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Jerusalem Tavern








Ye Olde Red Cow 




Hand and Shears




Butchers Hook & Cleaver














I would go out tonight
But I haven't got a stitch to wear

What a scene! Innumerable herds of fat oxen, tied in long rows, or passing at a trot to their several shambles and thousands of graziers, drovers, butchers, cattle-brokers with their quilted frocks and long goads pushing on the hapless beasts; hurrying to and fro in confused parties, shouting, jostling, cursing, in the midst of rain and shairn, and braying discord such as the imagination cannot figure. Thomas Carlyle

This was how Thomas Carlyle described the central meat market for London, at Smithfield, which until 1855 was a live cattle market. After 1855 the live cattle were moved to Islington (when Arsenal F.C. became interested in their availability) and Smithfield became a place where recently slaughtered animals were, ahem, 'rendered'. 'Smoothfield', a 10 acre, grassy space just outside the City Walls, was well known in the Middle Ages for its horse market. As a nearby open space to the city, the field was used for jousting and sporting events; including royal tournaments. It was also the scene of many public executions where criminals were hanged 'betwixt the horsepool and rhe river of Wels' - including Braveheart William Wallace and quite a few 'witches and heretics', who met their demise roasted in cages. Wat Tyler and his rebels came here in 1381, to meet with King Richard II; Wat was stabbed by Mayor Walworth (who shouted 'say whaaat!' as he did the deed) and executed in front of St. Bartholomew's hospital. Excavation outside the steps of St. Bartholomew the Great, in the 19th century - uncovered charred human bones. smithfield

Bartholomew fair was held at Smithfield from 1123 until it's suppression for rowdiness and debauchery in 1855. Ben Johnson's play, Bartholomew Fair (1614), details the happenings at the fair; the trading, amusements, feasting on roast pig (leading to the term 'Bartholomew pig' for a fat person - Falstaff calls himself, “A little tidy Bartholomew boar-pig” in Henry IV), drinking, brawling, and thieving.

Wine, beer, ale, and cakes, fire-eating besides, sir.
George Stevens

At the fair in 1668, a fortune telling horse was asked to go to the man that most loved a pretty wench in a corner and the horse went to Samuel Pepys, who gave the horse 12d. Tawdry, overdressed women were given the name 'Bartholomew dolls' after the flashy, bespangled dolls sold at the Fair.

By the early 17th century the area was notorious for 'pushing and pulling, violence and crime' - Lena Martell, trivia buffs - (like South London today) and was known as 'Ruffians Hall'. In 1615, in an attempt to provide order, the area was paved over and provided with sewers and railings, rather like Thamesmead was in the 1960s. In 1638 the City of London corporation established the site as a cattle market and over the next 100 years the city expanded to surround the area. Complaints were made about wild drovers. In 1789 the Lord Mayor issued a proclamation against 'these loose, idle and disorderly persons' but the situation did not improve - live cattle were still being driven through Sunday congregations and slaughtered in the market. Facilities were inadequate, blood flowed through the streets and entrails were often dumped in drainage channels.

Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' describes: 'The ground was covered , nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick stream perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle...the unwashed, unshaven, squalid and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng, rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses'.

Bartholomew Fair was revived last year after 145 years and attracted 5,000 visitors drawn by a traditional fun fair, Punch & Judy , live music, and a food fair. (

“I have made an important discovery…that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, produces all the effects of intoxication”.

Oscar Wilde

Football may also have started here: 'From the apprentices' game in Smithfield grew the street games in Cheapside, Covent Garden and the Strand, the Shrove Tuesday games at Derby, Nottingham, Kingston on Thames, and elsewhere, that came to be known as "mob football," and these were little more than violent street battles. The football field was the length of the town, the players might be as many as five hundred, the conflict continued all day long; vast numbers of windows and legs were broken, and there were even some deaths. Any 'ammers fans around tonight?!

In 1851-1866 Horace Jones built a new market, which had an underground railway linking Smithfield with the main railway stations. It was opened in 1868 as the London Central Meat Market and further extended later in the century. The entire poultry section was burned out (by Colonel Sanders?) in 1958 and a new market hall was erected by the City of London Corporation, at a cost of £2m, in 1963. Today the market has its own police force and some pubs open at 6:30am.

Back in 1173 William Fitzstephen, clerk to Thomas Becket, described the Smithfield area as ' a smoth field where every Friday there is a celebrated rendezvous of fine horse to be sold'. Well, tonight is a Friday and what is this pub crawl if not a celebrated rendezvous, where we try not to have a 'mare' of a night? Sorry.

Has the Perrier gone
Straight to my head
Or is life sick and cruel, instead ?

1. Jerusalem Tavern (St. Peters)
55 Britton St, London EC1
Britton Street is named after the antiquarian John Britton, who served as apprentice to his uncle, here, and complained of the 'damp, murky cellars'.

