Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Badge of honour

Military medal buffs will recognise this at the 1914 Star (or ‘Mons Star’), here gilded and with added colour in true Nicholsons style. This is the campaign medal awarded to those members of the British Expeditionary Force serving in France and Belgium between 5 August and 22 November 1914.
Survivors of this phase of the war took to referring to themselves as ‘The Old Contemptibles’ after a supposed order of Wilhelm II referring to General French’s ‘contemptible little army’.
The local branch of the Old Contemptibles Association used to meet in this pub, then known as the Albion Hotel, which was renamed in their honour in 1953.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Arms and the Coronet

Lots of interesting detail in this one. We’ll start at the back, with the ‘castle’ part. The tower is Guy’s Tower, part of Warwick Castle, completed in 1395. The smaller, slit windows are original, but the larger ones at the top date from 1642, during the English Civil War, when they were widened to allow cannons to be fired from the tower. So, a small anachronism, there.
Now the ‘crown’. The headgear that this chap is sporting may look like a crown to the layman, but in fact it’s a coronet, specifically the coronet of an earl (without its cap of maintenance), which in heraldry (and here) comprises eight strawberry leaves (four visible) and eight silver balls (five visible).
This is just one clue to the identity of the fearsome-looking chap who dominates the sign. He is an earl, and probably a local one. The second, and perhaps more prominent clue, is the shield, which bears the arms of Neville (gules a saltire argent) differenced by a label of three points compony (or gobony) argent and azure. This, then, must be Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known to history as ‘the Kingmaker’, the differencing being in honour of his Lancastrian/Beaufort descent via his paternal grandmother, Joan Beaufort. And indeed these arms appear in the 3rd quarter of Richard Neville’s full achievement.
It seems such a shame, then, that having got the heraldry more or less right, the sword and armour are hopelessly anachronistic, belonging more to the late 12th century/early 13th century than the mid-15th. In fact the sword looks remarkably similar this modern replica, with 12th-century blade style and 13th-century crossguard.

When I returned in April 2015 I found the pub converted to a hotel, and the previous decent-ish sign replaced with this rubbish one:

Monday, 28 November 2011

Mixed-up prior(it)ies

The Priory, St Neots
St Neots used to have a priory, but this isn’t it: theirs was largely pulled down after the Dissolution and no trace now remains. What adorns this sign is a heavily processed but still identifiable picture of Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk.

Monday, 14 November 2011


The Engine, Baldock

Now I may be a bit of an anorak about some things (heraldry, beer, pubs spring to mind), but trains aren’t my thing at all. So for this one I had to consult my mate Pete Wiffin, landlord of the Live & Live in Cambridge. Within a split second of seeing the photograph he had identified this as LNER 1306, a Thompson Type B1 locomotive (which I suppose means something to somebody), now bearing the nameplate ‘Mayflower’.

The engine still exists, in LNER livery, as can be seen in this photo, from a similar angle, although this is a little inauthentic as it wasn’t delivered until after nationalisation, and the Mayflower was a different locomotive altogether. Also, given that it saw most of its service in and around Hull and Bradford, I doubt it ever went near Baldock in its working life, but it’s a charming little sign nonetheless. I hope it doesn’t just get lobbed into a skip should Greene King get round to ‘refurbishing’ the place.

Baldock station building itself, viewed from about the same point, now looks like this:

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Clone Roses

Rose & Crown, Baldock
With this being one of the most common pub names in the country, you can’t blame people for wanting to do something a bit different with it. And this is certainly not like your usual depiction – for one thing, no one else has ever chosen a dog rose that I can think of. It's a decent enough painting, but what’s wrong with a good old Tudor rose, that's what I'd like to know.
However, in these cost-conscious times, just because it’s a bit different doesn’t mean that it can’t then be replicated, it seems: the same design is also used in Hundon, Suffolk; Bury St Edmunds; Feckenham, Worcester; Bocking, Essex, as well as recently on the now deceased Rose and Crown, Cambridge. Here, however, it has been flipped. Which is one easy way of differentiating it, I suppose.

Out with the New (Inn). . .

