A year or two ago, in Kirkstall Matters, partly in response to a letter from me, there was a brief flurry of correspondence about the pubs that had once existed in Commercial Road and their landlords.
I had referred to a ‘PH’ in Commercial Road, shown on the 1890 edition of the Ordnance survey map. Then ‘Yorky, A Kirkstall Stray’ (Issue 110) referred to the Woodman Inn where John Cockill one of his ancestors had died in 1863. In Issue 111, John Appleyard referred to three pubs in Commercial Road when he was a youngster: ‘the Sovereign run by the Freeman family, the George at the bottom of Beecroft Street and further up was the George Hotel, long since demolished...’ where his mother was a cleaner...and the landlady’s name was Janet.’
Finally, there is Jack Toulson (Kirkstall Online, 23 January 2013), referring to the George Hotel where he had started drinking in 1957; and going on to say ‘and the ‘Woodman Inn owned by the Melbourn Brewery, but taken over by Tetleys Brewery in the late 1950s and was demolished in the 1960s ...the fourth pub in Commercial road.
Thus, within the living memory of such as ‘Yorky’, John Appleyard and Jack Toulson, there were the four pubs or beerhouses in Commercial Road, in Kirkstall: the Woodman; the Sovereign, the George and the George Hotel. I will call them watering holes for the moment, not to have to distinguish between, for example, pubs, beerhouses, beer retailers, inns and hotels. But I want in this article to focus on Kirkstall’s Commercial Road and its watering holes in a somewhat earlier period, that before the First World War, the early years of the twentieth century.
For many centuries, Kirkstall had been part of the huge landed estates of the Brudenells, the Earls of Cardigan (the 7th and last Earl being famous for the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade immortalised by Tennyson). The Cardigan estate passed to the Cardigan family from the Savile family on the marriage of Frances Savile to Francis Brudenell in 1668.
Kirkstall Station opened in 1846, Headingly in 1849 both giving access to the centre of Leeds. The advent of trams from the city along Kirkstall Road and Commercial Road and out to Kirkstall Abbey was crucial in the suburbanisation of Kirkstall. On 18th May 1872 horse-drawn Kirkstall tramways began from the Cardigan Arms along Commercial Road and out to Kirkstall Village. The terminus was near the star and Garter Hotel. At this time, between the Cardigan Arms and Kirkstall Village was countryside.
I have already mentioned four watering holes which already existed at this time in Commercial Road. In fact there was a fifth, the Shades at no 5. And just round the corner, in Kirkstall Lane, was the Abbey Inn (not to be confused with the Abbey Inn at Newlay which is still open).
And these were not the only watering holes in Kirkstall in this pre-First World War period. Most famously was the Star and Garter in Bridge Road where Sarah Siddons the famous actress stayed there in 1807; and, according to one legend, after her performance announced to her audience: ‘Farewell ye brutes, and forever, I trust; ye shall never torture me again!”
The next part of Mike Harwood’s ‘pubs and pews’ history will be published next week.