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The Amazing Names of British Pubs

Feb 15, 2022
Arts & Culture
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23
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There are 50,000 pubs in the UK, and their names reveal a lot more than some people think.

In this episode, we explore the history of pub names, what these names can tell us, and tell the origin stories of 8 fascinating pub names, including The Eagle & Child to The Bucket of Blood.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Amazing Names of British Pubs.

[00:00:30] There are just under 50,000 pubs in the United Kingdom, and many of them have amazing names with wonderful stories behind them.

[00:00:39] So in this episode we are going to look at some of the most amazing stories behind some popular pub names in Britain. 

[00:00:48] We’ll learn about the stories of eight different pub names. Names you might know, such as The Royal Oak, and Eagle & Child, and we’ll even look at the stories of some very strange names - The Drunken Duck, The Swan with Two Necks and The Bucket of Blood.

[00:01:08] No matter whether you live in the UK and are a frequent pub goer or you’ve never been to the country and can’t stand the smell of beer, I hope you’ll enjoy this episode, as it is full of unusual stories.

[00:01:22] OK then, The Amazing Names of British Pubs. 

[00:01:29] This episode, as the title suggests, will be specifically about pub names. 

[00:01:35] We released another episode, episode number 111, just on the history of British Pubs, so I’d encourage you to listen to that one if you haven’t done so already.

[00:01:46] But we will start with a very brief history of British pubs, to give you the background before we get into the question of their names.

[00:01:58] Pubs in Britain were first established by the Romans, after they invaded in AD 43. These pubs, which were first called “tabernae”, served food and drink for Roman soldiers, but were soon adopted by the local population too. 

[00:02:17] Initially they served wine, but soon after started to serve the local drink, beer.

[00:02:25] When the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, the pubs stayed.

[00:02:31] These pubs were, compared to today at least, relatively unofficial. 

[00:02:37] Typically one person in a village would be in charge of brewing and selling beer, and people would come to their house to do so. 

[00:02:47] So that people knew where to go, the brewer, the owner of the “pub”, would hang something outside his house to indicate that it was a place people could drink - normally a green bush. 

[00:03:04] They used a green bush because the berries from this bush would be used to add flavour to the beer, so whenever a thirsty traveller saw a green bush, they would know that was a place to get beer.

[00:03:20] Fast forward a few hundred years, to 1393 in fact, and pubs had grown even more popular. 

[00:03:29] If there’s one thing that British people have always liked to do, it’s drink beer.

[00:03:35] These pubs had become so popular that the king wanted a more effective way to collect tax from them, but given that not all of them had names, and there wasn’t a centralised record of them, this wasn’t easy.

[00:03:53] So, in 1393, the king ordered that all pubs needed to put a sign outside their door. 

[00:04:01] This meant that when the royal tax collectors came through, they could find the pubs and their lives would be easier.

[00:04:10] The problem was that in 1393 only a tiny proportion of the population was able to read and write, and most likely the pub landlord wouldn’t have been able to write the sign himself, so what did they do? 

[00:04:26] They created signs with memorable images, and the names followed from that.

[00:04:33] Initially, the signs were typically of obvious things that people would easily identify: The Star, The Bull, The Sheep, and so on.

[00:04:45] But with time, and as new pubs opened, new landlords, new pub owners would name their pubs after what was going on in the country, or in the world, at the time.

[00:04:59] So, if you are in the UK and you see a pub, you can often tell a lot by the sign hanging outside.

[00:05:07] You can take a good guess at when the pub might have been founded, you can often understand the history of an area from the names of its pubs, there is a lot of interesting information you can find just from the name of a pub.

[00:05:24] During the time of the Crusades, for example, it was popular for a pub to call itself The Turk’s Head, The Saracen’s Head or The Lamb & Flag. The lamb, by the way, represents Christ and the flag refers to the flag of the Crusaders.

[00:05:44] Later on there was a boom in the number of pubs called The Rose & Crown, which celebrated the end of the War of the Roses, which happened in 1487.

[00:05:56] When Henry VIII broke with Rome any pubs that had Catholic-sounding names had to change, so The Ark became The Ship, and St Peter became the Crossed Keys.

[00:06:11] You can also see the dominant industry in an area by the names of its pubs. You’ll often find pubs called The Golden Fleece, The Carpenters’ Arms or The Bricklayers’ Arms, for example.

[00:06:25] And then as soon as people started to travel even greater distances around the country you found pub names that appealed to them: The Coach & Horses, The Station Inn or The Horse & Groom, for example.

[00:06:41] So, without further ado, let’s talk about our first British pub name, The Royal Oak. 

[00:06:48] This is actually the third most popular pub name in the country, and it has an interesting history behind it.

[00:06:57] Charles I of England became the first and only English king to be executed in 1649. 

[00:07:04] A couple of years later his son, also called Charles, had tried to lead an army down from Scotland to take back the throne and take revenge on the man he thought was responsible for his father’s death, Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentarians.

[00:07:25] The only problem was that Oliver Cromwell had a large and disciplined army, and Charles the younger was easily overpowered.

[00:07:35] He escaped with his life, but was pursued by the Parliamentarian soldiers. 

[00:07:41] Cromwell had also put a price on Charles’ head - £1,000, about €200,000 in today’s money.

[00:07:52] The soldiers were closing in, they were getting nearer to Charles. 

[00:07:56] He realised that his only chance at survival was to climb up a large oak tree and hide, waiting for the soldiers to leave and praying that they didn’t look up. 

[00:08:10] He hid there all day, while the soldiers searched for him below.

[00:08:15] It worked, he managed to escape to France, and in 1660 he returned and became King Charles II. 

[00:08:24] To commemorate this event, and to honour the tree that saved his life, pubs were named after him. 

