Derivation of Leicestershire and Rutland Public House Names - Miscellaneous & Queries 


Miscellaneous -

Alderman Inn [1] -

An 'Alderman' is a member of a municipal legislative body elected by the members.

It derives from the Early English 'ealdorman', meaning 'elder man', and was applied to the patriarch o a settlement.


Bees Knees [1] -

First recorded in the 18th century when it was used to depict something very small and insignificant, the phrase evolved (in 1920's America) as a slng expression meaning an outstanding person or thing.


Bluebell [1] / Bluebell Inn [2] / Blue Bell [17] / Blue Bell Inn [2] / Old Blue Bell [1] -

Public houses named 'Bluebell' need to be identified by the signage, in so far as they could simply be a reference to the flower, the heraldic prefix to a church bell or an added prefix relating to the Manners family.


Blue Moon [1] -

'Blue Moon' is a phrase used to describe a second full moon which occurs in a single calendar month, (which occurs only 7 times in the Metonic cycle of 19 years), or the third full moon in a season, so leading to the phrase "once in a blue moon" describing a rare event.

Full Moon [5] -

A 'full moon' occurs when the Earth is positioned between the Sun and the Moon when the alignment allows a full illumination of the Moon.

The words 'lunacy' and 'lunatic' are derived from the ancient tradition that a full moon can bring on strange behaviour and even temporary insanity.  It is also associated with the appearance of werewolfs.

Half Moon [4] -

The first and third quarter moons of the lunar cycle are called 'half moons', simply because it is when the Moon is at 90 degrees to the Earth and Sun, so exactly half is illuminated and half in shadow.

New Moon [1] -

A 'new moon' occurs in the lunar cycle when the Moon is positioned between the Earth and the Sun, and in approximate alignment.


Britannia [7] / Britannia Inn [2] -

'Britannia' was the Roman name for Britain.


Cherry Tree [1] -

the pub sign for the 'Cherry Tree' at Catthorpe needs some

explanation and further research. It shows a bi-plane crashed

into a tree with the words 'DON'T FLY BY, DROP IN' added.  

The sign is a representation of a First World War photograph

of a Curtiss Jenny plane which had crashed into a tree during

a training accident in America.












Commonwealth Social Club [1] -

It was Liberal MP and Prime Minister Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929), who first coined the phrase 'commonwealth of Nations' when visiting Australia in 1884.  Formed in the 20th century the 'British Commonwealth' is an association of 53 sovereign states, all former members of the British Empire.


Corner Cupboard [1] -

The 'Corner Cupboard' in Loughborough was so named for iys corner location and because it was a very small property.


Cosy Club [1] -

The 'Loungers' chain was set up in Bristol in 2002 by three friends, two of whom, Alex Reilly and Jake Bishop grew up together in Leicester.  Their latest launch (October 2014) was the 'Cosy Club' in Highcross Street, Leicester, in the converted Vee-Jay Knitwear factory which stands between the old 'Hat & Beaver' and the still open 'King Richard III'.


Cradle & Coffin [1] -

Reputably the oldest pub in what became Coalville, the 'Cradle & Coffin' got its name from the unsubstantiated tale of an early landlord who murdered his wife and child after discovering her infidelity, burying them at the rear of the pub.


Criterion [1] / Criterion Hotel [1] -

A standard by which something can be judged.


Cross in Hand [1] -

The inn name 'Cross in Hand' in Cross Hands north of Sheepy Magna, obviously relates to the village name, but the derivation is not known.

There are a number of villages (and pubs) in England named 'Cross Hands' or 'Cross in Hand', and the derivation of the name seems to vary to suit local circumstances.  'Cross Hands' usually signifies a sign of unity and friendship, whereas 'Cross in Hand' seems to have begun as a reference to the Crusades.


Cross Swords [1] -

A modern idiom meaning to quarrel or argue with someone, thought to originate in the days of the duel.


