A pint at the local #3 Horse & Groom, Hatfield

Written by Les Middlewood

The Horse and Groom is first mentioned in its current location in 1806 when it was owned by the Hatfield brewery however a previous pub once occupied part of the site. This was the Arm and Sword Inn which was noted in 1692. This ceased to be an inn between 1705 and 1722 and was acquired, in 1771, by the Seranckes brewery of Hatfield which once occupied a large site to the rear. The new name of the Horse and Groom appears in 1806.

The Grade II Listed building harks from the 17th century. It is timber-framed in structure but now with a brick painted casing. Many timbers remain visible inside including the open ingle-nook fireplace, all adding to the traditional and cosy atmosphere of today’s pub.

The Hatfield brewery, as it was generally known, was sold to Alfred Pryor of Baldock in 1837. It stayed in the family but, in 1881, Percy Reid became a partner and the company name Pryor, Reid and Co., was adopted. In 1920 the brewery and its pubs, including the Horse and Groom, was sold to Benskin’s of Watford when the pub was reported to be selling 200 barrels of beer per year – some 6,200 gallons. Benskins were acquired by Ind Coope in 1957 who became part of the Allied Breweries conglomeration in 1959. The pub continued uneventfully in their hands until 1978 when, under a wider pub swap scheme, the pub was transferred to Courage and continued under their ownership well into the 1990’s, when it was taken over by a pub company. Other pub companies followed but the pub, as at 2017, is in the hands of Enterprise Inns.

Park Street was once much richer in pubs. Our picture above (courtesy Hertford Museum, taken shortly after the turn of the 20th century) shows the Horse and Groom on the left with the Butchers Arms and Jacobs Well on the right. The Horse and Groom and the Eight Bells, on the corner of Fore Street, are now the sole survivors in Park Street.

Today’s Horse and Groom is a vibrant community pub offering six real ales, traditional cider, great home cooked food and a quiz every other Thursday. Landlord Ben says “We have managed to gain a strong local following as well as some loyal customers who travel from further afield and I feel this is because we run a welcoming and friendly community pub full of people who like a good pint and conversation and have staff who like to provide a good service. We have a changing range of real ales and like to support our local brewers whose beers go down well here. We have been running our free bangers and mash with a pint on Tuesdays for 5 years now – and we do something similar with chili con carne on Saturdays. Tuesdays are particularly popular. We will soon be adding a Thai menu but more details will follow on that. The priest hole has become a bit of a store and I am yet to see the pub ghost but the pub has many historical features and a long history which all adds to its charm”.

NB. In 1768 The Horse and Groom Tap, a small pub, next to the large Salisbury at the top end of Fore Street, was owned by Samuel Atkinson, then other members of his family. In 1819 It was acquired by George Faulkner and two years later by the Marquis of Salisbury when it was renamed the Salisbury Tap. The Salisbury and the Tap closed in 1879. Inside today’s Horse and Groom you will find old photographs and a map showing where all the local pubs used to be.

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