The mighty and locally famous oak tree had lived for around 1000 years by conservative estimates when it fell to ground in 1941 in Headingley, not far from the famous cricket and rugby grounds in Leeds.
It was soon replaced, but the history behind it should not as easily be forgotten.
Yorkshire has long been divided into ‘thriddings’ , third parts which make up the historic North, East and West Ridings. I can’t tell you why there is no South Riding, though it did make the title of a book by Winifred Holtby in 1936, as well as a subsequent tv series.
These thriddings were further divided into hundredths or ‘Wapentakes’ (from the Norse), each managed by a Lord. When the new Lord of the Manor called a meeting of his fellow Lords, it often took place under a Shire Oak. The term Skyrack is a Saxon word which means ‘Shire Oak’.
The Headingley Shire Oak was the location for these meetings locally.
All of which is a roundabout way of introducing the ‘Wapentake of Skyrack’, a huge area of land which encompassed Headingley and many villages around it.
In this area, an ancient and derelict farmhouse was superceded by a Manor House, built around 1540. This was itself rebuilt around 1625 and stood the test of time over the centuries.
In the First World War, the War Office commandeered it and it was used as a convalescent home for officers.
From 1919 to the late 1980’s it served as Halls of Residence for Leeds University, who, from 1925 to 1927, added a substantial new wing to the building.
In 1993, the place was given a new lease of life when it became a swish and sparkling hotel, now known as Weetwood Hall Hotel. The Manor House still stands as part of the modern hotel and bears a blue plaque in recognition of it’s history.
The Hotel is on the Outer Ring Road of Leeds only six miles from the city centre. It stands in 9 acres of grounds, has a separate pub,The Stables, and in 2016, a new 120 cover Mediterranean Restaurant, ‘Convive’, was opened within the hotel.
At last, the reason for this review is revealed.
The décor is certainly impressive. Glass double doors lead off the hotel reception area and into a large room. Floors and walls are mostly tiled whilst pride of place is given to a copper faced bar across the width of the restaurant. In fact copper features all around, from the copper condiment holders to copper teaspoons and plant holders.
To one side of the main restaurant there are a small number of more intimate booths whilst at the other end, glass partition walls separate a smaller room for private dining.
Feature potted plants soften the overall look, as does dimmed lighting.
The meals have been receiving very favourable reviews locally but it was for that staple English experience of afternoon tea which my partner and I visited.
We were greeted effusively by the Restaurant Manager and we were given a choice of tables.
Our friendly and very efficient waitress was soon with us and our requirements obtained. We were made aware that our visit included unlimited tea and coffee.
A decent choice of loose leaf teas and Italian coffees were proffered.
The afternoon tea took a little while to arrive, showing that they were freshly made and not pre-made and refrigerated. It was worth the relaxed wait.
A wooden A-frame on the table was filled with delights, each item of which was carefully explained by our waitress.
Four types of finger sandwiches, including smoked salmon, were devoured, though not until we had drained the glass espresso cups of warmed and wonderfully thick tomato soup.
These were accompanied by crescents of light pastry struggling to contain the ratatouille inside. Scrumptious!
Home made scones with small Kilner type jars of clotted cream and strawberry jam were next on the list and they were as delicious as they looked.
The brownie squares, and light, moist Victoria sponge were almost superfluous but not quite! Finally, glasses of panna cotta topped with mango or raspberry jus just about finished us off for the rest of the day. A further, long lingering coffee made this a terrific, lazy afternoon out.
If the afternoon tea was an example of the quality that the kitchen produces, then I can quite easily see why the evening menu has been such a resounding hit.
Convive is now on my list for a return visit.
Various voucher sites mean that you can currently have both the afternoon tea and a two course evening meal with a bottle of wine, at half price. Such a bargain.
I can’t imagine that the ground on which we stood as we left, despite it’s history over the centuries, can have seen such a feast provided at such a reasonable cost.
Weetwood Hall can be found at LS16 5PS and further details obtained from www.weetwood.co.uk.