Landmark Leeds pub given second-highest historic protection status

·3-min read

A landmark pub has been given the second-highest protection possible due to its historical importance as a surviving upmarket Victorian “luncheon bar”.

Whitelock’s Ale House, which is tucked away down an alley in Leeds city centre, has been upgraded to Grade II* by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England, as part of a project to help save rare historic pub interiors.

The Grade II* status means it is in the the top 5.8% of protected historic buildings in England.

Whitelock’s Ale House, Leeds (Historic England/PA)
Whitelock’s Ale House, Leeds (Historic England/PA)

Historic England said that Whitelock’s is one of the best examples of a late-19th century upmarket luncheon bar.

It said the pub was described by Sir John Betjeman as “the very heart of Leeds” and has been frequented by celebrities over the years, becoming a favourite of Peter O’Toole and Dame Margot Fonteyn.

It still has its 1895 interior decorative scheme and a wealth of high-quality features, including stained-glass windows and a rare ceramic-tiled bar counter.

Whitelock’s is close to another Grade II* listed building, the City Varieties music hall – home of the long-running BBC TV show The Good Old Days – which gained the reputation of being the social and cultural hub of Leeds.

It is joined by another Victorian pub – the Prince Alfred in Maida Vale, London – which has also been upgraded to Grade II*.

The Prince Alfred, Maida Vale, London (Historic England/PA)
The Prince Alfred, Maida Vale, London (Historic England/PA)

Historic England described the Prince Alfred as “one of the best examples of urban pubs of its era”.

It said the bar, which dates from the height of the pub boom in the 1890s, has lavish fittings and exceptionally well-preserved compartments which radiate from an elaborate peninsula servery, divided by ornate screens.

The Prince Alfred’s original set of “snob screens” to the Ladies Bar was designed to give privacy to women ordering at the bar and are described as “extraordinarily rare”.

Historic England also announced two new pub listings in London. These are the Grade II Blythe Hill Tavern and another inter-war pub, the Admiral Vernon in Dagenham.

The Prince Alfred, Maida Vale, London (Historic England/PA)
The Prince Alfred, Maida Vale, London (Historic England/PA)

The Admiral Vernon was built to serve the Becontree Estate, one of the largest council estates of the period, and its interior is much as it was when its first customers walked through its doors in the 1930s.

The list of pubs was proposed by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) Pub Heritage Group, as part of a collaboration with Historic England to protect historic pubs.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive, Historic England said: “At a time when many historic pubs in England are susceptible to change or at risk of closure, we are pleased to celebrate pubs that have kept their remarkable interiors.

“These rare interiors help tell the fascinating story of pubs over the centuries and how they reflected society. From celebrity haunt Whitelock’s Ale House in Leeds to the Prince Alfred in London with its ‘snob screens’, they all fully deserve the protection given by listing.”

Paul Ainsworth, chairman of Camra’s Pub Heritage Group said: “Times are tough for all pubs at the moment, including those with important historic interiors. The more protection they can receive, the better.”

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