[00:08:32] The sign typically has a picture of an oak tree, and in some of the pubs you can even see a little man hiding at the top of the tree. That man was the future king of England. 

[00:08:47] Our second interesting pub name might be particularly amusing to the Italian listeners, as it is, if you are pronouncing the pub name correctly in English, The Garibaldi.

[00:08:59] Of course, in Italian it is pronounced more like Garibaldi, after the revolutionary Italian general, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

[00:09:08] Now, you might be wondering, why are there British pubs named after an Italian revolutionary general?

[00:09:16] Well, it may surprise you to find out that while he was in exile from Italy, Garibaldi actually did a brief tour of Britain, and was greeted as a revolutionary hero.

[00:09:29] He arrived in Tyneside, near Newcastle, in 1854, and was mobbed by adoring fans. He cemented his reputation as a man of the people by mixing not just with local leaders but also by spending time with the working classes.

[00:09:49] He was greeted as a hero everywhere he went. There were huge crowds of people waiting to greet him. There are even accounts of servants taking his used bathwater, his dirty water from his bath, and putting it in little bottles and selling it. 

[00:10:09] And of course, pubs changed their name in his honour.

[00:10:14] Our third pub is one whose name has an interesting story, and in which many no doubt fascinating conversations have happened: The Eagle & Child.

[00:10:26] Let’s start with the story of the name of the pub.

[00:10:29] It is thought to go back to the 14th century, a time where especially noble Englishmen needed to produce a male heir to inherit their title and land. 

[00:10:42] A man called Sir Thomas Latham, however, was having no such luck. He had a daughter but no son, and try as they might, his wife wasn’t able to get pregnant again. 

[00:10:55] He did what was pretty common at the time, and got his maid pregnant.

[00:11:02] She did produce the male heir that Sir Thomas so desperately wanted, but this boy was illegitimate

[00:11:10] So, what did Sir Thomas do? 

[00:11:13] He needed a convincing story, and legend goes that he left the baby under a tree where he had seen eagles nesting, where there was a nest of baby eagles.

[00:11:26] He then pretended to randomly walk past and “discover” this miraculous baby, which he then took home to his wife to adopt as their own.

[00:11:39] The wife reportedly accepted this story and adopted the boy. The child was brought up as their child, and was in line to inherit Sir Thomas’ estate.

[00:11:51] But on his deathbed, just as he was about to die, Sir Thomas confessed that he was actually his illegitimate son, and everything passed to the legitimate daughter.

[00:12:05] And there is one Eagle & Child pub that is particularly famous, and it’s in central Oxford. 

[00:12:12] It’s said that it was the favourite pub of the authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the writers of The Lord of The Rings and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and they would meet there every Friday.

[00:12:27] Next up is a pub called The John Snow, and it is a pub you can find in Soho, in central London.

[00:12:36] If you are a fan of Game of Thrones you might think that this is a reference to one of the characters in that series, but I’m pleased to tell you that this John Snow is significantly more historically important than that one.

[00:12:53] John Snow was in fact the first physician to realise that cholera was an infection carried by dirty water. 

[00:13:03] In London, starting in the 1830s, there had been outbreaks of cholera, and nobody knew what was causing it. It was thought to be dirty air, but John Snow didn’t subscribe to that theory, he didn't believe that that was what it was.

[00:13:22] John Snow made a detailed map of a small area of Central London, and put dots where people had got cholera. He realised that all of the victims would have probably got their water from one particular water pump, and believed that must have been the source of the disease.

[00:13:45] He persuaded the local authorities to remove the handle from the water pump for a short period of time, to see whether this reduced the number of people getting cholera

[00:13:57] It did, and it was later discovered that the well where the water was being pumped from had been contaminated by waste water, and that was where the disease was coming from.

[00:14:10] Although it took some time for Snow’s theory to catch on and to be accepted as how cholera was really transported, he is now remembered as a hero, and fittingly there is a pub right next to where the pump was named after him.

[00:14:28] We are going to move on to some really unusual names now, starting with a couple of not particularly pleasant sounding names.

[00:14:37] First, it’s the Hung, Drawn & Quartered pub. Now, being hung, drawn and quartered was a particularly unpleasant punishment which has fortunately not been bestowed on anyone since 1782.

[00:14:53] Long story short, it involves being hung by your neck, then taken down and bits of you being cut out of your body and then you’re chopped up into four different pieces. 

[00:15:05] Not very nice at all, and it was reserved only for the most serious of crimes, typically treason.

[00:15:13] And it would normally happen in London, either inside or just outside The Tower of London.

[00:15:21] So, if you go to the area of The Tower of London today, to 27 Great Tower Street to be precise, you can enjoy a pint of beer at a pub called The Hung Drawn & Quartered

[00:15:35] The website for the pub reads “Lighter and brighter since its recent refurbishment, it's the ideal spot to reflect on the history of the City.” 

[00:15:46] I’d just advise not thinking too much about what you used to be able to see if you were standing outside this pub several hundred years ago.

[00:15:56] Continuing on our theme of “gory pub names”, next we have The Bucket of Blood, in the village of Pillack in north Cornwall, to the very south west of England.

[00:16:09] Now, Cornwall in the 18th century was a centre for smugglers. It had a large amount of coastline, and as ships would return from India and the far East, many would smuggle goods into Cornwall to avoid having to pay import taxes.

[00:16:28] The government wanted to crack down on smuggling, and so sent tax collectors into Cornwall to investigate. As you might expect, these tax inspectors were not popular. 

[00:16:43] The story goes that one morning, a pub landlord went to collect water from the well nearby and as he pulled his bucket up he looked inside and found the head of an unpopular tax collector, bobbing around in blood. 

