A Dictionary of Pub, Inn and Tavern Signs by Colin Waters
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
That title, A Dictionary of Pub, Inn and Tavern Signs is very specific and very correct. That's exactly what this book gives you, an alphabetically arranged list of pub names and words most commonly associated with the trade. So, while enjoyable if you're interested in the topic, this is not super exciting reading.
It's hardly academic either. Just the same, it's thorough enough for the casualness of the topic. I just wish some of the entries were a bit more detailed:
Custom House Found in many coastal towns, these are pubs that were formerly the local customs officer's headquarters.
Soooo, "Custom House" is named after the custom house. Got it.
Some are more detailed, but only slightly:
Cutlers Arms As the name suggests, this sign relates to the cutlery trade and is particularly associated with the Sheffield area, although also found elsewhere.
So, "Cutler's Arms" is in regards to cutler's arms and it's found...in places. Wow.
Jumping off the snark-wagon for fairness's sake, the reader is occasionally given a good, chunky entry like:
Green There are a multitude of green people, animals and objects named on inn signs. The Green Man, a pagan symbol, shows the face of a dead man with greenery growing from its mouth. It symbolizes life springing from death. Jack in the Green is a living personification of the same figure, though some signs show Robin Hood. Green Man and Still is thought to have indicated a publican who was also a herbalist. Uniforms are commonly depicted, as in the Green Coat Boy, an inmate of a home for fatherless children, as opposed to orphans who are remembered in the name Grey Coat Boy. Military connections are found in Green Beret, Green Howard, named after the regiment, Green Jacket and Royal Green Jacket. Quite different are Green Carnation, a reference to the flower habitually worn by Oscar Wilde, Greendale Oak, a large oak tree in Mansfield that had an arch cut through it to accommodate a roadway, Green Dragon, Green Gables, Greengage, the plum, Green Gingerman, a reference to local trade in green ginger, Greenhouse, Greenmantle, a novel by John Buchan (1875-1940), Green Parrot and Green Tree, a colloquial name for the oak.
Entries such as that makes me, a chronic penny-pincher (or pence-pincher in this instance), cringe a little less when I think of the ten pounds I spent on this thing while on vacation with my wife in a little shop in The Shambles in York, UK.
Ratings Note: 3.5 stars
* * * Appendix: Personal Pub Favorites! * * *
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
"Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a public house in the City of London, England, located at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court...at this location since 1538...rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666...The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside visitors will realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms." - Wikipedia
The Cheese is hands down the funnest pub I've ever been to. It's like a playground for pub enthusiasts. On your first visit you'll find it difficult to...well, find. The pub is on a main street, but down a dark, narrow and unassuming alley. Once inside you can actually get lost. Do wander around and investigate the many catacomb-like nooks and numerous floors, especially the crypt-like bar below.
The Golden Fleece
"The Golden Fleece is an inn in York, England, which has a free house pub on the ground floor and four guest bedrooms above. It was mentioned in the York City Archives as far back as 1503. The inn claims to be the most haunted public house in the City of York." - Wikipedia
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
"Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is a public house in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which is one of several that lay claim to being the oldest in England." - Wikipedia
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