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Pub names

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A White Hart signboard: a white hart featured as a badge of King Richard II

Pub names are used to identify and differentiate traditional drinking establishments. Many pubs are centuries old, and were named at a time when most of their customers were illiterate, but could recognise pub signs. The use of signage was not confined to drinking establishments. British pubs may be named after and depict anything from everyday (particularly agricultural) objects, to sovereigns, aristocrats and landowners (shown by their coats of arms). Other names come from historic events, livery companies, occupations, sports, and craftsmen's guilds. One of the most common pub names is the Red Lion. This list contains both modern and historical examples.



Although the word "the" appears on much pub signage, it is ignored in the following examples; the word "ye' is likewise ignored as it is only an archaic spelling of "the". "Y" represents an obsolete character (þ, the letter Thorn, which is nowadays used only in Icelandic) for the th sound. Its later forms resembled a blackletter y, and it was never pronounced with a y sound.[1] Similarly, other archaic spellings such as "olde worlde" are not distinguished below.



Names like Fox and Hounds, Dog and Duck, Dog and Gun, Hare and Hounds, etc., refer to shooting and hunting.[2][3] Animal names coupled with colours, such as White Hart and Red Lion, are often heraldic. A white hart featured as a badge of King Richard II, while a red lion was a badge of John of Gaunt and the Dukes of Bedford amongst others and a blue boar of the Earls of Oxford.[4] Exceptions do exist, however, along with less obvious examples of the form - a combination of both features being Cross Foxes (a name most commonly found in rural Wales), referring to a darker-furred breed of the common Red Fox whose pelts were considered more valuable and sometimes worn as a sign of status.

  • Bald Faced Stag Inn, Finchley. An inn notorious as frequented by murderers in the past.[5]
  • Barking Dogs, Hoxton (closed). (Also, various Barking Dog pubs.) Named after the canine burglar deterrents.[6]
  • Bear Inn, Reading.[7]
  • Black Bear, Walsoken : actually, had a black bear (stuffed) at the entrance to the premises years ago.[8]
  • Black Birds, Barnwell, Cambridgeshire. Named after the bird.[9]
  • Black Horse, Chester-le-Street : some may be named in memory of a black horse ridden by Dick Turpin, however many including this one predate the event.[10]
  • Bull Inn, Stamford : the town was the last in England to practice bull-running.[11]
  • Bustard Inn, South Rauceby (closed). After the bird of that name, once numerous.[12]
  • Chameleon, Wisbech (now closed).[13]
  • Crane, Cambridge. After the bird of that name, once numerous in The Fens. Crane is one of the nicknames for the inhabitants.[14]
  • Dog, Westhall, Suffolk.[15]
  • Dolphin, Wisbech, Isle of Ely (now closed) : dolphins were caught and presented to the lord of the manor in earlier times; however, it may just be a nautical reference to the port, or a corruption of "Dauphin" in honour of military victories over Napoleon in France (see later section).[3]
  • Dove, Ipswich : a biblical source.[16]
  • Four Swans, Butchers Market, Cambridge (closed down).[17]
  • Heathcock Tavern, Strand : named after a game bird.[18]
  • Lobster, Sheringham. Patronised by the lifeboat crew who formed the Shanty Men.[19]
  • Old Ram, Tivetshall St. Mary.[20]
  • Olde Fighting Cocks, St. Albans. Named after the cocks used in fights and for gambling.[21]
  • Ostrich Inn, Castle Acre. Named after the flightless bird.[22]
  • Packhorse and Pig, Aldergate Street, London [23]
  • Pickerel Inn, Cambridge : named after young pike (Esox lucius).[24]
  • Py'd Bull, Lincoln (closed). This pub was advertised as convenient for drovers in the 18th century.[25] The Pied Bull in Chester in reputed to be the oldest licensed house in the city and dates back to 1155.[26]
  • Pyewipe Inn, Lincoln. Pyewipe is the Lincolnshire dialect name for the lapwing.[27][28]
  • Red-Hart Inn, Petty Cury, Cambridge (closed). Claimed to have the only cockpit in the town.[29]
  • Rein Deer, Lincoln (closed).[30]
  • Roebuck Inn, Chesterton. Named after the male of the species Capreolus capreolus.[31]
  • String of Horses, Spalding (closed).[32]
  • Swan and Falcon Inn, Gloucester (closed).[33]
  • Ugly Bug, Colton.[34]



Some pub chains in the UK adopt the same or similar names for many pubs as a means of brand expression. Examples include "The Moon Under Water", commonly used by the JD Wetherspoon chain (and inspired by George Orwell's 1946 essay in the Evening Standard, "The Moon Under Water"), and the "Tap and Spile" brand name used by the now defunct Century Inns chain.[35][36] The "Slug and Lettuce" is another example of a chain of food-based pubs with a prominent brand; founder Hugh Corbett had owned a small number of pubs, to which he gave humorous or nonsensical names, with the effect of differentiating them from competitors.[37]

