Posted by: krisinhawaii | May 8, 2008

Some pub tales….

I just loved all the pubs and pub stories from London… and for your amusement, I retell a few of them below. Also there’s more in this book we found…. If Chris had been about five years older, we could have gone to any pub at any hour! As I learned however, he was welcomed in some places and not others, even if they were serving food all day. There were also walking pub tours which would have been great to go on too. Sometimes while out with the locals, I’d point out what I thought was a cool looking pub, and they’d say, “Oh no, Kris, that’s a dive, you don’t want to go in there!”

Who can tell the difference!? They all seemed quaint to me and bristling with history! And it seems like quite a few of them had a violent, or more specifically, “headless” components to their histories. Shiver!! In addition to the stories below, click on the picture (left) for a larger version and to read more colorful tales of pubs.

The Bow Tavern…
This now demolished pub on St. Giles High Street was where condemned prisoners stopped for their last pint of ale on their way from Newgate Prison to Tyburn Gallows (now Marble Arch) . If the executioner rode on the same cart, he was not allowed a drink… hence the phrase ‘on the wagon.’

Hand & Shears Tavern, Middle Street, Cloth Fair
Prisoners had their cases heard upstairs and if the judgment went against them, they were allowed a drink at the bar on their way to the gallows…

Ship & Blue Ball
Boundary Road
The Great Train Robbery was planned here in the ’60s, and a false wall in the games room concealed the stolen millions.

Hoop and Grapes 47 Aldgate Ave. High Street

Thirteenth century inn, the oldest non-ecclesiastical building in the city.

Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead Green
The inn stands on the site of a nunnery which was demolished during the Reformation. The abbess was decapitated and her head displayed on a pole….!!! (emphasis added!!)

I LOVE all this stuff. And do I need to say I loved the ales? This is a photo of me from my trip in 2005, in a pub with some of my English friends… toasting a pint of STOUT. (Half-pints and lagers are for wusses!) Hmm, if I remember correctly, I think that was my second that night? Or maybe third? Cheers!!



  1. Pubs have so many great stories to tell and, few people realise that pub signs actually give us a pictorial history of Britain.

    The idea of the pub sign came to us at the time of the Roman Invasion in AD43 and they’ve been charting our history ever since. Few pubs were named by accident and have been inspired by royalty, religion, lust, war, ambition, heroes and the odd villain. Between them they tell quite a story.

    Many pubs took their name from the prevalent trade in the area so there would probably have been a lot of cloth workers or tailors around the Hand & Shears that you mentioned. Strangely, although women worked in many trades, it was always a man’s hand that appeared on the signs – a woman’s hand was a covert sign for a house of ill-repute!

    The more you delve into the subject, the more fascinating it becomes.

    Elaine Saunders
    Author – A Book About Pub Names

  2. Elaine–thanks for your comment, I am very interested in checking out your book… !!!

  3. Sounds and looks fabulous. Be too fun to pub crawl England 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: