Pub signs are an art form in their own right. They form an integral part of pubs and inns across the country, as calling cards that play the same role as they ever did (albeit a little less often nowadays).
“The pub sign says: you are still in England. Come in here and – however far from home you are, however outlandish our name – you will find the comforts of your local town or village.”Sebastian Faulks, ‘Icons of England’. Edited by Bill Bryson, 2010
Here are 5 examples of pub signs included in the National Heritage List for England.
1. The Vale Hotel, Nottingham
This pub sign is a bespoke design by the Nottinghamshire native and one-time official City Architect of Nottingham, Thomas Cecil Howitt. It was completed in 1937.
As well as fulfilling its purpose as a calling card for the Vale Hotel next door, with a three-sided lantern carrying replaceable sign boards, it also incorporates carved bench seats (presumably for those who have found the pub already).
2. The Doctor Johnson, Redbridge, London
Not all pubs (and their signs) have centuries of history attached. However, they still play an important role in documenting the growth of the communities around us.
The Doctor Johnson, on Longwood Gardens, was built to serve the large new estates constructed at Barkingside in the late 1930s.
This sign, a concrete post with a hanging card depicting Doctor Samuel Johnson, the famous dictionary author among much else, was of particular importance in attracting custom as the pub is set back from the road. The building currently serves the local community as a supermarket.
3. The White Horse, Poplar, London
Even when buildings take on other uses (or are demolished as in this case), signs can remain as important parts of local streetscapes.
4. The White Hart, Bletchingley, Surrey
Traditional heritage crafts and historic public signage are often linked. Signs act as a beacon for an establishment but also provide an opportunity for local experts to showcase their talents.
The 18th-century wrought iron sign for the White Hart Inn in Bletchingley (now known as the Whyte Harte Hotel) is a prime example.
Another fine example is provided outside The Spread Eagle Hotel in Thame, Oxfordshire, a public house once run by the author John Fothergill.
5. The Fox and Hounds, Barley, Hertfordshire
This unusual pub sign solves the obvious issue of attracting traffic on only one side of a road, by crossing over the top of it.
Painted silhouette figures of a hunter and hounds are shown chasing a fox across a wooden beam, into the gable end of the pub. The current sign dates from around 1955, replacing an earlier one.
Discover more pub stories below, or visit the Inn Sign Society website for more history and information about pub and inn signs.
England’s Historic Pubs
Pull up a bar-stool or make yourself comfortable in your favourite ‘snug’ and explore our work on understanding, protecting and showcasing England’s well-loved but vulnerable historic pubs. As well as us playing ‘mine host’, you can get involved in sharing your knowledge and photographs of listed pubs.