A Conversation for English Pub Names

English Pub Names

Post 1


1. Animals like the Red Lion are almost certainly derived from heraldic coats of arms, not the zoo.

2. You don't mention pubs named after the famous - some, like the Sir Colin Campbell, more or less forgotten today. There's a 'George Borrow' somewhere in East Anglia; and remember the Queen Vic in 'Eastenders'.

3. Pub names are a linguist's delight. 'Old mother red cap' reminds us of the old meaning of 'cap' as head - as in cap-a-pie. 'Goats and compasses' is a corruption of 'God encompasseth us'. Etc.

4. The esthetics of pub names. There's a 'Moon under water' in Leicester Square that always makes me think of Charles Laughton in the film Hobson's Choice splashing through one rainwater puddle after another to get at a reflected moon that seems to be mocking him. I like 'the Eagle and Child' and 'the World' (in Portobello Road). Have resolved that if I ever get the chance to name one it would be 'The world in the evening' after the Christopher Isherwood novel. Do you think this would be bad for lunchtime trade?

English Pub Names

Post 2

wee tim'rous beastie

If you search the net for Mother Red Cap you will find a number of pubs with that name, except one that was in Wallasey many years ago and was supposed to be a smugglers den! There is also an interesting reason for the name red cap at site

"An Old English term for the landlady of an alehouse was "Alewife".
Throughout Western History, women presided over the making of beer. Not until the medieval church entered the business did men gain control in this formerly traditional female occupation. Brewsters, not Brewers, continue their exclusive craft among many peoples today.

In Old England, alewives were recognized by their bright red caps. "Mother Red Cap" was a commonly used phrase when addressing the alewives. Because beer was thought to be critical to good health, any brewster caught selling inferior beer was believed to have committed a spiritual as well as a legal offense. Errant brewsters often suffered excommunication from the church. In an old English church dating to this period, there stands a stone altarpiece featuring an unscrupulous alewife being carried into hell by a demon!

English Pub Names

Post 3

Researcher 204274

Please could you tell me where this church is ?
I'm writing an article on pub names & the info would be useful. Many thanks

English Pub Names

Post 4

wee tim'rous beastie

The tale about the church was lifted directly from the web site listed in my reply, you may be able to contact the web master for that site to find further details. An unusual pub name is the Twenty Row in Wallasey it was at the end of a row of twenty cottages hence the name, although the pub is still there the cottages are long gone.

English Pub Names

Post 5

Trout Montague

I write under correction but venture that there are only seven pubs in the UK called the shades.

Gravesend in Kent has three of them

The Borough Shades
The Shades
The Manor Shades

No idea what the etymology is.

English Pub Names

Post 6


Britain in the middle ages festered with disease, violence and poverty. However in its filthy streets two institutions evolved which made the medival world at least tolerable for the brief period its inhabitants could expect to cling to their miserable existance. The first was football and the second was the public house. Within the later a man might escape the hard reality of life in a feudal society and the rapacious demands of his family. Aided by inexpensive fermented fruit drinks he was free to made wild boasts and inadvisable sexual advances. For much the same reasons the pub continues to be popular to this day. Strangly the much of the format of these establishments has remained unchanged across the centuries.
For one thing the innkeeper or "landlord" (a term probably steming from the common practice of pubs letting rooms) invariably sells his wares from a "bar", a highish leap proof barrier designed to limit the reach of assailents. The landlord is thus freed to retailate, being of a traditional persusions he is most likely to employ a club of some description rather than a more contempory cattle prod or AK47. Like his medieval ancestors his his likely to use "barmaids", adventerous young ladies skilled in the arts of suggestive banter and the arcane rituals of alcholic drink serving. As in the days of yore the pub usually will be divided into two or more rooms, for the purpose of seperating drunken raucous males from the more polite society of inebrated leary druken males. All this would be familar to the ancient pubgoer.
Perhaps most suprising is the persistance of the unique naming style of the public house. In the blood drenched past the average person did not bother themselves with the ability to read and write in general. As a result he or she were free of the horendous contractual libabilties which beset the modern citizen of the Britiah Isles. However this blissful ignorance made distiguishing one pub from another quite difficult, especially after a few wicked monks sherberts. Thus in search of his drinking pals the medieval beerboys invented the "pub crawl". Eventually tired of losing custom one particualary innovative landlord hit upon the idea of hanging a board outside his pub depicting an easily recognisable symbol. Soon this was taken up by every pub and the high street of merrie England were filled with crude representations of red lions, black horses, crowns, horseshoes and chasity belts(probably). So popular was this simple system that eventaully multiple devices had to used (the dog AND duck, the hammer AND sycle etc) and so arose the traditional Great British pub name. Cheers smiley - ale

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