Inside Britain’s ‘most notorious pub’ infamous for 31 serious crimes in just one year

Chapeltown’s Hayfield Hotel in Leeds was a pub with a fearsome reputation which “descended into a notorious drop-out center for prostitutes and all sorts of villains”

There wasn’t such a thing as a quiet pint in this Leeds pub

It was the notorious pub whose regulars witnessed a killing, five attempted murders and three rapes all in just one year.

But those crimes don’t even begin to scratch the surface of Chapeltown’s Hayfield Hotel, where violence in and outside of the much feared venue was an almost every day occurrence.

The boozer was also the heart of Leeds’ Black community, but things often turned sinister as people tried their best to enjoy a quiet pint.

Leeds Live have taken us inside the infamous pub, which closed it doors for good when the problems got too much for police.

The Hayfield Hotel began in 1869 as Hayfield House, the home of William Turton, a wealthy hay merchant and transport entrepreneur.

Hayfield Hotel wasn’t exactly welcoming – and it was once dubbed ‘Britain’s most notorious pub’

But by the 1970s, it was a pub with quite a reputation.

According to author Richard Charles Cobb in his book about the Yorkshire Ripper it had “descended into a notorious drop-out center for prostitutes and all sorts of villains”.

The crime statistics speak for themselves.

Cobb continues that the Hayfield was the site of 31 serious crimes in one year including one murder, five attempted murders and three rapes.

In July 2001, four people were machine-gunned down outside the Hayfield; three survived but one, Hugh Scott, died.

It was probably the last straw for Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police – there had already been attempts to close the Hayfield in the preceding years – and in July 2002, the Hayfield’s license was revoked and the pub was demolished later that year.

It’s easy to look at these bald statistics and see the Hayfield as some sort of lawless hell.

But for Chapeltown’s Black community it was simply a place to socialize, drink and play dominoes.

Or as multi-award-winning novelist Caryl Phillips, who was raised in Leeds, says in his book Foreigners: “White Leeds imagined that inside the Hayfield every type of black sinner was making mischief.

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“A curious corollary of this fantasy was that the Hayfield became a kind of ‘black space’, where whites only entered if they accepted the rules laid down by the black men who played dominoes, drank, sold a little weed and checked the ladies. “

Phillips adds: “Lots of adventurous whites found themselves at home there… The Hayfield was erased from the map around 2004 [sic] – yet another sign of the city’s inability to deal properly with its black citizens.”

Throwing in the towel after 20 years as landlord of the Hayfield, George Binger told BBC Look North in 2002: “I don’t think it should be closed. I think the community need it – it’s the only pub in Chapeltown. It’s the only pub the ethnic minority have to use… because where are the people going to go?”

He added: “I have no control over what happens outside in the street or in the back of the pub… and I shouldn’t be held responsible for these things.”

The Hayfield had approximately 250 customers, according to Binger, when it closed for good. On the site of the Hayfield today is the Reginald Center community hub and library.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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