Found objects

The 'Crooked Billet', Worsthorne, Lancashire

Before painted inn signs became commonplace, medieval publicans often identified their establishments by hanging or standing a distinctive object outside the pub. A fictional example of this otherwise real-life practice can be found in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of books, where the pub in Ankh Morpork starts off as The Drum, becomes The Broken Drum after a bar fight damages it and then in later books The Mended Drum. This tradition dates back to Roman times, when vine leaves were hung outside tabernae to show where wine was sold.[38]

  • Boot Inn, Whittlesea [39]
  • Boot and Slipper, Amersham.[40]
  • Crooked Billet, Portsmouth St, London (a bent branch from a tree)[41]
  • Horne Inn, Wisbech. A former 15th century Inn. [42]

Sometimes the object was coloured, such as Blue Post or Blue Door.[43]



Many pubs have heraldic names.

Items appearing in coats of arms


Livery companies

The three compasses emblem of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters
The three compasses pub, Hornsey, London N8

Names starting with the word "Three" are often based on the arms of a London Livery company or trade guild :



Many landowners' coats of arms appear as pub signs.

  • Duke of Bedford, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now closed) named for the person draining the fens.[3]
  • Hardwicke Arms, Wisbech (now closed Down) - the Earl of Hardwicke KG MP being Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum.[3]
  • Osborne, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now closed) named for the residence of a local family.[3]
  • Prince Albert, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now closed) named for the prince consort.[3]
  • Queen Victoria, Wisbech, Isle of Ely : named for the monarch.[3]
  • Royal Standard, Wisbech, Isle of Ely : the monarch's personal flag.[3]
  • Stanley Arms, Huyton, near Liverpool: after Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby.
  • Marshland Arms, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now closed) named for a nearby council.[3]
  • Melbourne Arms, Duston, Northampton: after former local landowner Lord Melbourne
  • Tollemache, Grantham : named after Frederick Tollemache
  • Wisbech Arms, Wisbech: (now closed) named for the local borough.[3]


The Mechanics Arms, Hindley Green, Wigan
See also Trades, tools and products below

Some "Arms" signs refer to working occupations. These may show people undertaking such work or the arms of the appropriate London livery company. This class of name may be only just a name but there are stories behind some of them. An "arms" name, too, can derive from a local authority.

  • Blacksmiths Arms, various pubs with the pun of the actual blacksmiths arms and their strength.[3]
  • Brewers Arms, Wisbech. The town had and has several breweries.[3]
  • Carpenters Arms - A series of pubs, related to the occupation or more likely to the guild of carpenters.[2]
  • Cooper's Arms, Little Old Bailey - Worshipful Company of Coopers.[50][51]
  • Drover's Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland. Named after the cattle drivers.[52] Also an example in Caerleon, near Newport, Wales.[53]
  • Glazier's Arms, Stamford (closed).[54]
  • The Gravel Diggers, Cottenham (closed).[55]
  • Jolly Gardeners, Hertford (closed).[56]
  • Lathrenders' Arms, Wisbech, Isle of Ely. Nearby were lathe makers.[3]
  • Mason's Arms, Wisbech.[3]
  • Mechanics Arms (now renamed the Old Neighbourhood), near Stroud, Gloucestershire. In this context a mechanic was a bonesetter. Another was (now closed) in Stamford, Lincs [57]
  • Millers Arms, Lincoln, Lincolnshire. Robert Taylor, the first publican in 1861, was a miller by trade.[58]
  • Ye Olde Murenger House, Newport, Wales: a murenger was a medieval person who collected tolls for the building or repair of town walls. The taxes were called a murage.[59]
  • Porters Arms, (Wisbech), Isle of Ely.[3]
  • Printers Arms, (Wisbech) owned by a local newspaper owner.[3]
  • Pyrotechnists' Arms, a local gunpowder maker.[60]
  • Ratcatchers, Cawston, Norfolk.[61]
  • Recruiting Sergeant, Newton Harcourt[62]
  • Ropers' Arms, Wisbech, Isle of Ely. Now closed. At least two rope walks in the town.[3]
  • Ship Carpenters' Arms, Wisbech named for local shipbuilders trades.[3]
  • Shipwrights' Arms, Wisbech named for the men employed in the local shipbuilders.[3]
  • Spinners' Arms, Hindley Green, Wigan.[63]
  • Wire Workers' Arms, St. Neots, Hunts.[64]

Historic events

  • Abdication, in Arnold : the reign and abdication of Edward VIII.[65]
  • Bhurtpore Inn, Aston, near Nantwich, Cheshire: commemorating the Siege of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, 1826.[66] The Inn is on land formerly part of the estates of Lord Combermere, commander of British forces during the siege.

The sign of the Saracen's Head in Broad Street, Bath, England
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham


The Moon Under Water, Watford, named after George Orwell's description

Names from books


Pubs in books from real-world pubs

The Ivy Bush pub at the junction of Hagley Rd/Monument Rd in Edgbaston

Myths and legends


Images from myths and legends are evocative and memorable.