Cutting Room [1] -

A contemporary pub and sports bar in Melton Mowbray named because it is a conversion of the ground floor of the 'Regent Cinema'.


Dew Drop [1] / Dew Drop Inn [3] -

Just a simple pun intended to entice customers.


Fuzzock & Firkin [1] -

The English Dictionary of Slang gives two meanings for the word 'fussock' - a donkey or a large, fat woman.  Why Firkin applied the word 'Fuzzock' when they re-named the 'Stork's Head' on Welford Road is unclear, however, when they left the pub was re-named the 'Donkey'.

Phantom & Firkin [1] -

The name 'Phantom' was adopted by the Firkin chain when they took over to reflect old tales that the 'Cross Keys' was one of a number of Loughborough's haunted pubs.

Physio & Firkin [1] -

The 'Freemasons' Arms' on Aylestone Road was re-named the 'Physio & Firkin' after Firkin Brewery established their chain in 1979.  'Physio' presumably being the closest word relating to the next door hospital which suited Firkin's naming policy.


Globe [5] -

There are a number of derivations for 'Globe' as a public house name including - the simplicity of the shape, Shakespeare's theatre and an association with Portugal for establishments which sold Portugese wines.


Humber Stone Inn [1] / Humberstone Tavern [1] / West Humberstone Conservative Club [1] /

Humberstone Royal British Legion Club & Institute [1] /

Old Humberstone Constitutional Club [1] /

West Humberstone WMC [1] / West Humberstone Constitutional Club [1] -

'Humberstane' appears in the Domesday Book and stems from 'Humbeorht's Sone', a granite monolith

deposited in the area by glacial activity, which is now fenced off and signed for public viewing.



The Humber Stone

(photograph c1890)

Its a Sign The Case is Altered [1] -

'The Case is Altered' was a phrase first used by lawyer Edmund Plowden (1518-85).  

It referred to new evidence which arose in a case where he represented a Catholic accused of

hearing mass.  Ben Johnson used it as the title for his comedy published in 1609.

Where used as a pub name, it invariably relates to a local historical legal dispute involving either the

property or a particular landlord.

A possible alternative for the name is a derivation from the Latin 'casa alta' meaning 'high house'.














Jack O'Lantern [1] -

'Ignis fatuus' (foolish fire) is the phenomenon of phosphorescent light seen at night over peat bogs or marshy ground caused by the spontaneous combustion of escaping gas from decomposting matter.  'Jack O'Lantern' is just one (Will-o-the-Wisp being another) term applied to this phenomenon in the floklore of many cultures, where it is applied to tales of various spirits.

In the 17th century 'jack-o-lantern' became the term used to describe a night watchman, whereas in modern times it has come to be associated with Halloween and the hollowing out and carving of pumpkins with a light source.


Jackson Stops [1] -

The 'White Horse' in Stretton closed in the 1950's and was put on the market by estate agents 'Jackson Stops'.  The property remained unsold over a period of years, but was eventually re-licensed and as the agents sign had remained in place over the closed period, it was decided to keep the name when the pub re-opened.

'Pitch penny' is an ancient pub game now almost lost, but retains a foothold in the 'Jackson Stops', where the World Championships are held each June.  Locally known as nurdles, it involves the throwing or pitching of an agreed number of disks or coins at the target of a small hole cut into a wooden bench.  (A version of the game called 'toad in the hole' has its own World Championship each year in Lewes, Sussex).


Jolly Tar [1] / Jolly Sailor [1] -

The name 'Jolly Tar' was originally used to signify a retired sailor who became a publican.  In nautical terms, 'tar' was used in relation to the pitch used for various sealing purposes on board ship (including use as a hair oil), with coated fabric brcoming 'tarpauling.

'Tar' or 'Jack Tar' eventually became an affectionate, generic name for all sailors.


Last Straw [1] -

From the phrase "the straw that broke the camel's back" meaning that the final small burden which breaks a person's resolve.

