Ale of the centuries: Tetley's new Brewery Wharf in Leeds is an interactive history of the English pub. Stephen Pritchard hunts down the pork scratchings

Stephen Pritchard
Tuesday 13 September 1994 23:02 BST

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Louise Thomas

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Tetley's Brewery Wharf is the first of several new attractions, including the planned Royal Armouries, to open in the centre of Leeds. It cost pounds 6 million, but the idea is so simple that it is surprising no-one thought of it earlier. It offers snapshots of pubs through history, from the monastic hostelries of the 14th century to the austerity of the Second World War. Each pub has authentic furnishings and pub grub - and human customers and bar staff in period costume.

The characters, played by actors, add humour to their parts. Bett, the landlady at an Elizabethan coaching inn, is fond of leopard-skin outfits, in the manner of her TV namesake. References to famous pubs, fictional and real, show how deeply engrained pubs are in our culture.

Even so, there is a fair amount of information in the demonstrations. The Jacobean publican watches his words for fear of betrayal, but he also describes in detail the food on the table, which includes dishes such as spinach with egg and swede or Hunter's pudding. Until Victorian times, the inn was a place to eat as much as to drink, and pubs were very much male domains. Women, if they featured at all, were behind the bar, or like the unfortunate lady in the Georgian gin palace, left to settle the debts of her intemperate husband.

The Brewery Wharf doesn't attempt to provide a complete history. The interiors chronicle the pub's development from a simple room in someone's home to purpose-built, even grand affairs. It doesn't explain why this happened: how the need to quench the thirst of Industrial Revolution labourers led to the bulk production of beer in mechanised breweries, and large town pubs to drink it in.

Nor does it tell much of the tale of beer itself, beyond a brief introduction to medieval brewing. But beer buffs can opt for a tour of the neighbouring Joshua Tetley & Son brewery for an additional pounds 2. This includes a half-pint of the eponymous bitter, and should answer most questions about the modern brewer's craft.

The Brewery Wharf also has pub games, and the Tetley shire horses. These make the tour suitable for children as well as adults. The tour finishes with a multi-media glimpse of the pub of the future, aimed at kids: The Star and Crater is allegedly the Pub At The End of The Universe, and it might as well be - the green, slimy and, occasionally, living concoctions look quite unpalatable. Fortunately, virtual reality doesn't extend to the Wharf's bar, which serves a proper pint, showing that progress isn't everything.

Tetley's Brewery Wharf, The Waterfront, Leeds (0532 420666), 10am-5.30pm daily to 2 Oct; 10am to 4.30pm Thurs-Sun thereafter to Mar 1995. Admissions: pounds 4.50 / pounds 3.60 concs / pounds 2.50 under 14s

(Photograph omitted)

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