  • Black Bess: usually named after the legendary overnight ride from London to York in 1737 by Dick Turpin on his Mare of this name. This fictional account was popularised in a novel, Rookwood (1834), resulting in a surge of Dick Turpin nostalgia and associated pub names.
  • Brazen George Inn, Cambridge (closed). Named after England's patron Saint.[90]
  • The Bucket of Blood, is a public house in Phillack, Hayle, Cornwall, owned by St Austell Brewery. It is thought to be named after an incident where the landlord brought up a bucket of blood from the building's well, as a murdered smuggler had been dropped there.
  • Fiddler's Green, a legendary place in the afterlife where existence consists of all leisure and no work.
  • George and Dragon: St George is the patron saint of England and his conflict with a dragon is essential to his story. This sign is a symbol of English nationalism.
  • Green Dragon, Wisbech, Wymondham etc.: a couple of a number of pubs of this name.[91]
  • Green Man: a spirit of the wild woods.[92] The original images are in churches as a face peering through or made of leaves and petals; this character is the Will of the Wisp, the Jack of the Green. Some pub signs will show the green man as he appears in English traditional sword dances (in green hats). The Green Man is not the same character as Robin Hood, although the two may be linked. Some pubs which were the Green Man have become the Robin Hood; there are no pubs in Robin's own county of Nottinghamshire named the Green Man but there are Robin Hoods. The 1973 film The Wicker Man features a Green Man pub.
  • Hob in the Well, King's Lynn: pubs of this name can come from Hobgoblin in the well or Dogget's play Flora: or, Hob in the Well (1748).[93][94]
  • The Lamb and Nettle : this mythical 'out of hours' premises was located in Scrimshires Passage, Wisbech. It also featured in The Phantom Pub, a poem by Geoff Hastings.[95]
  • Moonrakers: In the 17th century, some Wiltshire yokels hid their smuggled liquor in the Crammer (a pond in Devizes) and used rakes to recover their stash. They were caught in the act by customs officials, and they claimed they were trying to rake in a cheese, which was in fact the reflection of the full moon. The customs officials left thinking that the locals were a bit simple, whilst the locals recovered the smuggled goods without any more interference. The name Moonrakers has been used as a nickname for Wiltshire folk ever since and is the name of pubs in Devizes and Swindon.[citation needed]
  • Robin Hood, sometimes partnered by his second in charge to form the name Robin Hood and Little John. Other Robin Hood names can be found throughout Arnold, Nottinghamshire. These were given to pubs built in the new estates of the 1960s by the Home Brewery of Daybrook, Nottinghamshire: Arrow, Friar Tuck, Longbow, Maid Marian and Major Oak.
  • Silent Woman, Quiet Lady or Headless Woman: The origin is uncertain, with various local stories, such as a landlady whose tongue was cut out by smugglers so she couldn't talk to the authorities,[96] or a saint beheaded for her Christianity.[97] The pub signs sometimes have an image of a decapitated woman or the couplet: "Here is a woman who has lost her head / She's quiet now—you see she's dead".[97]

Paired names


Common enough today, the pairing of words in the name of an inn or tavern was rare before the mid-17th century, but by 1708 had become frequent enough for a pamphlet to complain of 'the variety and contradictory language of the signs', citing absurdities such as 'Bull and Mouth', 'Whale and Cow', and 'Shovel and Boot'. Two years later an essay in the Spectator echoed this complaint, deriding among others such contemporary paired names as 'Bell and Neat's Tongue', though accepting 'Cat and Fiddle'. A possible explanation for doubling of names is the combining of businesses, for example when a landlord of one pub moved to another premises. Fashion, as in the rise of intentionally amusing paired names like 'Slug and Lettuce' and 'Frog and Firkin' (see Puns, Jokes and Corruptions below) in the late 20th century, is responsible for many more recent pub names.[98]

