People say that the Tower Of London would collapse and the entire Kingdom would fall if the famous ravens ever flew away and left. Leeds United fans say the same about The Old Peacock.
WHERE it started
A pub called The Old Peacock has stood on the same site on Elland Road since 1826, although at first it was called The Peacock Inn. The pub didn’t need to differentiate itself until 1842 when the New Peacock appeared further down Elland Road, towards the area that was then called ‘Islington’.
At this time the Old Peacock was just a regular pub serving the local community and workers from the various industries nearby, mainly clay mining and brickworks. There was no football ground across the road to bring weekly trade, just a barren patch of uncultivated empty space.
1878 - 1919
A sports ground evolves
Bentleys Brewery were the major brewers in Leeds at the time, and by 1878 they owned the pub and had flattened land over the road to produce a company sports ground. Naturally they called it the Old Peacock Ground, and a genetic relationship between the pub and that patch of land had begun.
The sports ground was originally used privately by Bentleys Brewery, but evolved to host rugby league initially when Holbeck Rugby Club took on the lease in 1897 and started to develop the ground with terracing. Football took over when the rugby club folded and Leeds City was formed in 1904. This was, of course, replaced by Leeds United in 1919.
Life since then, for the pub and the surrounding area, has never been the same.
1950 - 2007
Greatness to Uncertainty
Gradually the Old Peacock became part of the fabric of the football club and a monument to matchday rituals for generations of football fans. In football’s post-war heyday of the 1950s and 60s, crowds would flock in for the football on a Saturday and stay on for evening greyhound racing at the stadium a few yards further down Elland Road. Matchday food was quite different in the 1960s too, when fans would gorge on free tripe left on the bar by workers at the nearby tripeworks, and which was specially ‘dressed’ by the landlord and served with vinegar.
The original Old Peacock stood much nearer the road, but was demolished in 1963 when the current building was built behind it. At the time, fans could still sit on the pub’s roof and see a portion of the pitch when the ‘sell out’ signs were up at Elland Road. At least until the Scratching Shed was replaced by the much bigger South Stand in 1974.
Whitbreads owned the Old Peacock for many years, but times were hard. In 2007, when Leeds United were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time and entered administration, the same traumatic period saw the Leeds United Supporters’ Club (LUSC) pay £90,000 for the Old Peacock lease. For five years they struggled to run a plain and unlovable pub, through a stoic determination to ‘do the right thing’.
Today the pub is much more than simply a ‘traditional football pub’
2008 - NOW
THE phoenix from the ashes
By June 2012 finances had run into a black hole and the pub closed briefly, whilst LUSC took the decision to sell the pub to Greene King, who managed to re-open in time for the new football season.
Twelve months later Ossett Brewery arrived and spent £400,000 turning the Old Peacock into an attractive ‘food and ale house’ and suddenly the future was bright, and sustainable.
Today the pub is much more than simply a ‘traditional football pub’, because the history of the Old Peacock makes it a genuine one-off, and therefore very, very special. It is now a welcoming family pub seven days a week, with loyal, long-serving and friendly staff who you will come to know, and is a stop-off for Leeds United fans making a midweek pilgrimage for tickets or souvenirs, or just to be close to their beloved club. But it transforms on matchdays and takes on a life of its own, because, undeniably, Leeds United and the Old Peacock will be forever bedfellows in this cherished corner of LS11.