The sign of the Saracen’s Head in Broad Street, Bath, England

Pub names are used to identify and differentiate pubs in the United Kingdom. Many pubs are centuries old, from a time when their customers were often illiterate, but could recognise pictorial signs. Pub names have a variety of origins, from objects used as simple identification marks to the coats of arms of kings or local aristocrats and landowners. Other names come from historic events, livery companies, and occupations or craftsmen’s guilds.



Although the word The appears on much pub signage, it is not considered to be an important part of the name, and is therefore 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 and looked rather like a blackletter y. 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, etc., refer to hunting.[2] Animal names coupled with colours, such as White Hart and Red Lion, are often heraldic. A white hart featured as the badge of King Richard II, while a red lion was the badge of John of Gaunt and a blue boar of the Earls of Oxford.[3]


Some pub chains in the UK adopt the same or similar names for many pubs as a means of brand expression. The principal examples of this are «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«.[4]) and the «Tap and Spile» brand name used by the now defunct Century Inns chain. 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, which he rechristened with humorous or nonsensical names, with the effect of differentiating them from competitors.

Found objects

The ‘Crooked Billet’, Worsthorne, Lancashire

Before painted inn signs became commonplace, medieval publicans often identify their establishment by hanging or standing a distinctive object outside the pub. This tradition dates back to Roman times, when the owners of tabernae used to hang some vine leaves outside their property to show where wine was sold.[5]

  • Boot
  • Copper Kettle
  • Crooked Billet (a bent branch from a tree)

Sometimes the object was coloured, such as Blue Post or Blue Door.[6]


The ubiquity of the naming element arms shows how important heraldry has been in the naming of pubs. The simpler symbols of the heraldic badges of royalty or local nobility give rise to many of the most common pub names.

Items appearing in coats of arms

A White Hart signboard

Livery companies

Three Compasses, Hornsey, London N8

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


Many coats of arms appear as pub signs, usually honouring a local landowner.


The Mechanics Arms, Hindley Green
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.

Historic events

A ‘Royal Oak’ in Fishguard, Wales

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
  • Royal Oak: After the Battle of Worcester (1651) in the English Civil War, the defeated Prince Charles escaped the scene with the Roundheads on his tail. He managed to reach Bishops Wood in Staffordshire, where he found an oak tree (now known as the Boscobel Oak near Boscobel House). He climbed the tree and hid in it for a day while his obviously short-sighted pursuers strolled around under the tree looking for him. The hunters gave up, Prince Charles came down and escaped to France (the Escape of Charles II). He became Charles II on the Restoration of the Monarchy. To celebrate this good fortune, 29 May (Charles’ birthday) was declared Royal Oak Day and the pub name remembers this. The Royal Naval ship HMS Royal Oak gets its name from the same source. Early ships were built of the heartwood of oak.
  • Saracen’s Head and Turk’s Head: Saracens and Turks were among the enemies faced by Crusaders. This is also a reference to the Barbary pirates that raided the coasts from the Crusades until the early 19th century.
  • Trafalgar: commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar. There are many pubs called the Nelson and an Emma Hamilton pub too in Wimbledon Chase where Nelson squired her. Famous is the Trafalgar Tavern: part of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage site at Greenwich.
  • Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham, one of the claimants to the title of oldest pub in Britain, said to have been a stopping-off place for the Crusaders on the way to the Holy Land. «Trip» here has the old meaning of a stop, not the modern journey. The pub was once called the Pilgrim, which is probably the real story behind the name. The pub has the date 1189 painted on its masonry, which is the year King Richard I ascended to the throne. Like many elderly pubs, the Trip carries «Ye» before its name, with an E on the end of «old» another «olde worlde» affectation.


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

Myths and legends

Images from myths and legends are evocative and memorable.