[00:17:02] This became a local legend, and in 1980 the new owner of the pub decided to change the name from the slightly boring “New Inn” to “The Bucket of Blood”.

[00:17:16] Now, we have a couple more, and you will be glad to know that they are just unusual, and don’t involve anyone losing their head.

[00:17:25] Our penultimate one, our second last one is The Swan with Two Necks.

[00:17:31] Swans are considered by many cultures to be beautiful, stylish animals. It’s not hard to see why - they glide effortlessly across the water, they have a pristine white colour, they’re good-looking birds.

[00:17:47] And there was a law passed in Britain in the 12th century stating that the swan was a royal bird, and is owned by whoever is king or queen.

[00:17:59] In the sixteenth century, Queen Elizabeth I decided to give a license to two other organisations, the Vintners and the Dyers, to own some swans. These were wealthy organisations that dealt mainly with importing wine from France.

[00:18:18] But how were you meant to see which swans were owned by the Queen, which were owned by the Vintners and which were owned by the Dyers?

[00:18:28] Well, before releasing the birds back into the wild, they made a small cut, a small mark, called a small nick, in the orange beaks of the swans. 

[00:18:40] The swans that were given to the Dyers got one nick, and the swans that were given to the Vintners got two nicks.

[00:18:49] The Vintners, given that they were wine importers and had relationships with lots of pubs, encouraged pubs to put signs outside with swans with two nicks on their beaks, to show that wine from the Vintners was available there.

[00:19:06] But over time, as often happens, language becomes corrupted, and the swan with two nicks became the swan with two necks.

[00:19:17] And our final pub name also involves a bird, this time it is a Drunken Duck, and this is my favourite story of them all.

[00:19:28] Yes, you can go to a pub in Lancashire, in Northern England, called The Drunken Duck.

[00:19:35] It used to be called The Station Hotel, and legend has it that one day the wife of the landlord found a dead duck outside the pub.

[00:19:46] She thought, poor thing, but it’s dead, and it would be nice for lunch.

[00:19:52] So she picked it up, took it inside, put it on the kitchen table, and started plucking it, pulling its feathers out, ready to put it in the oven.

[00:20:04] But as she was doing this, the duck started to wake up. 

[00:20:09] It was nice and warm inside the kitchen, plus someone was pulling all of its feathers out, so it woke up and was understandably pretty surprised and upset at what was going on.

[00:20:23] So was the landlord’s wife, so she went to see what could have happened.

[00:20:28] She saw that a barrel of beer had broken, and the alcohol had spilled out into where the duck was drinking from. 

[00:20:38] The duck wasn't dead, it was drunk, so drunk in fact that it had passed out and looked like it was dead.

[00:20:46] The lady was so sorry about what she had done that she made the now almost naked duck a little jumper to keep it warm. The story got out, people from far and wide came to see this drunken duck, and the pub was renamed in its honour.

[00:21:06] So that is that, a small sample of some of the amazing pub names that you will come across in the UK. 

[00:21:15] My recommendation to you, if you do go to the UK, is to look out for a pub with an unusual name. 

[00:21:23] Go inside, you don’t even need to order anything. Strike up a conversation with the person behind the bar about the name, and I guarantee you it will be a lot more interesting than you think.

[00:21:38] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Amazing Names of British Pubs.

[00:21:45] We have only had the chance to scratch the surface of pub names, and this episode could have been hours long. But I hope it has given you a taste, and perhaps you might even like to continue this research on your own.

[00:22:00] There is a great book, by the way, on British Pub Names, called The Old Dog and Duck, by a guy called Albert Jack, so if you would like to read further into this, then I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy of that.

[00:22:15] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:19] Have you been to a British pub? 

[00:22:21] Do you remember what it was called? 

[00:22:23] And have you been to a pub called any of the names covered in this episode? 

[00:22:28] The Royal Oak is the third most popular pub name in the country, so I’m sure someone out there has…

[00:22:35] Let’s go into this virtual pub and get this discussion started.

[00:22:40] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:49] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:22:54] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Amazing Names of British Pubs.

[00:00:30] There are just under 50,000 pubs in the United Kingdom, and many of them have amazing names with wonderful stories behind them.

[00:00:39] So in this episode we are going to look at some of the most amazing stories behind some popular pub names in Britain. 

[00:00:48] We’ll learn about the stories of eight different pub names. Names you might know, such as The Royal Oak, and Eagle & Child, and we’ll even look at the stories of some very strange names - The Drunken Duck, The Swan with Two Necks and The Bucket of Blood.

[00:01:08] No matter whether you live in the UK and are a frequent pub goer or you’ve never been to the country and can’t stand the smell of beer, I hope you’ll enjoy this episode, as it is full of unusual stories.

[00:01:22] OK then, The Amazing Names of British Pubs. 

[00:01:29] This episode, as the title suggests, will be specifically about pub names. 

[00:01:35] We released another episode, episode number 111, just on the history of British Pubs, so I’d encourage you to listen to that one if you haven’t done so already.

[00:01:46] But we will start with a very brief history of British pubs, to give you the background before we get into the question of their names.

[00:01:58] Pubs in Britain were first established by the Romans, after they invaded in AD 43. These pubs, which were first called “tabernae”, served food and drink for Roman soldiers, but were soon adopted by the local population too. 

[00:02:17] Initially they served wine, but soon after started to serve the local drink, beer.

[00:02:25] When the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, the pubs stayed.

[00:02:31] These pubs were, compared to today at least, relatively unofficial. 

[00:02:37] Typically one person in a village would be in charge of brewing and selling beer, and people would come to their house to do so. 

[00:02:47] So that people knew where to go, the brewer, the owner of the “pub”, would hang something outside his house to indicate that it was a place people could drink - normally a green bush. 