Personal names or titles

Numerous pubs are named after John Manners, Marquess of Granby.[111]
  • Duke of Bedford, Wisbech.[3]
  • Rupert Brooke, Grantchester named after the soldier poet.[112]
  • Catherine Wheel, Henley-on-Thames, Manea and other locations: purportedly from Katherine Whele, in other locations evolved from The Wheel or other derivations.[113]
  • Clarkson, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: named for the local antislavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson.[3]
  • French Horn, Stepping : thought to be a corruption or nickname of 'Frenchman de Schorne'. However, there were also other pubs with this name e.g. Upton.[114]
  • Four Jacks, Wisbech. The former Shipwrights Arms. Renamed after the new landlord Jack Johnson and his three sons. The four playing cards were used in adverts etc.[115]
  • Garrick public house, Cambridge (closed down). Named after the famous actor. Linked to the 1876 murder of Emma Rolfe by Robert Browning.[116]
  • Hoste Arms, Burnham Market. Named for Sir George William Hoste, who served under Nelson.[117]
  • Marquis of Granby: a general in the 18th century. He showed a great concern for the welfare of his men upon their retirement and provided funds for many ex-soldiers to establish taverns, which were subsequently named after him.[111]
  • Hardwicke Arms, Wisbech : named after local nobility.[3]
  • Lord Nelson: Quite a common name (in various forms) throughout England but especially in Norfolk, where the admiral was born. The Hero of Norfolk at Swaffham, Norfolk, portrays Nelson as did Norfolk Hero at Wisbech.[3]
  • Jan's Place, Wisbech. Named by the landlady Janet Heasman. Now The Rose Tavern.[118]
  • John H Stracey, Brixton near Holt. 16th inn named after the former landlord, a boxer. Has now reverted to its former name.[119]
  • Rodney Inn, Wisbech. Named after Admiral Rodney the naval commander.[120]
  • Guy Earl of Warwick, in Welling, Dartford,[121] dates from at least 1896.[122] and is thought to be the "Halfway House" which appears in Charles Dickens' 1861 Great Expectations.[123]
  • Sir Norman Wisdom, Deal, Kent. Named after the actor who worked as an errand boy locally.[124]
  • The Shakespeare, Redland, Shakespeare's Tree, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire: Used to celebrate the Bard's genius.[125][126]
  • Walpole Arms, Itteringham. Named after Robert Walpole, Britain's first prime minister.[127]
  • General Wolfe, Laxfield : named after the military hero.[128]



Plants and horticulture

The Hoop and Grapes, Aldgate High Street, London

The most common tree-based pub name is the Royal Oak, which refers to a Historical event.[citation needed]


  • All Labour In Vain or Labour In Vain. At various locations. Probably of Biblical origins, in past times the name was often illustrated by a person trying to scrub the blackness off a black child. Such signs have been mostly replaced with more innocuous depictions of wasted effort.[135]
  • There are numerous old pubs and inns in England with the name of the Black Boy(s), many now claimed to refer either to child chimneysweeps or coal miners, or to a (genuine) historic description of King Charles II. The Black Boy Inn in Caernarfon, North Wales, has received at least a dozen complaints from visitors over the name, which dates back at least 250 years.[136] In 2021 brewer Greene King changed the names of three pubs called The Black Boy, and another called The Black's Head.[137]
  • The Black Bitch, a pub in Linlithgow, West Lothian, is named after the local legend of a black greyhound who is said to have repeatedly swum to an island in the town's loch to bring food to its imprisoned master, only to suffer the same fate when its efforts were discovered. The pub's name has caused more than a few surprised tourists to question the name or decry it as racist.[138]

The pub itself


The pub building

The Crooked House, Himley, known for its extreme lean, caused by mining subsidence
  • Hippodrome : a former cinema. This March, Isle of Ely premises was once a cinema.[139]
  • Hole in the Wall. The official name or nickname of a number of very small pubs. One such at Waterloo, London, is spacious but built into a railway viaduct. The Hole in the Wall, Gibraltar was an iconic bar well frequented by the navy workers.[140]
  • Hundred House Inn (later Hotel), Great Witley. The hotel name originates from centuries ago when the Hundred House was a collecting house for the tithes gathered from districts in the Doddingtree Hundred.[141]
  • Lattice House, King's Lynn. Historic pub named for its timbered structure.[142]
  • Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold. Named after the front of the building.[143]
  • The Steps, Glasgow. Named after the steps outside.[144]
  • Thatched House Tavern, Cambridge, named after the building.[145]
  • Three Legged Mare, High Petergate, York, named after the design of a gallows, an example of which may be found in the pub's garden; affectionately known as the Wonky Donkey.[146][147]
  • Vaults, a number of pubs, not all having vaults as an architectural feature; the word also had the general meaning of 'storeroom'.[148]

Services provided by the pub

The Farriers Arms, Shilbottle
  • Coach & Horses, for a coaching inn[2]
  • Farriers Arms, for a pub with a farrier who could re-shoe the traveller's horses[2]
  • Free Press, named for when part of the building in Cambridge was used to print a newspaper.[149]
  • Horse & Groom, where the traveller's horse would be cared for while the traveller drank[2]
  • Pewter Platter, Cross Street, Hatton Gardens (now closed), for a pub where meals were served.[150]
  • Stilton Cheese Inn : named for the cheese sold locally that led to the cheese acquiring its name of Stilton cheese.[151]
  • Wheelwrights, for a pub where a coach's wheels could be repaired or replaced[2]

Beer and wine

The Barley Mow, Clifton Hampden

Many traditional pub names allude to the beer available inside, or items used in its production like the Hop Pole and the Barley Mow.[152]