Built in 1719 and until 1936 known as Red Lion Street after a (now-demolished) tavern of that name, this pub was once a merchant house, a watchmaker's and a coffee house ('Bartsucks' - it could have been called). The bowed glass shop front dates from 1810. Approaching it on a dark, winter's night it welcomes you in to it's dimly lit interior (think 'dark green' - an organic ale is sold, incidentally). It is a tiny pub and if it is raining we will be in trouble. Inside there are wooden floors, candles, hidden tables and the odd stuffed animal. The beer is from St. Peter's; in Suffolk and this is their only London pub. A wide range of Ales, ranging from best bitter to Lemon and Ginger ale, Elderberry beer and grapefruit beer, entice you to stay inside and not bother with a pub crawl, but you know you want to…I think.

But what the bloody hell has this area got to do with Jerusalem?
Down the mysterious St. John's Path, into St. John's Lane and we see St. John's Gate (the more alert may see a theme emerging here).
This was once the gatehouse (1504) to the priory of St. John of Jerusalem, which was founded in the 12th century by a knight, Jorden de Briset; who was one of an international order of crusader knights also known as the Hospitallers. They fought to reclaim Jerusalem for Christians and more peaceably, created hospitals for the wounded (a sort of medieval 'International Rescue, without the fancy gear). Founded on Tracy Island, this was their English HQ and they placed an emphasis on caring for sick pilgrims - with their other knights Penelope de parker and Dwight de yorke, who was a good friend of Jorden.

Only this gatehouse, part of the chancel and the crypt survived WWII. After the dissolution of the priory by Henry VIII the gatehouse took on a range of functions ranging from offices, another coffee house, run by William Hogarth's father (who was jailed in Fleet Street prison when he was unable to pay his debts), a printing works in 18th century, printing the 'Gentleman's Magazine' (AKA 'Loaded'?). Later it became the Old Jerusalem Tavern and in 1874 came into the possession of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem where in 1877 the St. John Ambulance brigade was launched. It now contains the museum and library of the order of St. John.

Now down St. John's Lane and across St. John Street, which was once a main route used to the market, where drunken herdsmen were inclined to have fun on the way to market and frightened beasts took refuge in shops and houses along the way (which is probably the origin of the phrase 'a bull in a china shop'). What sort of fun I don't know, but these were men from the country..OK?

The dark nights are drawing in

Deep in the cell of my heart
I really want to go
How dearly I'd love to get carried away
men in pub Take me out tonight
Where there's music and there's people
And they're young and alive

"A psychologist once said that we know little about the conscience - except that it is soluble in alcohol." ~ Thomas Blackburn

2. The Gate (Smith & Jones)
St. John Street
More a bar/pub but it has a decent pint of Adnams and Wadworth 6X beer and a lively atmosphere to help the beer go down. It will look crowded from outside but delve deeper and you will find - it's bloody busy inside as well; but, oh, the excitement.

OK across Charterhouse Street (which leads to Charterhouse Square, once the site of a 14th century Carthusian monastery where the monks could talk to each other for 3 hours every Sunday), around the main market area and left into Long Lane, described in 1598, by Stow as [a place which had been built up] 'with tenements for brokers and tipplers and such like' and popular in the 17th- and 18th-centuries for second-hand clothes.

What makes most people feel happy
Leads us headlong into harm

3. Ye Olde Red Cow (Shepherd Neame)
71 Long Lane, Smithfield, London EC1A 9EJ,

Another small pub, over two (small) floors, but a good atmosphere and Master Brew & Spitfire beers make it well worth experiencing.
This is one of the earliest ancient taverns of Smithfield (c1400), although this building dates from1854
A painting in the Guildhall depicts the tavern as it appeared in 1854.

I started something
And now I'm not too sure

Right, and into another alley, to Cloth Fair. Before the area was a meat market it was known for its cloth fair; on 24th August 1133, the first cloth fair was held at Smith Field. Tailors and drapers came from all-over Europe to ply their trade and the area was generally inhabited by
drapers and merchants- -Inigo Jones father amongst them. No. 41 is the only remaining example (much restored) of the old leaning houses typical of those built after the Great Fire.

lonely pub Take me out tonight
Oh, take me anywhere, I don't care
I don't care, I don't care

4. Hand and Shears (sort-of Scottish & Newcastle)
1 Middle St

Shearing is all over and we've all got our cheques
Roll up your swag for we're off on the tracks
The first pub we come to it's there we'll have a spree
And everyone that comes along it's, "Come and drink with me!" Percy Jones 1946

And do you think you've made
The right decision this time ?

And if the people stare
Then the people stare

Another pub with an ancient lineage - a 12th century alehouse stood here, in the precincts of St. Bartholomew's Priory. By Tudor times the Cloth Fair was under strict regulation, where officers would check cloth with a yard stick. Offenders caught giving short measure were brought to this alehouse and their case heard by a Court of Pie Powder (from the French pieds poudreux, meaning dusty feet - implying those who were dealt with in them had dirty feet from travelling). The guilty were put in stocks or whipped.
Eventually the alehouse was officially adopted by the Merchant Tailors of London and was allowed to display the guilds sign, the 'hand and shears'. The Lord Mayor opened the fair from the steps of the pub by cutting the first piece of cloth. The last cloth fair was held in 1855.