[00:03:04] They used a green bush because the berries from this bush would be used to add flavour to the beer, so whenever a thirsty traveller saw a green bush, they would know that was a place to get beer.

[00:03:20] Fast forward a few hundred years, to 1393 in fact, and pubs had grown even more popular. 

[00:03:29] If there’s one thing that British people have always liked to do, it’s drink beer.

[00:03:35] These pubs had become so popular that the king wanted a more effective way to collect tax from them, but given that not all of them had names, and there wasn’t a centralised record of them, this wasn’t easy.

[00:03:53] So, in 1393, the king ordered that all pubs needed to put a sign outside their door. 

[00:04:01] This meant that when the royal tax collectors came through, they could find the pubs and their lives would be easier.

[00:04:10] The problem was that in 1393 only a tiny proportion of the population was able to read and write, and most likely the pub landlord wouldn’t have been able to write the sign himself, so what did they do? 

[00:04:26] They created signs with memorable images, and the names followed from that.

[00:04:33] Initially, the signs were typically of obvious things that people would easily identify: The Star, The Bull, The Sheep, and so on.

[00:04:45] But with time, and as new pubs opened, new landlords, new pub owners would name their pubs after what was going on in the country, or in the world, at the time.

[00:04:59] So, if you are in the UK and you see a pub, you can often tell a lot by the sign hanging outside.

[00:05:07] You can take a good guess at when the pub might have been founded, you can often understand the history of an area from the names of its pubs, there is a lot of interesting information you can find just from the name of a pub.

[00:05:24] During the time of the Crusades, for example, it was popular for a pub to call itself The Turk’s Head, The Saracen’s Head or The Lamb & Flag. The lamb, by the way, represents Christ and the flag refers to the flag of the Crusaders.

[00:05:44] Later on there was a boom in the number of pubs called The Rose & Crown, which celebrated the end of the War of the Roses, which happened in 1487.

[00:05:56] When Henry VIII broke with Rome any pubs that had Catholic-sounding names had to change, so The Ark became The Ship, and St Peter became the Crossed Keys.

[00:06:11] You can also see the dominant industry in an area by the names of its pubs. You’ll often find pubs called The Golden Fleece, The Carpenters’ Arms or The Bricklayers’ Arms, for example.

[00:06:25] And then as soon as people started to travel even greater distances around the country you found pub names that appealed to them: The Coach & Horses, The Station Inn or The Horse & Groom, for example.

[00:06:41] So, without further ado, let’s talk about our first British pub name, The Royal Oak. 

[00:06:48] This is actually the third most popular pub name in the country, and it has an interesting history behind it.

[00:06:57] Charles I of England became the first and only English king to be executed in 1649. 

[00:07:04] A couple of years later his son, also called Charles, had tried to lead an army down from Scotland to take back the throne and take revenge on the man he thought was responsible for his father’s death, Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentarians.

[00:07:25] The only problem was that Oliver Cromwell had a large and disciplined army, and Charles the younger was easily overpowered.

[00:07:35] He escaped with his life, but was pursued by the Parliamentarian soldiers. 

[00:07:41] Cromwell had also put a price on Charles’ head - £1,000, about €200,000 in today’s money.

[00:07:52] The soldiers were closing in, they were getting nearer to Charles. 

[00:07:56] He realised that his only chance at survival was to climb up a large oak tree and hide, waiting for the soldiers to leave and praying that they didn’t look up. 

[00:08:10] He hid there all day, while the soldiers searched for him below.

[00:08:15] It worked, he managed to escape to France, and in 1660 he returned and became King Charles II. 

[00:08:24] To commemorate this event, and to honour the tree that saved his life, pubs were named after him. 

[00:08:32] The sign typically has a picture of an oak tree, and in some of the pubs you can even see a little man hiding at the top of the tree. That man was the future king of England. 

[00:08:47] Our second interesting pub name might be particularly amusing to the Italian listeners, as it is, if you are pronouncing the pub name correctly in English, The Garibaldi.

[00:08:59] Of course, in Italian it is pronounced more like Garibaldi, after the revolutionary Italian general, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

[00:09:08] Now, you might be wondering, why are there British pubs named after an Italian revolutionary general?

[00:09:16] Well, it may surprise you to find out that while he was in exile from Italy, Garibaldi actually did a brief tour of Britain, and was greeted as a revolutionary hero.

[00:09:29] He arrived in Tyneside, near Newcastle, in 1854, and was mobbed by adoring fans. He cemented his reputation as a man of the people by mixing not just with local leaders but also by spending time with the working classes.

[00:09:49] He was greeted as a hero everywhere he went. There were huge crowds of people waiting to greet him. There are even accounts of servants taking his used bathwater, his dirty water from his bath, and putting it in little bottles and selling it. 

[00:10:09] And of course, pubs changed their name in his honour.

[00:10:14] Our third pub is one whose name has an interesting story, and in which many no doubt fascinating conversations have happened: The Eagle & Child.

[00:10:26] Let’s start with the story of the name of the pub.

[00:10:29] It is thought to go back to the 14th century, a time where especially noble Englishmen needed to produce a male heir to inherit their title and land. 

[00:10:42] A man called Sir Thomas Latham, however, was having no such luck. He had a daughter but no son, and try as they might, his wife wasn’t able to get pregnant again. 

[00:10:55] He did what was pretty common at the time, and got his maid pregnant.

[00:11:02] She did produce the male heir that Sir Thomas so desperately wanted, but this boy was illegitimate

[00:11:10] So, what did Sir Thomas do? 

[00:11:13] He needed a convincing story, and legend goes that he left the baby under a tree where he had seen eagles nesting, where there was a nest of baby eagles.