The very lovely sign that used to hang outside this pub when it was called the New Inn was replaced in the October 2100 refurbishment and rebranding with this.
It’s very much in line with GK’s current corporate look, and I spent the rest of the day cursing their philistinism in ditching something interesting for something so bland. However, unlike some of their recent efforts, in itself it’s not all bad as a sign for this establishment.
You see, the chap depicted here actually has a connection with the building. He is Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland (this image based on a portrait by Van Dyke). On 10 July 1648 he was leader of a small Royalist force that was camped in the market square. They were surprised and defeated by a group of Roundheads crossing the bridge, Henry himself being captured in this very inn where he had spent the night. His ghost is said to haunt the building.
So, although I lament the loss of a particularly interesting sign (I hope it found a good home, and was not just tossed carelessly into a skip), at least its replacement shows a little research and relevance to the building from which it hangs.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Arms and the name

Burke’s General Armory of England, Scotland and Wales has ten entries for Pemberton, mostly from the north east of England, all of which comprise an argent field charged with a chevron and three buckets (or in one case, three gryphon heads) of various colours, except for one, which has a single bucket and no chevron.
The quartered arms depicted here aren’t listed by Burke, but they are the arms of the Pembertons of the nearby Trumpingon Estate (as far as I can gather, the last vestige of the old manor). It seems that they derive from one Robert Pemberton of St Albans (d. 1578), whose crest was a dragon’s head couped sable.
The estate has been in Pemberton hands since it was sold to Sir Francis Pemberton, serjeant-at-law, in 1676.[1] There are two interesting notes about this inheritance: it is entailed, which means that it cannot be sold or disposed of; and it passes ‘name and arms’, which means that if a daughter inherits (as has happened frequently in this case over the generations), her husband must take her surname for himself and his issue if he wishes the right to bear the arms.
(With thanks to Jackson D Pemberton, of The Pemberton Family World Wide, for his generous help with my investigations.)
[1] From: 'Parishes: Trumpington', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8 (1982), pp. 248-267. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66760  Date accessed: 08 September 2011.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

It's just not cricket!

For many years, possibly since about 1840 (although the earliest reference in a directory that I have found is in 1852), the pub on the corner of Melbourne Place and Prospect Row has been known as The Cricketers (Inn), the name obviously relating to nearby Parker’s Piece, a 25-acre green famous in the mid 19th century as, amongst other things, a cricket ground.[1]
Most recently it had nice, colourful, eye-catching sign:

Those who remember the old ‘Charles Dickens’ £10 note (in circulation from 1992 until 2003) might recognise it: the cricket match between the Dingley Dellers and All Muggleton in Chapter 7 of The Pickwick Papers.
However, before it was known as The Cricketers, it was known as The First and Last – certainly a pub of that name on Prospect Row is listed in Robson’s Commercial Directory of 1839 (it is said that the pub was built in 1838), but not in any subsequent directories. At the time, that would not be an unreasonable name, as the eastward expansion of Cambridge had not reached much further than that, aside from a small development where the Grafton Centre now sits, and it would be the first or last public house arrived at in that direction.[2]
It seems a rather less apt name now, in 2011, when it’s right in the middle of a web of streets forming part of the ‘Kite’ and there are other pubs close by in all directions, but that is what it has just been renamed as in its recent refurbishment. The minds of branding consultants move in mysterious ways. . .
Of course, with a refurbishment and a new name comes a new sign. This ‘thing’:
Now, that may look nice on a wall with beers, food menu or forthcoming attractions noted on it in chalk, or even as a place mat, given the new emphasis on the dining experience; but it’s hardly eye-catching from a distance – not so much a pub signboard as an empty blackboard on a pole. The only thing it's likely to be first in is a competition to find Cambridge’s Boringest Pub Sign.
Sorry Greene King, but that’s another great big FAIL.
[1] Gardner’s History, Gazetteer & Directory of Cambridgeshire, 1851, p. 182. As well as cricket, it is worth noting, undergraduates of the university were also playing ‘football’ on the Piece at about this time, the Cambridge Rules of 1848 forming the basis of what later became Association Football.
[2] See Baker’s Map of the University and Town of Cambridge, 1830.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Imperial Travesty

