Pub Ahoy!

Here we go back to when ‘Britannia Ruled the Waves.’ Naturally our Nautical History and navigational skills are reflected in our Pubs.

Not only the sea is involved – we are an island full of rivers, lakes, estuaries and man made canals and waterways. And anything that floats has a Pub connection.

A rich compendium of words anchors it all together. Do you know a ketch from a yawl? Or who will win the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race ? Can you scull in a skiff and where is the best Pub to ‘Push the Boat Out ?’ Our choice for this would be Norfolk.

‘Push the Boat Out ?’ Our choice for this would be Norfolk.

The Albatros

Picture of the AlbatrosSo Norfolk is where we start in the bustling little harbour town of Wells-Next-the-Sea. Here you will find The ALBATROS – the curious spelling comes about because this is a Pub on a boat of that name. Not just any old boat but an 1899 North Sea Clipper. Moored at the Quayside it is easy to spot the high masts. Full of atmosphere and nautical history it has much else to offer. It can be booked by bands, there is much in the way of food and you can eat Dutch Pancakes on deck. It is larger than it looks and below decks the holds no longer have to hold goods to be transported. Plenty of room for cask ale.

Now to keep our findings in shipshape order and not drift into uncharted waters we shall cast off with our most admired admirals.

Lord George ANSON. 1697-1762

In 1740 he was given a squadron of 6 ships to have a go at the Spanish, in the Pacific manned mostly by Greenwich Hospital Pensioners. By the time they reached a rendezvous at Juan Fernandez Island he had only three ships left. By 1743 only his beloved Ship CENTURION had survived – and with this he captured a Spanish Galleon and returned with what turned out to be 32 wagon loads of treasure.

IPub sign of the Ship Ansonn 1745 he defeated the French at Finistere and his prestige was further enhanced when he completed his best seller ‘VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD’ which featured his travels in the CENTURION between 1740-44. It outsold Daniel Defoe’s ROBINSON CRUSOE.

He became a first Lord of the Admiralty and instigated many dockyard reforms.
ANSON ARMS and other Pubs bearing his name are sprinkled in locations from Manchester to Yarmouth but our choice of Pub goes to The SHIP CENTURION in the High Street of Pub sign of a centurionWhitstable in Kent. A fine nautical Pub in a seaside town to match, with its own bay. A Free House well known for hospitality, choice of beers, festooned with hanging baskets of flowers in season this 3-storey Victorian building is full of Whitstable History and memorabilia.. TAKE A VOYAGE ROUND THE PUB.

Sadly, the sign writer settled for the Romans, but we also have the The Ship Anson in Portsmouth, Hants, which does depict our head.

ADMIRAL John BENBOW. 1653-1702

‘Oh, Benbow lost his legs, by chain-shot, by chain-shot,
Down on his stumps did fall and so loud for mercy called,
“Oh fight on my British Tars,
It is my lot, It is my lot” ‘……..

And so in 1702 after a 5 day running battle against the French in the Caribbean the valiant Admiral became a theme for balladeers as he departed from life.

A Shropshire man, he seemed popular all over the country and quite a few Pubs bear his name, but one of the most popular is The ADMIRAL BENBOW at Penzance in Cornwall. It is a protected building of solid whitewashed granite dating from the 1600’s. It had extra protection from a smuggler with a flintlock pistol lying along the roof ridge as some sort of look out. You are quite safe – he is only an effigy.

At one time the Pub had a whole museum attached to it and if this has gone there is enough smuggling and nautical memorabilia to drink in or get wedged in during the tourist season.

Robert Blake – (1599 – 1657)

The word Admiral comes from the Arabic meaning ‘Commander of The Sea’. When it was first used by the British as a Commander of a Fleet I am not sure – but BLAKE must have been one of the first to take this title on board.

As a Cromwell supporter he had served in the Long Parliament, became a general in the Civil War and was then transferred to run things at sea. Here he could use his ships to harry Royalists along the coast and on off shore island strongholds. He also shattered the fleet of Prince Rupert before it could arrive to support the King Charles.

Then came the first Dutch War from 1652 – 4 where he did very well and in 1655 he put paid to a fleet of Turkish pirates.

Finally it was off to the Spanish West Indies with a victory at Santa Cruz but on returning he died of a fever contacted there.

