Friday, 21 November 2014

Inside only, no standing on top

Tram Depot, Dover Street, Cambridge 

Back in the late 1980s, Suffolk brewery Earl Soham took over the derelict stable block of the long-defunct Cambridge Street Tramways depot, renovated it, and turned it into a pub. What an excellent way of giving new life to neglected part of Cambridge’s heritage! (In these less enlightened times a quarter of a century later the site would probably be cleared and a monstrously insensitive and incongruous seven-storey office block would spring up in its place.) Although sadly no longer an Earl Soham house (it was taken over a few years later by Everards), the pub still has an attractive sign, appropriately featuring a horse-drawn tram, whose design has survived at least one replacement.
Tram Depot: previous sign

Tram Depot: current (2014) sign
Attractive, distinctive, eye-catching and appropriate to the building – an approach that a certain other brewer could learn from.

But. (Yes, there’s always a ‘but’.)

Is it a Cambridge tram?

Well, unfortunately, no, it isn’t. There are several clues, not least the leafy rural setting, which bears no resemblance to any part of the actual tramway. This I can put down to artistic licence and not think too much more about it, but some other inaccuracies are less easy to brush aside:
  • Cambridge Street Tramways livery was red and cream, not this sort of coffee-and-cream affair.
  • The tram car depicted here is being drawn by two horses. This was true of the competing omnibuses of the time, but aside from a brief experiment in the late 1880s, in response to widespread concerns about the welfare of the horses, all CST trams were drawn by a single horse.
  • CST tram no. 5 was a single decker.

So, a commendable effort in the true spirit of what a painted pub sign should be like, but as is so often the case, the execution is let down by an absence of research.

Paul Carter, Cambridge 1. The Prestige Series. Glossop: Venture Publications, 2004.
Leslie Oppitz, Tramways Remembered: East Anglia, East Midlands and Lincolnshire. Newbury: Countryside Books, 1992.
S. L. Swingle, The Cambridge Street Tramways. Locomotion Papers No. 61. Lingfield: Oakwood Press, 1972.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Positive or negative?

Dalham Hall, which overlooks the picturesque little Suffolk village of Dalham, was for many years the home of the Afflecks, raised to the baronetcy (and therefore entitled to arms) in 1782. The family appears to have originated in Scotland, and the line, as well as the baronetcy, seems to have died out in the 1930s, in ignominy and in Australia.

According to the village’s website, the Elizabethan pub, which was one of the first buildings in the vilage to be erected (they had their priorities right in those days!), was named in honour of Lieutenant General Sir James Affleck (1759–1833), 3rd baronet, who was Colonel of the 16th Dragoons. (It’s an excellent pub, well worth an excursion.)

So, unlike some pubs I have mentioned previously, and others besides, here we have a pub named after the correct armigerous family. Full marks so far. The sign is a nice heraldic one, too.

But, is it correct? Well, the style – the double scroll especially – makes me think of one of those dreadfully misleading ‘your family crest’ sites, but I can’t find anything online that it could have been taken from. So hopes are high.

From various sources[1], we can write the complete blazon for the Dalham Afflecks as follows: 

Arms: Argent three bars sable
Crest: An ear of wheat proper
Motto: Pretiosum Quod Utile

This means that the shield should be white with three black stripes. This is what we see in the funeral monument of John Affleck (d. 1718), the first of the Dalham Afflecks, impaled with (presumably) the arms of his wife, Neeltje (née Schape, of Amsterdam).
Have another look at the sign:

Count the lines. Oops! That’s black with three white stripes (sable, three bars argent) – the negative, those of a photographic bent might think, of what it should be. Perhaps the artist was given as a brief, not the clear and specific heraldic description, but the ambiguous instruction ‘seven horizontal black and white stripes’. Explicable, but still very disappointing and easily avoidable.

The same generosity cannot be extended to the crest, however.

Looks nothing like a heraldic ear of corn. (And while I’m at it, the mantling and torse ought to be the same colours as the shield, i.e. black and white, not red and white.)

The motto is at least correct – although English heraldry prefers it to be placed below, not above, and of course giving the name as well is superfluous.

So, it’s a perfectly attractive and detailed sign, no careless daub, but let down by a couple of easily avoided errors. My hopes were high, but I ended up more disappointed than delighted.


Ar. three bars sa.

Crest: an ear of rye ppr.

Encyclopaedia Heraldica gives only the crest, “an ear (or fleck) of rye ppr”.

The Heraldry Institute’s site give the arms (in French), and provides the motto as:

“D'argent à trois fasces de sable Cimier un épi de froment au naturel Devise PRETIOSUM QUOD UTILE”

Monday, 14 April 2014

Allez les Rosbifs!

When I heard recently that the Baron of Beef was in line for Greene King’s latest round of fresh livery I feared the worst, especially in the light of recent dismal efforts. At the time the pub proudly displayed this sign:

Bright, eye-catching, jolly, charmingly naïve in its execution (the image, if not the glossy branding). And it depicted an actual baron of beef (sirloin still joined at the bone) being spit-roast. Pretty much a perfect example of a pub sign, in my view.

How could it be improved upon?

It has now been replaced by this.

OK, it’s not as bright, eye-catching from afar, or as charmingly naïve, but it’s actually a pretty good choice: a detail from Hogarth’s O the Roast Beef of Old England (The Calais Gate), which was painted in direct response to an unpleasant experience that the artist had at the hands of French officialdom while waiting in Calais for a boat back to England. And I’m sure we’ve all had one of those. . .

It is, then, quite pointedly anti-French, as the scrawny French cook buckles under the immense weight of a (single) sirloin of English beef, a fat friar drooling appreciatively over it while emaciated and shabby French soldiers look on enviously over their bowls of thin gruel. And dominating the background, the old mediaeval gate of Calais, built when it was still an English possession, and covered in English royal heraldry.