  • Barley Mow:[152] a stack (or sheaf) of barley, the principal grain from which beer is made.[153]
  • Three Barrels: containers for beer.[152]
  • Brewery Tap: A pub originally found on site or adjacent to a brewery and often showcasing its products to visitors.[154]
  • Burton Stingo, Wisbech thought to be named after the Burton ales and Stingo on sale within.[3]
  • Bushel (and New Bushel), Wisbech, Isle of Ely: named after a unit of volume used in a corn exchange to trade including barley used in brewing.[3]
  • Cock and Bottle, or simply Cock: The stopcock used to serve beer from a barrel, and a beer bottle.[155]
  • (Sir) John Barleycorn: A character of English traditional folk music and folklore, similar to a Green Man. He is annually cut down at the ankles, thrashed, but always reappears—an allegory of growth and harvest based on barley.[156]
  • Leather(n) Bottle: A container in which a small amount of beer or wine was transported, now replaced by a glass bottle or can.[3]
  • Malt Shovel: A shovel used in a malting to turn over the barley grain.[157]
  • Mash Tun: a brewery vessel used to mix grains with water.[158]
  • Pint Shop : unit of volume.[159]
  • Three Tuns: Based on the arms of two City of London guilds, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Brewers.
  • The Tankard, London. Named after the drinks container.[160]


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street, London

Other pub names refer to items of food to tempt the hungry traveller. For example, The Baron of Beef in Cambridge refers to a double sirloin joined at the backbone.[161]

  • Red Herring, Great Yarmouth. Named after Red Herring a product of the local fishing industry.[162]
  • Shoulder of Mutton, Wisbech is another pub named for a joint of meat.[3]

Puns, jokes and corruptions

Pub heritage: Nowhere Inn Particular, now closed

Although puns became increasingly popular through the twentieth century, they should be considered with care. Supposed corruptions of foreign phrases usually have much simpler explanations. Many old names for pubs that appear nonsensical are often alleged to have come from corruptions of slogans or phrases, such as "The Bag o'Nails" (Bacchanals), "The Cat and the Fiddle" (Caton Fidele) and "The Bull and Bush", which purportedly celebrates the victory of Henry VIII at "Boulogne Bouche" or Boulogne-sur-Mer Harbour.[163][164]

  • Axe and Gate: Possibly from "ax (or ask) and get".[165]
  • Beartown Tap, Congleton, Cheshire. 'Beartown' is the nickname for Congleton, as local legend claims its townsfolk once 'sold the bible to buy the bear', that is, spent money set aside to buy a parish Bible on providing bear-baiting at their fair.[166]
  • Bird in-hand, Wisbech. Alludes to the expression.[3]
  • Buck and Ear in the Steveston area of Richmond, British Columbia. The name alludes not only to the maritime heritage of the area but also to a previous establishment at the same location that was called "The Buccaneer".[167]
  • Bull and Mouth: Believed to celebrate the victory of Henry VIII at "Boulogne Mouth" or Harbour. Also applies to Bull and Bush (Boulogne Bouche).
  • Case is Altered: The title of an early comedy by Ben Jonson, first published in 1609, based on a remark by lawyer Edmund Plowden which entered into common currency. Also said to be a corruption of the Latin phrase Casa Alta ('high house') or Casa Altera ('second house'). There are several examples in England, such as at Hatton, Warwickshire[168] The Case is Altered (now closed) and a later new build pub 'The Case' also now closed both in Wisbech, Isle of Ely.[3]
  • Cat and Fiddle: a corruption of Caton le Fidèle (meaning "the faithful"), a governor of Calais loyal to King Edward III.[169] Alternatively from Katherine la Fidèle, Henry VIII's first wife.
Elephant and Castle pub sign near Bury St Edmunds, interpreting the name as a howdah
  • Elephant and Castle: By folk etymology, a corruption of "la Infanta de Castile". It is popularly believed amongst residents of Elephant and Castle that a 17th-century publican near Newington named his tavern after the Spanish princess who was affianced to King Charles I of England. The prohibition of this marriage by Church authorities in 1623 was a cause of war with Spain so it seems unlikely to have been a popular name. A more probable and prosaic explanation is that the name derives from the arms of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, a London trade guild; an elephant carrying a castle-shaped howdah can also be seen on the arms of the City of Coventry.[citation needed]
  • Goat and Compass[es]: Possibly based on the arms of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, whose coat of arms contains three goats, together with the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, whose coat of arms contains three compasses.[170] (either that, or from "God encompass us")[165]
  • Paraffin Oil Shop (now closed), at the crossing of A5080 and B5179 in eastern Liverpool, Google Earth view: So, people could say that they are going to buy paraffin.[171]
  • Pig and Whistle: a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon saying piggin wassail meaning "good health".
  • Swan With Two Necks: In England and Wales, wild mute swans swimming in open water have traditionally been the property of the reigning monarch, who had the right to grant swan marks. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I granted the right to ownership of some swans to the Worshipful Company of Vintners. To tell which swan belonged to whom, the Vintners' swans' beaks would be marked with two notches, or nicks. The word 'nick' was mistaken for 'neck', and so the Vintners spotted that a Swan With Two Necks could afford them a rather clever pun, and a striking pub sign. When Swan Upping is carried out nowadays rings are used in lieu of nicking beaks.[172][173]


Lion and Lamb, Farnham

The amount of religious symbolism in pub names decreased after Henry VIII's break from the church of Rome. For instance, many pubs now called the King's Head were originally called the Pope's Head.

