Lifestyle | Best kept secrets of the Corn Exchange

From vintage camera shops to retro clothing, homemade cakes to beads, the Leeds Corn Exchange at the heart of our amazing northern city is an Aladdin’s cave of hidden treasures. Stumbling past it on your way to a Gin and Juice at Hifi or a cocktail at Mook, the Corn Exchange often acts as a meeting place but many have yet to venture inside. If you do pass it’s arched threshold, the beautiful Victorian architecture, curved walls and domed ceiling won’t fail to impress. Designed by Broderick in 1864 it is one of the only surviving Corn Exchanges in the country that is still an active place for trade. Full of quirky independent retailers and cute coffee shops it is the place to go for one off bespoke items, making it the perfect place to find gifts for friends and family.


A new addition to the Corn Exchange is Beadhive, a bead shop that sells over 4,000 types of beads from around the world. Taking up two rooms, the shop is grand, impressive and incredibly luxurious, although the prices are not. French chandeliers hang low over mountains of beautiful brightly coloured beads, whilst elaborate rugs create cosy atmosphere making it easy to spend hours in the shop. Speaking to the shop’s director Marti (a St Martins fashion and textiles graduate who began selling beads to substitute his student loan whilst living in London) his passion and love for this business is clear. Sourcing beads from all around the world from India to the Phillipines, Africa to the Czech Republic. Beadhive has now become one of the UK’s leading retailers in imported beads and costume jewelry making accessories. Marti has contacts in Johannesburg who visit tribes in rural African villages and buy these fairtrade beads to support local communities. Made from crushed recycled glass, the vivid colours and interesting shapes of the beads make for fantastic statement jewelry. Alongside this for as little as £2.50 you can make a gorgeous pair of earrings or for £4.50 you can make a beautiful bracelet in free jewelry workshops on Sundays and Thursdays. So get on down to see what all the fuss is about!

Another hidden gem on the top floor of the Corn Exchange is West Yorkshire Cameras, a vintage camera shop selling Pentax, Olympus, Nikon, Canon and many other brands. Reasonably priced from £30 for a camera to £19 for lens, it would be hard to find deals this good for such brilliantly maintained vintage cameras on Ebay. Walking into the store the white washed walls and shelves feature a fantastic collection of photographic equipment, simply yet stylistically displayed. Whilst the owners are clearly incredibly knowledgeable about their wares.


Vanilla oneAt the heart of the Corn Exchange is Vanilla One, the perfect place to warm yourself on a cold wintery day. Quenching your thirst after a day of shopping Vanilla One manages to make an open plan layout seem snug with comfy arm chairs and big mugs. Selling homemade cakes and soups, specialty teas and coffee, Vanilla One is inexpensive and allows you to enjoy a bit of Leeds history whilst warming yourself with something delicious. If this wasn’t enough, most weekends the Corn Exchange puts on a market, where retailers, bakers, jewelry makers and even authors sell their goods to the public. Everything from bespoke children’s toys, vintage records, retro clothing to carrot cake and wholesome breads.

Completely contrasting the business of Trinity, the Corn Exchange is an escape, a peaceful place to browse and purchase items of real originality.  Whether it is eating, drinking, shopping, history, art, reading or culture, the Corn Exchange in Leeds has it all! With shops selling the best from around the world, it is no wonder the Corn Exchange buzzes with the same vivacity I’m sure it once did in Victorian England.

Emma Russell

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