After being known as the Globe since at least 1869, this pub gained a new name when it joined the same stable as the Empress in late 2010. Nothing wrong with pubs changing their name, of course – well, so long as the new name is appropriate and not silly. (Slug and Lettuce, anyone? No, thought not.) And I can see why the new ‘brother’ pub of the Empress should be renamed to mark its adoption, even if it’s not as venerable a pub name as the Globe.
So, which emperor to choose? Well, as the Empress takes its name from Queen Victoria, Empress of India, her successors might be good candidates. But aside from George V, who actually went to India to be crowned Emperor, none have particularly ‘imperial’ associations to the modern mind. There is the Emperor Napoleon, of course, but that probably wouldn’t go down too well. Probably someone Roman, then, they had emperors, didn’t they? How about this one?
This is a fancifully flattering statue of Julius Caesar by Nicola Coustou (9 January 1658 – 1 May 1733), now in the Louvre. Everyone knows about Julius Caesar, don’t they? Veni, vedi vici, invaded Britain, Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, knobbliest Roman of them all, et tu, Brute, ‘Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me’ and all that. He’ll be ideal, won’t he?
One teeny-weeny problem, though: Julius Caesar was never emperor. (He may have been granted the title ‘imperator’, but that is not the same as our understanding of the word ‘emperor’.)
Oh, and I always thought that the imperial colour was purple, not this horrendous green.

Oops Acropolis!

The Bath House (formerly The Bath Hotel) sits in a Grade II listed 17th-century building, with reworked 18th-century frontage. So when Greene King decided to replace the former generic signboard, it must have seemed so obvious to go for something classical – this is Cambridge, after all. Perhaps a Roman bath, then?
Not a bit of it. What we actually have is this:
It’s a detail from the south-east corner of the temple of Athena Nike on the Athenian Acropolis. Not a bath-house, not Roman, and nothing to do with the building or Cambridge whatsoever.
If (polite) words failed me about the Hippodrome, March, I am left completely speechless by this idiocy.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Through the Looking-Glass

The queen in question is, of course, Victoria, and this sign is based on a portrait of the young queen painted by Sir Frances Grant in 1843.
It’s nicely painted, but for some reason it has been done in mirror image, as the direction of the sash gives away (the Garter sash or riband should be worn over the left shoulder, not the right).

Monday, 4 July 2011

County doesn't seem to matter after all

An update to the very first post on this blog, about the sign that started it all off. Because there is a new one:
I’m not very impressed with it. First, gone is the old Arms of the old county on the bracket, to be replaced by some rather clunky Everards branding. Admittedly it was looking more than a little weather-beaten, but I know which of the two I would rather have on there.
Then there’s the picture itself:
This looks like a fairly faithful reproduction of what was there before, except that the colours have changed, and become more intense. This means that what should be yellow (Or) is now more of a Dale Winton orange, which is not an heraldic tincture. And the crossed keys around the neck of the dexter supporter should be silver (Argent) and gold (Or), although that was wrong in the previous sign as well.

Small details, perhaps. But would Everards be so cavalier if it were the Arms of Leicestershire CC rather than Cambridgeshire?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Seeing double

In my last post I commented on a Greene King sign that had had a degree of thought put into it. More often than not, however, especially with common names, they resort to stock images. This means that a number of pubs have more or less identical signs. For instance . . .
OK, there’s no direct route and there’s a river between them, but still, as the crow flies they're barely three-quarters of a mile apart. Didn’t anyone notice?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Health to the sign-painter

