Top Ten Most Common Pub Names in England

By , November 28, 2010 1:46 am


Public houses, better known as pubs, are a ubiquitous and important feature in England’s community life. And each pub has a name.

Roaming around the country, the same pub names crop up again and again, along with the unusual and unique.

Many pub names are centuries old.

This article tells you what the ten most popular pub names are in England, and the origins of each name.


1. Crown

The Crown is, perhaps not surprisingly in a Kingdom, the most popular name for a pub in England. There are 704 pubs in England called The Crown, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

The origin is, as might be supposed, a demonstration of loyalty to the Crown, The name became particularly popular for public house owners after the Restoration in the 17th century, when King Charles II returned to his throne following the Commonwealth lead by Oliver Cromwell.

There are other variations on the same theme which are common, such as the popular pub names Rose and Crown and Three Crowns. When I was a teenager, I used to visit the Crown and Anchor, in London Bridge, with my mates.

John of Gaunt's Coat-of-Arms, featuring red lions

John of Gaunt's Coat-of-Arms, featuring red lions


2. Red Lion

Lions are common animals in heraldic symbols, and many pubs were named after a local noble’s coat-of-arms.

It never hurt to keep the local powers-that-were happy, so naming the local inn or tavern after Lord Such-and-Such’s arms or heraldry was a common practice.

The 668 Red Lion pubs in England therefore probably have several origins, including John of Gaunt’s coat of arms, and King James I’s liking of the symbol.

Once again there are variations on the name – a pub near where I live is called Old Red Lion, for example.

The Old Red Lion pub stored Oliver Cromwell’s body overnight, when King Charles II had it dug up from Westminster Abbey so he could stick it on a spike on London Bridge.

Son of Royal Oak

Son of Royal Oak

3. Royal Oak

This is another popular pub name with strong links to the Restoration of the Monarchy.

In 1649, Charles I was executed. His son, the future King Charles II, carried on the fight against the Puritans, led by Oliver Cromwell.

Two years later, Charles lost the battle of Worcester, and his army was thrashed by the Puritan New Model Army.

In the course of his escape, Charles II spent 24 hours hiding in the branches of an oak tree in Boscobel Wood, while the nearby Boscobel House was searched by Commonwealth troops.

The Royal Oak itself is no more, but Son of Royal Oak and Grandson of Royal Oak continue in the family tradition, growing cheerfully in Boscobel Wood.  The picture to the right of this text is of Son of Royal Oak.

As well as pubs, the Royal Navy has had 8 different ships called HMS Royal Oak since the Restoration.

There are, CAMRA claims, 541 Royal Oak pubs in England.

To read more about the Battle of Worcester, which preceeded Charles II hiding up the Royal Oak, see the Battle of Worcester Society’s website.

The Standard of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, featuring a white swan

The Standard of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, featuring a white swan

4. Swan

The Swan is both a royal bird, and a common feature on heraldic symbols.

King Henry IV’s mother, Mary de Bohun, had a swan on her coat-of-arms, and the Lancastrian Kings adopted the swan as one of their symbols.

The Swan was also used by the Earl of Warwick, and the Duke of Buckingham, among others.

There are 451 Swan pubs in England, and others with the word in their names, such as Black Swan and Swan With Two Necks

5. White Hart

The White Hart was part of the heraldic symbols of Richard II. King Richard II was not a particularly popular King.

King Richard II's Coat-of-Arms, with two white harts

King Richard II's Coat-of-Arms, with two white harts

He came to the throne in 1377, on the death of his grandfather, King Edward III, when he was aged 10.

In 1399, he was deposed by his first cousin, King Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt.

It might therefore appear surprising that White Hart pubs are the fifth most common – there are 431 of them in England.

However, it was during the reign of Richard II that a statute was passed saying that all public houses and taverns had to have a sign outside. As a result, many of the inns, pubs and taverns of the time put up a sign showing the White Hart.

6. Railway

Number six on the list is the Railway pub. The origins of this are, I hope, entirely obvious! There are 420 pubs in England called the Railway.

7. Plough

The 413 pubs in England called the Plough are named after the farming implement, or after the constellation of stars known as the Plough. Pub signs, therefore, can have either the farming tool, or 7 stars, painted on them.

There are also pubs with other agricultural names, such as the Harrow pub, and the Seven Stars pub at the back of the Royal Courts of Justice in London is named after the same constellation.

the Uffington White Horse in Berkshire, seen from above

the Uffington White Horse in Berkshire, seen from above

8. White Horse

The 379 pubs in England called the White Horse are named after one of three things. Firstly, the name is particularly common in the county of Kent, south-east of London. Kent’s symbol is a rearing white horse.

Others are named after the hill drawings across southern England which feature horses.

From the Iron Age onwards, people have carved giant white horses in the chalk downs and hills, by removing the grass and top soil to reveal the white chalk underneath.

Coat-of-Arms of the House of Hanover, featuring a white horse

Coat-of-Arms of the House of Hanover, featuring a white horse

The Uffington Horse is a famous example, and there are about 14 white chalk horses in Wiltshire.

When Queen Anne died, the House of Hanover came to the throne in the person of King George I.

The Hanoverian coat-of-arms included a white horse, and some pubs were named after it, to demonstrate how overjoyed the public house’s landlord was with the new regime.

If you want to read more about Queen Anne and why the Stuarts gave way to the House of Hanover, read this article:

Queen Anne’s Tragedy: 18 Pregnancies, no Children & Hanover Kings

9. Bell

The 378 pubs in England named the Bell are named after the country’s ubiquitous church bells.

