The Haunch of Venison, Salisbury, Wiltshire
Continuing my Great Pubs of England series, let me remind you what I am doing:
Last year I spotted a new book on Instagram – Great Pubs of England by Horst A. Friedrichs and Stuart Husband. I was instantly drawn to the photography and pub interiors, and I knew its content would appeal to my husband. Although neither of us are heavy pub users, we do both enjoy the welcoming vibe of a good British pub. After Mark received this gorgeous book, we vowed to make it more than just a coffee table book – we intend to visit all the pubs on it.
If you enjoy this post, you will enjoy my other Great Pubs of England posts – Read more here
During a recent visit to Dorset, I took the took the opportunity to hop over the border to Wiltshire. Well, Salisbury to be more precise. The Haunch of Venison is a timber-framed grade II listed pub in the heart of Salisbury. It was built in the 15th century and extended in the 18th century.
It’s easy to see why there are many tales of ghostly activity in this pub from mysterious floating drinks to a reputed resident ghost of a demented whist player and two female ghosts; a mother said to be looking for her son and a brothel worker who used to trade within the premises. It is a pub with nooks and crannies, creaky stairs, and a haunting atmosphere.
I visited the Haunch of Venison for Sunday lunch which took me upstairs to the restaurant, but not before I explored the three small downstairs bars, known as the Horsebox, House of Lords and the House of Commons.
Interior Pub Character
The bars are steeped in interior pub character filled with wood panelling, a tiled checkerboard floor, aged wooden floorboards, dark wood furniture, roaring fires, creating a dark-historic hue. It’s impossible not to feel the character and vibe as you walk through the door.
The wood panelled horsebox, a former ladies snug is only big enough to swing a small cat. It’s reputed that Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower plotted the D-Day landings, in 1944.
Entering the pub through it’s main doors, I entered the House of Lords bar. It was warm and busy with locals chatting next to a roaring and welcoming fire. I couldn’t help but notice the time worn pewter bar, one of five remaining in pewter countertops in England. This, main bar room is where the regulars make themselves comfortable and fill the bar with loud chatter. After a few pints they obviously don’t notice the hard wooden benches.
The Demented Whist Player
Up a few steps and there is another small room, known as the House of Lords bar. In the corner of the bar, not to the inglenook there was quite a surprise – a mummified hand in a bread oven. But whose hand? It’s the hand of a card cheat, known as the demented whist player. No wonder the Demented Whist Player haunts the pub looking for his hand! All these rooms looked fitting for an afternoon of sociable drinking and merriment. Especially on the cold, wet day I visited, in January.
My family devoured a Sunday lunch in the upstairs restaurant. We went for a traditional beef Sunday lunch all round. The Haunch of Venison was a busy, buzzing restaurant and rammed full of hungry diner on my visit. Did I see a ghost? I know you want to know. Thankfully, I didn’t. I don’t think the pub ghosts want to come out to play haunted games when the pub is full of hungry humans.