Accessibility statement

Joanne Harrison


Back-to-back houses and their communities in 21st century Leeds

Research Aims

The back-to-back terraced houses in Leeds form the largest collection of this housing type in the UK. Despite their original popularity as a housing type, the back-to-back houses and the communities who now live in them are considered to be problematic by some, and in areas such as Harehills, where communities are among the most socially deprived in the country, the building form has been stigmatised as a consequence. While it is acknowledged that the housing itself does present some difficulties in relation to building regulations and modern living requirements, there are examples elsewhere in Leeds, where the housing and community have adapted to provide more successful, and economically sustainable places that retain their heritage significance.

The aim of this research project is firstly to determine the heritage significance of the back-to-back houses in Harehills, by analysing and interpreting their architectural character, use, and value to their communities, and then to consider the factors that will inform their future in Leeds, culminating in design proposals that ensure an appropriate balance is achieved between heritage conservation and 21st century living.

Previous research

My MA research, Heritage at risk: Victorian back-to-back houses in 21st century Leeds, preliminarily explored the housing type, focusing on the Harehills Triangle area. It began by considering the origin, development and decline of back-to-back house building in Leeds, in the context of local and national legislation and the building process, and the effect these had on the form, character and status of back-to-back houses and communities. A basic architectural analysis of back-to-backs identified the physical characteristics of the housing stock and its current condition, and is presented as a comprehensive set of characterisation maps and a gazetteer of house designs and features. Research with built environment professionals, and of the English heritage protection system, provided an introductory investigation of the heritage and other values associated with the back-to-back housing type, and the impact the lack of heritage protection has had on the character of the houses and neighbourhood. The research concluded that the back-to-back houses in the Harehills Triangle do have significant heritage values, but that the lack of a heritage protection policy has diminished these, putting them at risk.

Supervisor: Dr. Gill Chitty

Funding: WRoCAH Studentship / AHRC


I am an ARB registered, and RIBA Chartered Architect. I have over ten years’ experience of working in architectural practice and this has enabled me to participate fully in the processes from initial client contact, through brief making, design, statutory approvals, production of tender documentation, and contract administration. I have undertaken projects in a variety of sectors, including education, civic, commercial offices, residential, retail and industrial, both new build and refurbishment. My architectural research interests are in the conservation of historic buildings and sustainable design, with a particular focus on terraced housing and engaging local communities in conservation–led regeneration.


University of York, 2013-

  • MA Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) – Distinction

University of Lincoln, 1996-2004

  • Postgraduate Diploma in Practice and Management in Architecture (RIBA Part 3)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (RIBA Part 2)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Design
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural Practice
  • BA (Hons) Architecture (RIBA Part 1) – Upper Second Class

Academic Awards

  • WRoCAH Conference 2016 Poster Competition Judge’s Award
  • Association for Industrial Archaeology Postgraduate Dissertation Prize 2016
  • Duncan Gillard Memorial Medal for the best Conservation Studies dissertation 2015
  • White Rose College of Arts and Humanities PhD Studentship 2015
  • The York Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship Bursary 2013


  • Architect at Merrell O’Flaherty Dormer Ltd, Harrogate (January 2015–November 2016)
  • Architect at AHR (formerly Aedas Architects), Leeds (February 2008 - September 2014)
  • Architect at jmarchitects (formerly PJMP), Leeds (August 2002 - January 2008)
  • Architectural Assistant at Lloydspharmacy, Coventry (January – September 2000)
  • Architectural Assistant at Michael Partridge Project Partnership Ltd, Coventry (September - December 1999)

Voluntary Positions

  • Building Surveyor, City of York Council, The University of York & English Heritage (January – March 2015)
  • Leeds Society of Architects Treasurer, RIBA Yorkshire (January 2004 – November 2013)