Variations are also common, such as the Smarden Bell, or the Bell and Clapper.

New Inn, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

New Inn, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

10. New Inn

There are many places or buildings called “New” in England which are anything but. Some of the 372 New Inn pubs are among them.

New College Oxford, for example, where my brother-in-law studies medicine, is one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University, founded in 1379. But it’s not the oldest college, hence the name.

The picture to the right is of New Inn on Tresco, one of the Isles of Scilly, 30-odd miles to the west of Land’s End in Cornwall.

Note on the Most Common Pub Names

Exactly what is a pub, as opposed to a restaurant, hotel, or B & B, is open to debate. So different organisations vary as to their views on which are the most common pub names in England.

The list, and figures above for the number of each name, are taken from the Campaign for Real Ale’s figures. You can find CAMRA’s website by clicking here.

The Inn Sign Society has a different top ten list, namely:
1 Red Lion
2 Crown
3 Royal Oak
4 Rose & Crown
5 Kings Head
6 White Hart
7 Queens Head
8 Railway
9 Bell
10 Swan



From Catherine of Valois to Kate Middleton: The First English Queen Catherine

By , November 26, 2010 4:25 am


Kate Middleton is to marry Prince William on 29th April 2011, and will, in the fullness of time, become Queen Catherine.

Kate is far from the first to enjoy that title. From Queen Catherine of Valois onwards, there have been women who have been called Catherine and enjoyed (or suffered) the role of Queen of England, and later Queen of the United Kingdom.

This blog post is the first in a series which tells you about the Queen Catherines in English history, who they were, who they married, their lives, and children.

It is about Catherine of Valois, Queen of England for only 2 years, who gave birth to a son who became a King, and who by her second marriage founded the later Tudor dynasty.

Of the six women who were, or will be, Queen Catherine (including Kate Middleton), half of them were married to King Henry VIII. Which means, approximately, that at least half of English Queen Catherines probably regretted their marriages….

Queen Catherine of Valois, 1420 – 1422

Family and Upbringing

King Henry V, a 16th century painting

King Henry V, a 16th century painting

The first Queen Catherine, Catherine of Valois, was French. (Her name is also sometimes spelt “Katherine of Valois”, but usually it’s “Catherine”.)

She was born in Paris in 1401, the daughter of the French King Charles VI, who is (rather confusingly) known both as Charles the Beloved and Charles the Mad.

Charles VI suffered repeated episodes of mental illness, probably schizophrenia, and went through periods of failing to recognise his wife, and of beliving he was made of glass and might break.

Catherine’s mother was Isabella of Bavaria, also known as Isabeau of Bavaria.

Charles VI and Isabella had 12 children, of whom 4 died as children. Another 5 died in young adulthood, aged between 17 and 30.

Catherine was the third from youngest. One of her older sisters, Isabella, married King Richard II of England, at the age of 6.

Marriage to King Henry V

Contemporary engraving of the marriage of King Henry V and Catherine of Valois

Contemporary engraving of the marriage of King Henry V and Catherine of Valois

Richard II was deposed by his cousin, King Henry IV.

After winning the Battle of Agincourt, Henry IV’s son Henry V, negotiated a marriage treaty with Charles VI, and married Catherine of Valois in June 1420. Catherine was then 18, and Henry V was 32.

Queen Catherine of Valois visited England for the first time after her marriage, and was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey on 23rd February 1421.

Catherine became pregnant, and the future King Henry VI was born in December 1421.

Henry V had by that time returned to the fighting in France, and did not meet his son and heir, as he died on campaign in August 1422.

Catherine of Valois had been Queen for just over two years, and was now a 20 year old widow.

Marriage to Owen Tudor

17th century engraving of Catherine of Valois

17th century engraving of Catherine of Valois

Catherine embarked in about 1423 on a relationship with the Welsh Sir Owen Meredith Tudor, whose name in Welsh was Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur.

This caused a great deal of concern about the influence a dowager Queen’s husband might have, and by a law passed in 1427, the Queen could only re-marry with her son’s permission, once her son was an adult. He was only 6 years old at time, so the law was clearly meant to delay any marriage for decades.

The couple nevertheless appear to have married in secret. Henry VI later declared that his mother had married and that her children by Owen Tudor were legitimate.

The couple had six children who lived past childhood. Thomas Tudor and Owen Tudor were monks, Edmund Tudor married Margaret Beaufort and fathered Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII, Jasper Tudor married Catherine Woodville, sister of Elizabeth Woodville, who married King Edward IV, and two other daughters became nuns.

Death and burial

The wooden funeral effigy of Catherine de Valois, made for her funeral

The wooden funeral effigy of Catherine de Valois, made for her funeral

Catherine of Valois died in January 1437 at the age of 35, shortly after giving birth to a daughter who died as a baby. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.

In a frankly revolting episode, Catherine of Valois’ tomb was damaged in the early 16th century, and her body exposed.

No-one got round to doing anything about it for about 350 years, and her body remained visible for the entire period.

It became a kind of bizarre tourist attraction, to view the corpse of the long-dead Queen.

Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that he went to the Abbey on his 36th birthday and held and kissed the Queen’s body. He wrote:

On Shrove Tuesday 1669, I to the Abbey went, and by favour did see the body of Queen Catherine of Valois, and had the upper part of the body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it I did kiss a Queen: and this my birthday and I thirty-six years old and I did kiss a Queen.

I think kissing skeletons is the matter upon which he should have reflected.

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