Leeds parish is thought to have developed from a large British multiple estate which under subsequent Anglo-Saxon occupation was further sub divided into smaller land holdings. In 1147, Cistercian monks settled at Kirkstall and from about 1152 they began to build Kirkstall Abbey.
For four centuries after the Norman invasion, the growth of Leeds was slow. Its site had no particular military advantages the town itself was small and relied heavily on agriculture. The Tudor period was a time of transition for Leeds as it became a solid cloth-trading town. In 1626, Leeds received its first charter of incorporation from Charles I.
The industrial revolution had resulted in the radical growth of Leeds whose population had risen to over 150,000 by 1840. The city's industrial growth was catalysed by the introduction of the Aire & Calder Navigation in 1699, Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816 and the railways from 1834 onwards; the first being the Leeds and Selby Railway opened on 22 September 1834. Coal was extracted on a large scale and the still functioning Middleton Railway, the first successful commercial steam locomotive railway in the world, transported coal into the centre of Leeds.
By the 20th century this social and economic climate had started to change with the creation of the academic institutions that are known today as the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University. Barnbow in Cross Gates was a large ammunitions factory producing ten thousand shells per week by August 1915 for the Great War.