It is an unusual attraction for a pub, but Salisbury’s Haunch of Venison is known locally just as much for its colourful past and mummified hand as it is for its tradition pub fare.
The pub is one of the oldest in Salisbury – if not the oldest – with records going back to 1320 when the building was used to house craftsmen working on construction of Salisbury Cathedral.
If it isn’t the oldest, it’s certainly the most interesting pub in Salisbury.
Behind a secure iron gate, in a bread over under the fireplace, you will find their smoke preserved mummified hand.
It is believed to have been cut off a gambler caught cheating during a game of whist, thrown into the fire, and later discovered during renovation work in 1911.
The hand became national news in 2010 when it was stolen from the glass case it was previously displayed in. Sadly, it was never found, and means there is now only a replica in the pub.
It wasn’t the first time the severed hand had gone missing - it vanished in March 2004 but was mysteriously returned six weeks later.
The legend of the mummified hand is one of the reasons the Haunch of Venison was named one of the UK's most haunted watering holes.
In 2019, Ei Publican Partnerships assessed around 4,000 venues with rumours of supernatural sightings and the Salisbury pub’s spooky history gave it a hand to the top of the list.
It is said that the demented whist player is the most active ghost inside the pub, with some staff and customers seeing ghostly figures or hearing creepy footsteps.
Don't let the ghostly goings-on put you off visiting though, because there is so much more to this historic pub.
The building is thought to have originated in the mid-15th century as the Church House for the Church of St Thomas, which stands to the rear of the property.
Enormous oak beams can be seen throughout and are thought to come from early sailing vessels, pre-dating the building by several hundred years.
On the ground floor there is an area called the “Horsebox” which, legend has it, was used by Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower during the planning of D-Day landings back in 1944.
The panelled bar counter has a pewter top, one of only six in the entire country.
There is a hidden bar accessible through an underground staircase, and a trap door in the floor which is meant to lead into a tunnel which runs to St Thomas church.
If you want to see the hidden bar up close, keep an eye out around Halloween as the pub sometimes opens it up to visitors.
Because of all this history, The Haunch of Venison has been listed on CAMRA's National Inventory for its historic interior and recommended by the Good Pub Guide for 28 years.
With so many interesting, quirky stories to tell, the atmospheric pub is definitely worth a visit - for humans and ghosts alike!