|Helen Hollick pointing out |
The King's Arms pub sign
(King George III)
in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia USA...
on 4th July 2015
(Maybe she shouldn't have shouted
'God Save The King!' quite so loudly!)
Kings and Queens: Whilst medieval kings are not particularly favoured, probably the earliest king represented is King Ethelbert at Reculver, Herne Bay, Kent. He was King of Kent from an early age and reigned until the year 616 AD. Birth Year unknown, but believed to be 550 AD. There is a King Henry VIII at Hever Castle in Kent and The Queen and Castle, unsurprisingly, at Kenilworth showing Elizabeth I with the castle behind her.
Charles II seems to be very popular and I have an example taken in Ross on Wye. Georges abound, including one in Lichfield, the George IV, and a few Williams. Few 20th Century monarchs have been so honoured - perhaps patriotism died with Victoria (of which there are many pub signs!)? Does anyone know of a 'Queen Elizabeth II', or a 'George VI'? Surely, there must be a 'Prince Of Wales' somewhere, (or a 'Princess Diana'?)
|The King Charles II|
Ross On Wye
|King George IV|
For Pubs named The Kings/Queens Arm or Head, a sign is essential for us to identify the monarch, whereas in the case of the Arms, they may give us a clue as to who they represent simply by the heraldic structure of the sign – are the arms of Scotland present, for example, or the Fleur de Lis of France?
Princes and Princesses are not forgotten – especially the daughters of Queen Victoria – and the hierarchy is represented all the way down the scale through Dukes and Lords, Marquises and Viscounts.
(Helen: where I used to live in Walthamstow, there is the Lord Palmerston, named for the Victorian statesman and Prime Minister)
|The Lord Palmerston|
HERALDRY: Studying pub signs invariably leads to a study of Heraldry: apart from the above mentioned 'Arms' of leading dignitaries,many pubs are named after occupations and Worshipful Companies, such as the Forester's Arms in Swadlincote and the well-known sign of London's Elephant and Castle - although the origin of its name remains disputed. One explanation is an English corruption of La Infanta de Castilla, a reference to a Spanish princess with an English connection, such as Eleanor of Castile or Katherine of Aragon (who before her marriage was la ynfante doña Catalina de Castille y Aragon, "infanta of Castile and Aragon". Previously the site was occupied by a blacksmith and cutler – the crest of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers features an elephant with a castle (a howdah) on its back, which in turn was used because of the use of elephant ivory in handles; this association with the Worshipful Company of Cutlers is considered a far more likely explanation for the name.
|The crest of the |
Worshipful Company of Cutlers.
Heraldry is a fascinating science with its own rules, symbols and conventions. All knights of the realm, and many other titled people, are entitled to bear arms and these are designed by the Royal College of Arms.
Also part of this are the 'badges' that kings and others adopted: The White Hart was the badge of Richard II, the Red Lion the badge of John of Gaunt – most probably the pub was so named because it stood on land owned by him. One interesting story: the White Boar was the badge of Richard III but following his death and subsequent 'disgrace' nervous pub owners changed the sign to The Blue Boar in favour of the Earl of Oxford, a supporter of Henry VII.
WAR: Wars are remembered in the names of battles, The Maida, The Alma and, perhaps strangely, The Case is Altered, which is a derivation of Casa Alta. Perhaps most prominent in this category are the ships and seamen of the Napoleonic Wars. Examples are The Enterprise, The Good Intent, The Earl St Vincent and, of course, Lord Nelson and the Victory.
FARMING: Just about every small village has a pub recalling its farming heritage – The Bull, The Plough, The Share and Coulter.
TRANSPORT: This is quite well represented, though mostly by pubs situated close to a railway station – The Railway Arms, the Railway Bell, The Station etc. Some famous trains are also featured – The Royal Scot and the Silver Bullet at Finsbury Park which depicts the streamlined train, The Silver Jubilee. At Swadlincote is the Sir Nigel Gresley, designer of the revolutionary streamlined class A4 (which includes the record breaking Mallard). In Margate, The Shakespeare features not the playwright but a picture of the Britannia Class locomotive of the same name that would often haul the Golden Arrow from Victoria to Dover
SPORT: Very little here though many sporting venues may have a pub nearby which represents the club and/or stadium. (White Hart Lane- - Tottenham Hotspur FC as example.) Horse racing is very popular, though, and there are some famous racehorses depicted - the Red Rum, the Altisidora, Brown Jack. Boxers, too, have been honoured, such as Tom Cribb.
SOME ODDITIES AND 'INTERESTING' BITS! Some names may seem to be a strange combination of objects. Often, a landlord would move from one pub to another and remember his old one by incorporating its name with the new one. This is the story behind The Queen's Head and Artichoke, in London. The Uxbridge Arms in Burton-upon-Trent not only honours the Earl of Uxbridge, but also the fact that, on land that he owned, he built streets of houses for workers in the brewery industry which still stand today. He was also the guy who famously lost his leg at Waterloo whilst sitting astride his horse next to Wellington!
depicting the historical indoor market
at Barnstaple, Devon
The Shrew Beshrewed (now demolished) near Canterbury depicted a woman on a ducking stool and the Duke Without A Head showed a picture of a 'toff's' shoulders, a blank space and then a top hat above it! The story is that the Dukes Head stood on a crossroads but a road widening scheme meant it would need to be demolished. The instructions on the plans were marked 'Remove the Duke's Head' and when it was rebuilt it adopted the new name!
The Swan at Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal joins the Trent and Mersey Canal, not only shows a fine swan, but also the pub itself in the background!
A humorous one is The Drunken Duck, near Ambleside in the Lake District. Apparently. The story goes that several barrels of beer were spilt over the road and the pub's ducks had a fine time splashing about. A while later the landlady found them all and assumed they were dead - she started plucking one, only to find it was 'dead' drunk!
The Tame Otter at Tamworth shows a lovely little creature – but is it actually tame, or does it inhabit the River Tame? Then there is the often used Rose and Crown, and pubs named after places or destinations...
over to Helen...
Thanks Richard! The lovely old coaching inn pub in my Devon Village of Chittlehamholt is the Exeter Inn (recently under new, highly welcoming management and now boasts a newly re-thatched roof!) The original parts of the building are late 16th Century... but it is thirty or so miles from Exeter - so why 'The Exeter Inn'?
The answer is simple: the road it is situated on used to be the 'main' (probably only!) road from Barnstaple (about 12 miles away) to Exeter, and was, therefore, a stopping point for a 'comfort break' and to rest or change the horses. A pity, though, it doesn't boast an original old pub sign.
What is your local pub - what sign does it show?
Please leave a comment or email
READ RICHARD'S STORY HERE: