Derivation of Leicestershire and Rutland Public House Names - Brewing, Food and Drink


Ale Wagon [1] -

A 'dray' (or ale wagon) was acart without sides used for delivering beer barrels or other heavy loads.


Barley Mow [6] / Old Barley Mow [1] -

a 'mow' is a stack of barley, and the sign 'Barley mow' was simply an indication that beer was sold.

Barleysheaf [6] -

Barley sheaves are included in the arms of the 'Worshipful Company of Brewers' whose first Charter was granted by King Henry VI in 1438.

Barleycroft [1]


Barrel [1] / Old Barrel [1] -

Traditionally made of wooden staves bound together with metal hoops, a 'barrel held 36 imperial gallons of beer.


Bitter End [1] -

A play on words, but also a rather risky self-deprecating name.


Boar's Head [1] / Old Boar's Head [1] -

A boar's head was first used as an inn sign in the 14th century and referred to the Christmas custom of seving a roast boar's head at feasts.  It was usually served with an apple or lemon stuffed in its mouth.


Brewers' Arms [2] -

See under Trades and Occupations.


Bumper Inn [2] / Bumper [1] -

'Bumper' was a slang expression meaning - 'a glass or tankard filled to the brim'.


Cask & Bottle [1] / Cork & Bottle [1] 


Chequers [3] / Chequers Inn [3] / Chequers Country Inn [1] -

The standard chequer pattern was introduced to Britain by the Romans, but during medieval times the word 'exchequer' came to refer to a table with raised edges and covered with a black and green chequer pattered cloth which was used to calculate taxes.  The sign became more popular for alehouses during the reign of King Edward IV when the head of the Fitzwarren family, whose coat of arms included a chequer pattern, was responsible for licensing alehouses.


Cocked Hat [1] -

A tricorn or three cornered hat (with turned up brims) came into use by the military during the 18th century, but its connection to drinking is marked by the use of earthenware jugs for the refilling of empty tankards.  These became known as 'Toby Jugs' which were modeled on a seated gent holding a full tankard of beer and wearing a 'cocked hat' which formed the pouring spout.


Coopers' Arms [2] -

See under Trades and Occupations.


Crooked Billet [2] -

Stemming from the early practice of hanging an evergreen branch outside alehouses to indicate a new brew, the use of an oddly shaped piece of wood also became common.  The word 'billet' comes from the 15th century French word 'billette' meaning stick of wood - hence 'crooked billet'.

A crooked billet was the blazon of the Hewitt family, one time residents of the Old Hall, Dunton Bassett which was close to the 'Crooked Billet' pub.


Earl Grey [1] -

See under Titles, Landowners and Personal Names.


Fish & Quart Hotel [1] -

See under animals, Agriculture and Hunting.

Full Quart [1] -

'Quart' - a liquid measure equivalent to two inperial pints.


Garibaldi [1] -

See under Titles, Landowners and Personal Names.


Gate [6] / Gate Inn [6] /

Gate Hangs Well [2] -

At one time the sign at the 'Gate Hangs Well' at Carlton included the rhyme,

"This gate hangs well, and hinders non,

Refresh and pay, and travel on" on one side, with

"Call at the gate, and taste of the tap,

Drink and be merry, but lay off the strap", on the other, the final phrase meaning 'don't ask for credit'.


Grainstore [1] -

Housed in a converted railway grain warehouse, the 'Grainstore' is a working brewery which opened a Tap in 1995.  

It also offers a mobile bar service.


Grapes [6] / Grapes Hotel [1]  / Grapes Tavern [1] / Grapevine [1] -

It was the Romans who placed a freshly cut vine leafed branch outside their Tabernaes to advertise a new consignment of wine, but, in Britain, with the colder climate, it became any evergreen leafed branch which advertised a new brew.  However, representation of a grapevine or a bunch of grapes, has, throughout the history of the public house in Britain, become a poular sign.

Puncheon & Grapes [1] -

'Puncheon' was the name used for a 72 gallon cask, no longer in use.


Haunch of Venison [3] -

Early drinking houses named 'Haunch of Venison' were usually located close to Royal forests or hunting grounds


Hogarths [1] -

'Amber Taverns' opened its latest 'Hogarths' outlet in Hotel Street in 2016.  

Advertised as "gin palaces", Hogarths is a reference to William Hogarth (1697-1764),

English artist famous for his moral and satirical engravings,

including 'Beer Street' and 'Gin Lane', two prints designed to highlight the evils of the

comsumption of gin.  They were issued in 1751 in support of the 'Sale of Spirits Act'

(better known as the 'Gin Act'.







Hogshead [1] -

A 'hogshead' is a large storage cask with varying capacities used for wine or beer and cider.


Hollybush [5] / Hollybush Inn [2] -

The Romans used holly as a decoration during their festival of Saturnalia.  Introduced around 200BC, it was held in honour of Saturn the God of farming and of the land and was held during December, lasting 7 days.  It also introduced the practice of present giving.