This pub is a good example of an early nineteenth century tavern (1830), with four small bar areas, each served from the central bar. Lots of wood, an oaken floor and a very large stuffed fish will please the traditionalists and the building is a listed one. Courage Best and Directors are on tap, the guest beer is Theakston XB. There is a large upstairs room which is sometimes used.

Down Cloth Fair past St. Bartholomew the Great. this is the only surviving part of the Augustinian priory founded by Rahere, a knight of the court of Henry I, in 1123. Rahere fell ill while on pilgrimage to Rome and had a vision where St. Bartholomew, the Apostle, promised recovery in exchange for the founding of a church and a hospital as a thank-offering. Rahere became the first prior of the church and when he died in 1144, he was buried in the church where his tomb, complete with an effigy added in 1405, can still be seen.

Past the Pub who saps your body
And the church who'll snatch your money

The church's web site:

informs us that it appeared in the award-winning films Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and The End of the Affair and in BBC 2's Madame Bovary.

“I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy”. ~W.C. Fields

“If drinking is interfering with your work, you're probably a heavy drinker.  If work is interfering with your drinking, you're probably an alcoholic”.  ~Author Unknown


And I doused another venture
With a gesture
That was ... absolutely vile

5. Butcher's Hook and Cleaver (Fuller's)
63 West Smithfield EC1

Do you remember last year's Fuller's pub? The Olde Bank of England? No, I don't either…except for the huge chandelier, which would look good in any large room…including this one, evidently.
Fullers London Pride, ESB, Chiswick and Red Fox ales are the standard (very tasty) range. Another converted bank and a popular place with a large balcony area. Large windows allow you to gaze out, across the square, at St. Bartholomew's hospital….

It's that man Rahere again, who, following aforesaid Italian illness decided to build a hospital for the 'recreacion of poure men'. The hospital was part of the priory and was completed within months of St. Bart the Great. Barts. Hospital survived Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries-just. The King agreed to refound the hospital in 1546 and a statue commemorating this occupies the arch of the hospital's main gate together with two figures representing Sickness and Lameness.  The hospital was also under a more recent threat of closure but has been saved...surely this calls for a toast?

The patients have always been well looked after in Barts, as is evidenced by this (abbreviated) patient menu, sorry, 'diet table', approved by the dieticians in April 1687:

Sunday 1 pint of Ale Cawdell & 3 pints of 6 shilling beere
Monday 3 pints of 6 shilling beere
Tuesday 3 pints of 6 shilling beere
Wednesday 3 pints of 6 shilling beere
Thursday The same as Sunday
Friday 3 pints of 6 shilling beere
Saturday The same as Wednesday

Cheers! Making a grand total of 21 pints of beer and 2 pints of 'Ale Cawdell', which sounds pretty tasty to this individual. Lobby the Health Secretary immediately.

The Museum of St. Bartholomew's Hospital is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 am. - 4 pm. except bank holidays. Admission is free.

Friday night in Out-patients
Who said I'd lied to her ?

OK, we'll head back towards Farringdon station, now. Pass through the market area and notice the wyverns on the arches. These are the guardians of the City of London. The market building dates from 1868 and was designed by a Horace Jones.

Down Cowcross Street (named after a herd who got a little angry on their walk) we see Faulkner's Alley, on the right. The Alley has been here since about 1660 when building began on the corner of Turnmill Street.

And if you ever need self-validation
Just meet me in the alley by the
Railway station

Over the old Fleet river was a bridge by which cattle crossed on their way to the market, known as Cow Bridge, and further along they were driven past a stone cross in the middle of the road, at the junction with St John's Street - Hence, 'Cowcross'.

6. The Castle
43/45 Cowcross Street

This pub is usually busy, it is opposite the tube, after all & there is a DJ on some Friday nights. It has Fuller's London Pride on and it was founded in 1541. As you walked along, you must have looked up and thought 'hold on, this pub has got three signs outside, would you Adam and Eve it'…mustn't you?
OK, you need to know why this pub has three signs outside. Well, one night King George IV bet his shirt on a cock at a local cockfighting venue (sign 1 - cockfight). He lost and in the end ended up at the Castle but…he had no money so he pawned his gold Rolex for enough for a round for him & his mates. He was so pleased with being allowed to continue in his revels that he granted the landlord the right to be a landlord and a pawnbroker (sign 2 - the 3 golden balls of a pawnbroker). The large painting in the pub depicts this event. Sign 3 is a castle…nuff said. Anyone a bit short of cash tonight can possibly pawn his or her palm pilot for a pint of pilsner, perchance.

I know it's over
And it never really began
But in my heart it was so real

OK, it's over and, as you meander to the tube, with your head filled with Wyverns and bullocks and when you awaken tomorrow with your head filled with blood and foam and your stomach filled with last night's take away you may care to ponder on some more lyrics from 'The Smiths':

And I'm feeling very sick and ill today

To which my reply has to be:

But you could have said no
If you'd wanted to
You could have walked away
...Couldn't you ?

Aidan Laverty November 2001

“If you are young and you drink a great deal it will spoil your health, slow your mind, make you fat - in other words, turn you into an adult”.  ~P.J. O'Rourke

“I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won't let himself get snotty about it”.  ~Raymond Chandler