[00:11:26] He then pretended to randomly walk past and “discover” this miraculous baby, which he then took home to his wife to adopt as their own.

[00:11:39] The wife reportedly accepted this story and adopted the boy. The child was brought up as their child, and was in line to inherit Sir Thomas’ estate.

[00:11:51] But on his deathbed, just as he was about to die, Sir Thomas confessed that he was actually his illegitimate son, and everything passed to the legitimate daughter.

[00:12:05] And there is one Eagle & Child pub that is particularly famous, and it’s in central Oxford. 

[00:12:12] It’s said that it was the favourite pub of the authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the writers of The Lord of The Rings and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and they would meet there every Friday.

[00:12:27] Next up is a pub called The John Snow, and it is a pub you can find in Soho, in central London.

[00:12:36] If you are a fan of Game of Thrones you might think that this is a reference to one of the characters in that series, but I’m pleased to tell you that this John Snow is significantly more historically important than that one.

[00:12:53] John Snow was in fact the first physician to realise that cholera was an infection carried by dirty water. 

[00:13:03] In London, starting in the 1830s, there had been outbreaks of cholera, and nobody knew what was causing it. It was thought to be dirty air, but John Snow didn’t subscribe to that theory, he didn't believe that that was what it was.

[00:13:22] John Snow made a detailed map of a small area of Central London, and put dots where people had got cholera. He realised that all of the victims would have probably got their water from one particular water pump, and believed that must have been the source of the disease.

[00:13:45] He persuaded the local authorities to remove the handle from the water pump for a short period of time, to see whether this reduced the number of people getting cholera

[00:13:57] It did, and it was later discovered that the well where the water was being pumped from had been contaminated by waste water, and that was where the disease was coming from.

[00:14:10] Although it took some time for Snow’s theory to catch on and to be accepted as how cholera was really transported, he is now remembered as a hero, and fittingly there is a pub right next to where the pump was named after him.

[00:14:28] We are going to move on to some really unusual names now, starting with a couple of not particularly pleasant sounding names.

[00:14:37] First, it’s the Hung, Drawn & Quartered pub. Now, being hung, drawn and quartered was a particularly unpleasant punishment which has fortunately not been bestowed on anyone since 1782.

[00:14:53] Long story short, it involves being hung by your neck, then taken down and bits of you being cut out of your body and then you’re chopped up into four different pieces. 

[00:15:05] Not very nice at all, and it was reserved only for the most serious of crimes, typically treason.

[00:15:13] And it would normally happen in London, either inside or just outside The Tower of London.

[00:15:21] So, if you go to the area of The Tower of London today, to 27 Great Tower Street to be precise, you can enjoy a pint of beer at a pub called The Hung Drawn & Quartered

[00:15:35] The website for the pub reads “Lighter and brighter since its recent refurbishment, it's the ideal spot to reflect on the history of the City.” 

[00:15:46] I’d just advise not thinking too much about what you used to be able to see if you were standing outside this pub several hundred years ago.

[00:15:56] Continuing on our theme of “gory pub names”, next we have The Bucket of Blood, in the village of Pillack in north Cornwall, to the very south west of England.

[00:16:09] Now, Cornwall in the 18th century was a centre for smugglers. It had a large amount of coastline, and as ships would return from India and the far East, many would smuggle goods into Cornwall to avoid having to pay import taxes.

[00:16:28] The government wanted to crack down on smuggling, and so sent tax collectors into Cornwall to investigate. As you might expect, these tax inspectors were not popular. 

[00:16:43] The story goes that one morning, a pub landlord went to collect water from the well nearby and as he pulled his bucket up he looked inside and found the head of an unpopular tax collector, bobbing around in blood. 

[00:17:02] This became a local legend, and in 1980 the new owner of the pub decided to change the name from the slightly boring “New Inn” to “The Bucket of Blood”.

[00:17:16] Now, we have a couple more, and you will be glad to know that they are just unusual, and don’t involve anyone losing their head.

[00:17:25] Our penultimate one, our second last one is The Swan with Two Necks.

[00:17:31] Swans are considered by many cultures to be beautiful, stylish animals. It’s not hard to see why - they glide effortlessly across the water, they have a pristine white colour, they’re good-looking birds.

[00:17:47] And there was a law passed in Britain in the 12th century stating that the swan was a royal bird, and is owned by whoever is king or queen.

[00:17:59] In the sixteenth century, Queen Elizabeth I decided to give a license to two other organisations, the Vintners and the Dyers, to own some swans. These were wealthy organisations that dealt mainly with importing wine from France.

[00:18:18] But how were you meant to see which swans were owned by the Queen, which were owned by the Vintners and which were owned by the Dyers?

[00:18:28] Well, before releasing the birds back into the wild, they made a small cut, a small mark, called a small nick, in the orange beaks of the swans. 

[00:18:40] The swans that were given to the Dyers got one nick, and the swans that were given to the Vintners got two nicks.

[00:18:49] The Vintners, given that they were wine importers and had relationships with lots of pubs, encouraged pubs to put signs outside with swans with two nicks on their beaks, to show that wine from the Vintners was available there.

[00:19:06] But over time, as often happens, language becomes corrupted, and the swan with two nicks became the swan with two necks.

[00:19:17] And our final pub name also involves a bird, this time it is a Drunken Duck, and this is my favourite story of them all.

[00:19:28] Yes, you can go to a pub in Lancashire, in Northern England, called The Drunken Duck.

[00:19:35] It used to be called The Station Hotel, and legend has it that one day the wife of the landlord found a dead duck outside the pub.

[00:19:46] She thought, poor thing, but it’s dead, and it would be nice for lunch.

