This is a small side alley in Smithfield that’s famous for the pub that dominates the corner opposite Great St Bart’s church.

The alley is named after the pub on the corner, the Rising Sun, even though the pub’s official address isn’t Rising Sun Court, but 38 Cloth Fair, the main road the alley connects to. The pub may have originally been called The Starre Tavern, as two houses were converted into a tavern, and listed as such in 1616, and later renamed the Rising Sun Tavern, and eventually, it dropped the Tavern, becoming plain Rising Sun.

It’s also said to be the only pub listed in the City of London Pubs: A Practical and Historical Guide to have been closed then re-opened. John Betjeman was a customer when he lived in nearby Cloth Court, and there’s a blue plaque on his house.

The pub was used for a while in the 1960s to store patient notes from St Barts Hospital, and an attempt to turn the ex-pub into offices in 1978 was refused by the City of London, but an application to return it to a pub was approved in 1980.

So it’s an ancient pub that’s also just 40 years old.

The pub makes a fleeting appearance in The End of the Affair, when Ian Hart and Samuel Bould spy on Julianne Moore going into the church to pray.

The alley also changed names, having originally been Sun Court, and renamed Rising Sun Court in the 19th century. The change in name was triggered by the decision to demolish a building, as the alley used to be a bit shorter. Today it links two roads, Long Lane with Cloth Fair, but in the 19th-century, the link to Long Lane didn’t exist as it was blocked by the back of a row of shops.

This was demolished in 1895 to open up the alley, and you can see the joint today as the shop was a foot lower than the alley, resulting in a couple of steps being required in the alley. And that’s also why the two shops on Long Lang on either side of the alley have the addresses 56 Long Lane and 58 Long Lane — number 57 was demolished to extend the alley.

Around the back of the pub is a lingering remnant of a passage that used to run the whole length of the road, a lost alley that gave access to the backs of the shops that fronted the main roads on either side.

Today it lines just the back of the pub, but is worth wandering down as there’s a small cluster of gravestones down here. The alley is on the boundaries of the former Augustinian priory that dominated the area, so it’s possible these are relics of old burials in the grounds.

Opposite the pub is a building that was a shop with flats above, but was converted from an architects office into residential flats around 2010.


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  1. James says:

    There’s obviously something about that location and spying: it also features in Spooks, where Matthew Macfadyen waits for an American spy entering the church.

    • Melvyn says:

      While Spy James Bond films have recently used the old nearby Smithfield Market underground area for the location of its HQ …

      I actually was in Smithfield when Daniel Craig was driving around the streets filming SKYFALL although the scenes filmed in daylight are not seen in the finished film .

  2. simhedges says:

    You can stay in John Betjeman’s old place in Cloth Fair, courtesy of the Landmark Trust which renovates historical buildings for use as holiday lets.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this reminder. I walked down here last July when my partner and I went to the Barbican for a drink and then walked to a fab vegan restaurant and sat outside on, I think, the circular bit of West Smithfield.

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