This is not a Biblical reference, as often portrayed, and does not appear until the 17th century.


Mobius Bar [1] -

A 'mobius strip' is a continuous, one sided surface formed by twisting a long rectangular strip of

material through 180 degrees and joining the ends.

Named after German mathematician August Mobius (1790-1868), who invented it.

Edmund Plowden

(unknown image c1565)

Mobius strip

(photograph by David Benbennick)

Cherry Tree pub sign (Ian S) and

photograph of Curtiss Jenny crash

O'Neill's [1] -

A chain of Irish themed pubs started by Bass in 1994 when the first one opened in Aberdeen.  At its height, in 1997, there were over 250 O'Neill's across the UK. but today, under the ownership of Mitchells and Butlers, there are less than 50.


Oxford Boater [1] -

A 'boater' is a particular type of moulded straw, flat topped hat with a ribbon band which became fashionable for both men and women during the second half of the 19th century, particularly as part of a number of private school uniforms, and by university students in their leisure pursuits.


Pestle & Mortar [1] -

A device used since ancient times combining a bowl (mortar) and pestle (blunt, club shaped object) used together to mix, crush or grind ingredients primarily in pharmacy and cooking.


Pinch of Snuff [1] -

Snuff can be any substance powdered for sniffing, but is usually tobacco. The habit first arrived in Europe when Christopher Columbus returned (with powdered tobacco) from America having witnessed Indians indulge in the habit.


Shamrock [1] -

Used by St. Patrick as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity, the shamrock has become the symbol of Ireland.


Shepherd & Shepherdess [1] -

Apart from the religious reference to Christ being the spiritual leader of a flock, 'shepherd and shepherdess' refers to life size lead figures which were melted down for munitions during the Napoleonic Wars.  To by-pass a French embargo on the importation of lead at the time, art works made of lead were commissioned and shipped to Britain from the continent.  A fine example of a shepherd and shepherdess who survived this process stand above the door of the 'Shepherd & Shepherdess' public house in Beamish, County Durham.


Sun [9] / Sun Inn [5] -

In early times the 'sun' was used as an inn sign because of its simple form and was usually shown as a circle with a few rays around it, and sometimes filled in with eyes, a nose and a mouth.  In modern times, signs have become more elaborate, trying to convey a 'sunny' atmosphere.

Rising Sun [4] -

The 'Rising Sun' was an heraldic symbol used by both King Edward III and King Richard III.


Tap & Clapper [1] -

A 2014 refurbishment of the previous 'Black Lion' and 'Hobgoblin' in Loughborough saw the re-naming and re-signing based on a theme reflecting the local bell making tradition which included the casting of 4 new bells now used in the pub.  The bells were cast at Taylors Bell Foundry, situated on its Loughborough site since 1839.


True Blue [1] -

Today, 'True Blue' refers to a loyal Conservative, but the original 17th century meaning referred to supporters of the Scottish Presbyterian or Whig party, the colour blue being adopted by the Covenanters in order to distinguish themselves from the Royal red.


Union [2] / Union Inn [4] / Union Hotel [1] -

'Union' in public house name terms has a number of references - the various constitutional unions between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - the rise of the Trade Union movement in the 19th century - the union of the houses of York and Lancaster after the War of the Roses, and, in a small number of cases, to marriage.

Union Anchor Inn [1] -

Wharf facilities  were establihed by the Grand Union Canal Company at North Kilworth in 1814, with coal from the North being traded and limestone being processed (for agricultural use).  The 'Union Anchor Inn; was part of this development.

After the decline of canal traffic, the 'Union Anchor' was closed and converted into a private dwelling.

Union Inn Hotel [1] -

In this case (at Market Harborough) the 'Union' referred to is for the 'Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal'.  The stretch from Leicester to Market Harborough opened in October 1809.