Hogarth and inn signs go together like chips and gravy anyway, and this is a pretty good choice of image so – and I don’t say this often, but credit where credit is due – well done, Greene King!

(Fear not, dear readers: normal service will doubtless be resumed soon.)

Related points of interest:

The picture takes its title from a popular patriotic ballad of the time.

One mid-19th-century proprietor, James Sebley, later opened an eating-house further along Bridge Street, at what is now Café Rouge, which was famous for its hams. It was said that Mr Sebley could carve so thinly that he could have covered Parker’s Piece with just a pound of the meat.

Friday, 28 March 2014


Well, the rebranding to the new ‘old’ name lasted slightly longer than England’s Ashes hopes last winter, but now the Cricketers is back to being, er, the Cricketers. With, of course, a spanking new sign – and one which proves that Greene King haven’t quite forgotten the value of a pictorial signboard:

Credit where credit is due: I think it has some charm, actually.

Now back in the good old days when craftsmen still had a place in the world, a sign painter (George Taylor, for example) would be engaged to produce something unique and distinctive for the pub. But who needs to go to all that bother now that something can just be lifted from the internet, eh? (I’m sure they got permission, right?)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Good grief, sweet prince!

Both the pub and the street on which it sits are named in commemoration of a visit to Cambridge by George IV in November 1815, while still Prince Regent – this despite the fact that he got no closer to the centre than Barnwell, and that was only to change horses, a sidestep which the elders of the Corporation presumably didn’t take as a snub.

Like so many pubs already, it has fallen victim to the latest round of Greene King’s rather characterless (I’m being as polite as I can) rebranding operation. Up until 21 March 2014 it bore this sign.

Based on the coronation portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence (by which time he was, of course, King George IV, no longer Prince Regent, but we’ll overlook that small detail), it was colourful, easily identifiable from a distance, and eye-catching, like any good pub sign should be.

It’s now been replaced by this . . . creation, which is none of those things:

More suitable for a trendy wine bar than a pub, I’d say. Which might actually be more to Georgy-Porgy’s taste, come to think of it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

How tickled I am

A feather, you see. For tickling with. Oh, my aching sides . . .

(Actually I do quite like this one. I don't have a problem with canting per se. And given what they could have gone for instead . . .)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Arms and the (wrong) earl

This is another pub to ‘benefit’ from Greene King’s latest brand refresh. I have already written about the previous sign, which (correctly) displayed the arms of the Villiers family, earls of Clarendon (2nd creation).

As I noted before, this is an appropriate choice of image because 4th Earl, George Villiers, was not only a distinguished contemporary politician and diplomat, but a Cambridge man, to boot!

Come the refresh, though, it seems that these arms weren’t picturesque or fancy enough, so they went in search of something else, finding instead the arms of the Hoyles, earls of Clarendon (1st creation).

This earldom has been  extinct since 1753 (long before the pub was built) and, after the future 1st earl, Edward Hyde,  was rejected as undergraduate by Magdalen (as the spelling then was) and ended up at Magdalene in the Other Place, they have had no connection whatsoever to do with either the pub or indeed Cambridge as a whole.

And what detailed heraldic research has gone into representing this blazon? Why, search the internet and nick something, of course! (Compare the lettering on the scroll and the 'drop shadow' on the ineschutcheon and the chevrons: this is clearly a reuse of the same image. I did wonder why I could never get it to look sharp in a photograph; now I know.) St George’s Chapel, Windsor, eh? I wonder if anyone at GK read the copyright notice:
“No image or text displayed on this site may be used without the express permission of the owner. Such permission should be sought in the first instance in writing from the Dean & Canons of Windsor, via the Chapter Clerk, who will contact the owner of any photography in question.”

Monday, 13 January 2014

Arms and the Duke

The Duke of Wellington, Willingham

As the cold wind of a rather tacky and plasticky branding refresh sweeps through the Greene King estate, the Duke of Wellington gets a spanking new sign. Even though it’s not called the Wellington Arms, they’ve gone for a nice heraldic job, being the arms of the eponymous Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington:

It’s very full and detailed. And also looks pretty much identical to the image on Wikipedia, even down to the shading. I do hope no copyright has been breached. . .

Burke’s Armory[1] gives the blazon thus

Arms: Quarterly, 1st and 4th gules. a cross argent between five plates in saltire in each quarter, for Wellesley; 2nd and 3rd, or, a lion rampant gules [armed and langued azure][2], for Colley; and as an honourable, in chief an inescutcheon charged with the crosses of St George, St Andrew, and St Patrick conjoined, being the union badge of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Crest: Out of a ducal coronet or, a demi-lion rampant gules holding a forked pennon flowing to the sinister also gules one-third per pale from the staff argent charged with the cross of St George.
Supporters: Two lions gules eacge gorged with an Eastern crown and chained or.
Motto: Virtutis Fortuna Comes

The inescutcheon was awarded as an augmentation in honour of Wellington’s military successes, especially his famous victory at Waterloo.[3]

Previously the sign bore this rather nice image of the man himself, based on an 1818 portrait by Sir Thomas Laurence (albeit with a different colour background and reversed, for some reason best known to the signpainter).

To my mind it seems a bit odd to use a depiction of the arms on a sign if the pub isn’t itself called the So-and-so Arms, but it could have been so very much worse.

[1] Burke, Sir Bernard, 1884, The General Armory of England, Ireland Scotland and Wales, p. 1089.
[2] Added, for completeness’ sake, from Brooke-Little, J.P., 1978. Boutell's Heraldry.

[3] Fox-Davies, A.C., 2007. A Complete Guide to Heraldry, p. 594.