  • Adam & Eve, Norwich. The city's oldest pub.[34]
  • Anchor, Hope & Anchor, Anchor & Hope, Anchor of Hope,: From the Letter to the Hebrews (6:19): "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope."[174]
  • Blackfriars, Wisbech (closed): named after the Blackfriars of the town.[3]
  • Cardinal's Hat, Harleston, Norfolk.[175]
  • Shaven Crown, at Shipton under Wychwood. One belonged to monks.[176]
  • Shepherd & Flock may refer to Christ (the Shepherd) and the people (his flock) but may also just mean the agricultural character and his charges.
  • Six Ringers, Leverington - named after the bells (or bell ringers needed) in the St.Leonards' church.[177]
  • Virgin's Inn, Derby : named after the Virgin Mary.[178]


The King's Arms, Marazion

Royal names have always been popular (except under the Commonwealth). It demonstrated the landlord's loyalty to authority (whether he was loyal or not), especially after the restoration of the monarchy.


The Llandoger Trow in Bristol in the early 1930s, before part was bombed in World War II


Sign for the Bat and Ball, Breamore

Hunting and blood sports

  • Hark to Bellman: Clitheroe[189] later (1826)[190] the Bellman Inn, named after a hound of the huntsman John Peel, as were the Hark to Bounty in Slaidburn, and the Hark to Towler in Bury; in fox hunting, "hark to" meant to listen.
  • Rabbits, Gainsborough : a frequent object of shooting.[191]

Other Sports

  • Bowling Green—Bowls has been for many years a popular sport in the Manchester area: many of the greens are attached to pubs, e.g. the Lloyd's Hotel and the Bowling Green Hotel in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.[192] The Bowling Green Hotel in Grafton Street, Chorlton on Medlock, no longer has a green.[193]
  • Nine Pins, Cambridge (now closed), a former Star Brewery pub, named after the sport.[134]
  • Popinjay Inn, Norwich : a Popinjay is a target used in archery.[194]
  • Wrestlers: Great North Road, Hatfield, Hertfordshire and Wisbech (now closed) named for the sport.[3]


  • Barrack Tavern, Woolwich Common: near the army barracks.[195]
  • Bridge Inn (often preceded by the name of a bridge) - located near a river or canal bridge: historically these were good places to establish a pub due to passing traffic on both the road and the water. Bridge and Bridge Inn were both to be found in Wisbech, Isle of Ely (now closed).[3]
  • Bunch of Carrots, Hampton Bishop. Named after a rock formation.[196]
  • Castle: usually a prominent local landmark, but sometimes a heraldic device: see under "Heraldry", above. Castle, Wisbech, Isle of Ely; (now closed) named after the succession of castles, bishops palaces and villas that occupy a site to this day known as The Castle.[3]
  • Fosdike Inn, near Boston : named after the village of Fosdyke, itself named after an early watercourse.[197]
  • Horsefair Tavern, Wisbech (now 2023 The Magwitch). Named after the Horsefair (now a shopping mall, formerly a site for selling horses). Former uses included as a Liberal Club and a youth club.[198][199]
  • First and Last, nickname of The Redesdale Arms, the nearest pub to the border between England and Scotland, on the A68 between Rochester and Otterburn in Northumberland.
  • Five Miles from Anywhere Inn: No Hurry, Upware. An isolated hostelry.[200]
  • North Pole beerhouse, Wide Bargate, Boston, Lincolnshire. (closed)[201]
  • Harbour Hotel, Wisbech, Isle of Ely. next to the harbour.[3]
  • Nene Inn, Wisbech, Isle of Ely. Near the river of the same name.[202]
  • Theatre Tavern, Gosport. Both theatre and adjacent tavern had the same owner.[203]
  • Turnpike: named for a former toll point, as in Turnpike hotel, Wisbech.[3]
  • West End, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now renamed BLUES), a pub on the West of the town.[3]
  • Windmill: a prominent feature of the local landscape at one point. Pubs with this name may no longer be situated near a standing mill, but there's a good chance they're close to a known site and will almost certainly be on a hill or other such breezy setting. Clues to the presence of a mill may also be found in the naming of local roads and features. The Windmill in Wisbech, Isle of Ely was next to the site of a windmill.[3]

