Whitelock’s Ale House – the incredible history behind Leeds’ oldest pub

“It is the very heart of Leeds.”

Whitelock’s Ale House has been serving the people of Leeds for over 300 years – and we’ve got to say it’s one of our favourite spots in the city.

Leeds is jam packed with traditional pubs, down every street you’ll find a charming inn which has kept it’s original features and is drenched in history.

But there is one pub which is truly a Leeds landmark and holds the title of being the city’s oldest pub. Tucked away down a narrow alleyway just off Briggate, you will find Whitelock’s Ale House.

Whitelock’s first opened in 1715 as the Turk’s Head, a heritage reflected in the name of the yard in which Whitelock’s is located and to this day is still called Turk’s Head Yard.

Whitelock's Ale House.
Image: Whitelock’s Ale House

During this time, the pub catered mostly for merchants and market traders and was especially busy on Tuesdays and Saturdays when Briggate market was swarming with people.

Fast forward to 1867 and the licence of the Turk’s Head was granted to John Lupton Whitelock.

In the 1880s the Whitelock family purchased the pub, and in 1886 refurbished the pub. Here is where the beautiful ornate decor that is still in place today was installed, including the long marble and copper topped bar, tiled front, etched brewery mirrors and cast iron fireplace.

From the mid-1890s the pub became known as Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar and in 1897 John Lupton Whitelock installed electricity, including a revolving searchlight at the entrance to the yard.

Apparently, Whitelock’s was the first building in Leeds to have electric lighting and an electric clock.

Whitelock’s was a favourite rendezvous with stage stars and it even received royal approval when Prince George entertained a party in a curtained-off section of the restaurant.

Whitelock's blue plaque.
Image: Whitelocks

It was also a popular spot for Leeds literary greats such as Keith Waterhouse and John Betjeman, who he himself described it as “the Leeds equivalent of Fleet Street’s Old Cheshire Cheese and far less self-conscious, and does a roaring trade. It is the very heart of Leeds.”

In 2008, Whitelock’s was honoured by the Leeds Civic Trust with the 100th iconic “blue plaque” to be hung in the city. It was unveiled by Sarah Whitelock, granddaughter of Lupton Whitelock.

Whitelock's in Leeds.
Image: The Hoot Leeds

The current owners took over the pub in 2012 following a period of misfortune for the pub, they’ve worked hard to restore the pub to its rightful place as one of the best pubs in the city.

It is now a Leeds institution and a must visit for anyone visiting the city, or for anyone who fancies a proper pint in a beautiful setting.

Read more: Stella Artois are turning pub signs into nudey Renaissance paintings to support struggling boozers

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