Peter O’Toole’s favorite local pub was forever saved from development thanks to a campaign to list Britain’s historic pub interiors.
Whitelock’s Ale House in Leeds has had its heritage status upgraded to Grade II*, placing it in the top 5.8% of buildings protected in the UK.
“Pubs that are listed at this level, you tamper with at your own risk. They are practically sacrosanct,” said Paul Ainsworth, president of the pub heritage group at Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), which pushed for the update.
The brewery was a favorite spot for the notoriously drunk actor, who grew up in Leeds, as well as other cultural greats such as Dame Margot Fonteyn, the ballerina, and Sir John Betjeman, the former poet laureate.
The Yorkshire pub retains a historic interior dating back to 1895, complete with fixed benches, brass columns, stained glass windows, an abundance of mirrors and a rare ceramic-tiled bar counter.
The place, which calls itself the “lunch bar”, is among 10 public houses that have had their listing updated or updated, while another two have been listed for the first time.
Mr. Ainsworth told The Telegraph he was delighted with the update, saying: “It’s an absolute joy of a place. I am very pleased to have been updated.”
Camra has been working closely with Historic England, which makes listing recommendations to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to improve the legal protection of England’s landmark pubs.
The campaign is currently focused on historic interiors, which are often not included in existing descriptions of listed buildings.
While technically still protected, the lack of a description can leave interiors vulnerable to renovations and refurbishments, which can often be done without local authorities knowing or knowing what has been lost.
The Prince Alfred in Maida Vale, west London, has also been upgraded to Grade II* because of its exceptionally well-preserved interior, considered a high-value example of the pub boom of the 1890s.
The two newly listed pubs are The Admiral Vernon in Dagenham, East London, and Blythe Hill Tavern in Catford, South East London. Both date from the interwar period.
The list of protected pubs has an urban bias, with eight of the 11 pubs located in cities or suburbs. Ainsworth said this partly reflects the fact that urban and, in particular, suburban pubs are now the most vulnerable to developers.
“That’s where we’ve lost a lot in the last few years, partly because of changing social habits and also because they tend to take up nice big, juicy lots that you can build a lot of houses on,” he said.
Meanwhile, the number of country pubs, after years of steady decline, was slowly hitting rock bottom.
This is the second installment of listings to come out of the campaign, with 11 pubs last year gaining new status. This included the Liverpool Philharmonic Dining Rooms, which received the greatest possible protection from Listed Grade I.