Historical Leeds – Whitelock’s Ale House
Well known between hipsters and historians alike, situated just off Briggate in Leeds City Centre lies a somewhat hidden gem of a pub, Whitelock’s Ale House. Although this isn’t a pub that is completely unheard of, there is a lot of history within the walls of this pub that many won’t be aware of. A lot has happened down that little off Briggate alleyway, so here is a brief history of the pub and its importance to the City of Leeds.
Whitelock’s opened its doors to the public over 300 years ago, in 1715, making it the oldest public house in the Leeds. Although known as Whitelock’s now, this was not always the case. The pub was first opened under the name of ‘The Turk’s Head’ in relation to the alleyway it is situated on, Turk’s Head Yard. At this time, it was catered towards merchants and market traders, who made the pub especially busy on Tuesdays and Thursdays while Briggate Market was bustling with trade.
In 1967 the license of the pub was granted to a gentleman named John Lupton Whitelock. After running the pub for a while, the Whitelock family bought the pub in the 1880’s and refurbed it around 1886. A lot of the décor they installed into the bar can still be seen there today, including the huge marble bar, etched mirrors and stained glass windows.
Unsurprisingly it was the Whitelock family that decided to instil their name into the heritage of the pub, taking the step to its current name in the 1890’s by naming it ‘Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar’. And in 1897 the pub had electricity installed, including a large revolving light at the entrance to the yard.
A more high-end exclusive bar, men were required to wear dinner jackets in order to gain entry, and at this time women were not permitted to be served at the bar.
While fairly hidden away now, Whitelock’s used to be somewhat of a focal point in Leeds, attracting famous stage stars and even members of the Royal Family. The pub was once host to a private party for Prince George, Duke of Kent, when he entertained a party of guests in a cordoned off area within the pub.
Another notable person that frequented the pub was poet John Betjeman. He claimed Whitelock’s had ‘a roaring trade’, describing the pub as ‘the very heart of Leeds’.
In 1963 the pub was awarded the status of a Grade II listed building, securing its status in the city of Leeds. Whitelock’s was also honoured by the Leeds Civic Trust when they were awarded the 100th iconic ‘Blue Plaque’ to be hung in the city. It was accepted and unveiled by Sarah Whitelock, the Granddaughter of John Lupton Whitelock.
This plaque reads:
‘WHITELOCKS Occupying a medieval Briggate burgage plot, it was first licensed as The Turk’s Head in 1716. Rebuilt by the Whitelock family in the 1880’s, it later extended into the row of Georgian working men’s cottages. John Betjeman described it as ‘the very heart of Leeds’.
While there is so much more to tell about Whitelock’s, we would thoroughly recommend getting yourself down to see this amazing piece of Leeds history for yourself. Head down to Whitelock’s Ale House to experience the 1800’s décor first hand and try a craft ale or two!