Although the pub building that we see today was constructed in 1903, we have records relating to the site dating from at least 1823, when Thomas Walton of Hunslet - a Gardener - purchased a plot of land measuring 344 yards at 3s 3d per yard for a total of £55.18s.
In his Will which was probated on the 18th April 1829, Thomas Walton bequeathed his Hunslet estate to Merwyn Richards of Leeds, Captain and Adjutant of the first York Militia, and William Heaton the younger of Hunslet, a Maltster, with the proviso that his wife Sarah was allowed to occupy or receive rental and profits from this real estate during her lifetime.
After the death of her husband, Sarah Walton married again but the marriage was not a success and in 1833 the couple parted. It is at this time that we have the first mention of an Inn, with Sarah being described as an Inn Keeper 'which occupation she carries out in Hunslet in and upon a certain dwelling house and premises late of the estate of the said Thomas Walton'.
Sarah Kearsley (as she had become) died in March 1841 and a few years later the estate was purchased by Henry Williamson, an Inn Keeper, on 1st May 1849. It is at this stage that the pub is first referred to as The Garden Gate. In 1874 the premises were purchased by a Licensed Victualler, Henry Ryder for £2,560. Ryder did not hang on to the property for long and in 1878 Jabez Schofield and Jasper Boswell, who were Wine and Spirit Merchants, bought the building. In 1881 Edward Wilson took control of the freehold, and it was he who instigated the construction of the building that we know today.
In 1901 the architect W Mason Coggill of Stourton, Leeds, was commissioned to design a brand new Public House. Construction began in 1902 and was completed by 1903. Almost all of the work was carried out by local Leeds firms including the Leeds Fireclay Company, who provided all the glazed tilling, and bar fitting firm J Claughton, who were responsible for the woodwork and fixed seating. The layout is absolutely typical of a small late Victorian, early Edwardian pub with its separate rooms and central corridor. Architecturally it has 'a decorative treatment which rivals that of much larger city centre 'gin palaces' of the period' and 'a wealth of internal riches that include lavish tilling, faience and etched glass with art nouveau motifs, mosaic floors, moulded plasterwork and ornate mahogany fitments'.
Following Wilson's death in 1910 the pub was leased to the Bradford brewer William Whittaker and Co. Ltd which began a period of brewery ownership which remained almost uninterrupted until the present day. In 1922 Ind Coope, based in Burton upon Trent, first leased and then purchased the building. Following a transfer of ownership to a subsidiary company, Ind Coope (North East) Ltd in 1962 (largely due to the formation of Allied Breweries in 1961), the building eventually ended up in the hands of Leeds brewers Joshua Tetley and Son in 1964.
The greatest threat to the pub came in the late 1960s when the building was earmarked for demolition as part of re-development plans. It was saved following a campaign run by local people and in 1972 it was given a Grade II listing by English Heritage. In 1978 Tetley's launched its 'Heritage Inns' scheme, designed to highlight pubs in their estate with special architectural and historic interest. They began the initiative with three pubs; The Bingley Arms in Bardsey, The Adelphi in Leeds City Centre, and The Garden Gate. At the same time the pub was listed on CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors which both recognises and aims to protect the cultural and architectural importance of the most unique pubs in the country.
During more recent years, under the ownership of Punch Taverns, the pub has had a number of ups and downs leading to it being put on the market in 2009. On Friday 2nd July 2010 it was purchased by Leeds Brewery, saving it from closure. The purchase coincided with English Heritage's decision to further upgrade the pub's listed status to Grade II*, making it one of only a few pubs in the country to hold such an accolade. In the report outlining the reasons for the upgrade English Heritage specifically mention 'the curved ceramic bar counter, which is one of only 14 ceramic bar counters surviving nationally' and remark of the overall building that 'the level of intactness throughout is unusually high, and nationally very rare'.
As a new chapter of The Garden Gate's history begins we hope that this period of its life under the stewardship of Leeds Brewery can be as interesting and successful as the last 107 years.