Thousands of historic records pertaining to Surrey pubs have been published online for the first time – revealing the weird and wonderful names of some of Britain’s oldest ‘boozers’.
- More than 65,000 Victorian victualler records included in the newly digitised collection
- Weird and wonderful pub names include the Leopard, Red Lettuce and Cod Smack
- Lambeth revealed as the ‘booziest’ parish in historic Surrey
Among the more unusual pub names, the records show that historic Surrey boasted two Lamb Breweries, a Cod Smack and even a solitary Leopard in Stoke next Guildford. Other wacky monikers no longer in existence include the Red Lettuce in St. Saviour, Child’s Hall of Great Bookham and the Pig in the String in Dorking.
Still trading in the local area today is a further selection of curiously named pubs, including the Pineapple in Lambeth, the Rats Castle in Guildford and the Crooked Billet in Staines.
To obtain a licence, pub landlords in the 18th and 19th centuries were obliged to attend a local court hearing. Here, they took out recognisances (a pledge of a bond in court) to promise that they would run their pub in an orderly fashion and not cause any public nuisance.
Each record states the date, parish, the name of the victualler and the name of the establishment. Some records also include the name and residence of the person who vouched for the victualler in court.
As well as revealing unusual titles, the records shed light on popular pub names in the area over the 18th and 19th centuries. The Red Lion, White Hart and Crown all feature prominently in the collection along with the King’s Arms and King’s Head.
For the most part these popular pub names held their origins in heraldry – the practise of creating or studying coats of arms. Some of the heraldic pub names contained within the collection include:
- Red Lion – A popular name in the collection, it originates from James I. Previously the King of Scotland, he demanded that the red lion of his home country was to be displayed all over England after he came into power in 1603
- Elephant and Castle – Derived from a coaching inn located in Walworth, the site was originally home to a Blacksmith and Cutler whose coat of arms featured an elephant carrying a castle on its back. The area is still named after the pub today
- The Rising Sun – This pub name is connected to the East and signifies optimism. The Sun in Splendour was also a livery badge of Edward IV
- The Rose and Crown – This name is derived from the War of Roses between the house of Lancaster and the house of York. In 1485, Lancastrian Henry Tudor killed the Yorkist King Richard III and crowned himself Henry VII. He then married Elizabeth the Rose of York. Pubs were named the Rose and Crown in the couple’s honour
Further analysis of the collection also uncovered the number of licenses held in each parish, with Lambeth coming out on top (historic Surrey included some parishes, such as Lambeth and Camberwell that are now listed as Inner London). Over a 118-year period, over 3,750 pub landlords took out the required licences in Lambeth, followed by St George (now Southwark) with 3,052 and Bermondsey with 3,007.
Digitised from original records that are held at the Surrey County Council’s Surrey History Centre, The Surrey Collection 1696-1903 is now available exclusively online at Ancestry.co.uk. As well as victualler records, the collection includes nearly two million land tax records and over 200,000 qualified juror records.
- Miriam Silverman, Ancestry.co.uk content manager: “From a Leopard to a Red Lettuce, this collection not only identifies the obscure pub names no longer in existence but sheds light on one of the booziest Victorian boroughs. Now is the perfect time to get online and find out more about not only the origins of your local pub but also discover if any of your ancestors stood behind the bar at these establishments.”