[00:19:52] So she picked it up, took it inside, put it on the kitchen table, and started plucking it, pulling its feathers out, ready to put it in the oven.

[00:20:04] But as she was doing this, the duck started to wake up. 

[00:20:09] It was nice and warm inside the kitchen, plus someone was pulling all of its feathers out, so it woke up and was understandably pretty surprised and upset at what was going on.

[00:20:23] So was the landlord’s wife, so she went to see what could have happened.

[00:20:28] She saw that a barrel of beer had broken, and the alcohol had spilled out into where the duck was drinking from. 

[00:20:38] The duck wasn't dead, it was drunk, so drunk in fact that it had passed out and looked like it was dead.

[00:20:46] The lady was so sorry about what she had done that she made the now almost naked duck a little jumper to keep it warm. The story got out, people from far and wide came to see this drunken duck, and the pub was renamed in its honour.

[00:21:06] So that is that, a small sample of some of the amazing pub names that you will come across in the UK. 

[00:21:15] My recommendation to you, if you do go to the UK, is to look out for a pub with an unusual name. 

[00:21:23] Go inside, you don’t even need to order anything. Strike up a conversation with the person behind the bar about the name, and I guarantee you it will be a lot more interesting than you think.

[00:21:38] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Amazing Names of British Pubs.

[00:21:45] We have only had the chance to scratch the surface of pub names, and this episode could have been hours long. But I hope it has given you a taste, and perhaps you might even like to continue this research on your own.

[00:22:00] There is a great book, by the way, on British Pub Names, called The Old Dog and Duck, by a guy called Albert Jack, so if you would like to read further into this, then I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy of that.

[00:22:15] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:19] Have you been to a British pub? 

[00:22:21] Do you remember what it was called? 

[00:22:23] And have you been to a pub called any of the names covered in this episode? 

[00:22:28] The Royal Oak is the third most popular pub name in the country, so I’m sure someone out there has…

[00:22:35] Let’s go into this virtual pub and get this discussion started.

[00:22:40] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:49] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:22:54] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about The Amazing Names of British Pubs.

[00:00:30] There are just under 50,000 pubs in the United Kingdom, and many of them have amazing names with wonderful stories behind them.

[00:00:39] So in this episode we are going to look at some of the most amazing stories behind some popular pub names in Britain. 

[00:00:48] We’ll learn about the stories of eight different pub names. Names you might know, such as The Royal Oak, and Eagle & Child, and we’ll even look at the stories of some very strange names - The Drunken Duck, The Swan with Two Necks and The Bucket of Blood.

[00:01:08] No matter whether you live in the UK and are a frequent pub goer or you’ve never been to the country and can’t stand the smell of beer, I hope you’ll enjoy this episode, as it is full of unusual stories.

[00:01:22] OK then, The Amazing Names of British Pubs. 

[00:01:29] This episode, as the title suggests, will be specifically about pub names. 

[00:01:35] We released another episode, episode number 111, just on the history of British Pubs, so I’d encourage you to listen to that one if you haven’t done so already.

[00:01:46] But we will start with a very brief history of British pubs, to give you the background before we get into the question of their names.

[00:01:58] Pubs in Britain were first established by the Romans, after they invaded in AD 43. These pubs, which were first called “tabernae”, served food and drink for Roman soldiers, but were soon adopted by the local population too. 

[00:02:17] Initially they served wine, but soon after started to serve the local drink, beer.

[00:02:25] When the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, the pubs stayed.

[00:02:31] These pubs were, compared to today at least, relatively unofficial. 

[00:02:37] Typically one person in a village would be in charge of brewing and selling beer, and people would come to their house to do so. 

[00:02:47] So that people knew where to go, the brewer, the owner of the “pub”, would hang something outside his house to indicate that it was a place people could drink - normally a green bush. 

[00:03:04] They used a green bush because the berries from this bush would be used to add flavour to the beer, so whenever a thirsty traveller saw a green bush, they would know that was a place to get beer.

[00:03:20] Fast forward a few hundred years, to 1393 in fact, and pubs had grown even more popular. 

[00:03:29] If there’s one thing that British people have always liked to do, it’s drink beer.

[00:03:35] These pubs had become so popular that the king wanted a more effective way to collect tax from them, but given that not all of them had names, and there wasn’t a centralised record of them, this wasn’t easy.

[00:03:53] So, in 1393, the king ordered that all pubs needed to put a sign outside their door. 

[00:04:01] This meant that when the royal tax collectors came through, they could find the pubs and their lives would be easier.

[00:04:10] The problem was that in 1393 only a tiny proportion of the population was able to read and write, and most likely the pub landlord wouldn’t have been able to write the sign himself, so what did they do? 

[00:04:26] They created signs with memorable images, and the names followed from that.

[00:04:33] Initially, the signs were typically of obvious things that people would easily identify: The Star, The Bull, The Sheep, and so on.

[00:04:45] But with time, and as new pubs opened, new landlords, new pub owners would name their pubs after what was going on in the country, or in the world, at the time.

[00:04:59] So, if you are in the UK and you see a pub, you can often tell a lot by the sign hanging outside.

[00:05:07] You can take a good guess at when the pub might have been founded, you can often understand the history of an area from the names of its pubs, there is a lot of interesting information you can find just from the name of a pub.

[00:05:24] During the time of the Crusades, for example, it was popular for a pub to call itself The Turk’s Head, The Saracen’s Head or The Lamb & Flag. The lamb, by the way, represents Christ and the flag refers to the flag of the Crusaders.

[00:05:44] Later on there was a boom in the number of pubs called The Rose & Crown, which celebrated the end of the War of the Roses, which happened in 1487.

