London Pub Names, 1867.


The Trades Directory for 1867 lists the top London trade as being publicans (I do this research so that you don’t have to).

Perusing the directory (peruse it? I can barely lift it) I find a lengthy list of the mid-Victorian period’s most popular pub names. In number one place is The King’s Arms (87) and The King’s Head (60) with the Queen’s Arms and the Queen’s Head following closely behind, it clearly being fashionable to spatchcock the royals into sections.

There are 26 Royal Oaks, 73 Crowns, plus many variants thereof – Crown & Anchors, Crown & Cushions, Crown & Sceptres, Crown & Apple Trees, Crown & Anvils and Crown & Barley Mows. Then we shift down the royalty tree to include Princes Albert, Alfred and Princesses Beatrice Alice before moving onto dukes and duchesses, no barons, and an assortment of lords and ladies.

After that it gets more interesting.

There are a lot of blue things; blue pumps, anchors, lasts, posts and 1 Blue-Eyed Maid. 24 Red Lions herald a bestiary of Dragons, Horses, Monkeys, Harts (deer), Swans, Goats, Spread Eagles and Red Herrings. Three seems to be a lucky number, 3 Tuns, 3 Turks, 3 Compasses, 3 Spies, 3 Castles, 3 Horsehoes etc.

There are lot of professions, Jolly Butchers, Carpenters, Skinners, Hatters, and of course a plethora of naval heroes and naval terms, like The Ship & Billet. The Crooked Billet refers to a bent stick that has fallen from a tree.

Today we have new pubs with pastiche names and sometimes original names. Although The Ape & Bird has lately become a chain, the Camel and Artichoke, The Pregnant Man, the Frog and Radiator, The Pyrotechnists Arms and John the Unicorn are still around, as is The Blacksmith & The Toffeemaker.

I have a fondness for blunt names; The Dog in Archway (as in ‘I’m going up the dog for an hour’) and The Boot, one of several boozers frequented by Charles Dickens, still in Bloomsbury.


17 comments on “London Pub Names, 1867.”

  1. Andrew Holme says:

    My first tentative drinking experiences in my home town of Kendal during the Seventies, often ended up with me spending last orders in The Rifleman’s Arms. I’m honour bound not to reveal his name.

  2. Jo W says:

    Excuse me,Chris, but the Blacksmith and Toffeemaker closed for refurbishment and has reopened as The Dame Alice Owen. That’s where the First Monday Crime Nighters repair to after the meeting now. Next one on Monday 2nd.Dec.
    Apparently Dame Alice was a benefactress in the area back a few hundred years, poor school and almshouses and such.
    We’ll check it hasn’t changed its name again on Monday.

  3. Dave Johnson says:

    Chris, you’ve occasionally mentioned ‘The Nun and the Broken Compass’. Is there a joke connected to this?


  4. Dave Johnson says:

    Chris, you’ve occasionally mentioned ‘The Nun and the Broken Compass’. Is there a joke connected to this?


  5. admin says:

    There was a joke about the Nun & Broken Compass but I’ve forgotten it, as in that 60s novelty song, ‘All together’.
    ‘The Dame Alice Owen’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. I should have known that as I passed it last night!

  6. Peter Tromans says:

    I’m sure the Nun and Compass gets non-PC when the woman loses her way. A very non-PC is The Labour in Vain. Even as a child back in the 1950s, I felt a bit uncomfortable when my mother explained the name and the activity with the wash tub on the pub window.

  7. Roger says:

    It may have closed or been renamed now, but there used to be a pub in West Kendington called “The Live and Let Live”, which was infamous for the fights in its bar.

  8. Brian Evans says:

    I know this is a bit crass, but in the North West there is a newish chain of pubs that start with “cock”. Yes, I know, you can hear it gallop towards you. Their latest, in Seaforth Liverpool (a port-geddit?), is “The Cock and Seamen”. Their first which opened a few years ago is “The Cock and Pullet” Ahem.

  9. Peter Dixon says:

    In my neck of the woods we had a chemical industry, started by salt pans, from the 1200s. We ended up with Victorian pubs with names like ‘The Alum House’, ‘The Alkali’, ‘The White Lead’ and ‘The Magnesia Bank.’. Also pubs named after coalminers; ‘The Rising Sun’ and ‘The Colliery Tavern.’

    The names of local industries for pubs seem to have been lost; where are ‘The Call Centre’, or ‘The Amazon Distribution Centre’ ?

    Pubs used to reflect the area where they existed. Now I’ve seen a dozen local boozers converted into flats, convenience stores, offices, amusement arcades – you name it.

    V sad.

  10. Ian Luck says:

    I recently had several fine drinks in a pub/brewery that had once been a branch of the Midland Bank. Lovely pub – but slightly depressing – around the walls were literally dozens of brilliant old photos; each depicting a pub that had vanished from Ipswich. If such a thing can be said to be ‘sobering’, this was it. For a small place, we had a hell of a lot of boozers. I know Norwich was famed for it’s 365 pubs, but we couldn’t have been far off. I do hope that, in the future, the pub still exists. People still need a space for a good beer, or a Gooseberry Gin or two, and a space in which to talk utter bollocks with their mates. I know I do.

  11. Ian Luck says:

    My favourite pub name comes from the pages of ‘Viz’ comic. It’s their go-to pub name, which has with it the suggestion that it’s not the sort of venue that hosts poetry nights:
    ‘The Dog And Hammer’. Blunt, brutal, and perfect. A real ‘Would you mind collecting your teeth from the car park, mate?’ sort of boozer.

  12. Peter Dixon says:

    We had a pub called ‘The Seine Boat’ but it was so rough that everyone knew it as ‘The Flying Stool’
    Its now a convenience store.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    I love the Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker for the contrast between the two hammers, but the locally named ones usually give you either history or geography. All the references to local notables in the (blank’s) Arms and the references to King Charles I like the oak tree ones and Richard II’s deer. Pub keeper’s seem to like commenting on things seen.

  14. Ian Luck says:

    One of the most surreal and funny TV sketches I’ve ever seen, was by Alexei Sayle. It was about people being saved from highwaymen by ‘The Marquis Of Granby’. When he appeared you thought that it would be a dashing, heroic figure – but no. It was a pub on horseback. The utter silliness of this made me cry with laughter. That some poor sod had to wear a huge model of a pub, and ride a horse, is not lost on me, and it was brilliant. The real Marquis Of Granby was a very popular figure, and there are/were many pubs bearing his name in the UK.

  15. Dave Johnson says:

    We, in San Francisco, featured a pub named “The Dog’s Bollox” for several years. The name has been recently changed to something pc. Could it be us Yankees are more staid than you Brits?

    Dave Johnson

  16. admin says:

    Possibly, Dave. Bollox being spelled differently, in this context it means ‘the dog’s mistake’.
    There’s a baron Barcelona called simply ‘Bollocks’, but then there’s also a restaurant there called ‘My Fucking Restaurant’. Those crazy Catholics.

  17. Ian Luck says:

    Then of course there’s the Irish term ‘Bollix’, meaning an idiot, as used on ‘Father Ted’, usually by the terrifying Bishop Brennan, when Dougal calls him Len.
    “Ye great Bollix!”

Comments are closed.