Trades, tools and products

The Blind Beggar, Whitechapel, London E1
  • Axe 'n Cleaver inn Much Birch, or Altrincham, also Boston, Lincolnshire and North Somercotes.[204]
  • Bankers, near Walpole St. Andrews, West Norfolk. Named after those involved in making and maintaining the seabanks and riverbanks.[205]
  • Blackfriars, Wisbech: named for the local friars. (now closed) [3]
  • Blind Beggar, a pub in Whitechapel named for the story of Henry de Montfort[206]
  • Brewers Arms, Wisbech: (now closed) named for the local brewing industry.[3]
  • British Rifleman, Wisbech : (now closed) named for the British Army infanteers equipped with rifles.[3]
  • Chemic Tavern (formerly Chemical Tavern), Leeds, West Yorkshire. Named for the workers at the nearby Woodhouse Chemical Works, (C. 1840–1900) it was a beer house on the 1861 census when the licensee was James Lapish.[207][208]
  • Custom House Tavern, Wisbech: (now closed) named for the local customs post in the port.[3]
  • Fen Plough, Chatteris : named after the local farming equipment.[209]
  • Golden Fleece, for the wool trade[2]
  • Harbour Hotel, Wisbech: (now closed) named for the local maritime industry.[3]
  • Jolly Nailor in Atherton, Greater Manchester, named after nail manufacture, present in the area since the 14th century.[210]
  • Lathrenders Arms, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now closed) named for the local lathe industry.[3]
  • The Light Horseman, York. Named for a former cavalry barracks.[211]
  • Malt Shovel, Three Holes Bridge, Upwell (now closed). Named for brewing implement.[157]
  • Printers Arms, Wisbech, Isle of Ely (now closed), named for the local print industry.[3]
  • Railway Inn, Wisbech: named for the local rail industry. (now closed)[3]
  • Ram Skin, Spalding, Lincolnshire (now closed). Named for the local wool industry, closed in 1970.[212][213]
  • Rifle Volunteer, Oxhey village, Gunnislake etc.[214]
  • Ropers Arms, Wisbech: (now closed) named for the former local rope making industry.[3]
  • Ship carpenters Arms, Wisbech, Isle of Ely: (now closed) named for the local ship building industry.[3]
  • Ship Inn from Irvine to Oundle. However, the Ship Inn in Styal, Cheshire, states that its derivation is from 'shippon', a cattle shed or manure shed.[215]
  • Shipwrights Arms, Wisbech: (now closed) named for the local boatbuilding industry.[3]
  • Sailor, Addingham near Ilkley; Jolly Sailor at St Athan and at Sandown, Isle of Wight.
  • Spade and Becket, Chatteris, (now closed) Isle of Ely, and Cambridge (closed), Downham Market (closed): a combination of two peat digging implements.[216][217]
  • Three Jolly Watermen, Waterbeach Fen (now closed): named for local water workers.[218]
  • Trowel and Hammer, Norwich : thought to be named after local bricklayers.[219]
  • Two Brewers, Diss : takes its name from the beer makers.[220]
  • Valiant Sailor, King's Lynn named for the mariners of this port.[221]
  • Volunteers Arms, Llanidloes (closed). One of many pubs named after Militia or rifle volunteers etc.[222]
  • Woodman or Woodman's Cottage Inn.[223]
  • Woolpack Banstead, Surrey and Wisbech, Isle of Ely. (now closed) A common name in sheep country.[3]




Hatfield, The Comet; the carving of the pillar is by Eric Kennington
  • Airman, (currently closed) Feltham, Middlesex, and Henlow, Bedfordshire: named owing to their proximity to the former London Air Park (latterly Hanworth Air Park) and RAF Henlow respectively.
  • Balloon, (closed) Stamford. The balloonist Mr. H.Green had made a number of ascents in the vicinity in previous years.[224]
  • Canopus, Rochester, Kent: Named after the flying boats produced at the nearby Short Brothers aircraft factory (now demolished).
  • Comet, Hatfield, Hertfordshire: In the 1950s the pub sign depicted the de Havilland DH.88 wooden monoplane racer named "Grosvenor House", famous for its winning of the 1934 McRobertson Cup air race from England to Australia and for its distinctive Post Box red colour. Also known as the DH Comet, this plane is not a precursor of the famous civilian jet airliner of the same name, but rather of the WW2 fast bomber, the de Havilland Mosquito[citation needed]
  • Flying Bedstead, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire: Name given to the prototype aircraft which eventually led to the development of the Harrier VTOL jet.[citation needed]
  • Flying Boat (now demolished) in Calshot, Hampshire, commemorated the part that the area played in the development of these aircraft between 1920 and 1940.[citation needed]
  • Red Arrow, Lutterworth, Leicestershire: a pub with a sloping triangular roof, named after the RAF aerobatics team. The pub was formerly called the "flying saucer" for its unusual shape, and has also been described as a Star Destroyer from the Star Wars films.


