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You are in: Leeds > Civic Life > Local History > Whitelocks a hidden gem

Whitelocks pub

A exterior view of a hidden gem

Whitelocks a hidden gem

Rushing down Briggate it is all too easy to miss some of the yards and alleyways that still criss-cross the city centre. In Turk's Head Yard is Whitelocks, one of Leeds' hidden gems.

For generations the ornate public house has fed and watered Leeds' residents, now it is to be honoured with the 100th blue plaque from Leeds Civic Trust.

Briggate's yards, alleys and Victorian arcades, had many an inn or public house within. The best known of the remaining ones is Whitelocks.

It opened, as the Turks Head, in 1715, catering mainly for merchants and market traders. The pub was especially busy on Tuesdays and Saturdays when Briggate marketplace was thronged with people.

In 1867 the licence of the Turk’s Head was granted to John Lupton Whitelock. He was followed by his son William Whitelock, then Lupton Whitelock and Percy Whitelock, who sold the pub to a brewery in 1944.

In the 1880s John Lupton Whitelock began to establish the ornate decor still in place today, the long marble topped bar, etched mirrors and glass. The mirrors are joined by polished brasswork and cast-iron tables, all making for a genuine Edwardian atmosphere.

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

Whitelocks was a favourite rendezvous with stage stars and it received royal approval when Prince George, later Duke of Kent, entertained a party in a curtained-off section of the restaurant.

At one time a doorman made sure that men wore dinner jackets and, as women were not allowed at the bar, waiters served drinks where female customers sat.

Poet John Betjeman enjoyed the atmosphere of Whitelocks, describing 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."

The text of the plaque will read:

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 1880s, It later extended into the row of Georgian Working men’s cottages. John Betjeman described it as ‘the very heart of Leeds’.

It will be unveiled by Sarah Whitelock, granddaughter of Lupton Whitelock.

last updated: 26/03/2008 at 16:49
created: 19/05/2006

Have Your Say

What's your favourite historical building in Leeds?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

vic mclauchlan
My special memories of Whitelocks include the wonderful beer and old fashioned English food such as sausage pie, bubble and squeak and roast beef sandwiches.(In the eighties).

Patricia Taylor-Lancaster
I have been writing a novel of how part of my family came from Leeds to Toronto. My Great- Grandfather was William Taylor, a billiards champion and sportsman of his day. It was interesting to read about whitelock's as no doubt oit was a place that William might visit. Althought I have visited Leeds a number of times it is difficult to trace historical sites that might have had even a small significance. Thank you for you putting this article on your site. Please do more.

Tony Gaunt - Sydney
The best "proper" pub in Leeds (and better than anything Sydney has to offer). The copper bar, Theakstons on tap, good simple food and characters abound. Didn't realise how much I missed it 'til this article!

Simon Greenwood
The last time I went in here, the Thursday night before Easter, it had run out of beer! It's a great bar, and part of Leeds' heritage but it could do with a touch of spit and polish.

Jonathan Marsden - Leeds
There was talk recently that the brewery was going to strip the pub of its tired décor and renovate it with modern fittings! I trust the new blue plaque will ensure this doesn’t happen and the pub is left as it is, surely it would be much wiser to spend the money on restoring and preserving the décor for future generations?

donald sneddon nz
my favourite kirgate market ispent meny hours walking around while i was growing up there was always something to interest you

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