I like this sign, a lot of thought has gone into it. Which is unusual for Green King.
As I’m sure everyone can recognise, it is made up of elements of William Hogarth’s Beer Street (the slightly less-famous companion to Gin Lane). That in itself is enough to endear it to me, but there’s more to find in the detail.
In the original, although hard to make out, the sign-painter is putting the finishing touches to a sign for an alehouse or tavern called ‘Health to the Barley Mow’, a detail that is preserved in this sign:
However, the picture on the sign is different. In the original, we can just make out a circle of happy farm labourers dancing around a hayrick at the end of a successful harvest, with another ‘reveller’ (as they call them in newspapers these days) standing atop it.
Here we have a rider, who looks to be masked like a highwayman, taking a drink from a stirrup cup from an attending servant.
I presume this is a reference to Dick Turpin: we’re not far from Huntingdon, where he certainly did hang out for a while, and the old Great North Road, scene of his mythical ride from London to York. A number of old inns nearby claim that he used to frequent them, but I can’t find any reference to a claim on the part of this one. It is reputed to be haunted, but not by Turpin.
Some other points in passing. There are two versions of the original print, and the second is the better known. In it, the burley blacksmith is raising in his left hand a haunch of good British mutton or ham. I prefer the first version, in which he is ejecting a scrawny Frenchman! Here he’s just holding a rolled-up piece of paper, for no obvious reason.
The Union Flag flying from the church (St Martin-in-theFields) is the post-1801 version, with the Cross of St Patrick included. Beer Street was published in 1751, and Hogarth died in 1764, so this is a slight anachronism. But that's a very minor quibble in what is otherwise a very captivating and thoughtful signboard.

Sadly, in October 2011 this most excellent of signs was replaced by this corporate blandness.

Details about this sign here.

What the Fawkes?!

The ‘King’s Head Tavern’, Midsummer Common, Cambridge
OK, this isn’t a ‘real’ pub sign, belonging instead to one of the bars at this year’s Strawberry Fair. But even so, what the hell is it meant to be? Charles I wearing a V for Vendetta-style Guy Fawkes mask? Is someone trying to be clever? Tavern, indeed. . . It's a marquee!
I went to the real ale bar instead. And ended up drinking Pickled Pig cider because there was no dark beer on offer and I can't bear all that hoppy, citrus-y Oakham stuff that seems to be all the rage at the moment.

Update: The King's Head, Yarmouth, IoW has a very similar sign, only without the Fawkes/V for Vendetta nonsense.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Berks’ heraldry

I’m sure most people have encountered those business that peddle items emblazoned with ‘your family coat of arms’, determined purely by surname, not by any genealogical research. With the Court of Chivalry no longer sitting, this can be regarded as a harmless bit of fun, appealing to the gullible and the heraldically ignorant (online ones particularly aimed at the American market, it seems, about which I make no further comment) – but on no account should they or their dubious claims be taken seriously.
The Kingston Arms currently has this on its signboard.
When I first saw it, I was puzzled. ‘What has the Duchy of Brabant to do with this pub?’ I wondered. But a little searching reveals that it’s nothing to do with the Low Countries at all: a number of these ‘family heraldry’ companies offer this as the coat of arms belonging to the surname Kingston. No pedigree, no genealogy, just the shield: sable a lion rampant or.
But does it have anything to do with the pub?
Of course not! It took a little intelligent digging (more than went into the selection of this device for the pub, obviously), but I finally found out that the Kingston family entitled to bear these arms were lords of one of the manors of Kingston Bagpuize in far-away Berkshire (Oxfordshire since 1974). The line became extinct in 1515 and the manor was sold out of the family in 1545. Well, at least there’s no one alive to challenge the appropriation of their arms.
The Kingston from whom the street and the pub take their respective names was in fact one Thomas Kingston, known locally as ‘Miser’ Kingston, who owned houses in nearby Sleaford Street. He wore shabby clothes, had a long beard, and frightened children, apparently. He also had a reputation for watering the farm workers’ beer, which is not really the sort of reputation that a self-respecting pub would want to associate itself with, but there you go.
He was not, however, an armiger, so the very name of the pub is a bit fake to start with, a fakery which the present sign compounds.
Gray, R., and D. Stubbings, Cambridge Street-names: Their origins and associations. CUP 2000

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Couldn’t give it away

According to the pub’s web site, ‘The pub got its name from when part of it was a printing press which circulated a free Cambridge newspaper. Unfortunately for them it lasted one issue, but the name survived.’
Exactly when this was it doesn’t say, but there has been a pub on this site, apparently of that name, since at least 1851 (Gardner’s Directory).