There is still we hope a BLAKE ARMS in Bridgewater, Somerset the town where he was born, and the house he was born in should still be a museum. Sadly Bridgewater seems to be a town that does not have a single Pub mentioned in any of the major Pub Guides. It has been ignored or by-passed by The Camra Good Beer Guide, The Alistair Aird Good Pub Guide, the AA Pub Guide, The Michelin Pub Guide and The Sawday Pubs and Inns. All for the year 2010.

With no funding or access to a time travel machine we cannot instantly beam ourselves to Somerset. It is a county which I have paid quite a few visits to over the years – yet never to Bridgewater. Perhaps there is a time warp of some sort.

There may still be an ADMIRAL BLAKE in London, I have stuck pins in maps which should be a slight improvement on needles in haystacks. There may also be a BLAKES HEAD left in Sheffield. Who can tell?

Lets see if we can fare better with ADMIRAL BLAKENEY.

The Frothblower

Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald

The Doom, Gloom and Wailing Press do not like any good news. Yes – binge drinkers do infest High Streets in many towns. These sad souls do not have any interest in cask ales or traditional pubs, who would not want to serve them anyway.

‘There won’t be any pubs soon; they are all closing at the rate of 20 a week’ is the most common moan of the media misinformed. Yes, pubs are closing, but what you are not told is that many of them re-open under new ownership and refurbishment. The danger is if the license is not retained and they pass on to private development.

There is an ongoing battle against this sort of thing with the PUB is the HUB campaign and investment in community pubs. Also heritage and historic protection.

The cask ale revolution does not seem to interest the media, and the fact is that there are now 700 micro-breweries in action.

Great swathes of the oblivious public remain in ignorance and beer festivals up and down the land are not newsworthy. Who wants to report events where happy humans enjoy themselves in large numbers without falling over, fighting, being sick or causing any kind of trouble. How boring is that?

Cask ale drinkers can’t buy draught beer in supermarkets as they have no facilities or expertise for dispensing any such thing.

~oOo~

Gordon Brown waffles on about the essence of being English. We prefer the word British as this means we can still have a United Kingdom.

The answer to what binds us together is staring him in the face if he ever took the trouble to look at an Inn sign.

If he ever ventured inside a pub he would not only find answers, but also what real people thought about him and his policies. He could always scuttle off to the gents to avoid buying a drink for anybody. Once there he could gloat over all the tax raised through licensing laws.

Once upon a time politicians bribed voters with drinks in inns. They have also served as polling stations.

Why the Frothblower?

Well, once upon a time in a Yorkshire village pub I remember a stalwart lad gazing in admiration at the head on his beer. They like a lot of froth in Yorkshire and fit devices called sparklers on their hand pumps, consisting of a restraining screw which restricts the flow and builds up extra froth. In the South we are content with a few bubbles. I have no problem with either. It does not affect the taste.

two drunk men at a tableFor some unknown reason there was a Londoner in the pub; some sort of travelling salesman in a suit and tie. He was being very irritating.

‘Cor – you ain’t arf got a big ‘ead – Wotcher gonna do with that then? Use it to shave with?’ The sturdy lad in shirtsleeves made no reply. He just took a deep breath and blew. WHOOOOSH, the cockney smart arse was dripping in froth. Crestfallen he took the resulting laughter with aplomb and added to it by saying ‘There’s no answer to that’ and went back to sipping his whisky and water.

The splendid Pub Sign was discovered in Salisbury by my recruited friend Howard. I first met Howard at Cambridge. Not in an educational capacity but on a coach trip, when he joined forces and added camera power as I pubologised. He has remained a stalwart ever since and many of his fine shots are in our archives.

Pub Lore

Angels

It is a known fact that Angels adore Pubs. They appear on Pub Signs and I know I have come across some disguised as bar staff.

Many Country Pubs have an affinity to the local church and churchyards are full of stone angels. When we see them weeping draped over tombstones I feel it is only fair to drink to the memories of the dear departed even if we have little idea of who they were.

Do you know where your nearest Angel is?

~oOo~

Arms, Heads & Legs

These appear on Pub signs everywhere. What is it all about? It goes back a long way to the days when everyone who thought they were Someone wanted a Coat of Arms. It did not stop there. Trades and Guilds also wanted them. Royalty and the Famous like their heads to be depicted too – it was a status symbol. Even if they were not particularly popular.

