Archive for June, 2015

Whatever Happened to Those Great East Leeds Pub Runs?

June 1, 2015

Whatever Happened to those Great East Leeds Pub Runs? Our parent’s generation is quite rightly labelled ‘The greatest generation’ (closely followed by ours of course). Life was certainly bleak for those who lived through two world wars and a depression, they knew what poverty and real austerity was about. But those who wanted could still get out locally for a couple of pints and a natter with their friends and neighbours at the end of the day, indeed that would have appeared to be the norm. What would our dads and uncles and those guys up the street think if they came back for a day and found no local pubs left in old East Leeds? And I suppose this is true for the rest of the country too.

I was about seven when the war ended and I remember an uncle of mine and a lad newly demobbed set up a garage in Knostrop to repair old cars and motor bikes. There were only old cars no new cars had been produced for private motoring since the outbreak of war in 1939. I haunted that garage taking in the smells of petrol, old leather and motor oil amidst the lovely yellowing windscreens and frantic activity, but religiously around nine it would be tools down they would pack up and jump into any available old banger and retire to The Fish Hut or The Black Dog (the pubs shut at ten but there were no MOTs or the breathalyzer to worry about) and I would think, what a glorious life, I’m going to have some of that when I grow up.

Well our generation did have a few decades around the old East Leeds boozers but not the present incumbents of the area, I’m afraid, for now they are all but gone. The Bridgefield, Black Dog, Waterloo and The Prospect are completely demolished (with nothing as yet put in their place) The Yew Tree, Fisherman’s Hut and Spring Close are closed and boarded up. The iconic ‘Slip’ is a supermarket The Hampton and Shepherd look as though they are being converted into flats or something and The Cross Green is some sort of Chinese restaurant that I have not as yet ever seen to be open. At the time of writing The Cavalier and the Hope Inn stand alone.

Rewind to the 1990s and there were still some great pub runs around the Richmond Hill area to enjoy. You could start at any point of your choice and work your way round until your capacity was filled or time was called. A choice run was to start at The Prospect and make a crawl in a clockwise direction. Let me take you with me on the Richmond Hill pub crawl

The Prospect: it was located at the highest point in Richmond Hill and the starting point for the annual Whit Walk. Like most pubs of the day it had a tap room where the old kids played their dominos and a ‘snug’ for the ladies to sup their stout. It was the ‘singing room’ that drew us in our youth. To start with the singing room was at the front and quite small for the artists they got onto the tiny stage, when Ronnie Dukes and Ricky Lee with the stony faced mother in law on the piano was engaged the noise nearly blew the roof off you could hear them in Dial Street. The venue was so popular that the singing room was first extended backward and then a massive extension was built at the back with a Wild West theme – swinging bar doors etc. We would repair to the Prospect after football training and on Sunday dinner time. The Prospect had a Sunday League football team that won The Sunday League Cup in the early sixties beating the well fancied Waterloo Colliery team 4-3. One night a few of us were having a quiet drink in the Prospect singing room and there were two huge parties of lads in there, there must have been about twenty in each party taking up about six tables each. One lot were easily identifiable as they were all decked out in ‘dickie bow’ ties. You could sense they didn’t like each other there had been a few words a bit of jostling and spilt beer, you could sense something was developing and it kicked off just before closing time. All forty lads started fighting, we took to the walls to give ‘em room buffets were flying there was glass and blood everywhere guys were laid out on the floor. My mate, George said, ‘look they are putting ‘em a fresh dicky bow on and sending ‘em out again.’ The room was completely trashed. There were no bouncers on hand to sort this type of thing out; pubs seemed to rely on a strong landlord to keep a lid on it. But this was something else. I think they had to close the singing room down for a bit after that to get it sorted out again. We referred to it as ‘The Battle of the Prospect’.

To return to the pub run the next on the list would be The Hampton

The Hampton I think the Hampton was my favourite pub in my halcyon days Nellie and George Barraclough were mine hosts (earlier the iconic Dolly Dawson – ex Hunslet rugby league player ran a tight ship there). They scrounged a barrel of beer from Hemmingway’s brewery for us when we won the Sunday League football Cup against the well fancied Barnbow in 1963/64. On match days they would fill a couple of tin baths for us to wash in the cellar (one for faces and one for the bums we would say). There was a fish and chip shop next door which could be quite handy. Funny the strange little things you remember the Hampton had frosted glass windows with the name ‘Hampton’ worked in, the frosted part stretched to many feet above the ground but one day I saw ‘Big John’ a local giant looking in for his mate, he was so tall he could look right over the frosted part of the glass.

After the Hampton you turned right into Ellerby lane and paid a visit to the Yew Tree: not really my favourite pub but it was on the run. I remember in the early days they had a team of seemingly old men that played on Snakey top pitch in blue and white vertical stripes The Yew Tree has only recently closed, there was an affair when a shot gun was discharged in there and then they took to opening strange hours and closing quite early in the evening.