Unknown soldier

The first building to go up on what is now Russell Court/Russell Street, in 1835, was a brewery – they had their priorities right in them days! Whatever it had been called before, by 1859 it had been named after the Battle of the Alma (September 20, 1854), which is often considered the first battle of the Crimean War (1853–1856). A new brewery was built behind a few years later, and the old brewery building became the brewery tap (which had been licensed as a beerhouse since at least 1860).[1]
The present sign depicts a British soldier, stood beneath a Red Ensign (which is primarily a non-military naval flag, so I’ve no idea what it’s meant to be doing here), smoking a pipe and surveying the field after the battle. But is it any old soldier?
Well, although not depicted in ay great detail, he does seem to be wearing the uniform of the Royal Welch Fusiliers as it was at the time of the battle. One of their number, Colour Sergeant Luke O’Connor, although himself wounded, continued to carry the Queen’s Colour throughout the battle. For this, and for other actions during the war, he was later awarded the Victoria Cross, the first soldier to receive this honour. So perhaps this is him, the red ensign is standing in for the Queen’s Colour, being rather easier to paint.[2] Sgt O’Connor has no connection with Cambridge, though. But the commander of the 1st Division (Guards and Highland brigades) at the battle was Prince George, the then 2nd Duke of Cambridge (fourth creation, 1801).
If there is an original painting on which sign is based, and if I ever manage to track it down, that may clear up a few things.
[1] Flood, B., Cambridge Breweries, Cambridge Society for Industrial Archaeology and CAMRA, 1987.
[2] See this photograph of a modern reenactment group, including the Queen’s Colour.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The crux of the matter

The Clarendon Arms, Clarendon Street, Cambridge 
These are the arms of the Villiers family, Baronets since 1619, and from 1776 Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation):
ARMS: Argent on a cross Gules five escallops Or.
CREST: A lion rampant Argent ducally crowned Or.
SUPPORTERS: Two eagles wings endorsed Sable, ducally crowned Or, charged on the breast with a plain cross Or.
MOTTO: Fidei Coticula Crux (The Cross is the touchstone of Faith).
The eagles look more like angry blackbirds to me, but otherwise that’s a pretty accurate representation.
The pub, like the street it’s on, is named in honour of the 4th Earl, George Villiers, a distinguished politician and diplomat – and a Cambridge man, to boot!

Gray, R., and D. Stubbings, Cambridge Street-names: Their origins and associations. Cambridge, CUP 2000

Any Port(land) in a storm

These are the arms of the Cavendish-Bentinck family, dukes of Portland. The blazon is given by Nottinghamshire History as follows (with some tweaks by me) : 
ARMS: Quarterly 1st and 4th, azure, a cross moline argent, for BENTINCK; 2nd and 3rd, sable*, three stags' heads caboshed argent, attired or**, a crescent for difference***, for CAVENDISH.
CRESTS: 1. Out of ducal coronet gold, two arms counter-embowed, vested gules, on the hands gloves or, each holding an ostrich feather argent****, for BENTINCK. 2. On a wreath argent and sable, a snake nowed proper*****, for CAVENDISH.
SUPPORTERS: Two lions double queued, the dexter or the sinister sable.
MOTTO: Craignez honte (Fear shame)
* Purpure in this representation, for some reason.
** Not here.
*** Missing in this version.
**** Looks more like a Morris dancer’s handkerchief to me
***** Here argent. Doesn't look much like a snake, either, so maybe the artist didn't quite know what it was meant to be.
The present neo-Georgian building, designed by Basil Oliver, dates from the 1930s, although there has been a pub of that name on this site since at least 1852. That would correspond with the 4th Duke of Portland:, though why he should be honoured with a pub in Cambridge is anyone’s guess. It may be older, and go back to the 3rd Duke , who enjoyed an illustrious political career and is a more likely candidate.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Any fort in a storm