It seems early generations of British artists and craftsmen did not go in for landscapes or painting cherubs in churches – it was mostly meticulous designs of a Heraldic nature. With ornate lettering very much a form of graphic art.

So where do the legs come in? Animals of course, from the mythical and fearsome to the commonest countryside creatures. Where would Coats of Arms be if they did not include Dragons, Griffins, Unicorns, Bears, Lions, Bulls and down the scale to Hares, Hounds, Foxes, Otters, Birds, to Hedgehogs and even Grasshoppers. All creatures Great and Small.

Does this serve a purpose today? Absolutely. The Great ARMS, HEADS & LEGS Game. If your idea of car travel is motorways forget it. This is for highways, byeways, minor roads, lanes and twisty roads where Pub signs are much in evidence. It is an antidote against boredom and can be enjoyed by grown ups and children.

Left hand passengers take left side of road, Right hand the right side. You can only score from Pubs on your side. Quite simple. You score one point for every arm, head and leg you can. Some signs are non pictorial – So a Kings Head with no picture will still earn you one point, or a Whatsit Arms two points. And two points for any other non-illustrated sign.

So a King in full pose with arms, head and legs visible is five points. The fun comes when you get to a Coach & Horses. How quick can you count all the visible legs etc.? This gives drivers a chance to slow down for speed cameras.

I have in the past used this game for very successful fund raising for charity. You need a worthy cause, some stalwart volunteers, a mini bus and driver. First priority is Benefactors to donate prizes. If your cause is worthwhile you will find reputable firms can be very generous with donations if you approach them properly and include them as sponsors on the forms you will need to run off. State Charity and ‘Guess How Many ARMS, HEADS & LEGS we visit tonight (Date).’ Many prizes to be won etc. 10p a Go or whatever it is you wish to charge, with provision on form for name amount Telephone No. etc.

Select an area of good family pubs, especially a well advertised starting venue and go for it. You don’t know how many pubs you will reach in the time you have. If you find an apathy Pub move on swiftly, if you are doing well don’t be in any hurry to move. The assumption is that you will aim for a high number. Punters will over calculate. It really does no matter. Some customers will rush outside to look at the sign of the Pub they are in. It all adds to the fun. Properly organized it is far more rewarding than a sponsored walk.

~oOo~

Balls

British Pubs have always liked well rounded things.

It probably goes back to the times when it was more or less agreed that the earth was no longer flat or pear shaped, but round and The Globe became popular as a Pub name. This would give the impression that the Pub was a worldwise sort of place even if the landlord and most of his customers had hardly been beyond the village boundary. The situation was improved in towns and ports where globetrotters could return from far away places and find good audiences for their tales and experiences.

There is also the British capacity for inventing or participating in games involving balls, such as cricket, football, skittles, billiards, golf and tennis. Even egg shaped balls for Rugby. All of these have had strong Pub connections and still do.

The sign for a pawnbroker was three brass balls, and there are Pubs called the Golden Ball, and the Blue Ball as these were popular colours for almost anything.

~oOo~

Quaffer’s Glossary

As I’m going through the Great Man’s scribblings, doodling and digital meanderings, I cannot be too surprised at the persistence in coming up with new projects – a man I can relate to, for this is a trait we both shared. So, for your appreciation, following is a section of one his ideas: The Quaffer’s Glossary

Quaffers
Quaffers P17 Quaffers P18

Any publishers interested in pubs would be welcome to see what we have. An Agent would not come amiss. There must be someone out there who is not called Lucinda or something similar and operates from Bloomsbury.

Reaper

We cannot be held responsible for any pubs that have gone missing or fallen into the hands of developers. It is up to us British to do our best to save and protect our heritage. Once a pub is sold without a licence a slice of history is totally eradicated. A great number of pubs are Grade II listed, but this cannot always prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. We also feel that a pub that cannot serve one decent draught cask ale is comparable to a stable that can no longer be bothered with keeping a horse.

Yeah Verily,

CHAS SAUNDERS.

Samples – God Save Our Loyal Pubs

Blowing

Alfred The Great

In 847 Alfred was in full spate and used the famous Blowing Stone in Kingston Lisle in Oxfordshire to summon his army. If this was so he must have had great lungs as well. Most appropriately we have The Blowing Stone Inn nearby and Rugby the public school is only a stone’s throw away. The hospitable Pub will know all about these things and also Rugby Football.