Publications and Conferences


  • Harrison, J. (2019) Back-To-Back houses in twenty-first century Leeds. The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice. Available at:
  • Harrison, J. (2018) Heritage Open Days: Back-to-back houses, Harehills [online]. Leeds. Leeds Library and Information Service. August 24.
  • Harrison, J. (2018) The origin, development and decline of back-to-back houses in Leeds, 1787-1937. Industrial Archaeology Review. 39(2), 101-116. Available at:
  • Harrison, J. (2017). Walking tours of the back-to-back houses, Harehills [online]. Leeds. Leeds Library and Information Service. Sep. 20.
  • Harrison, J. (2017). Back-to-back houses and their communities [online]. Leeds. Leeds Library and Information Service. May 22.
  • Harrison, J. (2017). “Heritage conservation – the forgotten agenda in Victorian terraced communities” in Chitty, G. ed. Heritage, conservation and communities. London: Routledge. 192-211
  • Harrison, J. (2016). Review: Sustainable Building Conservation. Oriel Prizeman in SPAB magazine. Winter. 73.
  • Harrison, J. (2016). “Reconciling conflicts between the built heritage and sustainability: the adaptive re-use of school buildings” in WRoCAH Journal (1). Available at:
  • Harrison, J. (2016). “Approaches to the analysis and interpretation of elite terrace houses in the long eighteenth century” in Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past, 2(1). 37-58. Available at:
  • Harrison, J. (2014). “Changing approaches to the analysis and interpretation of medieval urban houses” in The Post Hole (42) 15-26. Available at
  • Harrison, J. (2014). “Visual analysis and phased interpretation of Chantry Chapel, Wakefield” in The Post Hole (41). 18-29. Available at
  • Sodagar, B, J. Zumbe & K. Amarantidou. (2002). "New buildings, New spaces - Planning a Sustainable Environment" in Pettersen, T. ed. Sustainable Building 2002 International Conference. Ecobuild: Oslo. 314


  • Harrison, J. “Back-to-back houses and their communities in 21st century Leeds” (Poster presentation, WRoCAH conference, University of York, Oct. 2016).
  • Harrison, J. “The Chantry Chapel, Wakefield: the History of its Building and Re-building” (Presentation. Wakefield’s Medieval Bridge and Chantry Chapel Conference, Wakefield, Oct. 2016).
  • Harrison, J. “Heritage at risk: Victorian back-to-back houses in 21st century Leeds” (Presentation. Association for Industrial Archaeology conference, Telford, Sep. 2016).
  • Harrison, J.  “Wakefield Cathedral:  19th and 21st century interventions in the fabric, and their significance in the building’s conservation history” (Presentation. Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield, Nov. 2015).
  • Harrison, J. “Approaches to the analysis and interpretation of elite terrace houses in the long eighteenth century” (Presentation. H3 Postgraduate Conference, University of Huddersfield, July 2015).
  • Harrison, J. “Heritage conservation – the forgotten agenda in Victorian terraced communities” (Presentation. Engaging Conservation Conference, University of York, July 2014).
  • Harrison, J. “Clarke Hall, Wakefield – A new interpretation” (Poster presentation. Annual Student Archaeology 2 Conference: Reading University, June 2014). 
  • Harrison, J. "New buildings, New spaces - Planning a Sustainable Environment" (Poster presentation. Ecobuild Conference: Oslo, Sep. 2002)

Journal Features

  • “Sedum House” in DZine. (Sustainability, Summer 2007) 4-5
  • “Sustainable Property. Counting the cost” in Yorkshire Business Insider. (January 2007) 52-53
  • “Conservation by name, conservation by building” in Sustainable Solutions. (Nov/Dec 2006)  40-41
  • “Class of 2002” in Building Design. CMP United Business Media: London. (July 26 2002) 8-21

Teaching & Facilitating


Field Trip Facilitation

  • Approaches to Conservation (MA Core Module)
  • Buildings Survey (Year 1 Undergraduate Module)
  • Conservation Solutions (MA Skills Module)
  • Heritage Protection (MA Skills Module)
  • Sustainable Conservation Solutions (MA Skills Module)




  • Field Archaeology (Year 1 Undergraduate Module)



Short Course Marketing and Facilitation

Joanne Harrison

Contact details

Mrs Joanne Harrison
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 433931
Fax: (44) 1904 433902