Mark’s History: Vesper Gate pub workers once included children

Vesper Gate Pub kirkstall
Vesper Gate Pub is on Abbey Road, Kirkstall. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Words and photos: Mark Stevenson

I was passing the Vesper Gate Pub on Abbey Road the other day when I noticed a sign outside saying it was recruiting. For no other reason than that I decided to see what I could find out about it.

The Vesper Gate stands in what was once Hawksworth Woods – and the trees still at the side of it may once have been part of Hawksworth Wood. 

Its reason for being there on the Abbey Road was to service the travellers on the newly built Kirkstall Otley and Shipley Trust Road. The road was built around the late 1820s to early 1830s.  

Rich past: Vesper Gate. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Back then the Vesper Gate Hotel, as it was known, wasn’t overse to a bit of child labour. The landlord in 1881 was William Raine (43) from Barton in Yorkshire; he lived there with his wife Elizabeth (33), his daughter Annie (4) and his sister-in-law Sarah Marriner (25). Their servant Mary Rhodes, from Horsforth, was 14. 

In 1891 the landlord was John Fawcett (48) from Morley. He had two servants, one was Jane Dyson (47) from Harrogate, she was a widow and Mary McArthur from Glasgow aged 14.

By 1911, landlord Thomas Dodgson (57) lived there with his wife Jemima (50) and two servants Maria (19) and Ethel (20). All were from Leeds.

I highlight the point about the use of children being used in the running of the Vesper Gate Hotel mainly because I think people sometimes forget that it was not just the mills and factories the children worked in.

For more on West Leeds’ history, check out our regular Mark’s History column here.


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