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.