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Those Were Different Days....

Last Sunday teatime, as I normally do, I called in at a couple of my local pubs for a pint and a catch-up. One of them, right next door to Brighouse Station, is the Commercial/Railway. As usual, it was busy, there was a birthday celebration, DJ Des was hosting his regular Sunday session, pool was being played, some were watching the football on TV, groups of people were chatting and laughing, whilst some were just alone with their drink and their thoughts. The bar of this wonderful community pub run by Trevor and Sue was busy, but despite that the staff still had enough time to extend a greeting and a few cheery words to all they served. During the week, its lunchtimes and teatimes cater mainly for the local working population, whilst in the evenings the local community take over, be it for a Monday night pool league match, darts and doms, the quiz, or even to learn the guitar, whilst dependent on the timetable the train may bring in a trickle or even a flood of thirsty customers. Some Sundays for example, a local angling society turn up after a day on the rod to discuss the ones that got away over a few drinks. In short, the Commercial - as it has been known for the majority of its existence - is a great example of traditional pub, where as they used to say in 'Cheers', everybody knows your name, where the sense of community provides a place to relax, to meet, to be entertained, a sanctuary, an escape from the humdrum of day to day life.

Sadly, pubs like the Commercial/Railway are becoming less common in many places due to changes in the community, lifestyles, brewery and pub co aspirations, employment opportunities, economic pressures, plus individual, often local circumstances.

It brought that message home a couple of days later when a friend shared an item on Facebook about the demise of (ironically) the Commercial, situated in the South Leeds suburb of Holbeck, where Marshall Street meets Sweet Street. She posted a couple of pictures of this once-proud pub which stood like a sentinel at the crossroads, now looking forlorn and closed with boarded up windows. The Commercial was right next door to where we used to work back in the 90's and early noughties, and catered for a regular lunchtime and teatime trade from our offices, the huge Kays mail order warehouse which surrounded it, plus a myriad of other businesses in the area. When the right doors were open, I could get from my desk to the bar of the Commercial in around a minute - ideal when the boss was looking for you, although, more often than not, he would be with me! Unlike its namesake in Brighouse, the Commercial did provide rudimentary warm food on a lunchtime - chip butties, pies, toasties - to accompany a pint of Tetleys and the obligatory game of pool. If you didn't fancy pool or a chat in the best room you could watch the sport or some rubbish on the TV balanced on a shelf above the door in the taproom, where the remote was a cue borrowed from the pool room, and the reception gave the impression it was snowing, even in July!

It was the inevitable and natural place to go for a birthday, a leaving-do, and no night out would start anywhere else. It was part of the fabric of work, and with Pete and Sue, and staff like Big Dave behind the bar, a welcome escape from the pressures of the office. Pete was the legendary ex-Leeds United player Peter Lorimer, who was a fantastic, down-to-earth unassuming bloke who always took an interest in what you were up to. Pete's background gave this otherwise back-street boozer some serious street-cred particularly amongst Leeds fans. Sometimes there would be an appearance by an ex-Leeds player such as Eddie Gray, or from another sport, such as David Bairstow (father of Jonny), or maybe from the media, such as football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme. One ex-Leeds player who was a regular until he passed away in 2004 was John Charles, the ex-Wales International who also became a legend in Italy, where in his time at Juventus he was adored by the fans, players, and press alike, who dubbed him 'Il Gigante Buono' - the Gentle Giant - because of his sporting behaviour on the pitch, where he was never booked or sent off in his career. I always got on well with John, he was a lovely man whose usual greeting of  'Hello, Chris, how the devil are you?' in that booming Welsh voice would invariably be accompanied by a massive slap on the shoulder, often threatening my balance!

The Commercial had a number of rooms to let, and frequently on a Friday there would be hordes of Leeds United fans from Scandinavia already at the bar when we went in after work. They had come over to watch their team that weekend, and with Pete and Sue's affable and accommodating nature it was for them a true home from home, where the beer was a fraction of the price back home. The pub also attracted a loyal and eclectic mix of regulars and characters from the local area, such as Ray - aka Taff - , Karen, and Edgar the bookie, who all added to the gritty charm of the place, whilst nearby the girls lurking in the shadows on the streets were not simply asking for directions.

Our business re-located to Gildersome around 2005, and the huge Kays complex, having been wound down over a few years finally closed, was demolished, leaving a huge weed-covered gap. South Leeds was changing, new units were going up, the Marshall Mills complex was opened up with more modern types of businesses. New, fashionable pubs and bars such as the Midnight Bell, the Cross Keys, and the Northern Monk brewery and tap opened on or around nearby Water Lane, catering for the demographic profile the new businesses employed. Traditional places like the Commercial no longer had the same appeal, their customers had dwindled or moved on, and so the inevitable happened.

I last called in a few years ago and after a lovely catch-up with Pete and Sue, we needed to get over to the Parnaby Tavern in Belle Isle where my daughter was having a leaving-do before moving to the North East. They kindly sorted out the taxi for us, which was typical of them. I never got to go back, and with the place now closed up I sadly never got chance to say goodbye.

Pubs like the Commercial/Railway in Brighouse still keep the tradition and deep roots in the community alive, but with a background of pubs closing in alarming numbers, sadly the times when pubs like it and the Commercial and so many others were the norm have gone.

Those were different days....

Happier times...The Commercial, Holbeck, Leeds


  1. I used to park in Jack Lane when I stayed overnight in the cheap Ibis, visiting for gigs and pubs (never football oddly). I'm sure I've been in The Commercial before heading to The Grove but it's not on my GBG spreadsheet. I guess it wasn't a Guide regular at any point !

    1. Hi, Martin. The Commercial never troubled the beer guide and didn't consistently have real ale, in fact for the last year or two I went in it was normally keg Theakstons Bitter.


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