The Fort had a substantial renovation in 2008, which of course included a new sign. You’d think they might have gone for a picture of the Fort St George (in India), from which the place derives its name, wouldn’t you? But no, that would be too obvious (or require too much research). Instead we are treated to this rather dull image of some curtain walls with a generous sprinkling of mural towers:
Now maybe it’s because of all those Westerns I used to watch as a kid, but that’s not the image my mind conjures up when I hear the word ‘fort’: these are clearly defensive walls of a city or a substantial castle. At first I used to think that it wasn’t based on anything in the real world (and did rather wonder what the sign-painter had been drinking), but then I found a photograph of the walls of Ávila looked strikingly familiar. That’ll be the Ávila in Castilla y Leon, then. In Spain. Not England. Not India. Spain. And so far as I know, it has no connection with St George, either.
Well done, Greene King!
For the record, the sign it replaced looked like this:
The arms and supporters are clearly fanciful (forts cannot be armigerous entities), and the motto is that of a family by the name of St George (who appear to be Irish, so far as I can discover), presumably found in a book or on the internet. It was quite nice, though.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Take it to the bridge

The Bridge (sometime Bridge Hotel) sits handily next to the bridge over the Cam at Clayhithe. So you’d think their sign might have a picture of said bridge, wouldn’t you? Except . . . Well, it cannot be denied that the present bridge, built in 1939, is not terribly beautiful, so you could understand why that idea might not appeal very much:
Clayhithe bridge, from the south
Instead they’ve gone for this:
It is, as anyone familar with Cambridge will know, the covered bridge over the Cam in St John’s College, known as the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, connecting Third Court and New Court.
It’s the right river, it’s rather more attractive, and it’s only a few miles upstream. But aside from that, does it have anything to do with Clayhithe? Well, surprisingly, yes, it does.
You see, Clayhithe lies within the parish of Horningsea, whose living has been in the patronage of St John’s (then the Hospital of St John) since early in the 14th century. So it might not be quite such a random choice as first appears.
Incidentally, the previous sign looked like this:
Altogether a more characterful effort and, while it doesn’t look like the actual bridge either, it does have a narrowboat, of which there are many phutt-phutting along the river at this point.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

By George!

Spoilt for choice with Georges, really, with six kings and any number of dukes and other aristocrats to pick from. Here Greene King have plumped for something based on a portrait of George II in his coronation regalia by Thomas Hudson, which I suppose is as good a choice as any. Nicely done, anyway.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Arms and the queen

One of Greene King’s better efforts, this, showing that they can come up with something attractive and accurate if they try.
These are the Arms of Alexandra Carolina Marie Charlotte Louise Julia, Princess of Denmark, Queen Consort to Edward VII and Empress of India. As Queen Consort (later Queen Dowager/Queen Mother) rather than Queen Regnant, her Arms are the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom impaled with the Arms of her father, King Christian IX of Denmark, which are the Danish Royal Arms of 1819–1903 – hence the woodwose acting as the sinister supporter. (The tale of the complexity of the Danish Royal Arms is a saga in itself.)
The pub predates her husband’s accession in 1901, but has been known as the Alexandra Arms since at least 1879 (Post Office Directory), by which time Alexandra was already proving a popular Princess of Wales.

Monday, 18 April 2011

What the dickens?!

The Charles Dickens, Quai de la Douane, Bordeaux
(OK, this isn't in England as such, but as far as I'm concerned any bit of the Angevin Empire still counts, Battle of Castillon notwithstanding.)
Wandering round Bordeaux last September (as you do) my eyes were irresistibly drawn to this:
Er, yes, well. If you can bear to look closely (but I don’t recommend it for long), you will see that the not-at-all anachronistic Routemaster bus (which seems to be going the wrong way round Parliament Square’s one-way system, but never mind, eh?) is arrayed in the livery of Charles Wells Bombardier, the self-appointed ‘Drink of England’ (which you wouldn’t catch this Englishman drinking if it was the last beer on earth).
Oh, and let's not mention that the Union Flag on the waistcoat is upside-down. . .
Makes you proud to be British English, don’t it?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Heir today. . .

