Many generations of travellers have been grateful to take respite in the Fox and Grapes public house. Seven miles from Leeds City Centre, it lies proudly beside the A64, the main route between Leeds, York and the East Coast resorts.
The pub stands in splendid isolation at a spot known as Kiddal Lane End, surrounded by farmland. It will be well known to festival goers as the nearest watering-hole to Bramham Park, the venue for the annual Leeds Festival.
I have been found sitting in the sunny beer garden on many occasions over the years and I have often wondered at it’s history. Finding the facts has been a somewhat cloudier experience however, as there are few records.
John Taylor (1578 – 1653) was a Thames Waterman who was also a member of the Guild of Boatmen. He rose to some prominence as a wit and self-styled ‘Water Poet’ during his lifetime. In his account of his 1639 travels in the north of England, he wrote:
“From Yorke I rode after dinner to Tadcaster, and so to a place called Kidell, where at a poor ale-house I was glad of entertainment and had the company of a tinker who made pretty musique with his Banbury kettledrum, there was also with him two drovers and 35 hogs, which were to be driven on the morrow seven miles further to Leeds market, this good lodging and company, I past the night with all, and on the morrow I road to the town of Leeds.”
Taylor did not name the ale-house unfortunately, but it highly likely to have been the Blue Boar Inn at Kiddal, mentioned in local Parish Records, where an unfortunate and unidentified ‘foreign person’ named Michel died one night in 1788.
Poor Michel, dying far from home in a strange land, his family probably never aware of what became of him.
There are no other records or remains of the Blue Boar to be found. However, Parish Records also indicate that when baptising his child in the early 1700’s at nearby Barwick in Elmet, one Thomas Haist was listed an ‘Innkeeper at Kiddal Lane End’. It seems then, that a public house can be traced back to at least 1639 on this site. Local thoughts are that the Blue Boar was thus the predecessor of The Fox Inn, itself first mentioned in 1803 in local Rate Books as having a farm, house and outhouses etc . It then had 174 acres of freehold land and 44 acres of copyhold land as part of the nearby Potterton Hall Estate..
In the mid 18th century, The Fox Inn became a popular meeting and refreshment point for local huntsmen, including members of the nearby Bramham Moor Hunt, which was formed in the 1740’s by George Fox Lane (later changed to Lane-Fox), the son of Lord Bingley, who built Bramham Park in the late 1600’s.
By 1861 the pub had become the Fox and Grapes Inn and Farm. At some later stage, it became divorced from the farm to become the Fox and Grapes we know today.
In the 1960’s, motorsport came to the pub in the form of a competition-standard go-karting track, laid out in the field behind the pub. This was extremely popular for a decade or so with regular events. The remains of the track can still be seen to the rear of the car park.
By the turn of the current Millennium, the premises had become a Vintage Inn and was very popular. This branding was not to last however.
The pub is currently owned by the Stonegate Pub Company which has a diverse portfolio of over 620 premises and brands, from Yate’s, Slug and Lettuce, Living Room, Scream as well as many country pubs and bars.
From the outside, the building looks like an independent pub with smart, whitewashed walls, and with feature floodlighting.
This pub was re-furbished to a high standard in late 2013. It is internally modern in style with stone flagged floors, lots of wood and beams.
There is the usual mismatched wooden furniture so prevalent these days, some sofas and generally light colour washed walls. It is very spacious, having several rooms and smaller areas to escape the hustle and bustle.
Arriving for a meal with family on a busy December Friday evening I found a varied menu choice which is British in origin. The bar stocks a regular beer, Black Sheep from North Yorkshire, and two rotating guest ales, which on my visit, were ales from Moorhouses of Lancashire and Cottage Brewery from Somerset. All were very palatable.
The usual suspects for starters were priced from around £4 – £7. One of my guests had smoked salmon which came with the two biggest slices of salmon I have seen, more than enough for a main course and said to be very tasty.
I chose jerk chicken skewers, pieces of grilled chicken with a dusting of jerk spices. The tender pieces could have done with a little more jerk spice I thought, but again tasty.
Mains were divided into sections – Grills including steaks and burgers from £8 to £14, Seafood at £9 – £11 , ‘Home Comfort, no-nonsense hearty comfort food’ and a selection of pie meals, all between £9 and £11.
I would have had the rump steak, but upon ordering, I was told that they had no steaks due to a delivery mix-up. A ‘one-off’ I was assured.
A missed steak on some-one’s part, theirs and mine in one way or the other! I had to settle for a Hunter’s Chicken which came with a choice of ways in which the potatoes were presented, chips, wedges, mashed or new. Peas made up the rest of the dish. It was value for money.
The British beef, rioja and chorizo pie which came with a mountainous golden crust pastry top, accompanied by buttery mash and vegetables was both appealing to the eye and delicious. Recommended at £9.99.
Desserts were all in the region of £4.
There are specials too with 2 meals for £11.49, all day Monday to Friday and a Friday rump steak dinner for 2 at £16 (If they get the orders sorted out). Curry and a pint is at £8.49.
You get the idea.
Service was down to earth and friendly, with no pretensions.
It’s not high end dining or gastro-pub style, but for reasonably priced traditional British pub food, you won’t go far wrong.
I was disappointed not to be entertained by a Banbury kettledrum, but then, you can’t have everything! As for the 35 hogs, I couldn’t possibly comment.
Ancient travellers did not have the benefit of googlemaps or sat-nav, but you do, so set it to LS14 4NJ and take a look at this handsome old pub at “www.thefoxandgrapesleeds.co.uk”:http://www.thefoxandgrapesleeds.co.uk