  • Black Horse (Black Bess): usually named after the legendary overnight ride from London to York in 1737 by Dick Turpin. This fictional account was popularised in a novel, Rookwood (1834), resulting in a surge of Dick Turpin nostalgia and associated pub names.
  • 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 Man: a spirit of the wild woods.[23] 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.
  • 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.
  • 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,[24] or a saint beheaded for her Christianity.[25] 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».[25]
  • Captain’s Wife, near the medieval trading port of Swanbridge on the south Wales coast near Penarth. The pub was converted during the 1970s from a row of fishermen’s cottages. There is a local legend of a ghostly wife keeping endless vigil after her husband’s boat was lost in a storm.

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.[26]

Personal names or titles

The Marquis of Granby, after whom a number of pubs are named.

Some pubs are known by the names of former landlords and landladies, for instance Nellie’s (originally the White Horse) in Beverley, and Ma Pardoe’s (officially the Olde Swan) in Netherton, West Midlands. The Baron of Beef, Welwyn, Hertfordshire is named after a nineteenth-century landlord, George Baron, listed in Kelly’s Directory for 1890 as «Butcher and Beer Retailer».


An «arms» name, too, can derive from a pub’s town.

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.

Politically incorrect

  • 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, now deemed offensive, have been mostly replaced with more innocuous depictions of wasted effort.[33]
  • There are numerous old pubs and inns in England with the name of the Black Boy, 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, Caernarfon, North Wales, has received at least a dozen complaints from visitors over the name, which dates back at least 250 years. However, the police say they have not received any formal complaints.[34]
  • 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.[35]

The pub itself (including nicknames)

The pub building

The Crooked House, Himley, known for its extreme lean, caused by mining subsidence
  • Candlestick, West End, Essendon, Hertfordshire: Once the Chequers, lit by a single candle and plunged into darkness when the landlord took the candle to the cellar to fetch beer.
  • Crooked Chimney, Lemsford, Hertfordshire: The pub’s chimney is distinctively crooked.
  • Crooked House, nickname of the Glynne Arms, Himley, Staffordshire. Because of mining subsidence, one side of the pub has a pronounced list.
  • Cupola House, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, has a cupola on its roof.
  • 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.
  • Jackson Stops, Stretton, Rutland: The pub was once closed for a period when the only sign on the outside was that of London estate agent Jackson Stops. The name stuck.
  • Kilt and Clover, Port Dalhousie, Ontario, named after the owners. The husband is of Scottish descent, and the wife is of Irish heritage. The split theme runs throughout the pub.
  • New Inn. Pubs can bear this name for centuries.
  • Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds: one of the foremost claimants to be the smallest pub in the UK and maybe the world.
  • Push Inn, Beverley: At one time the pub had no external sign except for that on the entrance door which read, simply, PUSH.
  • Red House, Newport Pagnell, and on the old A43 between Northampton and Kettering: red or reddish painted buildings.
  • Swiss Cottage was built in Swiss chalet style. It gave its name to an underground station and an area of London.
  • Swiss Gardens, Shoreham-by-Sea, originally the pub of a Swiss-themed Victorian picnic garden and amusement park.
  • Vaults, a number of pubs, not all having vaults as an architectural feature; the word also had the general meaning of ‘storeroom’.[36] By extension ‘the vaults’ was formerly used to designate a particular type of bar. At a time (mid 19th-mid 20th century) when the several areas in a pub served different clientele, ‘the vaults’ would cater largely for working-class drinkers and would most usually be men-only.
  • White Elephant, Northampton, Northamptonshire. Originally built as a hotel to accommodate visitors to the adjacent Northampton Racecourse, the building became a «white elephant» (useless object) when horse racing was stopped at Northampton Racecourse in 1904.

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]
  • Horse & Groom, where the traveller’s horse would be cared for while the traveller drank[2]
  • 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 refer to the drinks available inside, most often beer.

