The Bar Man - What’s in a pub name?
Pubs have always been more than places where people drink. Today many are local landmarks, but think how more important they were when the average person could not read or write.
The pictures on the sign would be easily recognisable, and a great help to anyone giving directions. Some pubs even gave their name to the street on which they stood.
In Lynn, St James Street was known as Three Pigeons Street until 1809, taking its name from the pub which occupied the premises which later became Howard’s clothes shop and is now a food shop.
Given the familiarity and in some cases, historic importance of pub names, I have some sympathy with the view put to me recently that pub names could be listed or that planning permission should be required for a change of name to be allowed.
Locally, the Greyfriars became the Fenman. The Prince of Wales became O’Tools and is now the Ciao International Bar and Club. The Rose and Crown at Massingham is now the Dabbling Duck, the Chequers at Sporle became the Squirrels Drey and is now the Peddars Inn. At West Winch the Winch is sometimes the Sportsman, whilst the Cock down the road was briefly the Billabong when Australian soaps were at the height of their popularity.
So is this a recent phenomenon? No, is the short answer. Pub name changes have been happening for centuries.
The Dukes Head Hotel on Tuesday Market Place was opened in 1689, but it stood on the site of the Griffin, a name that inspired the title of Gryffen’s Bistro which is now part of the building.
The Lord Kelvin, by the bus station, was the Victoria until 1909 and the Retreat was famously the Tilden Smith until 1974. The award for the most changes probably goes to the Oddfellows Arms on Norfolk Street.
You won’t have heard of that as it became the Railway Tavern in 1847, but by 1849 it was known as the Eagle.
The 1851 census lists it as the Spread Eagle, whilst in the 1880s it combined with the pub next door to become the Eagle and Swan.
Possibly confused by all the changes, the locals apparently knew it as Ludby’s, which was the name of one of the yards close by. Bombed in 1942, it was rebuilt and reopened in 1959 once again as the Eagle, but this name was changed to the Chicago Rock Café in the 90s, and when this establishment moved across the road into the old Plowrights shop, and our pub briefly became the Orange House before adopting its current name of Bar Red.
So why do all these changes happen? I guess that the most common reason is a change of ownership and a desire of the new landlord to disassociate himself from a failing enterprise with a poor reputation.
Maybe there is an attempt to attract a different type of customer, with the younger drinkers seemingly more impressed by silly names such as the Dancing Weasel.
I did have one landlady tell me recently that her pub’s name was changed to avoid being chased for the debts of the old enterprise. Plus ça change (plus c’est la même chose).
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Friday 24 May 2013
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