Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Signs of the Faith

The Angel in London's St Giles High Street, final stopping off point before Tyburn Road aka Oxford Street. During the Reformation period it was known as The Resurrection Gate.

It fell to my lot to be quizmaster at this week's pub quiz at The St Bride's.

An onerous task where you spend all afternoon researching the questions and then take a load of (friendly) barracking on the night itself.

One round of questions I compiled was on the origin of Pub signs, names if you will.

I must admit to my own ignorance here, and was somewhat surprised to find that many of the pub signs in Britain actually owe their origins to the Catholic Faith.

They are as follows:-

The Ship and Anchor - refers to the ark and the anchor of the Church, the Pope.

Lamb and Flag - the lamb representing Our Lord and the flag being the red cross of the St George and the Crusaders

The Bull - not the animal but the Papal insignia

The King's Head - in pre Reformation times these pubs were generally called The Pope's Head but were changed in fear of Henry VIII

The Bell - apparently local breweries sprang up alongside churches to provide for the churchgoers, a practice that faded away with Protestantism

The Angel - another reminder of the Catholic heritage (rather than Marks & Spencer)

The George & Dragon - featuring St George in what is believed to be an allegory of good conquering evil

The Star - being the star of Bethlehem

The Cross Keys - the keys of St Peter

The Hole in the Wall - a reference to a monastery nearby where food and goods were delivered and paid for via a hole in the wall system.

The Mitre - not a carpentry term but a reference to the bishop

The Hope and Anchor - takes its name from Letter to the Hebrews:

 "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope."

                                      The Salutation Inn - referring to the Annunciation

The Three Crowns - the Magi

The Lion and Lamb, the lion representing the resurrection and the lamb being, Christ Himself.

The Five Ways - the five reasons for the existence of God (St Thomas Aquinas)

Many more inn signs would, of course, have been changed during periods of persecution and many more exist that are named after leading churchmen of the day. In my youth I used to enjoy a drink and a meal at The Stephen Langton in Surrey, named after a Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury who was in post from 1207 until his death in 1228.

And then, of course, we have The Square and Compass...ahem, much beloved by those who attend on the great master architect, our Freemason friends.
Enough said.


  1. I am having trouble with my computer so I do not know if you got my other comment.

    Synchronicity,as I was just talking about these signs to a convert yesterday and sent her this link today.

    I learned all of this from a brilliant Jewish friend of mine about 30 years ago. He knew his history. Of course, the Queen's Arms can refer to Mary our Lady, being the patroness of the knights, and the famous Bird and Baby of the Inklings being the Holy Spirit and Christ, the Infant. Most likely would have been a Trinity reference.


  2. Supertradmum, thank you, I did get a recent comment from you and responded accordingly. Computers are a real pain when they go wrong. SE, thank you for your kind comment.

  3. ditto Sinder Ella,and thanks Richard and SuperTM. Further looking into is inspired.This is a keeper.

  4. "Barracking" -i take it means being given a hard time,whereas over here in Oz means supporting a team -usually an Australian rules football team. It was a word that arose in colonial times. Just as the word Larrikin-meanking hoodlums,developed froman irish police officer asking a group of drunks on the Main street of Melbourne in the 1880s' " what are you doing larrikin around here " rather than larking.
    The club song for Collingwood FootbALL Club- usually considered a Catholic club in the past has the lines
    "See how the barrackers are shouting
    as all barrackers should "
    Here endeth the lesson

  5. I love etymology.

  6. The Chesterbelloc would be proud! A pint of Rev James to celebrate!