  • Barley Mow: a stack (or sheaf) of barley, the principal grain from which beer is made.
  • Barrels: A cask or keg containing 36 Imperial gallons of liquid, especially beer. Other sizes include: pin, 36 pints; firkin, 9 gallons; kilderkin, 18 gallons; half-hogshead, 27 gallons; hogshead, 54 gallons; butt, probably 104 gallons.
  • Brewery Tap: A pub originally found on site or adjacent to a brewery and often showcasing its products to visitors; although, now that so many breweries have closed, the house may be nowhere near an open brewery.
  • Cock and Bottle, or simply Cock: The stopcock used to serve beer from a barrel, and a beer bottle.[37]
  • Hop Inn: Hop flowers are the ingredient in beer which gives it its bitter taste, though this name is often intended as a pun.
  • Hop Pole: The poles which support wires or ropes up which hops grow in the field.
  • (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.
  • Leather(n) Bottle: A container in which a small amount of beer or wine was transported, now replaced by a bottle or can.
  • Malt Shovel: A shovel used in a malting to turn over the barley grain.
  • Mash Tun: a brewery vessel used to mix grains with water.
  • Three Tuns: Based on the arms of two City of London guilds, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Brewers.


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.[38]

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.[39][40] Often, these corruptions evoke a visual image which comes to signify the pub; these images had particular importance for identifying a pub on signs and other media before literacy became widespread. Sometimes the basis of a nickname is not the name, but its pictorial representation on the sign that becomes corrupt, through weathering, or unskillful paintwork by an amateur artist. Apparently, many pubs called the Cat or Cat and Custard Pot were originally Tigers or Red Lions with signs that «looked more like a cat» in the opinion of locals.

  • Bag o’Nails: Thought by the romantic to be a corrupted version of «Bacchanals» but really is just a sign once used by ironmongers. The pub of this name in Bristol, England was named in the 1990s for the former reason, though the latter is more prevalent.
  • Barge Inn. A play on words ‘barge in’. The Barge Inn in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire is however actually on a canal, where barges tie up.
  • 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.[41]
  • Bent Brief, once close to the Honest Lawyer on Lodge Road, Southampton.
  • Bird and Baby, the familiar name used by the Inklings for the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford (see above under Heraldry).
  • 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».[42]
  • 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[43]
  • Cat and Fiddle: a corruption of Caton le Fidèle (a governor of Calais loyal to King Edward III).[44] Alternatively from Katherine la Fidèle, Henry VIII‘s first wife.
  • Cock and Bull: a play on «cock and bull story«. This term is said to derive from the Cock and the Bull, two pubs in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, which are close neighbours and rival coaching inns.
  • Dew Drop Inn: A pun on «do drop in».
  • Dirty Duck: The Black Swan, as in Stratford-on-Avon; also The Mucky Duck in Portsmouth and the Students Union pub at the University of Warwick
  • Dirty Habit: Sited on the route of the Pilgrims’ Way, the name is a play on the contemptuous phrase and a reference to the clothing of monks who passed by on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral.

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.
  • Fawcett Inn («force it in»), Portsmouth.
  • Gate Hangs Well, common in the Midlands: «This Gate Hangs Well, and hinders none. Refresh and pay and travel on.» Also frequently found as ‘Hanging Gate’.
  • 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, whoses coat of arms contains three compasses.[45]
  • Honest Lawyer Folkestone, The Honest Politician, Portsmouth.
  • Hop Inn: similar to the Dew Drop Inn. A double pun in that hops are a major ingredient in beer making.
  • Jolly Taxpayer in Portsmouth.
  • Letters Inn («let us in»)
  • Library: So students and others can say they’re in ‘the library’,
  • Nag’s Head. Pub signs can play on the double meaning of Nag — a horse or a scolding woman.
  • Nowhere, Plymouth; Nowhere Inn Particular, Croydon: Wife calls husband on his mobile and asks where he is. He answers truthfully «Nowhere».
  • Office: as above.
  • Ostrich, Ipswich: originally Oyster Reach (the old name has since been restored on the advice of historians).
  • Pig and Whistle: a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon saying piggin wassail meaning «good health».
  • Quiet Woman, York.
  • The Mucky Duck: a common nickname for pubs normally called The Black Swan
  • Swan With Two Necks: In the United Kingdom, swans have traditionally been the property of the reigning Monarch. However, in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I granted the right to ownership of some swans to the Worshipful Company of Vintners. In order to be able to tell which Swan belonged to whom, it was decided that Vintners’ swans should have their beaks marked with two notches, or nicks. In those days, ‘neck’ was another form of ‘nick’ and so the Vintners spotted that a Swan With Two Necks could afford them a rather clever pun, and a striking pub sign.
  • Three Chimneys, Biddenden: During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) it is said that up to 3,000 French prisoners were kept at nearby Sissinghurst Castle. The French seamen were placed on parole in the surrounding area and were allowed out as far as the pub building. At the time locals referred to this as the ‘Three Wents’ (or three ways) but the prisoners called it Les Trois Chemins. The unique name of the Three Chimneys therefore derives from the French term for the junction of three roads.


