In 1988, ten years before the Angel of the North was erected in Gateshead, Leeds was offered its very own ‘angel’ which would have stood at twice the height of the 20-metre high iron sculpture which towers over the A1 on the way into Newcastle.
The sculpture would have been a brick man, installed in the Holbeck Triangle, a triangular patch of wasteland between three viaducts in Leeds. Standing at 40-metres high, it would have been visible to people coming out of Leeds station.
It would have been hollow, with an entrance in one of the heels, meaning that visitors would have been able to walk up steps to the head and look out across the city from tiny windows in each of the brick man’s ears.
A scale model of the brickman statue that never made it to Leeds’s cityscape can be seen at Leeds Art Gallery. Made in 1986 by Antony Gormley, who designed the Angel of the North, the model was made as part of the proposal for the large sculpture that would have loomed over Leeds.
Gormley’s brickman won a competition between 20 artists.
However, it would seem that the people of Leeds, especially Leeds City Council, were not ready to have it in the city and planning permission was denied.
Its overall cost would have totalled £600,000 in 1988- a number that did not fit with the council’s budget at the time.
In 1988 Conservative Councillor Richard Huges-Rowland said: “if Mr Gormley is talking about it (the brickman) going somewhere else, my eyes won’t exactly be weeping tears.”
A poll in the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed that 800 people were for the sculpture, but more than 2,000 were against it.
The then council leader Georgie Mudie told BBC Radio Leeds 21 years later: “people needed help and I thought at the time it was a luxury and the wrong priority for the times…the brickman didn’t fit with the priorities.”
She continued: “in the 90’s we might have had enough resources to make a different decision.”