Varsity [3] -

Aimed at students, 'Varsity' was a chain set up by 'Wolverhampton and Dudley' in the mid 1990's.  In 2001 the 'Barracuda Group bought 50 pubs from 'W & D' including the 22 of the 'Varsity' chain.  Four years later the 'Barracuda Group' was sold to 'Charterhouse Capital Partners', by which time the 'Varsity' chain had risen to 36 outlets.


Walkabout [2] -

'Walkabout' is a chain of Australian themed bars run by 'Regent Inns' who were placed in administration in 2009 but continued with a management buy-out under the new name 'Intertain'.


Yew Tree [1] / Yews [1] / Best Western Yew Tree Lodge [1] -

The planting of evergreen plants to symbolize immortality stems from very early times, and the Yew, which can survive for hundreds of years, became the favoured tree of the Celtic and other tribes in Western Europe where they planted them in association with pagan temples.

In the East it was the Cypress which was used in the same way, and it would be the Romans who introduced the practice of planting the evergreen tree close to burials and graveyards.  The practice spread through the rise of Christianity, but the Yew remained the favoured plant in the West.

In Britain the Yew also had a particular significance when King Henry V introduced an Act protecting the Yew, whose wood was used to make bows.


Other Trees -

Apple Tree [1] /

Beeches [2] /

Birch Tree [1] /

Cedars [1] / Cedars Hotel [1] /

Cherry Tree [8] /

Elm Tree [1] / Elm Tree Arms [1] / Elms [1] / Elms Social & Ex-Services Club [1] /

Fig Tree [1] /

Firs [1] /

Limetree [1] /

Lindens Hotel [1] /

Litten Tree [3] /

Mulberry Tree [1] /

Oak Inn [1] / Oak Works Inn [1] / Oak of Whitwick [1] / Old Oak Tree [1] / Seven Oaks [1] / Bull in the Oak [1] / Copt Oak [2] -

'Copt' is a shotening of the word 'coppiced', being a form of forestry management where an area of woodland in which trees or shrubs are periodically cut back to ground level in order to stimulate growth and provide timber for poles and staffs or for fuel.

Rose [1] / Rose Inn [1] /

Royal Oak [38] / Old Royal Oak [1] / Olde Royal Oak [1] -

See under Royalty.

Olive Branch [3] /

Orange Tree [2] / Orange Tree Inn [1] / Orange House [1] /

Orchard House [1] /

Pear Tree [1] / Pear Tree Inn [1] /

Spade Tree Inn [1] /

Sycamore Tree [1] / Sycamores [1] /

Tree [1] / Trees [1] /

Willow Tree [2] / Willowbrook Sports & Social Club [1]


Names Needing Further Research -

American Divan (Granby Street) /

Bat & Bottle (Oakham) /

Buffalo & Garland (Loughborough) /

Deuce & Slate Board (Ashby-de-la-Zouch) /

Dwarf & Giant (Narborough Road) /

Golden Shield (Fleckney) /


Horse & Trumpet [8] -

The derivation of 'Horse & Trumpet' is something of a mystery.  It is usually noted as relating to the post horn used by postilions on mail coaches or to Billy Brittain, the duty trumpeter who sounded the orders at the 'Charge of the Light Brigade' at Balaclava in 1854.  However, the 'Horse & Trumpet' at Highcross (see under Military) in Leicester can be traced back to at least 1558, well before either of the two options above, so the name may have its roots on the battlefields or in the jousting tournaments of medieval times or have a hunting connotation.


Man Within Compass (Whitwick) -

The derivation of the name 'Man Within Compass' is something of a puzzle, but the pubs local nickname of 'Rag & Mop' seems to commemorate a landlady of earlier days who was "eternally polishing, scrubbing and sweeping".


Maydenhead (Uppingham) /

Monkey Walk (Coalville) /

Needless Inn (Loughborough) /

Old English Gentleman (Loughborough) /

Old Joseph (Belgrave Gate) /

Quart & Drum (Ashby-de-la-Zouch) /

Stretton Highwayman (Greetham) /

Wicked Witch (Ryhall)





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