We are now at the Spring Close the ‘Spring’ had a good name for the quality of its ale. In the fairly recent past an old mate Eric Wallitor ran the pub and we held our East Leeds Reunions there. I made my first visit to the Spring when I was probably underage to drink but recall there was a piano and on top of the piano and under a glass case was a crumbling piece of parkin and five woodbines and a note of explanation that these items had been sent by a mother to the front in the First World War but returned as her son had been killed before he could receive them.

By now we would have become quite merry and incredibly handsome on the run but as yet no one else would have noticed this transition. The ‘Spring’ has been closed for a few months at the time of writing but they had left exposed to the vandals a beautiful frosted glass window with the name of the pub worked within it. I have been holding my breath every time I passed expecting to see a brick had been thrown through glass that had stood probably since Victorian times. Happily now at least the window is boarded. I hope they protected it in time? A decision has to be made at this point, the run would always finish up in the Fish Hut and The Black Dog but did you have time or capacity to turn left and take in The Cross Green Hotel or right to take in The Cavalier.

The Cross Green was my absolute local as I actually lived in Cross Green Lane and it was always full of folk from our street who would tell my dad if they caught my drinking in there before I was eighteen, although there were tales that my old grandmother frequented that pub and evidentially often over indulged. One night I went for a pint in the Green and I saw an old mate seated across the room with a group of people not known to me. I saw him point to me and say something to his friends upon which they all stared at me. Then he came over to me and said, ’I’ve just told them you’re an unfrocked vicar.’ The Cross Green Pub used to have a good rival football team: The Cross Green Dodgers.

If you had veered to the right after ‘The Spring’ you could have taken in The Cavalier happily still functioning as a pub while I write this. The ‘Cav’ used to be the favourite watering hole for my wife and I in the early days, we loved to go in there on Saturday nights, It was close to Mount St Mary’s Church and there was a large Irish contingent to keep us entertained by their singing. I remember particularly Des and Barney O’Hearn regularly regaling us with a cheerful song and an old guy who regular brought the house down with his rendition of the Laughing Policeman. There would be a few rebel IRA. songs mixed in but no one seemed to take exception.

So to the final watering holes on our run: The Fisherman’s Hut and The Black Dog. These were the favourites of ‘The Greatest Generation’. By the time you reached these two it was the end of the run, the terminus. All those who had been making the run were crammed into these two pubs particularly The Black Dog, the very last one. You were lucky if you could find even standing room there was no chance of getting seated. As though it was wasn’t likely to be packed already occasionally a singer was engaged in there at the weekend; I remember a popular voice was that of Jonny Joyce. It was difficult to get to the bar at that late hour in The Black Dog there was no disciplined queuing and when last orders were called there was mad panic to get another drink. The place was a tinder box and there were many on short fuses it was sometimes more provident to return to the Fish Hut where there was more chance of being served after ‘last orders’. When it was ‘chucking out’ time the landlord would have a real job trying to clear his pub but if it had all ended good naturedly you would stagger out into the night air and being East Leeds locals your home was always within walking distance. No taxis required and you could sing away to your heart’s content and all seemed right with the world.

The Richmond Hill run misses out several of the great East Leeds pubs which those coming from the East End Park side of the railway would probably favour: The Shepherd and The White Horse were much favoured by the East End Park folk and we should not forget the great Clubs: East Leeds Working Men’s Club The Edmund House Club and East End Park Club these clubs were so good if you managed to get yourself signed in you would probable stay in there all night. Probably the most popular pub in the whole area would be The Slip proper name The New Regent but no one ever called it that. You used the Slip for big nights out when there was a big party of you. You had to ‘fall in with the doors’ to manage to get a couple of tables and put them together. There was waiter service in the concert room and the order of the day was to get a waiter on side early; they would say, ‘always buy him his own’, he’d just take the price of a half and then you would have his attention all night. The best waiter was the magical ‘Harry’, he would come waltzing through the crowded room balancing your round on a tray above his head and he never spilt a drop. Amazingly he would have already calculated the price of your round and anticipated the note you would give him and he already had your correct change ready in his top pocket.

So to return to my original question: what would our dads – those of the greatest generation’ – do if they returned for a day and fancied a night on the ale? Well I suppose they would have to do what the drinkers of today have to do now they have no locals – buy a few cheap cans from the supermarket to get themselves in the mood, then off to the clubs in the centre of Leeds, a taxi home, have their fights in the taxi rank and spend more money on the night than the old guys would earn in a week and be prepared to be going out at a time they’d expect to be rolling home. Somehow I don’t think that would appeal to them. It certainly doesn’t appeal to me! east leedd pubsClick on picture to enlarge