Adnams Bitter, Courage Directors, and seasonal ales,
This delightful little pub is a good example of an early nineteenth century alehouse. Its plain and simple interior has matchboarded walls and an oak floor. Although small, it is divided into four bar areas, each served from the central bar island. One snug is so small, it can hold only about eight customers.
A 12th century alehouse stood here, in the precincts of St. Bartholomew's Priory. In August 1133, the first cloth fair was held at Smith Field nearby. Tailors and drapers came from all-over the country to ply their trade. By Tudor times the Cloth Fair had taken on an official role for Merchant Tailors, whose officers would check cloth with a yard stick. Offenders caught giving short measure, were brought to the alehouse and their case heard in a court upstairs. 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. The last one was held in 1855. Poet John Betjeman who lived nearby was a regular.
The pub is available for hire at weekends. Children are allowed in the upstairs dining room. The Hand and Shears -
Well! Well!—it seems that the term ‘On the Wagon’ originated from my new favourite local pub.
It also seems that the tradition of cutting tapes to open things arises from the tradition of the Lord Mayor, standing on the steps of the Hand & Shears and cutting the first cloth to open the Cloth Fair.
Actually, I was never very keen on this pub but the new governor has got in some decent real ales (which change frequently), put on some unobtrusive jazz/blues music that’s actually worth listening to and generally rejuvenated the place.
Well worth a visit!