Home > Beer > Zythogeography: The Jerusalem Tavern and The Gunmakers, Clerkenwell

Zythogeography: The Jerusalem Tavern and The Gunmakers, Clerkenwell

There’s a great feeling of history to certain parts of London, much of it lumped together incongruously. Smithfield is a good example: the hygenic but necessarily gory work of butchers and poulterers in the covered market goes on as it has on the site for 1,000 years, just beside the nightclub Fabric; the site of the Carthusian monastry on Charterhouse Square; the 900 year old but extant St Bart’s Hospital; and the sprawling ’60s brutalist Barbican complex.

I decided to walk back from the City to Kings Cross after a meeting this week, taking in a bit of London on a warm June evening. I walked through Smithfield’s Grand Avenue when the stalls were very much closed (Smithfield is a hive of refrigerated lorries full of carcasses and traders trading in the very early hours) and up into the area where everything from the Michelin-starred restaurant, to the street names, to the presence of a striking museum shows the name of St John, because of the Priory of St John of Jerusalem founded here by the Knights Hospitallers in Clerkenwell in the 12th century.

Another remnant of the monastic order is the name of the Jerusalem Tavern on Britton Street, a pub which, as Martyn Cornell explains in the post that inspired me to visit, only dates back to 1996 but recalls the St John of Jerusalem Tavern on a site around the corner. The building however is much older than the pub (c.1720), and is decorated with a pleasant wooden austerity, with Hogarth prints on the wall (Beer Street and Gin Lane included, of course). Oh, and a stuffed fox.

It’s run by St Peter’s Brewery from Suffolk, who I generally think of as having nice bottles but unmemorable beers. However I did enjoy an Old Style Porter from the attractive cask-themed tap on the back bar. It had a surprisingly dry hoppy freshness paired with a cocoa powder sweetness.

Moving on, I wandered North West through Clerkenwell to find The Gunmakers on Eyre St Hill. I don’t know if The Gunmakers is a historic pub, or has any links to The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers, one of 108 livery companies that you see referred to in names and buildings (such as Plaisterers Hall) across the City of London: the various Worshipful Companies of Butchers; Poulters; Vintners; Brewers; Apothecaries etc.

The landlord of the Gunmakers is Jeff Bell, aka ex-beer blogger Stonch. It was a bright, airy pub inside on this summer teatime, with a selection of four beers on the handpumps, including Purity Mad Goose. I was obviously struggling to decide at the bar and was offered a taster if I liked. I tried Ascot Ales Gold Cup, and liked it enough to order it and a homemade Scotch egg.

The Gold Cup was in great condition and had a nice light red apple and orange flavour to the bitterness that made it a good pairing with the Scotch egg and English mustard. I decided that I really liked the Gunmakers, which seemed to have a good, welcoming and chatty atmosphere, just the place to relax for a while with a crossword or chat with friends over a few pints of a nice pale ale. The full menu looked appealing too.

With just a single pint of beer in me, I had to get back to Leeds, so wandered up towards Kings Cross. I found out that I’d been lucky in deciding to walk it and explore a bit of London, as those who had rushed to get back had been caught up in the delays caused by a lineside fire in Doncaster. Fortune favours the leisurely.

  1. June 10, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I’ve made that trip a couple of times myself, from Blackfriars up to Euston, with a pit-stop at the Gunmakers. I had a pint of Meantime Helles in there one time, which was a real eye-opener. Never been in at food-time, alas. Next time Jo and I spend a weekend in London we’re going to make a point of swinging by in the evening and sampling the victuals.

    • June 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      The only shame is that it’s not open on weekends, but that’s central London for you, I suppose.

  2. June 10, 2011 at 8:47 am

    One of the things I Love about London is that it isn’t one big city, it’s a collection of hundreds of small towns and villages, which both means there’s always something new to find and that you can go somewhere to suit your mood.

    The downside is that it’s a mission to get anywhere because the place is so spread out. The amount of times I’ve had to catch a 60quid taxi back to a friends house because we misjudged when the tubes finished/bus arrived/night bus started etc etc… However this walk looks great and makes me think that next time I’ll miss a few tubestops and take a walk. great post nick

    • June 11, 2011 at 11:52 am

      Cheers Neil. The Tube’s great though, so much easier for visitors than the bus. Sheffield’s good that way too because it has the tram.

      I try to make the most of London and visit those places I’ve not been to. There’s still so many pubs I need to get to: the Jolly Butchers, The White Horse, Cask…

  3. June 11, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Great post. Two nice pubs – one of the best drinking seats in London is the table upstairs in the JT. The beer is always in great condition in the Gunmakers and the food looks fantastic.

    • June 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Thanks Mark. Yes, that was a great table: the boozer equivalent of the royal box.

  4. June 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

    If you get a chance on your next visit the Old Red Cow on Long Lane (posted recently on it) is well worth a look as is the Mitre tucked off Hatton Garden on Ely Court. There’s been a pub on the site since about 1550 with the current one going back to about 1750. Great toasties as well.

    If you head onto Holborn walk up to the old Prudential Building (red brick Gothic… can’t miss it ) it’s worth a walk into the centre courtyard where you’ve got alcoves with a bust a Dickens and memorials. Take the side exit onto Leather Lane and walking up towards Clerkenwell Road there is the soon to open Craft Beer Co, or of course the Gunmakers… anyway i’ll stop with the lecture!

  5. June 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for the tips Max, really appreciated! I’ve walked past the Old Red Cow before but haven’t been in. I found that pubs around Smithfield seem to have strange closing times, probably explicable because of the Market. I want to try The Cock Tavern, for a proper (spit and sawdust?) market trader’s pub.

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