Last week, as the weather turned decidedly chilly, I once again took it upon myself to venture out for an explore. My chosen destination saw me back in the fair county of Yorkshire, investigating a place that has, over recent years, built a reputation as a 'beer city' and a destination that has something for everyone, no matter what kind of beer connoisseur they may be. If the title of this entry hasn't already given it away, I speak, of course, of the city of Leeds, which has long been on my radar for an expedition. It was finally time to tick it off of my ever growing list.
Leeds is a city and the administrative centre of the City of Leeds district in West Yorkshire. It is built around the River Aire and is in the eastern foothills of the Pennines. It is also the third-largest settlement (by population) in England, after London and Birmingham.
The city was a small manorial borough in the 13th century and a market town in the 16th century. It expanded by becoming a major production centre, including of carbonated water where it was invented in the 1760s, and trading centre (mainly with wool) for the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a major mill town during the Industrial Revolution. It was also known for its flax industry, iron foundries, engineering and printing, as well as shopping, with several surviving Victorian era arcades, such as Kirkgate Market. City status was awarded in 1893, a populous urban centre formed in the following century which absorbed surrounding villages and overtook the nearby York population.
It is located about halfway between London and Edinburgh and has multiple motorway links; the M1, M62 and A1(M). The city's railway station is, alongside Manchester Piccadilly, the busiest of its kind in Northern England. It is the county's largest settlement with a population of 516,298, while the larger City of Leeds district had a population of 812,000 (2021 estimate). The city is part of a built-up area, with 1.7 million it is the fourth-largest built-up area by population the United Kingdom.
The district has multiple parished and unparished areas. The city and towns (including Morley, Pudsey, Horsforth, Rothwell and Farsley) around the city form a cross-district (Calderdale, City of Bradford, City of Wakefield and Kirklees) continuous built-up area that the metropolitan county is based on.
The name derives from the old Brythonic word Ladenses meaning "people of the fast-flowing river", in reference to the River Aire that flows through the city. This name originally referred to the forested area covering most of the Brythonic kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century.
Bede states in the fourteenth chapter of his Ecclesiastical History, in a discussion of an altar surviving from a church erected by Edwin of Northumbria, that it is located in ...regione quae vocatur Loidis (Latin, "the region which is called Loidis"). An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner, a word of uncertain origin. The term Leodensian is also used, from the city's Latin name.
The name has also been explained as a derivative of Welsh lloed, meaning simply "a place".
Leeds developed as a market town in the Middle Ages as part of the local agricultural economy.
Before the Industrial Revolution, it became a co-ordination centre for the manufacture of woollen cloth, and white broadcloth was traded at its White Cloth Hall.
Leeds handled one sixth of England's export trade in 1770. Growth, initially in textiles, was accelerated by the creation of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699 (with major additional works in the 18th century) and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816. In the late Georgian era, William Lupton was one of a number of central Leeds landowners, some of whom, like him, were also textile manufacturers. At the time of his death in 1828, Lupton occupied the enclosed fields of the manor of Leeds, his estate including a mill, reservoir, substantial house and outbuildings.
Mechanical engineering, initially to supply tools and machinery for the textile sector, rapidly became a diverse industry.
The railway network constructed around Leeds, starting with the Leeds and Selby Railway in 1834, provided improved communications with national markets and, significantly for its development, an east–west connection with Manchester and the ports of Liverpool and Hull giving improved access to international markets. Alongside technological advances and industrial expansion, Leeds retained an interest in trading in agricultural commodities, with the Corn Exchange opening in 1864.
Marshall's Mill was one of the first of many factories constructed in Leeds from around 1790 when the most significant were woollen finishing and flax mills. Manufacturing diversified by 1914 to printing, engineering, chemicals and clothing manufacture. Decline in manufacturing during the 1930s was temporarily reversed by a switch to producing military uniforms and munitions during the Second World War. However, by the 1970s, the clothing industry was in irreversible decline, facing cheap foreign competition. The contemporary economy has been shaped by Leeds City Council's vision of building a '24-hour European city' and 'capital of the north'. The city has developed from the decay of the post-industrial era to become a telephone banking centre, connected to the electronic infrastructure of the modern global economy. There has been growth in the corporate and legal sectors, and increased local affluence has led to an expanding retail sector, including the luxury goods market.