[00:05:56] When Henry VIII broke with Rome any pubs that had Catholic-sounding names had to change, so The Ark became The Ship, and St Peter became the Crossed Keys.

[00:06:11] You can also see the dominant industry in an area by the names of its pubs. You’ll often find pubs called The Golden Fleece, The Carpenters’ Arms or The Bricklayers’ Arms, for example.

[00:06:25] And then as soon as people started to travel even greater distances around the country you found pub names that appealed to them: The Coach & Horses, The Station Inn or The Horse & Groom, for example.

[00:06:41] So, without further ado, let’s talk about our first British pub name, The Royal Oak. 

[00:06:48] This is actually the third most popular pub name in the country, and it has an interesting history behind it.

[00:06:57] Charles I of England became the first and only English king to be executed in 1649. 

[00:07:04] A couple of years later his son, also called Charles, had tried to lead an army down from Scotland to take back the throne and take revenge on the man he thought was responsible for his father’s death, Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentarians.

[00:07:25] The only problem was that Oliver Cromwell had a large and disciplined army, and Charles the younger was easily overpowered.

[00:07:35] He escaped with his life, but was pursued by the Parliamentarian soldiers. 

[00:07:41] Cromwell had also put a price on Charles’ head - £1,000, about €200,000 in today’s money.

[00:07:52] The soldiers were closing in, they were getting nearer to Charles. 

[00:07:56] He realised that his only chance at survival was to climb up a large oak tree and hide, waiting for the soldiers to leave and praying that they didn’t look up. 

[00:08:10] He hid there all day, while the soldiers searched for him below.

[00:08:15] It worked, he managed to escape to France, and in 1660 he returned and became King Charles II. 

[00:08:24] To commemorate this event, and to honour the tree that saved his life, pubs were named after him. 

[00:08:32] The sign typically has a picture of an oak tree, and in some of the pubs you can even see a little man hiding at the top of the tree. That man was the future king of England. 

[00:08:47] Our second interesting pub name might be particularly amusing to the Italian listeners, as it is, if you are pronouncing the pub name correctly in English, The Garibaldi.

[00:08:59] Of course, in Italian it is pronounced more like Garibaldi, after the revolutionary Italian general, Giuseppe Garibaldi.

[00:09:08] Now, you might be wondering, why are there British pubs named after an Italian revolutionary general?

[00:09:16] Well, it may surprise you to find out that while he was in exile from Italy, Garibaldi actually did a brief tour of Britain, and was greeted as a revolutionary hero.

[00:09:29] He arrived in Tyneside, near Newcastle, in 1854, and was mobbed by adoring fans. He cemented his reputation as a man of the people by mixing not just with local leaders but also by spending time with the working classes.

[00:09:49] He was greeted as a hero everywhere he went. There were huge crowds of people waiting to greet him. There are even accounts of servants taking his used bathwater, his dirty water from his bath, and putting it in little bottles and selling it. 

[00:10:09] And of course, pubs changed their name in his honour.

[00:10:14] Our third pub is one whose name has an interesting story, and in which many no doubt fascinating conversations have happened: The Eagle & Child.

[00:10:26] Let’s start with the story of the name of the pub.

[00:10:29] It is thought to go back to the 14th century, a time where especially noble Englishmen needed to produce a male heir to inherit their title and land. 

[00:10:42] A man called Sir Thomas Latham, however, was having no such luck. He had a daughter but no son, and try as they might, his wife wasn’t able to get pregnant again. 

[00:10:55] He did what was pretty common at the time, and got his maid pregnant.

[00:11:02] She did produce the male heir that Sir Thomas so desperately wanted, but this boy was illegitimate

[00:11:10] So, what did Sir Thomas do? 

[00:11:13] He needed a convincing story, and legend goes that he left the baby under a tree where he had seen eagles nesting, where there was a nest of baby eagles.

[00:11:26] He then pretended to randomly walk past and “discover” this miraculous baby, which he then took home to his wife to adopt as their own.

[00:11:39] The wife reportedly accepted this story and adopted the boy. The child was brought up as their child, and was in line to inherit Sir Thomas’ estate.

[00:11:51] But on his deathbed, just as he was about to die, Sir Thomas confessed that he was actually his illegitimate son, and everything passed to the legitimate daughter.

[00:12:05] And there is one Eagle & Child pub that is particularly famous, and it’s in central Oxford. 

[00:12:12] It’s said that it was the favourite pub of the authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the writers of The Lord of The Rings and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and they would meet there every Friday.

[00:12:27] Next up is a pub called The John Snow, and it is a pub you can find in Soho, in central London.

[00:12:36] If you are a fan of Game of Thrones you might think that this is a reference to one of the characters in that series, but I’m pleased to tell you that this John Snow is significantly more historically important than that one.

[00:12:53] John Snow was in fact the first physician to realise that cholera was an infection carried by dirty water. 

[00:13:03] In London, starting in the 1830s, there had been outbreaks of cholera, and nobody knew what was causing it. It was thought to be dirty air, but John Snow didn’t subscribe to that theory, he didn't believe that that was what it was.

[00:13:22] John Snow made a detailed map of a small area of Central London, and put dots where people had got cholera. He realised that all of the victims would have probably got their water from one particular water pump, and believed that must have been the source of the disease.

[00:13:45] He persuaded the local authorities to remove the handle from the water pump for a short period of time, to see whether this reduced the number of people getting cholera

[00:13:57] It did, and it was later discovered that the well where the water was being pumped from had been contaminated by waste water, and that was where the disease was coming from.

[00:14:10] Although it took some time for Snow’s theory to catch on and to be accepted as how cholera was really transported, he is now remembered as a hero, and fittingly there is a pub right next to where the pump was named after him.

[00:14:28] We are going to move on to some really unusual names now, starting with a couple of not particularly pleasant sounding names.

