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Eight Leeds pubs with peculiar names

Written by
Jon Howe

Pubs, not bars, still exist in Leeds. There are lots of them. And while it’s easy to adopt ironic humour or conceptual licence to name a bar Friends of Ham, there are plenty of traditional pub names in Leeds that carry a wealth of unexplained history. And mystery.

Long gone, sadly, are the Gamecock (Pudsey), Pineapple Inn (Hunslet), Black Dog and City of Mabgate (East Leeds), The Punch Clock (Beeston), Hark to Rover (Kirkstall) and, in the city centre, The Whip, Star and Garter and The Cobourg. But feast on these stubborn nods to Leeds’ drinking culture and wonder at the abstract genius of their names.

Chemic Tavern, 9 Johnston Street
A long-established real ale pub way before it was fashionable, The Chemic Tavern got its name from Johnston's Chemical Works, which produced sulphuric acid and other such flavoursome chemicals on a nearby site right up to the 1890s. It was a popular, hidden gem of a community pub even when I lived near there in the early 1990s and remains a much-favoured live music venue.

Flickr: John Law

Three Legs, 11 Headrow
A mainstay of the city-centre pub scene, but we still have no idea if its original owners had a fascination with tripedalism, the Isle of Man's heritage or the three-legged bar stool.

Flickr: Adam Bruderer

The Drysalters, Elland Road
A well-known football pub and one of the very few in Leeds famous for welcoming away fans on match days. The name derives from the occupation of its first licensee in 1834 – one Joseph Lee, who was listed as a 'drysalter, oil dealer, preparer of peachwood, camwood, cotton manufacturer and victualer of the Drysalters Arms'. Well that's us told.

Betty Longbottom

Scarbrough Hotel, Bishopsgate Street
Not so peculiar, you might think. But check out the spelling. Not a direct link to the North Yorkshire seaside town with an extra 'o', but to the Earl of Scarbrough – an English peerage title that is currently seated somewhere near Rotherham, but, okay, is originally derived from the fish-and-chip haven on the east coast which for some reason is now spelled Scarborough.

The Skyrack, 2-4 St Michael's Road
The Skyrack was one part of a wapentake – an Anglo-Saxon administrative meeting place – that included various boroughs of the West Riding. It was centred on Headingley, where a large oak tree grew for centuries, under which meetings were held. It's believed the word skyrack is derived from an old English word for ‘shire oak’. Students still pay diligent homage to this meeting place today, and the oak – from which the pub opposite, The Original Oak, gets its name – finally collapsed in 1941.

Flickr: Tim Green

The Tommy Wass, 450 Dewsbury Road
In 1927 these Beeston premises were known as the Alice Doidge Refreshment Rooms, but the place dates from the late 19th century when it was a farmhouse on a 64-acre farm run by its namesake, Thomas Wass.


A photo posted by Huxy ✌ (@ihux) on

The Podger, Ninelands Lane,
This name derives from a small engineering plant called Archibald’s, which was closed in the 1950s when the land was bought by Tetley’s to create a new pub for the rapidly-expanding village of Garforth. The brewery asked Mr Archibald to suggest a name. He came up with The Podger, after a tool his firm created. 

Ian S

Arabian Horse, Main Street, Aberford
Apparently this is the only pub in the country that carries the name and refers back to the 1700s when some Arabian horses came to this country as racehorse bloodstock and became stranded in Aberford due to bad weather. People flocked from miles around to see them.

Arabian Horse

What would you add to our list? Tell us below.

More beer on Time Out Leeds.

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