In 1801, 42% of the population of Leeds lived outside the township, in the wider borough. Cholera outbreaks in 1832 and 1849 caused the authorities to address the problems of drainage, sanitation, and water supply. Water was pumped from the River Wharfe, but by 1860 it was too heavily polluted to be usable. Following the Leeds Waterworks Act of 1867 three reservoirs were built at Lindley Wood, Swinsty, and Fewston in the Washburn Valley north of Leeds.
Residential growth occurred in Holbeck and Hunslet from 1801 to 1851, but, as these townships became industrialised new areas were favoured for middle class housing. Land south of the river was developed primarily for industry and secondarily for back-to-back workers' dwellings. The Leeds Improvement Act 1866 sought to improve the quality of working class housing by restricting the number of homes that could be built in a single terrace.
Holbeck and Leeds formed a continuous built-up area by 1858, with Hunslet nearly meeting them. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, population growth in Hunslet, Armley, and Wortley outstripped that of Leeds. When pollution became a problem, the wealthier residents left the industrial conurbation to live in Headingley, Potternewton and Chapel Allerton which led to a 50% increase in the population of Headingley and Burley from 1851 to 1861. The middle-class flight from the industrial areas led to development beyond the borough at Roundhay and Adel. The introduction of the electric tramway led to intensification of development in Headingley and Potternewton and expansion outside the borough into Roundhay.
Two private gas supply companies were taken over by the corporation in 1870, and the municipal supply provided street lighting and cheaper gas to homes. From the early 1880s, the Yorkshire House-to-House Electricity Company supplied electricity to Leeds until it was purchased by Leeds Corporation and became a municipal supply.
Slum clearance and rebuilding began in Leeds during the interwar period when over 18,000 houses were built by the council on 24 estates in Cross Gates, Middleton, Gipton, Belle Isle and Halton Moor. The slums of Quarry Hill were replaced by the innovative Quarry Hill flats, which were demolished in 1975. Another 36,000 houses were built by private sector builders, creating suburbs in Gledhow, Moortown, Alwoodley, Roundhay, Colton, Whitkirk, Oakwood, Weetwood, and Adel. After 1949 a further 30,000 sub-standard houses were demolished by the council and replaced by 151 medium-rise and high-rise blocks of council flats in estates at Seacroft, Armley Heights, Tinshill, and Brackenwood.
Being so well served by transport links made it relatively simple for me to make my way to Leeds so, after a two hour train journey, I arrived in the city at around 11.15 am on what was a cold, but not altogether unpleasant Thursday, eager to throw myself into the drinking delights of this fine northern city. I had a route planned, I'd done my research and I'd arrived in plenty of time. It was time to get stuck in. Luckily, my first stop was mere yards from the main station entrance. Negotiating roadworks and a taxi rank, I crossed to the opposite side of New Station Street, where the first pub of the day was handily located. My day in Leeds would properly begin at the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Scarbrough Hotel.
Located in an area that was formerly known as Castle Hill, the pub sits on the site of a medieval manor house which had a deep moat that looped around between the River Aire and nearby Boar Lane. The building was lavishly rebuilt in 1765 by Richard Wilson and then became a hotel owned by Henry Scarbrough (from whom it takes its name, not the seaside town, hence the spelling) in 1823. The present pub is a surviving extension from this structure. The Scarbrough Hotel is operated under the Nicholson's branding and has retained many original features. Inside, the main entrance leads directly to the bar. Seating areas are located at either side, consisting largely of both low and high tables and chairs, all in scrubbed wood. The gents toilets are located to the left of the bar, with the ladies and accessible toilets to the right. The tiled frontage of the exterior is married up with bare wood and brass inside. The bar is long and, amongst its many delights, features 9 handpulls. 8 of these were available for my perusal on the day. The choice was varied: Tetley Bitter doubled up (this is one of the few venues in Leeds that still has this on cask), Timothy Taylor Landlord, Adnams Mosaic, St, Austell Tribute, the house Nicholson's Pale Ale, Titanic Plum Porter and Oakham Citra. There are much worse ways to start the day than with Citra, so my decision was made almost instantly. I took my beer to a high table in a snug-like area to the right hand side of the bar, which was quieter. The early lunchtime rush was starting to kick in as I arrived and, in general, I would find most of the pubs to be busier than expected, given it was Thursday afternoon. My choice of Citra proved to be a good one as it was in excellent condition, reaffirming that the pub's listing in the GBG is more than justified. It wasn't long until it was time to venture on.