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.

  • Anchor, Hope & Anchor, Anchor & Hope: From the Letter to the Hebrews (6:19): «We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope.»
  • Cross Keys: The sign of St Peter, the gatekeeper of Heaven. Often found near a church dedicated to St Peter. When people walked to the Sunday service they often stayed afterwards, at a house near the church, to drink beer and to watch or participate in sporting events. These venues became known as pubs and would use the sign of the saint to which the church was dedicated — the Cross Keys for St Peter, an Eagle for St John, a Lion for St Mark. The sporting events might include the racing or fighting of dogs, bulls, cocks or pheasants, or the hunting of foxes, with or without hounds — thus giving rise to further pub signs.
  • Lamb & Flag: From the Gospel of John (1:29): «Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.» The Lamb is seen carrying a flag (usually of St. George) and is the symbol of the Knights Templar, the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, and St John’s College, Oxford. A pub of this name appeared in the popular BBC sitcom Bottom.
  • Five Ways: Possibly referring to the «Five Ways» of Thomas Aquinas, five reasons for the existence of God.
  • Lion & Lamb: The lion is a symbol of the Resurrection, the lamb a symbol of the Redeemer.
  • Mitre: A bishop’s headgear, a simple sign easily recognisable by the illiterate. In Glastonbury and in Oxford a Mitre is adjacent to a church.
  • Salutation: The greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary when informing her she was to carry Jesus Christ.
  • Shepherd & Flock may refer to Christ (the Shepherd) and the people (his flock) but may also just mean the agricultural character and his charges.
  • Three Crowns: The Magi, but also see Heraldry above.
  • Three Kings: The Magi.
  • Parish: In Huddersfield, Originally called «The Parish Pump», Referring to its close proximity to Huddersfield Parish Church.


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


Football club nicknames include:

  • Hammers, London E6: West Ham United although elsewhere in the country it could refer to blacksmiths (see Heraldry above).
  • Magpies, Meadow Lane, Nottingham: Notts County who play close by at the other end of Meadow Lane.
  • The Peacock Inn: Elland Road, Leeds. Opposite the Leeds United football ground whose original nickname was taken from the pub.

Hunting and blood sports


  • Abbey Inn: located near an abbey, or former abbey
  • Bishop’s Finger: after a type of signpost found on the Pilgrims’ Way in Kent, said to resemble a bishop‘s finger (also used as the name of a beer by Shepherd Neame Brewery).
  • 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.
  • Castle: usually a prominent local landmark, but sometimes a heraldic device: see under «Heraldry», above.
  • Fountain Inn: Might refer to an actual fountain or natural spring.
  • First In, Last Out: A pub on the edge of a town. It’s the first pub on the way in and last on the way out. Does not refer to the habits of any of the pub’s clientele as some signs suggest.
  • Half Way House: This one is situated half-way between two places; but with the pub of this name at Camden Town it’s anyone’s guess which two places it’s half-way between. A similar name is West End House (located at the West side of a town).
  • 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.
  • (number) Mile Inn : Usually the distance to the centre of the nearest prominent town, as in the Four Mile Inn at Bucksburn, Aberdeen, and the Five Mile House, near Cirencester.
  • Strugglers, near a gallows, refers to how people being hanged would struggle for air. Ironically the famous executioner Albert Pierrepoint was landlord of the Help the Poor Struggler at Hollinwood, near Oldham, for several years after World War II, and had to hang one of his own regulars, James Corbitt.
  • Hangmans Inn, on site of gallows Guernsey
  • Tunnel Top: near Runcorn, Cheshire, named for its position over a canal tunnel.
  • 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.
  • World’s End. A pub on the outskirts of a town, especially if on or beyond the protective city wall. Examples are found in Camden and Edinburgh.
  • Three Hills. A pub in the village of Bartlow, Cambridgeshire, named after three barrows close to the border with Essex.