[00:14:37] First, it’s the Hung, Drawn & Quartered pub. Now, being hung, drawn and quartered was a particularly unpleasant punishment which has fortunately not been bestowed on anyone since 1782.

[00:14:53] Long story short, it involves being hung by your neck, then taken down and bits of you being cut out of your body and then you’re chopped up into four different pieces. 

[00:15:05] Not very nice at all, and it was reserved only for the most serious of crimes, typically treason.

[00:15:13] And it would normally happen in London, either inside or just outside The Tower of London.

[00:15:21] So, if you go to the area of The Tower of London today, to 27 Great Tower Street to be precise, you can enjoy a pint of beer at a pub called The Hung Drawn & Quartered

[00:15:35] The website for the pub reads “Lighter and brighter since its recent refurbishment, it's the ideal spot to reflect on the history of the City.” 

[00:15:46] I’d just advise not thinking too much about what you used to be able to see if you were standing outside this pub several hundred years ago.

[00:15:56] Continuing on our theme of “gory pub names”, next we have The Bucket of Blood, in the village of Pillack in north Cornwall, to the very south west of England.

[00:16:09] Now, Cornwall in the 18th century was a centre for smugglers. It had a large amount of coastline, and as ships would return from India and the far East, many would smuggle goods into Cornwall to avoid having to pay import taxes.

[00:16:28] The government wanted to crack down on smuggling, and so sent tax collectors into Cornwall to investigate. As you might expect, these tax inspectors were not popular. 

[00:16:43] The story goes that one morning, a pub landlord went to collect water from the well nearby and as he pulled his bucket up he looked inside and found the head of an unpopular tax collector, bobbing around in blood. 

[00:17:02] This became a local legend, and in 1980 the new owner of the pub decided to change the name from the slightly boring “New Inn” to “The Bucket of Blood”.

[00:17:16] Now, we have a couple more, and you will be glad to know that they are just unusual, and don’t involve anyone losing their head.

[00:17:25] Our penultimate one, our second last one is The Swan with Two Necks.

[00:17:31] Swans are considered by many cultures to be beautiful, stylish animals. It’s not hard to see why - they glide effortlessly across the water, they have a pristine white colour, they’re good-looking birds.

[00:17:47] And there was a law passed in Britain in the 12th century stating that the swan was a royal bird, and is owned by whoever is king or queen.

[00:17:59] In the sixteenth century, Queen Elizabeth I decided to give a license to two other organisations, the Vintners and the Dyers, to own some swans. These were wealthy organisations that dealt mainly with importing wine from France.

[00:18:18] But how were you meant to see which swans were owned by the Queen, which were owned by the Vintners and which were owned by the Dyers?

[00:18:28] Well, before releasing the birds back into the wild, they made a small cut, a small mark, called a small nick, in the orange beaks of the swans. 

[00:18:40] The swans that were given to the Dyers got one nick, and the swans that were given to the Vintners got two nicks.

[00:18:49] The Vintners, given that they were wine importers and had relationships with lots of pubs, encouraged pubs to put signs outside with swans with two nicks on their beaks, to show that wine from the Vintners was available there.

[00:19:06] But over time, as often happens, language becomes corrupted, and the swan with two nicks became the swan with two necks.

[00:19:17] And our final pub name also involves a bird, this time it is a Drunken Duck, and this is my favourite story of them all.

[00:19:28] Yes, you can go to a pub in Lancashire, in Northern England, called The Drunken Duck.

[00:19:35] It used to be called The Station Hotel, and legend has it that one day the wife of the landlord found a dead duck outside the pub.

[00:19:46] She thought, poor thing, but it’s dead, and it would be nice for lunch.

[00:19:52] So she picked it up, took it inside, put it on the kitchen table, and started plucking it, pulling its feathers out, ready to put it in the oven.

[00:20:04] But as she was doing this, the duck started to wake up. 

[00:20:09] It was nice and warm inside the kitchen, plus someone was pulling all of its feathers out, so it woke up and was understandably pretty surprised and upset at what was going on.

[00:20:23] So was the landlord’s wife, so she went to see what could have happened.

[00:20:28] She saw that a barrel of beer had broken, and the alcohol had spilled out into where the duck was drinking from. 

[00:20:38] The duck wasn't dead, it was drunk, so drunk in fact that it had passed out and looked like it was dead.

[00:20:46] The lady was so sorry about what she had done that she made the now almost naked duck a little jumper to keep it warm. The story got out, people from far and wide came to see this drunken duck, and the pub was renamed in its honour.

[00:21:06] So that is that, a small sample of some of the amazing pub names that you will come across in the UK. 

[00:21:15] My recommendation to you, if you do go to the UK, is to look out for a pub with an unusual name. 

[00:21:23] Go inside, you don’t even need to order anything. Strike up a conversation with the person behind the bar about the name, and I guarantee you it will be a lot more interesting than you think.

[00:21:38] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Amazing Names of British Pubs.

[00:21:45] We have only had the chance to scratch the surface of pub names, and this episode could have been hours long. But I hope it has given you a taste, and perhaps you might even like to continue this research on your own.

[00:22:00] There is a great book, by the way, on British Pub Names, called The Old Dog and Duck, by a guy called Albert Jack, so if you would like to read further into this, then I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy of that.

[00:22:15] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:19] Have you been to a British pub? 

[00:22:21] Do you remember what it was called? 

[00:22:23] And have you been to a pub called any of the names covered in this episode? 

[00:22:28] The Royal Oak is the third most popular pub name in the country, so I’m sure someone out there has…

[00:22:35] Let’s go into this virtual pub and get this discussion started.

[00:22:40] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:49] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:22:54] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]