Smithfield-Clerkenwell

12/07/2015 at 18:39 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In June 2015, it was my turn to take the crawl, and we headed for the northern edge of the City for a walk around Smithfield and Clerkenwell.

After a bit of stomach lining in the Piccolo Bar cafe, we started at the Lord Raglan. From the outside this looks like a typical small City pub with as many people drinking on the pavement outside as inside the pub. But in fact it’s far larger than it looks, extending a long way back and with a large upstairs bar, which even has room for pool tables. The beers were fine if standard fare, most of us settling for the Taylor Walker house beer 1730.

We left fairly sharpish, as the first point of interest, Postman’s Park, closes at 7pm. But it’s well worth the visit, as it contains a fabulous monument to ordinary people who lost their lives trying to save others, the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. The park is named after the many postal workers who used the park, given its location adjacent to the former General Post Office, on the southern side of the park, from where Marconi sent the world’s first public radio signal.

We passed now through St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London’s oldest, dating from 1123, and the place where Sherlock Holmes first meets Doctor Watson in the novels, exiting onto West Smithfield. Long the home of London’s meat markets, Smithfield has a long history which is well worth reading more about, including jousting tournaments, many executions (including Sir William Wallace of Braveheart fame), the annual Bartholomew’s Fair, and the murder of Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasant’s Revolt, in 1381. According to English Heritage’s excellent Played in London book, it was also the site of the first recorded football match, on Shrove Tuesday 1174.

Passing through the medieval St Bartholomew the Great church, scene of the Hugh Grant wedding in Four Weddings, and where Benjamin Frankin once worked as a printer, we headed to the Hand and Shears. This pub was traditionally the venue for the opening ceremony of the Bartholomew’s Fair, a cloth fair, and for which a sample of cloth was cut to open the fair, a tradition lasting to this day in the form of cutting a ribbon. The pub is not resting on its historical laurels, offering some very good beers, and on our visit we drank a combination of Old Hooky, Landlord and Cocky Blonde.

Just across the street (and just behind where the Dick Whittington once stood) we found the Old Red Cow, a slightly smaller sister pub to one of my favourites the Dean Swift. This has a good selection of beers, and we had a mixture of Siren Oatmeal X, Liverpool IPA and Firebrand Pacific.

Fox and AnchorNext we took a walk around Charterhouse Square, past the site of the famous school founded in 1611 and Hercule Poirot’s fictional home, to the Fox & Anchor. As per the local tradition, this is a market pub, opening early in the morning to service the market’s night-time workforce, but it has been sensitively refurbished recently and has a lovely interior, narrow but deep. However given the warm weather, we stood outside in the street with our Young’s and Truman’s beers, looking at some fascinating old photos and maps of the area and pub.

Leaving the Fox we turned into St John Street, formerly a key entry to the City of London from the north, and accordingly for many years it comprised a great many pubs and inns, serving effectively as a medieval coach station for the Midlands and counties to the north of England. The inns are now long gone, although the architecture gives away the location of many, including the Cross Keys. The traffic island in the middle marks the previous site of Hicks’s Hall, once the Middlesex Sessions House. Much more information here and on associated pages.

Having previously visited the White Bear, we continued north through St John’s Arch and St John’s Square to the Sekforde Arms. This nice wedge-shaped early 19th century pub is larger than it looks, although given the weather we found a table outside to enjoy our Youngs beers. Disturbingly, as we left we saw a sign that the pub would shortly be closing – we sincerely hope that this is only temporary.

Slaughtered LambNearby we passed along Brewery Square, through what was once the Cannon Brewery, signs of which remain including the old Brewery Yard Office with its hop-topped columns, to the Slaughtered Lamb, a large corner modern pub. There were some interesting beers on, including Yorkshire Pale Ale, Great Heck Navigator and Windsor & Eton Conqueror, which again we consumed out in the street.

The final stop was just across the road, the Sutton Arms. This is a smallish traditional corner pub, offering some decent well known ales including Landlord and London Pride. The landlord was a bit over keen to usher us out, and here ended the crawl.

We did, though, first vote for the Pub of the Crawl, which was the Fox & Anchor. Congratulations!

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