Macabre Pub Signs


Watching my friend Paul Davis’s excellent documentary on ‘An American Werewolf In London’ the other night, I was thinking about the pub sign ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ – I have a macabre pub sign in ‘Hell Train’ – and dug out a very odd old book about English pub signs. My favourite, ‘The Last Drop’, featured a man about to hang on the scaffold. Sadly as the remaining pubs we have become eateries, all quirkiness is being removed from these signs and names in order to attract (shudder) families.

‘The Quiet Woman’ is not one I’ve come across before and seems rather offensive, but ‘The Green Man’ is ubiquitous. This forest god has strong connections with the Robin Hood legend, and was the starting point for ‘Bryant & May On The Loose’. Here’s Bryant on the subject;

‘He is George a Green or Herne, the Horned One, also Jack In The Green, the spirit of vegetation. The Green Man is a story that predates Christ. Uniquely, it has its roots in both Pagan and Christian history. The legend tells how the dead Adam had the seeds of the tree of knowledge planted in his mouth. From this mix of fertility and soil grew a sinister god, The Oak King, the Holly King, the Green Man – the symbol of death in life. The Green Man is found in a great many English churches. I read that there are over sixty green men in Exeter Cathedral alone. He appears both in church carvings and at May Day celebrations, as a sort of primevil trickster, a symbol of spiritual rebirth, but also as a vengeful rapist and bloodsucker.

The Green Man is a forest creature with the power to wipe out cities and return them to nature. He destroys men by unleashing natural forces upon them, and reappears when the earth is threatened. He can be benign and healing, but there’s a wildness about him, a dangerous cruelty – and a terrible madness.’

The perfect place for a pint, then.

One comment on “Macabre Pub Signs”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    I’ve wondered about that Brakspear firm. Is it a real variant of the Shakespeare name? The Green Man turns up in a number of children’s fantasy novels including Masefield’s *The Magic Box*, one of the few stories which I prefer in its BBC film version. One series I really enjoyed was *The Dark is Rising* which came out in the late sixties or early 70’s.
    York Minster has some wonderful Green Man t-shirts which almost have a 3 dimension look to them. (available in all sizes, in grey or green colour, or at least were in Sept.’09)
    Herne is sometimes referred to as Herne the Hunter and made the leader of the Wild Hunt, which is probably the source of the Hunt referred to by Nearly Headless Nick in Harry Potter. In his hunter form he wears deer’s antlers.

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