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 is one of those old-style luncheon bars that only a few cities can now boast. Tucked away up an old alley, it has been licensed since 1715 and was taken over by John Lupton Whitelock in 1867. He began to transform it in the 1880s and there was a major remodelling in 1895 by local architects Waite & Sons. In 1897 electric lighting was installed and there was even a revolving searchlight at the Briggate entrance to advertise the place. In the 1890s it became known as Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar and was very much an up-market establishment. A combination of long, narrow plan-form (reflecting the plot’s medieval origins) and a rich late-Victorian scheme of dark wood panelling, glittering copper and brasswork, plus a fine display of old mirrors, creates a very special environment that has changed little in over 100 years. The tile-fronted bar counter is a rarity in itself. Whitelock’s today continues in its busy role as a pub and eating place, although the rear section is no longer presented as the separate, distinctive dining area it once was. The Turks Head Bar at the top of the yard reopened in January 2016 after refurbishment and features craft keg beers.
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.