  • Highway Inn, Burford. On the King's Highway.[225]
  • I am the Only Running Footman, Mayfair, London W1; named after a servant employed by the wealthy to run ahead of their carriages and pay tolls.[226]
  • Steamer, Welwyn, Hertfordshire: It is found at the top of a steep hill where carriers required an extra horse (a cock-horse) to help get the wagon up the hill. After its exertion the cock-horse could be seen standing steaming on a cold day as its sweat evaporated.[227]
  • Waggon and Horses: Another simple transport name (prior to American influence, the British English spelling of 'wagon' featured a double 'g',[228] retained on pub signs such as this one).
  • Wait for the Waggon, Bedford and Wyboston, Bedfordshire: This is the name of the regimental march of The Royal Corps of Transport (now The Royal Logistic Corps), whose troops frequently use this route; the latter is sited on the Great North Road.


  • Black Buoy, Wivenhoe. Originally named after King Charles II and later renamed after a type of Channel marker buoy, as the owners had nautical connections.[229]
  • Locks Inn, Geldeston. Named for the nearby locks.[230]
  • Am Politician, Eriskay. Named after the SS Politician which sank close to the island in 1941 with a cargo including large amounts of whisky.[231]
  • Shroppie Fly: Audlem, named after a type of canalboat called a 'Shropshire Fly'[232]
  • Tide End Cottage: in Teddington, at the end of the tidal reach of the River Thames[233]



Most common

One of the Swans, this one in Stroud, Gloucestershire

An authoritative list of the most common pub names in Great Britain is hard to establish, owing to ambiguity in what classifies as a pub as opposed to a licensed restaurant or nightclub, and so lists of this form tend to vary hugely. The two surveys most often cited, both taken in 2007, are by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). As pubs have closed in response to changing habits, numbers have fallen, so the historic surveys remain of interest.

According to BBPA in 2007, the most common names were:[236]

  1. Red Lion (759)
  2. Royal Oak (626)
  3. White Hart (427)
  4. Rose and Crown (326)
  5. King's Head (310)
  6. King's Arms (284)
  7. Queen's Head (278)
  8. The Crown (261)

According to CAMRA in 2007 they were at that time:[237]

  1. Crown (704)
  2. Red Lion (668)
  3. Royal Oak (541)
  4. Swan (451)
  5. White Hart (431)
  6. Railway (420)
  7. Plough (413)
  8. White Horse (379)
  9. Bell (378)[238][239]
  10. New Inn (372)

A more current listing can be found on the Pubs Galore site, updated daily as pubs open/close and change names.[240] In 2019, the top 10 were:

  1. Red Lion (558)
  2. Crown (509)
  3. Royal Oak (432)
  4. White Hart (317)
  5. Swan (296)
  6. Plough (294)
  7. Railway (294)
  8. White Horse (286)
  9. Kings Arms (245)
  10. Ship (244)



The pubs with the shortest and longest names in Britain are both in Stalybridge: Q and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn.[241] The longest name of a London pub, I am the Only Running Footman,[242] was used as the title of a mystery novel by Martha Grimes.[243]

There is a "pub with no name" in Southover Street, Brighton,[244] and another near to Petersfield, Hampshire, so known (despite having an actual name), because its sign on the nearest main road has been missing for many years.[245]

The Salley Pussey's Inn at Royal Wootton Bassett is said to have been named after Sarah Purse, whose family owned The Wheatsheaf pub in the 19th century. In the 1970s the name was changed to the Salley Pussey's.[246]

See also



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  • Brewer, E. Cobham (1898) Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Cassell and Co.
  • Cox, Barrie (1994) English Inn and Tavern Names. Nottingham: Centre for English Name Studies, ISBN 978-0-9525343-0-3
  • Dunkling, Leslie (1994) Pub Names of Britain, London: Orion (1994), ISBN 1-85797-342-9
  • Dunkling, Leslie & Wright, Gordon (2006) The Dictionary of Pub Names. Ware: Wordsworth Editions ISBN 1-84022-266-2
  • Myrddin ap Dafydd (1992) Welsh Pub Names. Llanrwst: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch ISBN 0-86381-185-X (Translation of: Enwau tafarnau Cymru)
  • Wright, Gordon & Curtis, Brian J. (1995) Inns and Pubs of Nottinghamshire: the stories behind the names. Nottingham: Nottinghamshire County Council ISBN 0-900943-81-5

Further reading

  • [Anon] (1969) Inn Signs: their history and meaning. London: the Brewers' Society.
  • Delderfield, Eric R. (1965). British Inn Signs and Their Stories. London: David & Charles.
  • Douch, H. L. (1966) Old Cornish Inns and their place in the social history of the County. Truro: D. Bradford Barton.
  • Lamb, Cadbury and Wright, Gordon (1968) Inn Signs. London: Shire Publications.
  • Monson-Fitzjohn, G. J. (1926) Quaint Signs of Old Inns. London: Senate Books.
  • Richardson, A. E. (1934) The Old Inns of England. London: B. T. Batsford.
  • Townsend, C. R. (2005) Inn-vestigated. The Origins of Public House Names. Leicester: Reprint.

Media related to Pubs by name at Wikimedia Commons