Saturday, December 16

British Pub Sign & Their Origins

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As a child, on long journeys, I used to play Pub cricket with my parents. Points were scored for the first person to spot a pub sign named after a certain subject. If my dad had named animals “The White Hart” was always a popular spot & earned me 5 points.

Pub signs like so many street & place names can find themselves steeped in British history & folklore whether this is to honour a local Lord, A Royal Prince, or a brave warrior.

Below I have listed some of our unique Pub names with their origins accordingly;

The Bell – derives from the popular national pastime of bell-ringing

The Dog & Duck – this was a sport that no doubt would take place in a pond by the side of the pub. A duck was placed in the pond and a dog set to hunt it!

The Golden Lion – This was the badge of Henry I who reigned from 1100 – 1135. Henry was the fourth son of William I, otherwise known as William the Conqueror

The Golden Cross – A reference to the Crusaders

The Rose & Crown – A loyal pub to the Crown. The red & white Tudor rose, brought together after the War Of The Roses, is a symbol of Royalty, 

The Green Man – Its association with a mythical woodland creature has also become intertwined with Robin Hood. The Green Man is also Will’O the Wisp

The Turks Head – Also known as the Saracens Head. The Turks & Saracens where the enemies faced during the Crusades of the 11th, 12th & 13th centuries

The White Hart – Reigning from 1377 – 1399, this was the sign of Richard II, who introduced legislation compelling Pubs to display signs

The Pig & Whistle – a supposed play on Pig & Wassail. The pig being “piggin” which was a drinking vessel & wassail which is drinking toast

The Rising Sun – Reigning from 1327 – 1377, this was the badge of Edward III

Measurements also have names. We have heard of a Barrel or a Gallon, but what about a Firkin, Hogshead or a Kilderkin? In 1824 the following measurements were decreed

Gallon – This is thought to date from 13th Century and an old French word, Galleta, meaning jug. It equates to 4.5 litres

Firkin  – This dates from 14th Century and a Dutch word, Verdelkijn, which means fourth or a quarter. It equates to  9 Gallons

Kilderkin  –  This originates from a Dutch word for a small cask. It equates to 18 Gallons

Barrel – This derives  from 13th century. An Old French word Barril from the medieval Latin word Barriclus, meaning small cask. It equates to 36 Gallons

Hogshead – This derives from 14th Century literally meaning Head of a Hog. It equates to 54 Gallons

British Pubs are part of British culture & they go hand in hand accordingly. In this modern world that we live in its always too easy to take things for granted and never stop to look back. If we look hard enough the past is always close by.


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