In Britain. Roman tabernaes and later monasteries and taverns hung a frehly cut branch of an evergreen shrub outside their doors to indicate a new brew - holly and ivy being the most common and so eventually becoming established as more modern public house names.


Ivy Plant [1] -

Dionysus the Greek deity of wine, agriculture and fertility of the land, evolved into the Roman deity Bacchus, whose festival was held in the middle of March each year.  Bacchus was always portrayed as wearing a crown of ivy in order to avoid intoxication, however, because of ever increasing debauchery, the Bacchanalian festival was eventually banned by the Roman authorities.


Jolly Bacchus [2] -

'Bacchus' was the Roman God of wine.


Jolly Toper [1] -

Originally, the term 'to tope'was the acceptance of a wager by drinking to it and the word 'topers' evolved to describe heavy drinkers.


Jug & Glass [2] -

An obvious drinking vessel reference.


Leather Bottle [2] -

Historically a container in which a small amount of beer was transported, being the forerunner of the glass bottle and the can.

Note - the 'Leather Bottle' in Cobham, Kent, still open today, is described in Charles Dicken's novel 'Pickwick Papers' as a "clean and commodious village ale house".  It was the public house which Dickens frequented, and, indeed, where he wrote much of 'Pickwick Papers'.


Loaf [1] -

The word 'loaf' has its origin in the Old English 'hlaf' which itself had Germanic origins, meaning a quantity of bread shaped and baked in one piece.


Malthouse [1] / Maltings [1] /

Malt Shovel [12] / Maltster & Shovel [1] -

A malt shovel was an implement used in the process to turn the barley grain.

Maltsters' Arms [3] -

Traditionally, the 'maltster' was the person who processed the barley in the malt house in preparation for roasting.


Mash Tub [1] -

A 'mash tub' (or more accurately, 'tun') is a large vessel used in the mashing process for the mixing and heating of milled grains and water in order to break down the starches into sugars for fermentation.


Muffin & Pyflet [1] / Nottingham Pyflet House [1] -

'Pyflet' was an 18th century dialect word for a crumpet - the modern equivalent being a 'pikelet'.  The use of 'Pyflet' as a public house name seems to be restricted to these two Leicester pubs during the 1850's and 60's.


Mushroom Hall [1]


Old Cheese [2] / Stilton Cheese Inn [1] -

A recipe for stilton cheese was published in 1723 in a newsletter by Richard Bradley, and Daniel Defoe described stilton as 'the English Parmesan' in his "Tour Through the Villages of England and Wales" a year later, but it was put on the map from 1743 when the Bell Inn, Stilton, Huntingdonshire innkeeper Cooper Thornhill joined his sister-in-law, Wymondham cheesemaker, Frances Pawlett (Paulet ?) in the first commercial venture.


Pig & Whistle [2] -

The derivation of 'Pig & Whistle' as a pub name is uncertain.  One explanation relates to the phrase "to go to pig and whistles", (dateable to 1681), which meant to go to ruin, whilst another relates to the days of sail in 17th century England - one task of a junior midshipman was to draw the rum for the daily ration from below decks.  The barrels used to store the rum were nicknamed 'pigs' and in order to stop the midshipman taking a crafty drink between decks, he was ordered to whistle whilst conveying the rum.

A third possible explanation is the corruption of the Anglo-Saxon saying "piggin wassail", meaning 'good health'.


Pine Apple [1] / Pineapple [1] -

Indigenous to South America, the pineapple was introduced into England during the 17th century, and became associated with the safe return of ships from long voyages.  In public house terms, it was used as a sign of welcome and hospitality.


Pitcher Inn [1] -

'Pitcher' - a vessel with a spout for storing or pouring liquid.


Pump & Tap [1] -

An obvious pub related reference.


Ram Jam House (Inn) [1] -

In or around 1740, a soldier newly returned from service in India, brought back with him a recipe for a drink which was called 'ram jam'.  Sold in flasks, it became so popular that the 'Winchelsea Arms' in Greetham changed its name to the 'Ram Jam House'.  Popularity for the drink waned, but the name stuck and the 'Ram Jam Inn' still trades to this day.

The saying 'ram jam full' came into popular use during the 19th century, and originally meant to stuff oneself with food, but went on to cover any receptacle or premises that were full.


Shires Inn [1] -

The sign for the 'Shires Inn' at Peatling Magna shows shire horses pulling a brewer's dray.


Shoulder of Mutton [18] -

Inns named the 'Shoulder of Mutton' usually signified that the innkeeper was also the local butcher.


Sir John Barleycorn [1] -

'Sir John Barleycorn' is a traditional attached to the use of barley in the brewing industry, and has its

links back to 'Beowa', the representation of barley and farming in Pagan genealogy.  

