Do you want to come down to the Church for a pint and something eat? Have you ever said that to someone? I’m guessing probably not. We said exactly that to my brother-in-law yesterday afternoon, I reckon he thought we had lost the plot. Honestly, we said, there’s a bar at the Church, come and meet us for a pint and some food. Both my brother-in-law, and one of our friends, eventually agreed to meet us, although, the friend didn’t really have a choice as she was out with us anyway. The Church in question is St Barnabas, a magnificent red brick building that sits between Queens Road and Boundary Road. Actually, to be exact, we weren’t heading for the Church its self, we were heading to the small iron hut that sits just the other side of the vicarage. Stafford Hall is a former iron Church, it was built in Battersea, then moved lock, stock and barrel to Walthamstow in 1901. I think it was used as a Church whilst St Barnabas was being built. Anyway, these days it’s a church hall, and home to the Walthamstow Amateur Cine Video Club. It’s also, very occasionally, home to the St Barnabas Arms pop up pub. It popped up for the first time last year, and due to popular demand the pub is back again this bank holiday for a two-day stint.
Built of corrugated iron and painted dark green, Stafford Hall is from a different world. There used to be lots of iron Churches in London, and this is now one of the few survivors. If the exterior is from another world, the interior of the Stafford Hall is, well, a little like the land that time forgot, but I mean that in a nice way. Painted red fire buckets hang by the door, plastic school chairs nestle around a miss match of tables, and a small stage which is home to a DJ takes up one end of the building. The bar is a wobbly trestle table, which, according to note stuck to it, has a propensity to fall over if leant on. The front half of the hall is where the Cine Video club are based, film reels line the walls, and there are cupboards bursting with all kinds of projectors, some of which I suspect could be older than me. All of this sits under a fantastic wooden roof, dotted with small triangular windows that let the briefest glimpse of daylight in to the building. The Stafford Hall feels like the quintessential British village hall, a bit cobweby, a bit moth-eaten, but all together lovely.
Staffed by members of the Queens/Boundary community, the pop up pub serves, amongst other things, ale from the East London Brewing Company, who are based down the road in Leyton. If you like your ale, it’s worth going along just to try the ELB brews. I’m a particular fan of the ELB pale ale, which coincidently, works very well when accompanied by mini cheddars, who knew. Out front, food is provided by Cyprus Kitchen, who you may have seen up at the Walthamstow Village Market on Saturdays. I wolfed down a Sheftalia, which is home-made pork sausages served with salad and pita, yummo! They were also serving chicken souvlaki, and halloumi with roasted peppers, all of which looked very tasty. We arrived not long after opening time at five PM, and before long the hall was pretty packed. There was a nice buzz about the place, punters all seemed friendly, the sun was out and a good time was being had by all.
The combination of Church Hall, wobbly trestle table bar, and mix of adults and kids, makes a visit to the pop up feel a little like being at a wedding reception. A wedding reception where you don’t have the misfortune of being stuck talking to distant relatives all night. The old iron church is an unusual place to go for a pint, that I grant you, it wouldn’t look out-of-place in an episode of Dad’s Army. But the atmosphere is laid back, the beer and food is good, and frankly, it’s worth going just to have a nose inside the Stafford Hall. The pop up was open on the 30th April and 1st of May, but I hear there are plans to open again in October. Keep your eye on the St Barnabas website, and pay the St Barnabas Arms a visit when it returns.
For more on St Barnabas, click here