Lining a popular thoroughfare into the city, it looks like just another overlooked building in the area. However, this was once a thriving 19th Century public house, serving the community and more recently football supporters. Since its fire in March 2007, the exposed skeletal roof has been left charred, giving shelter to wild growing buddleia and pigeons cooping under the beams.
Although the land is privately owned, it has been left unoccupied since before the fire (the present landowners have no plans to renovate). Beneath the peeling paint and broken windows, set above the door frame, is the relief of the head of the spotted cow. This sculptural relic is all that’s left of this crumbling pub. Perhaps the head symbolises some history too? Maybe it can evoke some memories of times gone by?
At a recent publicity group meeting for the Holbeck Neighbourhood Plan, local resident Steve Peacock suggested the idea of saving the head of the Spotted Cow. The idea would be to display it somewhere in the community as a figurehead of Holbeck’s heritage.
I decided to do a bit rooting around with local historians and Holbeck-ites’ and I managed to piece together a ‘s’potted public house history.
The Spotted Cow is listed in White’s Directory 1837, landlord Thomas Dobson. It was originally a Melbourne brewery but was then bought by Tetley. Eve Tidswell of Friends of Holbeck Cemetery records that later in 1889, landlady Elizabeth Carr purchased a grave plot in 1889.
There are also three other inns listed in the locality which remain standing today.
The Bulls Head on Stocks Hill
Waggon & Horses (United Bar) on Elland Road.
The Waggon & Horses used to be a popular coaching inn and is listed under the Pigot & Co’s National Commercial Directory of 1828. So the Spotted Cow could well pre-date 1837. The popular highway has been replaced with the M621 cutting off a once well trodden path and now feels hidden away. However, the United Bar still operates today especially on match days.
Thomas Spence who was the landlord of the Waggon and Horses was also buried in Holbeck Cemetery.
Like all of these public houses, they were popular and thriving right up to the beginning of the 21st century. Most of the recent memories of the local residents recall visiting these pubs more than once and have plenty of memories to share.
Local resident Phil Kirby remembers ‘The Spotted Cow was the first pub I got drunk in’. His Dad and uncle Tommy left him clinging to a lamp post outside!
Steve Peacock remembers it was a popular pub on the crawl towards Elland Road on match days with football supporters. He also remembers using it as his local when he first moved into the area in the 1980’s.
What does the Spotted Cow mean to you? Could the sculpture of the head be an icon of the past but also look forward to a bright future for Holbeck?