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