Pubs and their Names in the UK
The Romans came to Britain in 42 AD and as they drank wine, they were accustomed to putting vines up to denote a drinking place. When they came to the UK , grape vines were not the local foliage but bushes were. Drinking spots were denoted by a bush such as a holly bush. Many pubs are still called the Holly Bush.
In 1393 the King said that all pubs had to have a sign. As most people were illiterate, signs often had a drawing before words were added. The first pubs were denoted by things one relates to beer such as barrels, barley and hops so names such as the Three Barrels or the Barley Mow became common. Many other pubs were named after the King, or later the Queen. In this category is the George, Henry the 8th or the Queen Elizabeth. Heraldic symbols such as the Red Lion (for James the 6th of Scotland who became James the 1st of England), the White Hart (for Richard the 2nd), or the Rose and Crown are still popular names and were meant to show allegiance to the monarchy of the day. The Castle is another popular pub name.
Early on, knights were heralded and pub names related to horses and swords were common. Sports relating to birds such as cocks or falcons carried their names onto pub signs and later pubs were named for other sports such as The Cricketers. Many pubs were named for hunting traditions such as The Greyhound. Still others were named after occupations such as The Brewers or the Weavers. The other common category of names is one with a religious slant. Names in this category are ones such as The Angel, The Bell or The Lamb.
When the horse and carriage became the main mode of transportation, pubs provided accommodation and refreshment for people and horses alike. They were important focuses of a journey. Thus many names denoted location such as the Crossing or called themselves the Coaching Inn or the Coach and Horses. These stage coach routes were colour coded so a pub could be the Red Rover or the Blue Inn. Other pubs had other names to denote speed such as the Rocket or the Dart. When the Railway became the mode of transportation, a pub at the station could be called The Station or The Railway.
All along, some pubs have been named after famous people such as The Shakespeare or The Lord Nelson. Some have names of local events the occurred in that place such as The Hangman’s Noose. There is a pub with the name ‘The Strugglers’ as people were seen struggling when hung there.
Pubs were initially a necessity as it was a place where people could get hydrated and get fed. There wouldn’t have been running water or kitchens in people’s homes. They have always been meeting places and have played an important part of British society. They are often the focal point in a community. Today pubs continue to draw people in and provide a place where one can warm up both physically and emotionally.
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