This is the beginning of a long story – a story that I hope you will find interesting as we move along. Over the ages Britain has created a unique heritage in inn signs – signs that depicted everything, from battles to inventions, from sporting heroes to royalty, about general facts or very local ones.
The origin of inn signs goes back to the Romans. The ‘Tabernae’ would hang vine leaves outside to show that they sold wine – in Britain, as vine leaves are rare (due to the climate!), small evergreen bushes were substituted. One of the first Roman tavern signs was the ‘Bush’. Early pubs hung long poles or ale stakes, which might have been used to stir the ale, outside their doors. If both wine and ale were sold, then both bush and pole would be hung outside.
The naming of inns and pubs became common by the 12th century. With pub names came pub signs – as the majority of the population could not read or write. In 1393, King Richard II passed an Act making it compulsory for pubs and inns to have a sign (his own emblem the ‘White Hart’ in London) in order to identify them to the official Ale Taster. Ever since then, inn names and signs have reflected, and followed, British life at that time.