Over the centuries, 'John Barleycorn' evolved as a folk song with many versions including one by

Robert Burns in 1782.  

In modern times, Traffic, Steeleye Span and John Redbourn have all recorded versions of the song.





Sir John Barleycorn

Slug & Lettuce [1] -

The first 'Slug & Lettuce' was opened in 1984 in Islington by Hugh corbett.  Listed as 'Fast Forward' in 1989, the chain was acquired by 'Grosvenor' in 1992.  By 1998, 'Grosvenor' had changed its name to 'The Slug & Lettuce Group' with 22 outlets, but by 2000 had been taken over by SFI (Litten Tree chain), who, themselves, went into administration in 2005.  The chain passed through a number of other hands, before, in 2011, becoming part of the 'Stonegate Pub Co.'.


Staff of Life [1] -

"Bread is the staff of life" was a 17th century proverb, and inns with the name 'Staff of Life' were usually close to, or associated with, a mill.


Stirrup Cup [1] -

The phrase 'stirrup cup' originated with the practice of landlords offering a drink to the mounted Master at the start of a fox hunt.


Sugar Loaf [3] -

During the 18th century refined sugar was sold in a conical shaped block like a large ice cream cone,

being replaced by granulated and cubed sugar during the 19th century.  Because of the simplicity of the

conical sign, it became popular with both grocers and publicans.

However, the sign for the 'Sugar Loaf' at Ab Kettleby shows an image of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Sugar Loaf

Tankard Inn [1] -

A 'tankard' is a one handed drinking vessel (jug), either of pewter or silver and sometimes with a hinged lid.


Tap & Mallet [1] / Tap & Spile [1] / Tap & Barrel [1] -

Tools of the cellarman, with a spile being the plug which controls the venting of a cask of beer.


Taps [1] -

Named after the process adopted by this bar on Guildhall Lane, of providing a self-service beer tap at each table.


Three Tuns [8] -

The word 'tun' refers to a cask of wine or beer equivalent to a capacity of 252 gallons.

Three tuns appear in the arms of the Worshipful Company of Vintners and of Brewers.


Tin Hat [1] -

During the 19th century in Hinckley, there was a habit of placing an upturned bucket over the standing

water pumps in order to keep them clean.

Around 1870 landlord of the Crown, Mr. Orton, who ran a drinking booth at Leicester Races, took the

idea and had a huge tin hat made to use as an advertisement.  It held approximately 34 pints of ale,

and Hinckley residents quickly became known as 'tin hatters' or 'tin 'ats'.

The hat was later sold to Tom Pratt at the Three Cranes in Humberstone Gate, Leicester (landlord

between 1906-14), but brought back to Hinckley in 1972.

Hinckley's Tin Hat

Tipsy Fisherman [1] -

Named for its proximity to Thornton Reservoir, built in 1854 and used as a well known game fishery.

Toast Inn [1] -

It is not clear why the 'Toast Inn' is so called.


Tom Hoskins [1] -

The brewery in Beaumanor Road was founded in 1877 by blacksmith Jabez Penn, who was joined in 1904 by Tom Hoskins.  Within two years Hoskins had taken over and the brewery remained in the family until 1983 when it became 'Hoskins & Oldfield Brewery Ltd.'  In 2000 it was purchased by 'Archers' and closed down, however, the 'Tom Hoskins' public house on the site is still trading.


Tut'n'Shive [1] -

A 'shive' is a bung in the side of a cask and a 'tut' is the indented area in the centre of the shive used as a guide when inserting a 'spile' which releases excess before inserting the 'tap.


Vine [4] / Vine Inn [2] / Vine Tavern [2] / Le Vine [1] / Vinery Hotel [1] / Grapevine [1] / Rhine Vine Vaults [1] -

The sign and name 'Vine' for public houses in Britain originates with the Romans, who, in other parts of their Empire placed a freshly cut vine leafed branch outside their tabernae to indicate a new consignment of wine, and the British households and farms which brewed their own ale, followed the habit by putting out a freshly cut evergreen branch to show when any new brew was ready, so advertising the opportunity for neighbours or passers by to purchase refreshment.

(The tree type used depended on what was readily available and was not specific to any brew.  Names such as the 'Holly Bush' and 'Ivy' still reflecting this early practice).

A vine bearing grapes became part of the coat of arms of the 'Worshipful Company of Distillers' in 1638.


We Three Loggerheads Be [1] -

'Loggerheads' appears in Shakespeare's 'Twelth Night', and original pub signs showed two wooden heads with a 'We Three Loggerheads' inscription.  This was designed to attract a visitors query as to where the third loggerhead was, so falling into the trap aimed at himself.

A later variation was to say that the third loggerhead was inside having a drink.


1852 Brewery Co. [1] -

The brewery in question was 'Shipstones', started by James Shipstone in Nottingham in 1852.

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