Save the Spotted Cow’s Head!

head of the spottd cowThe derelict remains of the Spotted Cow Inn stand slightly off the road on Top Moor Side in Holbeck.

Lining a popular thoroughfare into the city, it looks like just another overlooked building in the area. However, this was once a thriving 19th Century public house, serving the community and more recently football supporters. Since its fire in March 2007, the exposed skeletal roof has been left charred, giving shelter to wild growing buddleia and pigeons cooping under the beams.

Although the land is privately owned, it has been left unoccupied since before the fire (the present landowners have no plans to renovate). Beneath the peeling paint and broken windows, set above the door frame, is the relief of the head of the spotted cow. This sculptural relic is all that’s left of this crumbling pub. Perhaps the head symbolises some history too? Maybe it can evoke some memories of times gone by?

At a recent publicity group meeting for the Holbeck Neighbourhood Plan, local resident Steve Peacock suggested the idea of saving the head of the Spotted Cow. The idea would be to display it somewhere in the community as a figurehead of Holbeck’s heritage.

I decided to do a bit rooting around with local historians and Holbeck-ites’ and I managed to piece together a ‘s’potted public house history.

The Spotted Cow is listed in White’s Directory 1837, landlord Thomas Dobson. It was originally a Melbourne brewery but was then bought by Tetley. Eve Tidswell of Friends of Holbeck Cemetery records that later in 1889, landlady Elizabeth Carr purchased a grave plot in 1889.

There are also three other inns listed in the locality which remain standing today.

The Bulls HeadThey are:

The Bulls Head on Stocks Hill







The BritanniaThe Britannia (The Brit) on Top Moor Side (this has just been sold through auction with Christies & Co.)






United Bar (old Waggon & Horses)


Waggon & Horses (United Bar) on Elland Road.







The Waggon & Horses used to be a popular coaching inn and is listed under the Pigot & Co’s National Commercial Directory of 1828. So the Spotted Cow could well pre-date 1837. The popular highway has been replaced with the M621 cutting off a once well trodden path and now feels hidden away. However, the United Bar still operates today especially on match days.

Thomas Spence who was the landlord of the Waggon and Horses was also buried in Holbeck Cemetery.

Like all of these public houses, they were popular and thriving right up to the beginning of the 21st century. Most of the recent memories of the local residents recall visiting these pubs more than once and have plenty of memories to share.

Local resident Phil Kirby remembers ‘The Spotted Cow was the first pub I got drunk in’. His Dad and uncle Tommy left him clinging to a lamp post outside!

Steve Peacock remembers it was a popular pub on the crawl towards Elland Road on match days with football supporters. He also remembers using it as his local when he first moved into the area in the 1980’s.

What does the Spotted Cow mean to you? Could the sculpture of the head be an icon of the past but also look forward to a bright future for Holbeck?

5 Replies to “Save the Spotted Cow’s Head!”

  1. I have just found out today 2nd Jan 15, that the spotted cow was my grt grt granfather Thomas Dobson’s pub, I have been doing a lot of family history research and found out a lot about the Dobson family in that area, apparently they were a huge family and I think one of them also had the blue ball in Holbeck and the Black Boy in Kirkgate. I would love to find out more . If you have any further information on the pub I would be very grateful for it. Thanks. J.Reynolds.

    1. Hey Jilly, I’m researching the inn and would love to hear any details you have about the inn or hear any experiences from anyone if you could email me please that would be great.

  2. The Spotted Cow’s head could be fixed on to the railway bridge at the bottom of Domestic Street. It could be facing north so that people coming into Holbeck up Domestic Street would see it as they enter the area. Alongside could be a notice saying ‘Welcome to Holbeck’ or perhaps something like ‘Holbeck, Mooving Forward’. This would also link in to the development of the viaduct as a walkway. It needs to be somewhere prominent – alternatively perhaps, a place could be found on St Matthews church building or on the carpet warehouse building.

    1. Hi Steve
      My thoughts were to maybe have it put above the “HOLBECK”(Holbeck working mens club” and be named “THE HOLBECK HEAD”

Comments are closed.