Leaving the Scarbrough, I turned left and then left again onto Mill Hill, passed some pubs that weren't yet open but to which I would return later, and emerged on the junction with Boar Lane. On the corner, in a large, and rather imposing, Victorian building is the Griffin.
Dating from 1715, Whitelocks occupies land on what was a medieval burgage plot, now known as Turk's Head Yard, which it shares with the pub of the same name. John Betjeman once described this place as the 'beating heart of Leeds', which is entirely justified, especially inside. The interior is largely unchanged from 1895 and is made up of mirrors, polished metal and woodwork, stained glass, iron pillars and faience tiling. Assorted old posters and bric-a-brac are displayed throughout. The raised bar is front and centre and runs virtually the whole length of the room. The pub itself is rather narrow and Grade II* listed, with seating along the wall and a small, restaurant-style space at one end reserved for dining. The outside yard provides additional tables for outside drinking. Testament to the pub's reputation and popularity, when I arrived, a mere 20 minutes after opening, it was quite literally standing room only. Every table was full and there were quite a few people making do with whatever space they'd been able to fashion for themselves at and around the bar. Speaking of the bar, it is taken up by 11 handpulls. 9 of these were available when I arrived and I was eventually able to determine their contents. Five Points Railway Porter and Five Points XPA were both doubled up, with the remaining pumps offering a choice of Thornbridge Astryd, North Open Space, Northern Monk Centennial Star, Kirkstall XXX Mild and Timothy Taylor Landlord. Being in Leeds, I went local and chose the Open Space from North Brewing Co. Open Space (4.6%) is a West Coast pale ale, dry hopped with Simcoe and Chinook. This provides it with aromas of grapefruit, lemon and floral bouquets and pine flavours, leading to a spiky finish. I managed to find a spot to lean and imbibe. This place is fantastic and I am very glad that I was able to visit. The reputation and regard in which this place is held is thoroughly deserved.
Located in a building that was formerly a bank, The Bankers Cat is operated by Thornbridge Brewery which, given my experiences with their pubs in the past, is always a good sign. It's even more promising when the pub is Good Beer Guide listed, as this one is (as of 2022). The front door leads directly to a central, horseshoe-shaped bar which has seating on all sides, including booths with mirrors to the left. A stained glass window dominates part of the right hand wall and there are quirky cat portraits throughout. Additional seating can be found downstairs in the old bank vault, which still has the original vault door in situ. Large chandeliers provide lighting in the main bar. For all intents and purposes, the pub reminds me of a smaller version of The Market Cat, it's York sister pub, even down to the layout and the decor. I already knew I was going to be in for a treat in terms of beer choice. Of the 8 handpulls, 7 were in use with the majority given over to beers from Thornbridge's extensive catalogue. Thornbridge Roisin, Brother Rabbit, Astryd and Jaipur were joined on the bar by Titanic Plum Porter, Saltaire DDH Citra and Black Iris Bajan Breakfast. There was no way on Earth that I wasn't going to have a Thornbridge beer in a Thornbridge pub and Roisin was a beer that I'd never encountered so the stars aligned and I dived in. Roisin (4%) is an Irish red ale. That means it's malty but with an almost caramel-like sweetness. It's a definite yes from me!
Situated beneath the arches of platform 17 of Leeds Station, The Hop is operated by Ossett Brewery. The central bar is surrounded by comfortable seating with bare brick walls decorated with murals and pictures of rock bands. Another seating area above is reached by staircases at either end of the room, and hosts regular live music. Due to the pub's location, the beer cellar is actually at ground level and can be seen through windows in the drinking area. The ambience is very much neon signs and dim lighting, which creates a comfortable feeling and completely detracts from the trains that run overhead. The long bar, which is behind the entrance, boasts 10 handpulls, 8 of which were in use during my short stop there. The beers are primarily from Ossett with White Rat, Silver King, Yorkshire Blonde, Voodoo, Excelsius and Butterley all being present on the day, alongside Wilde Child Rik van Nutter, Fireside Cellar Hero and Pulp Rhubarb & Strawberry Cider. It was another Ossett beer for me this time. I decided on Silver King (4.3%) as the beer that would round off my day out. For those not in the know, Silver King is an American pale ale with Cascade hops for a crisp, refreshing and dry beer with citrus aromas and a balanced bitterness. It was over far too quickly. All that was left was for me to leave The Hop and walk up a nearby ramp that eventually took me to platform 17, from where my train back to Nottingham would soon depart.