Friday, 24 August 2012

One for sorrow . . .

Not only does this fine back-street local have the best-kept beer in Cambridge (in my not at all humble opinion), it also has a most interesting two-sided signboard:

Live & Let Live, north-facing side of signboard

Live & Let Live, south-facing side of signboard

The signature and date reveal that it was painted in 1987 by one G. Jones, and is a copy of the last known sign of a pub called The Man Loaded With Mischief, which once stood on Madingley Road. The original sign, painted by local artist and prolific inn sign painter Richard Hopkins Leach, now resides in the Museum of Cambridge (formerly the White Horse Inn) on Castle Street.

(Unfortunately it's presently fixed flat against the wall so there is no way of telling whther this also had a different design on the reverse.)
But what strange thing is depicted? Well, the theme is an old one, of a miserable-looking man laden with a magpie (harbinger of misfortune), a monkey (think of the phrase ‘a monkey on your back’) and a gin-swilling wife. The most frequently cited source is a sign believed to have been painted for an inn of that name on Oxford Street, London, possibly by Hogarth:
This is clearly very closely related to a wonderful print published by Robert Sayer in 1766, entitled A Man Loaded with Mischief, Or Matrimony: A Monkey, a Magpie, and Wife; is the True Emblem of Strife. ‘Drawn by Experience; engraved by Design.’ The Library of Congress describes it thus:
“Print shows a man chained to wedlock carrying a woman on his back, her breasts exposed, she holds a cup labeled ‘gin’ and toasts ‘My Bucks Health’, and according to a pig in a pen, ‘She is as Drunk as David's Sow’; a monkey sits on the woman's lap, removing the man's wig, and a magpie sits on the monkey's shoulders. In the background is a building (probably a brothel) with horns mounted above a sign showing two cats and labeled ‘The Christian Mans Arms or the Cuckolds Fortune.’ Includes six lines of verse.”
The British Museum holds another, more rugged, take on the same theme, in a print from c.1750 to 1768, which bears a much closer resemblance to another said to date from 1752 than the perhaps more genteel images in which the lady is at least wearing a hat and is able to sit upright!

The artist John Crome also produced a version, so the image (or the sentiment it expressed) was clearly popular at the time.

There are some other examples, for example the Load of Mischief, Blewsbury. The Michief, Norwich also once had a version, but recently has gone for something less misogynistic (it's Political Correctness gone mad, I tell you!).

It even travelled across the Pond: in Philadelphia there is (or was) the Man Full of Trouble, dating from 1759.

The original seems to be an engraving in a book (scroll to p. 249) published in 1653 by Dutch poet and humorist, Jacob Cats.

Anyway, where better for such a poor, downtrodden bloke to find refuge from the causes of his burdensome strife than the pub?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

When all this was fields (2)

I’m not sure whether this thing (is it actually impressionist, or is it just very poorly reproduced by GK's normally oh-so-thoughtful sign producers?) was chosen to represent the idyllic past of the area in which this now closed and not much missed boozer sits, but Arbury sure as hell don’t look like that anymore!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Towering achievement

There are eleven Pantons listed in Burke’s General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, some differenced versions of others, but none of them an exact match for what we have here. One corresponds in some parts, however. It is given as follows:
‘Per chev. gu. and or, in chief two towers ar. in base a lion ramp az. Crest: A lion couchant, the tail between the hind legs, az. bezantée.’
So the shield would look like this:
(Image created by me using software from
Close, but some simple errors (e.g. reading the chevron as a charge rather than a division), which leads me to suspect that whoever drew up the original design for this signboard misread or misinterpreted the blazon.
And does it have anything to do with the pub? I very much doubt it. The ‘Arms’ bit of the name seems a late and aggrandising addition (cf. the Kingston Arms) for what was once the Panton Brewery tap. The brewery itself gets its name from the street on which it sits, which was in turn named after one ‘Polite’ Tommy Panton, son of Thos. Panton (chief groom or equerry to King George II). In 1806 Tommy was instrumental in getting Parliament to pass the Barnwell Enclosures Act, which allowed this area of Cambridge to be developed. (See the History of Gwydir Street for more.) But I would be very surprised if he was an armiger, and even more surprised if these were his.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