William The Conqueror

William The Conqueror

1066 The date we all remember. The one and only Pub bearing his name is in Rye, East Sussex, near what remains of the harbour as the sea has receded. There has been some sort of a Pub on the site for many years. The present modest building is almost like a beachside cafe from the outside – the last time I saw it there were even lace curtains. Inside it is very pubby and cosy.

Henry V

The Red Lion

Here squeezed in by modern Southampton High Street shops is The Red Lion which was used as a Court Room by this Henry in 1415. Once inside it goes vertical and oozes atmosphere. The high ceiling has the most amazing cruck beams and there is a narrow two-sided gallery where you can sit and see it all from another perspective. For a relatively small pub there is a lot to be seen including Henry V’s very own flag and other intriguing artefacts including a suit of armour. What you can’t see are the cellars with possibly Saxon stonework making this the prime contender for oldest Pub in town. With 21 ghosts it is also highest in the spectre stakes. It seems to have resisted the temptation to be tarted up and the fantastic old solid radiator system which even heats the bar rail dates from 1899. It is an oasis from the West Bay Mammoth Shopping Complex which is currently besieging the City Walls.

 

Henry VI

Henry VI

In 1440 he founded Eton college in Berkshire on the outskirts of Windsor. In those days the college was for 70 poor boys, not the posh public school it has become since. Just down the road is the Pub bearing his coat of arms as a name. It is comfortable rather than historic with lounge type bars going through to a pleasant patio.

The Queen's Head

Mary Tudor

What on earth is Mary Tudor doing on the sign of a fine little country Pub called the Queen’s Head tucked away in Barns Green in rural West Sussex? No one seems to know the age or history of the old beamed Pub but I doubt if it goes back to 1553 when Mary gained the throne. Known as ‘Bloody Mary’ she must have been one of the most unpopular monarchs ever.

The Crown

Edward VI

The Crown in Chiddingfold Surrey was visited by this Monarch in 1542. He was only 14 years old at the time. His entourage overflowed the building which dates from 1258, and camped on the green outside. There was no underage drinking problem as the old Hostelry was not granted an alehouse licence until 1552, in good time for a visit by Elizabeth 1st some years later. It is a fantastic Pub with a simple sumptuousness that appeals. There are several rooms each with their own character, one with a splendid moulded ceiling. There are fine furnishings and fireplaces and a massive long scrubbed table in the front bar. Enough to seat a full cricket team. There is a wonderful mix that works. You can have anything from cream teas to cask ales.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Charles II

In 1667 Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in an alley in Fleet Street was rebuilt after the fire of London.. And we have a list of 15 sovereigns which make life a little easier for us. This is not to say that any of them popped into the Cheese, but who knows? It was the haunt of local of Dr. Samuel Johnson at one time and must be one of the most visited London Pubs of all time. Under the ownership of the brewers Samuel Smith everything has been kept intact. It really is living history. There is a visitors book that goes back a long long way with many signatures of the great and famous – at least one president of the United States. It keeps on Reigning All the time – but in this instance backwards, as any Pub which has been in continuous use from before 1667 (and you will be surprised how many do) will have a much longer list of reigning monarchs if they cared to mention them.

 

The King's Head

George III

There have been 6 Georges. This one has his portrait on a very nice sign that that goes well with the colourful hanging baskets that adorn The King’s Head at Beach Street in Deal in Kent, with the date 1764 which we assume must be the date of the portrait in some gallery from which the sign was copied. The Pub itself dates from around 1746 and George himself did not reach the throne until 1760. By 1776 he realised he was not going to be the King of America as well when we lost the War of Independence. This was just as well because now he could concentrate on things closer to hand like preventing Napoleon invading. After this he had bouts of madness which meant he could talk to trees and not have to bother unduly. Surprisingly this did not diminish his popularity. He had become eccentrically English whereas his two predecessors from the House of Hanover were known as the German Georges.

 

The Royal Sovereign

Who could this possibly be?

The Royal Sovereign
Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald

Some More Pics From The Kings Dossier

 

William IV
Lionheart
Henry II
Stephen
Henry

 


And here are a few pics from the pubs ahoy dossier

 

Nelson
Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald
Victory
Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald
Canon
Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald
Great Eastern
Admiral Owen
Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald
???
Photo: © Howard Fitzgerald