Century old folk tale to live on after ‘devil dog’ statue replaced

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A canine statue, branded a “devil dog” by Leeds residents, has been replaced in a bid to keep the memory of a local legend alive.

According to south Leeds folklore the owners of St Bernards Mill, off Gelderd Road, in Gildersome, Leeds, were saved from a fire at the mill by a barking St Bernard dog that woke them one night around a century ago.

A white alabaster statue of a St Bernard was placed on the roof to mark the feat but it was smashed during a lead theft in 2009 and when the site was turned into a recycling plant, the statue was replaced by a bronze bulldog which failed to find favour among local residents.

Now, however, the ‘devil dog’ is gone, replaced by a specially commissioned bronze statue.

Alan Booth, who lived in a house neighbouring the building up to 1962, has fond memories of the mill and the surrounding rows of now-demolished houses.

The 78-year-old retired plasterer, from Churwell, said: “It’s got to be better than the devil dog.

“At least they’ve made an effort to put something back that’s like the original – it’s the only thing left of the place.

“It’s a lost little community down there, it was a very happy little place.”

Mr Booth, who still has a paw he salvaged from the original statue in 2009, said the area was bustling during the Second World War, with both of his parents working at the site that was used in the trade of recycled wool known as shoddy.

The derelict mill was bought by Associated Waste Management Ltd (AWM) from Ken Moorhead of Moorhead Properties Ltd in 2010.

He planned to replace the original statue with a replica before he sold the site but after the sale AWM revamped the land and placed what looked like a bulldog statue on the roof of what is now offices.

AWM had a scissor lift hoist the new bronze statue into place yesterday.

Mike Robinson, AWM’s group marketing manager, said: “Last time around we found it very difficult to get hold of a St Bernard when we opened the offices.

“This came at a substantial cost but it looks better than the original. There is substantial history at the site – before it was a mill it was a colliery.

“The quirky fact for us is it was a site that produced a finite resource in coal and now it produces renewable energy.”

He said the old bulldog statue is now a fixture inside the AWM offices.