Trades, tools and products

The Blind Beggar, Whitechapel, London E1



Hatfield, The Comet; the carving of the pillar is by Eric Kennington


A large number of pubs called the Railway, the Station, the Railway Hotel, etc. are situated near current or defunct rail stations. Five stations on the London Underground system are named after pubs: Royal Oak, Elephant & Castle, Angel, Manor House, Swiss Cottage. The area of Maida Vale, which has a Bakerloo line station, is named after a pub called the «Heroes of Maida» after the Battle of Maida in 1806.

Mainline stations named after pubs include Bat & Ball in Sevenoaks.


The Bullnose Morris at Cowley
  • Bullnose Morris, Cowley, Oxfordshire: Named after the motor cars once produced at the nearby factory.
  • Coach and Horses: A simple and common name found from Clerkenwell to Kew, Soho to Portsmouth.
  • Four In Hand Method of reining horses so four may be controlled by a single coach driver.
  • 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.[54]
  • Perseverance: Name of a stage coach. The Perseverance in Bedford probably alludes to John Bunyan‘s Pilgrim’s Progress, Bedford being Mr Bunyan’s home town.
  • Scotchman and his Pack, Bristol. Nothing to do with Scotland. The pub is situated at the bottom of the very steep St Michael’s Hill. Vehicles going up the hill were prevented from rolling downwards by means of wooden wedges, called scotches, placed behind the wheels by a scotchman who carried the scotches in a pack.
  • Sedan Chair, Bristol, which like the Two Chairmen, London, is named after the carriers of sedan chairs.
  • 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.
  • Terminus: Usually found where a tram route once terminated, sited near the tram terminus.
  • Traveller’s Rest, Northfield, Birmingham: a historic coaching inn on the main road to Bristol.
  • Waggon and Horses: Another simple transport name (prior to American influence, the British English spelling of ‘wagon’ featured a double ‘g’,[55] 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.



  • Air Balloon, Birdlip, Gloucestershire. Near a field where early ascents were made.[57]
  • Goat and Tricycle, Bournemouth, Dorset, a humorous modern name.
  • Rusty Bicycle, new name of the Eagle in Oxford. Oxford’s students often cycle round the town.[58]
  • Tram Depot, Cambridge: Occupies the building which once was the stables of Cambridge’s tramway depot.
  • Zeppelin Shelter, Aldgate, London, circa 1894, located opposite solid railway warehouses that were used in World War One (1914–1918) as East End civilian air raid shelters.

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 CAMRA.

According to BBPA, the most common names are:[59]

  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)

and according to CAMRA they are:[60]

  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)[61][62]
  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.[63] As of January 30, 2018, the top 10 were:

  1. Red Lion (567)
  2. Crown (530)
  3. Royal Oak (451)
  4. White Hart (324)
  5. Swan (309)
  6. Plough (301)
  7. Railway (299)
  8. White Horse (295)
  9. New (257)
  10. Ship (255)

The number of each is given in brackets.


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. The longest name of a London pub, I am the Only Running Footman, was used as the title of a mystery novel by Martha Grimes.

There is a «pub with no name» in Southover Street, Brighton.[64]

The Case is Altered, an early comedy by Ben Jonson, gives its name to several pubs.

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.[65]

See also