9 Unusual London Pub Names

1.The Essex Serpent, Covent Garden

Known as such in the mid-eighteenth century, the name derives from the sighting of what a pamphlet first published in 1669 describes as a ‘Monstrous Serpent which hath divers times been seen at a Parish called Henham-on-the-Mount within four miles of Saffron Walden’. Recent research suggests that the serpent may have been the creation of a local practical joker called William Winstanley who created a dragon made of wood and canvas that could be activated by a man inside. Winstanley probably wrote the pamphlet himself.

2. The Hand and Shears, ECI

The name refers back to Bartholomew Fair which was held in Smithfield for centuries. The night before the fair tailors would gather in the pub and, once suitably lubricated, would parade the streets waving their tailors’ shears in their hands and crying out that the fair should begin.

3.I Am the Only Running Footman, Mayfair

In the eighteenth century running footmen were employed by the wealthy to run ahead of their carriages to clear the way and pay any tolls.

4. The King of Corsica, Soho

Named after the Frenchman Theodor von Neuhoff, who became involved in the Corsican struggle for

independence from Genoa in the mid-eighteenth century 11id was briefly proclaimed king of the island. In 1756 In was obliged to flee to London and died, penniless, in Soho. Several people, including Horace Walpole, paid for his funeral at St Anne’s, Soho and for his tombstone. Walpole wrote an epitaph: The grave, great teacher, to a leve brings/Heroes and beggars, galley-slaves and kings/ But Theodore this moral learn’d e’re dead/ Fate pored its lesson on his living head/Bestow’d a kingdom, and denied him bread.’

5. the Prospect of Whitby, Wapping

Parts of the building date back to 1520 when it was known as the Devil’s Tavern but the name comes from hi eighteenth-century coal boat, called the Prospect and registered at the Yorkshire port of Whitby, which was moored outside it.

6. The Queen’s Larder, Queen’s Square

The pub takes its name from the story that, while George 111 was receiving treatment for his madness from doctors in Queen’s Square, his Queen, Charlotte, rented premises to store his favourite foods.

7. Spaniards Inn, Hampstead

There are at least two theories to explain the name. Either the property was named after two Spanish brothers who owned it in the seventeenth century and killed each other in a duel, or its name recalls the Spanish ambassador to the court of James II.

8. The Sun and 13 Cantons, Soho

The pub was named after Swiss woolen merchants who had their premises nearby, and the thirteen cantons are those that made up the country of Switzerland.

9. The Widow’s Son, E3

I lie name of the pub refers to a story, possibly apocryphal,that the pub was once a cottage owned by the mother of a sailor who failed to return from a voyage. Each year, on Good Friday, the day on which her son had been scheduled to return, the widow made hot cross buns to welcome him home. In the years since the cottage became a pub, the tradition of making hot cross buns has continued and they hang in the pub, unappetising mementos of a mother’s grief. Every Good Friday a Royal Navy sailor adds another to the collection.

Johnetta Bernard

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