cut to combine the two channels. You may see black and white tufted duck on the river.

12. Pipe Bridge

Shortly after the Pipe Bridge the weir comes into view. Cross the river on the new footbridge, which gives a good view of the new fish-pass and weir. And downstream the striking remnants of the railway bridge. Knostrop Fall Lock is on the other side of the footbridge.

13. The remains of the former Great Northern Railway swing bridge

Great Northern Railway bridge which never had any machinery for moving the span. Canal Co insisted on moveable bridge because the plan was to create a Leeds equivalent of the Manchester Ship Canal. Bridge built 1899 and demolished 1967. Thwaite Island removed at same time. Rail line connected to Hunslet Goods station.
Waterloo Coal Staithe and Leeds CC sewage terminal were on N bank! Some damaged stone abutments on the N bank of the canal lie close to where the old staithe was.

14. Knostrop Fall Lock

On the canal Knostrop Moorings lie beyond the lock, and occupy what remains of the downstream end of the old river channel. Downstream of the moorings the channel widens out, very close to the vast circular pier of the railway bridge. This is all that remains of the demolished Thwaite Lock and Island which were removed to simplify access of canal craft to Knostrop Fall Lock. Until the late 19C the old and new river channels actually communicated.

15. Thwaite Mills weir

Weir badly damaged in 1975 flood. There is ample information at the Thwaite Mills Museum about this part of the river/canal.

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