The Osborne Arms, Hills Road, Cambridge

This sign was taken down in late 2008, presumably before it fell down onto the head of some poor tippler, and sadly has not been replaced. It shows the arms of the Osborne Baronetcy of Ballentaylor in the County of Tipperary, and Ballylemon in the county of Wexford.
Arms: Gules on a fesse cottised or three* roundels barry wavy argent and azure over all a bend of the third.
Crest: A sea-lion sejant holding in the dexter paw a trident erect proper.
Motto: Pax in Bello (‘Peace amidst War’)
* Only two ever seem to be represented. The third, presumably, is hidden behind the bend.

The baronetcy was created in the Baronetage of Ireland on 15 October 1629 for Richard Osborne. What he or his descendants have to do with Cambridge or the pub I have yet to find out, and I suspect this comes from a casual flick through some heraldic reference book rather than thorough research. But the main point of interest is that the heir apparent to this baronetcy is none other than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon. George Osborne MP.

Update (October 2012): Sadly the pub has now been demolished. But I think a better candidate for the eponymous Osborne is Francis Osborne, 1st Baron Godolphin, MP for Cambridgeshire 1810 to 1830. The blazon for him is:

Arms: Quaraterly, first and fourth, quarterly erm. and az. a cross or, for Osborne; second and third, gu. and eagle with two heads displ. betw. three fleurs-de-lis, two and one, ar. for Godolphin

Crests: Frist, an heraldic tiger, statant or, tufted sa. for Osborne; second a dolphin embowed sa. for Godolphin.

Supporters: Two eagles reguard. wings displ. and inverted ar.

Motto: Pax in bello

The British Herald; Or, Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility, Thos. Robinson, 1830
Encyclopaedia of Heraldry, or, General Armory of England, Scotland and Ireland, John Burke, 1844.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Any old iron!

The former City Arms changed its name to The Dobblers Inn when it became a CAMRA Investments pub in 1982.
I have long wondered what a ‘dobbler’ might be, and recently I found out: it’s a local term for a rag and bone man, one of whom had a yard nearby, apparently. I suppose the sign might have been a bit of a clue, if only I’d bothered to look closely. But I didn’t in those days.

I suspect the word, like the trade itself, is plummeting towards obsolescence now that this part of Cambridge is getting more gentrified.

Hip! Hip! Booooooooo!!! Gerroff the stage!!

The Hippodrome, Dartford Road, March
The Hippodrome is JD Wetherspoon’s new pub, in the former Hippodrome Cinema (hence the name).
Now, as any fule kno (especially if that fule has a good Classical education) a hippodrome is where the Ancient Greeks used to race horses, and especially chariots, although the word is now widely used as a name for a theatre, particularly one specialising in variety rather than ‘serious’ drama.
New pub, new sign. It looks like this:
It’s theatre. A Greek theatre, no less. In fact it looks to me extraordinarily like a daubed representation of the magnificent 4th-century BC theatre at Epidauros (been there, recited Sophocles in it – in the Greek, of course). What it most certainly is not, though, is a hippodrome. (Nor is it strictly speaking an amphitheatre, while I’m at it.)

To me this is as daft as calling a pub, say, Aintree, and putting a picture of Anfield or the Liverpool Empire on the sign. It annoys me so much that I am tempted to use Strong Language. But my Mom might read this one day, so I’d better not.
Or maybe I should just get a sense of proportion. . .

Friday, 8 April 2011

A change for the better

The Salisbury Arms, Cambridge

Not every redecoration of a pub has disastrous consequences for the signboard, and here’s an example of one that changes very much for the better. In fact Charles Wells are to be congratulated for their sensitive sprucing up of the Salisbury, retaining all the various quirky nick-nacks and old posters that decorate the interior.
But this blog isn’t about pub interiors, it’s about signs. Since 2008 this is the sign that has hung outside:

