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  • Writer's pictureRoyston Nicholls

Weird, Odd and Strange Pub Names

The British do like their pubs and generally have a ‘local’ where they can relax, drink their beer (other tipples are available) and enjoy the company. This local pub may be The Red Lion or The Royal Oak, said to be the two most common pub names in Britain, or it could be The White Hart, Queen’s Head, The Bell, The Plough, or Rose & Crown, all quite common names throughout Britain. Or it could a pub with a very strange name indeed.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham

After years of dedicated research, these are my favourites. They are all real pubs and I have enjoyed all of them.

The Silent Woman Inn, near Wareham

There are at least two pubs that bear the name Goat & Compass, although there may be others that I am not aware of, but the origin of the name is said to be the same. A popular saying during the Puritan period was, ‘God Encompasses All’. The story is that a puritan-inclined landlord put this saying over the entrance to the building, with the intention of reminding his customers of the power of God (it does beg the question, why was a Puritan running a pub?) and locals, corrupting this, eventually referred to it as the Goat & Compass.

The Three-Legged Mare, High Petergate, York

The Three-Legged Mare is a pub in High Petergate in York. It is not describing a disabled horse, but a rather macabre reference to gallows with 3 uprights and crosspieces, that could hang multiple felons at one time. Near Wareham in Dorset is a pub called the Silent Woman. I have seen others called the Quiet Woman. In either case the pub sign is generally of a woman holding her decapitated head in her arms.

The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombeleigh, Devon

On Dartmoor, in the little village of Doddiscombsleigh, there is a pub called the Nobody Inn. Apart from being a terrible pun, the story is that this pub takes its name from the unfortunate moment during a former landlord's wake when his coffin was brought back to an empty pub. Near the Tower of London, on Great Tower Street, is a pub somewhat misnamed, The Hung, Drawn and Quartered. Tower Hill was a public execution site and the terrible punishment meted out to those considered traitors, was to be drawn to a place of execution on a hurdle, hung and then quartered. The various bits of the dismembered body being taken to different places in the kingdom to show what happened to traitors.

The Hung Drawn and Quartered, London

Also in London, is the delightfully named I Am the Only Running Footman. The name of this Mayfair pub was given in the late 19th Century, at a time when the job of footman - someone who walked/ran in front of a horse-drawn carriage, acting as a guide - was dying out. One of the last footmen bought a pub to cater for his old footman friends.

I am the Only Running Footman, Mayfair, London

The Drunken Duck Inn, Barngates, Cumbria

In the Lakes District, at Barngates just outside Hawkshead, is The Drunken Duck. In the 19th century the landlady discovered that her flock of ducks had got into the beer cellar, gorged themselves on spilt beer and were apparently dead on the floor. Not wanting to waste them, she started to prepare them for the oven, only to have them waken from their drunken stupor and flap away! Finally, in Nottingham and built against the rock on which the castle sits, is the wonderful Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem. Reputedly built in the 12th century and for a long time known as The Pilgrim, it was a gathering place for pilgrims making the long and arduous journey to Jerusalem. This is one of many pubs claiming to be the oldest in England.

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