Some years ago, on a short visit to London, I started noticing the signs on all the pubs I was passing as I explored the Covent Garden area. My knowledge of the British pub is mostly based on the Queen Vic of Walford in the BBC soap Eastenders. So many of them, though, have such creative signs that, on that grey day, I took a picture of each pub sign I passed. Here is a selection:
Many are royalty or nobility-related, like The Prince of Wales, above. The sign, according to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, represents the Prince of Wale’s heraldic badge, made up of three ostrich feathers in a gold crown with a ribbon reading “Ich dien” which means “I serve” in German.
The Marquess of Anglesey, below, is also named after a prominent historical figure.
While the Prince of Wales dates to the Victorian period, the Marquess of Anglesey has been a pub (under different names) since 1663. The Marquess commanded the cavalry and artillery at the battle of Waterloo in 1815, according to the pub’s website.
I find the Angel and Crown, below, particularly intriguing; what is the message here? That royalty is divine?
In case you can’t read it, the scroll that the angel is holding reads, “We shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” This is from Psalms 91:11 and appears to be about how God will help those who believe and pray. Perhaps this was a message to the King that he should be God-fearing? Or to the people getting drunk every night in the pub?
This guy, presumably named Salisbury, looks like he’s pretty grumpy about posing for the sign:
According to The Salisbury’s website, it was named in honor of the third Marquis of Salisbury, who was also Queen Victoria’s favorite Prime Minister. The site was leased from him in 1892: trying to keep the owner sweet!
As well as a decorative sign, many pubs have cheerful window boxes with colorful flowers:
The Seven Stars is believed to be the oldest pub in London, predating the Great Fire of London in 1666. According to its history site, the name comes from “The League of Seven Stars,” which refers to the Netherlands. Supposedly the Dutch link is that the area was a port on the River Fleet and Dutch sailors lived nearby.
The George’s sign was also surrounded by cheerful flowers:
This one seemed unusual to me because it doesn’t involve either an animal or a person:
According to Wikipedia, there’s a Hand & Racquet near Wimbledon as well. The Latin on the sign translates as “Let the worlds always watch the world.” I’m not sure what that has to do with tennis.
And this one made me wonder who Nell was:
The pub’s website explains that it was named after Nell Gynne, Charles II’s mistress in the late 17th century. Supposedly a tunnel connects the pub to the Theatre Royal across the street, and Charles used it to visit her.
I think the next was my favorite sign that day, though, because the artist thought outside the box, making it three-dimensional:
I found their website with some difficulty because, unfortunately, they’ve changed the sign: the new one is much less three-dimensional. The pub dates back to the late 17th century.
Next time you’re in London, notice the signs on the pubs—and believe me, there are many of them!