It is, barring one minor detail, an excellent reproduction of the arms of the Gascoyne-Cecils, Marquesses of Salisbury, a family with a distinguished political history, going back to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burleigh, adviser to Elizabeth I. The pub itself is probably named after Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, who began the first of his three stints as prime minister in 1885, the year that the pub was established (as the Salisbury Hotel).
The blazon is given in Cracroft’s Peerage as:
Arms: Quarterly: 1st and 4th, barry of ten Argent and Azure over all six Escutcheons Sable three two and one each charged with a lion rampant of the first; a Crescent for difference (Cecil); 2nd and 3rd, Argent on a Pale Sable a Conger's Head erased and erect Or charged with an Ermine Spot (Gascoyne)
Crests: 1st: six Arrows in saltire Or barbed and flighted Argent bound together with a Belt Gules buckled and garnished Gold over the arrows a Morion Cap proper (Cecil); 2nd: a Conger's Head erased and erect Or charged with an Ermine Spot (Gascoyne)
Supporters: On either side a Lion Ermine
Motto: Sero Sed Serio (Late but seriously)
The only thing missing from this in the sign is the red crescent in the 1st and 4th quarter. But that is a minor quibble: the sign is a major improvement on the hopeless psychedelic nightmare that it replaced:

Arms and the woman

What, you might ask, does a sixth-century Frankish princess, nun and founder of a monastery in Poitiers have to do with a pub in Cambridge?
Or perhaps you wouldn’t, maybe it’s just me.
Well anyway, the reason is that the pub is not a terribly long stagger away from Jesus College, founded on the site of the suppressed twelfth-century Benedictine nunnery of St Mary and St Radegund. In fact, the original (and still, I believe official) full name of the college is ‘The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, near Cambridge’. Although as Radegund had been married to the Frankish king Clotaire I her ‘virgin’ status might be more honorific than literal.
So, that’s the name. What of the sign? Well, once upon a time it looked like this:

The arms depicted are those of Sankt Radegund bei Graz, Styria, Austria, whose blazon is described in the German Wikipedia page as:
Erhöht geteilt; oben in Gold zwei schwarze Wolfsköpfe mit roten Augen und Zungen, unten in Rot ein goldenes Holzschaff.
In English it would be something like: Per fess Or and Gules in chief two wolf heads Sable eyes and tongue Gules in base a wooden bucket Or. (That may not be entirely correct, I’m a bit rusty at writing blazons.)

Very pretty, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with our Radegund, who was born somewhere in Thuringia in central Germany. Sankt Radegund bei Graz is actually named after a completely different Radegund, Radegund von Wellenberg (links to German text), who was fatally injured by wolves. Hence the wolf heads, presumably. What the bucket is for I cannot as yet find out.
Realising this dreadful geographical and biographical error in 2007, then licensee Terry Kavanagh replaced the sign with this modern attempt at depicting a saintly, yet royal figure:
This change of sign even got coverage in the Cambridge Evening News!
And so it remained until 2010, when the new regime reverted to the erroneous heraldic device, albeit with a new sign:

Nicely done, but really, why perpetuate a known error? If it must be heraldic, why not, say, the no less anachronistic Arms of Erfurt in Thuringia, where some claim that the proper Radegund was born, or the Arms of Poitiers, where she is actually buried?
In passing, here is a photograph of Radegund’s tomb in Poitiers that I took last September.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Rock on!

Cambridge isn’t exactly high on the list of places well known for rocky outcrops, let alone mountains, so it always used to puzzle me why there should be a pub called The Rock (or properly, The Rock Hotel) – even more so when its signboard showed a mountaineer staring up at . . . what? The Matterhorne? Everest?

The Rock Hotel, Cambridge; previous sign (to 2008)

Then I found out that this area of Cambridge was developed by the Rock Freehold Land Society. That’ll be why, then. (The pub itself was first listed in Kelly’s Directory in 1904.)

Formerly a Sky Sports and music venue, the place got smartened up in 2008, including (of course) a nice new sign to fit its nice new image.

The Rock, Cambridge: new signboard 2008

Yes, well. One of Greene King’s ‘arty’ efforts, which probably looks great in the art department and on branded items inside, but doesn’t really stand out and catch the eye if you’re more than about 50 yards away.

At least the old one had some colour to it.

Update: The pub sits on the junction of Cherry Hinton Road and Blinco Grove. Charles Blinco was surveyor to the Rock Freehold Land Society, which cements the association.
Ronald Grey and Derek Stubbings, Cambridge Street-names: Their origins and associations, CUP, 2000