A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: IITurk's Head Yard
Described by John Betjeman as “the very heart of Leeds”, Whitelock’s was once like nothing else in this region: one of that special breed of old-style luncheon bars that only a few of the UK's biggest cities could boast. Tucked away up an old alley, it has been licensed since 1715 but the pub of today is essentially late Victorian – the result of a major re-modelling in 1895 by local architects Waite & Sons for the Whitelock family, its owners from 1880. A combination of long, narrow plan-form (reflecting the plot’s medieval origins), dark wood panelling, glittering copper and brasswork, plus a rich display of old mirrors, creates a unique environment that has changed little in over 100 years. The tile-fronted bar-counter, topped partly in marble, partly in copper, is a rarity in itself. The seating areas, divided into shallow bays with ceiling-high brass posts were part of the Victorian scheme as were, probably, the colourful leaded windows. Whitelock’s has a history of association with the world of the arts and enjoyed a golden age in the 1930s. It continues today in its busy role as a pub and eating place, although the rear section is no longer presented as the separate and distinctive dining area it once was. The 'Top Bar’, further up the yard, is a modern conversion, dating only from the 1980s.
Whitelock's is something of a Leeds 'institution' and is one of that special breed of old-style luncheon bars that only a few of our biggest cities can still boast. Tucked in the heart of the city centre, it occupies a line of what were late eighteenth-century tenements built on an old burgage plot yard behind Briggate, and all this reflects in its confined setting and long, narrow plan-form. The yard itself, still a thoroughfare, acts as a drinking area for the often crowded pub.
Properly called the 'Turk's Head', this is one of Leeds' oldest drinking establishments and dates back to 1715, but the pub we see today is essentially late Victorian - the result of the extensive makeover and remodelling which the Whitelock family gave to the property soon after they acquired it in 1880. (It stayed in the family's hands for many years thereafter and the assumed name, 'Whitelock's', has firmly stuck). Internally, the combination of narrow shape, dark wood panelling and abundant mirrors (many of them celebrating old breweries) creates a unique environment. The long main bar glints with mirrors and brass fittings and the bar counter is topped with copper and fronted with coloured glazed tiles.
The seating areas, partitioned into shallow stalls with ceiling-high brass posts, are part of the original design though the coloured leaded windows are of later, possibly 1920s, date. The ambience continues through to the adjoining dining section where old-fashioned comforts like waitress-service and tablecloths are still provided. A separate bar, further along the yard, is of much more recent origin. As at December 2015 the neglected function room was being converted into a real ale bar.