So. You’re a brewery who has just acquired a pub from pubco that needs to realise some of its assets by selling off some of its property portfolio estate. Obviously you’ll want to put your shiny new branding on it, and that includes, hopefully, an impressive signboard that represents your brand values. But what to have on it? Well, often the name of the pub itself will suggest a pretty obvious theme, and you’ve already provided a fine sign for another pub in the town only three or four years ago, so you have a pretty good idea what to do.
Now, do you go to the trouble of maybe doing a bit of research to see what’s appropriate, and then commissioning a signwriter to come up with something special? Or do you just reproduce something you find on the Internet?
Here's the new sign. Which approach do you think they took?

(Here’s a clue.)
Yep, it’s a direct lift from one of those ‘your family crest’ companies that I have commented on before (those ghastly scrolls give the game away). And as before, it is an unfortunate choice.[1]
Checking with a more authoritative source reveals that these arms (vert three boars heads couped argent armed or) belong to a Burley (note the spelling), from Leicestershire and Wiltshire. So (needless to say) it has nothing to do with the Burleigh in question here, who was a certain James Burleigh, a prominent local landowner and carrier in the late 18th century (and of course no armiger). Burleigh Street, on which the original Burleigh Arms once stood, is named after him (incidentally, its continuation, Norfolk Street, is named after his father-in-law, William Norfolk, who was mayor of Cambridge in 1769).
It wouldn’t have taken very much effort to have done this much better.
[1] I do hope, incidentally, that the proper channels were gone through and permission to reproduce was granted (for the appropriate fee) – those American copyright lawyers can get pretty nasty.
Ronald Grey and Derek Stubbings, Cambridge Street-names: Their origins and associations, CUP, 2000, pp. 55f.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

When all this was fields. . .

Looking at it now, it's strange to think of Chesterton as a rural idyll. Yet even by the time this pub was built, in the middle of the 19th century, the rural nature of Chesterton was beginning to turn suburban following inclosure in 1836 and the subsequent influx of ‘townies’ from Cambridge. So the name of the Haymakers, and of the Wheatsheaf which used to stand on the corner opposite, were already harking back to a ‘lost’ age.  
As well as providing a popular (albeit often ersatz) name for a pub, images of haymakers resting (or sometimes frolicking) after a long day working (or sometimes frolicking) in the fields have long been a popular theme amongst artists. The scene on this sign is based on La Charette by Louse Le Nain (1600–1648).

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

‘The moon, like to a silver bow’

The Half Moon Inn, Little St Mary’s Lane, Cambridge

The Half Moon hasn’t been a pub for many years, long before my time in Cambridge, and I didn’t even know about it until about a year ago, when I began my quest for Cambridge’s ‘dead pubs’. The sign still remains, though, a silent witness.* Yet how many times have I walked past it over the years and not noticed?
As a point of historical interest, a pub of this name, a decent three-storey establishment, originally stood on the corner of St Mary’s Lane and Trumpington Street until in 1875 it had to make way for the Emmanuel United Reform Church. Presumably the name just moved down the lane to these smaller premises, which was certainly a pub in 1885.

(*Update: This sign is actually a copy. The original, which is gilded rather than white, sits in a cabinet in the Museum of Cambridge.)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Yeah, right. Ha bloody ha. I suppose someone was trying to be clever. I won’t waste more words on this.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Mind your manors!

According to Domesday Book, before the Norman Conquest the manor of [Cherry] Hinton (in which this part of Cambridge once lay) was held by one Edeva the Fair (‘Eddeve pulcra’), who is generally assumed to be Edith Swanneck, wife more Danico of Harold II Godwinson, though the authors of Cambridge Street-names: Their origins and associations propose that it may instead be his sister, Editha, wife of Edward the Confessor. Whichever one of the two it was, after the Conquest she was replaced as lord of the manor by the rapacious Count Alan of Brittany, who did rather well out of the redistribution of land after 1066. So I suppose having a pub named after her some 1900 years later is a small consolation.