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Secret Drinker reviews the Freemasons Arms pub in Snodland


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I’m not sure why, but the name Snodland struck me as weird so I checked out its origins. While doing this I discovered it boasts more than 10 pubs, pretty amazing for a town with just 10,000 folk, so the apprentice and I set off.

Imagine our disappointment when we arrived to find the vast majority shut up shop many, many years ago and I’d been tricked by an online history page.

Still going strong, the Freemasons Arms is one of two surviving pubs still serving the good folk of Snodland
Still going strong, the Freemasons Arms is one of two surviving pubs still serving the good folk of Snodland

The town now has just two surviving boozers* so we span a coin and found ourselves investigating the Freemasons Arms. So how well does this traditional boozer serve its residents?

The only beer available was Master Brew, but neither of us was keen so we chose instead a Guinness and, what the barmaid described as her premier beer, and most popular pint, a Stella - £8.30 the pair.

We were offered a table in either the dining room or the bar.

The dining room was deserted with the majority of tables having chairs stacked on them, the bar, on the other hand, was buzzing with about 15 locals so we chose the latter.

I should perhaps have tried this one for sitting outside when the restrictions were on as they look as if they had it well sorted
I should perhaps have tried this one for sitting outside when the restrictions were on as they look as if they had it well sorted
I reckon it’s had a good sized outdoor area for a number of years but it’s clearly had some love lavished on it during lockdown. If you look carefully you’ll see the play area is strictly restricted to those aged 6 and under
I reckon it’s had a good sized outdoor area for a number of years but it’s clearly had some love lavished on it during lockdown. If you look carefully you’ll see the play area is strictly restricted to those aged 6 and under

There were plastic screens between each table but, on the final day of the Premier League, we still opted to put as much distance as possible between us and the guy in a Chelsea top – Champions League Final, blah, blah, blah.

The Sunday roast looked decent value for £8.95 but it stopped being served at 7pm so we’d just missed it and had no choice but to go hungry - maybe next time.

Apart from us everyone seemed to know everyone else and the family to our left felt so at home several of them had kicked off their shoes. One slipped her shoes in her handbag and shuffled about in bubblegum pink Jack Wills socks – judging by the look of the pub floor they might have needed a clean when she got home.

But at 9pm it was almost as if a silent alarm sounded as all the locals rose en masse and left the pub.

It went a little dark, not to mention quiet, after the legion of locals left en masse
It went a little dark, not to mention quiet, after the legion of locals left en masse
Traditional and no-nonsense with its white tiles and orange urinal mats, the gents were reasonably well maintained
Traditional and no-nonsense with its white tiles and orange urinal mats, the gents were reasonably well maintained

The barmaid didn’t seem surprised at all and said they were probably on a curfew as they’d been in most of the day.

When I say they left in a group, that’s not quite accurate as one young lady used a powerful whistle to first alert one drinker and then screamed: “Stop talking s*** about football and shift your lazy a***”.

Which brings me back to my research on Snoddie pubs – a couple of reviews tore into the Freemasons for allowing men to sit at the bar and swear. Personally, I’ve never minded swearing in any situation but in proper old pubs it shouldn’t just be acceptable it ought to be actively encouraged.

This is a no-nonsense pub, comfortable in its own skin which is proud to cater for its regulars and doesn’t get caught up in politically correct thinking – cases in point, the Lads Prayer displayed on the wall, allowing people to puff on e-cigs in the bar or placing a disposable razor in the gents.

This seating patch, undercover and just outside the window to the gents has definitely been tarted up recently
This seating patch, undercover and just outside the window to the gents has definitely been tarted up recently
On closer inspection of the shelf in the gents there is a green plastic razor available. I probably could have done with one, but decided against shaving – anything!
On closer inspection of the shelf in the gents there is a green plastic razor available. I probably could have done with one, but decided against shaving – anything!

There’s a projector screen in one corner of the bar and a reasonable sized TV in another, but generally there are few trimmings or distractions. There was no pool or darts that I could see, although there was a jukebox and a fruit machine with several lights out, but the main emphasis is on creating a space where ordinary folk can meet up to discuss the issues of the day.

As the Benjamin Franklin quote in the bar says: ‘Beer is proof that God love us and wants us to be happy’ (sic) – though he probably had something in mind other than just Master Brew or Stella.

* Mourning the loss of the Bricklayers Arms, Bull Hotel, Paperhangers Arms, Prince of Wales, Queens Hotel, Red Lion, Rising Sun, Victory and the Wheatsheaf. Hopefully the Monks Head continues to thrive.

There’s a very decent-sized car park for anyone who wants to drive to the Freemasons
There’s a very decent-sized car park for anyone who wants to drive to the Freemasons

Freemasons Arms, 267 Malling Road, Snodland ME6 5JR

Decor: It’s fairly old fashioned inside but the furniture has recently been recovered and everything has had a spruce up. Outside would achieve at least one or two more stars. **

Drink: There’s a massive selection on the optics, but when it comes to beer there really isn’t enough choice to secure a higher score. **

The wall to the right of the urinals has ‘The Lads Prayer’ emblazoned across it. Some interesting sentiments expressed, anyone for wine tasting?
The wall to the right of the urinals has ‘The Lads Prayer’ emblazoned across it. Some interesting sentiments expressed, anyone for wine tasting?

Price: I’m not sure exactly how the prices break down but £8.30 for a Stella and a Guinness isn’t too bad. ***

Staff: There may have been more staff on shift earlier in the day, but by the time we visited there was just one barmaid working – she was efficient and attentive. ***

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