Pub signboards have been a feature of the English landscape for centuries but, being exposed to both the elements and changing fashions (and the lifetime of the pub), each board tends to have a fairly short life. Several years ago, noticing some familiar old signs had been replaced, I began a photographic ‘archive’. I then became intrigued about what or who they depicted. The signs described here are mostly from South Cambridgeshire, because that’s where I live.
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.
Update: 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: