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Popular Religious Pub Names in England

Popular Religious Pub Names in England

Introduction to English Pub Names

Pubs are a ubiquitous and important part of England’s social life.

Each Public House has a name and a sign; lots of pub names date from centuries ago.

Quite a few pubs are named after religious symbols, buildings, or Biblical quotations.

This post is about pubs named after religion in one way or another. Some are pretty obvious, such as the Church Tavern or Bishop’s Inn. Others are more obscure, such as Cross Keys or Mitre.

It’s not supposed to be a comprehensive guide, but instead, an interesting wander through English social history, via a pint in the local.

I’m a Londoner by birth and choice, so there’s a definite London bias here! Other pubs I’ve visited or heard of are also referred to, but this list isn’t gospel…

Pubs named after religious buildings

There’s only one pub called Cathedral that I know of, in Salisbury.

There are, however, a lot of pub names which feature a Church, over 40 in the country as a whole.

The name seems to be particularly popular in Cheshire, Lancashire and Manchester, with a variety of Church Inn, Church House, and Church Tavern pubs spread across the counties.

I’m not aware of any Church pubs in London, but whether that shows increased or lessor piety, I couldn’t say.

There are 30 or so Abbey pubs in the country, and a couple in London, in Westminster and Kentish Town.

There’s also an Abbey Tavern, but as that’s in the area called Abbey Wood, I’m discounting its religious origins in favour of local ones.

A Chapel pub appears in both Islington and Camden, two of about 15 nationwide.

Religious people and titles

There is only one pub named after priests – the Priests Retreat in Manchester – and only 3 in the country with Vicar in the pub name.

Bishops might have been thirstier customers, as there are 20-odd pubs with Bishop in the title.

Not all were necessarily named directly after a man of God, though – the Bishop and Wolf pub on St. Mary’s Island in the Isles of Scilly is probably named after two local rocks, rather than a priest and a mammal.

There is a Bishop pub in Dulwich, south London, near where I went to school, and a Bishop of Norwich pub in the City of London.

In a slightly gruesome relics way, there is the Bishop’s Finger pub near Canterbury Cathedral.

Monks appear in a range of names, from Monks Head and Monks Retreat to Monks Abbey. Again, though, they are uncommon in London.

Nuns weren’t great drinkers, however, and there are only a couple of pubs in the country with a Nun in their names.

Cardinal pubs can be found near Victoria station in London, and in Kent.

Pope pubs and Pope’s Head Inns used to be very common, and vanished quickly after the Reformation.

The lay religious type gets a mention in the scattering of Pilgrim or Pilgrim’s Progress pubs.

If you count Angels as religious people, there are lots of pubs which have Angel in their name.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Old Devil pub near Reading, in Berkshire.

Religious clothes and items in pub names

Mitre is a popular name for a pub, named after a bishop’s headgear.

Mitres rather went out of fashion in the Church of England after the Reformation, but came back in the late 19th century, as part of the Oxford Movement’s influence.

There are Mitre pubs in Annerley, Fulham, Greenwich, Islington and Camden, in London, and also Ye old Mitre in Holborn, in the centre of town.

The pub name is not confined to London, either, there are a couple I’ve seen in Norfolk, too.

Bells were a very important part of medieval and early modern life in England.

Bells from cathedrals, abbeys and monasteries rang several times a day to tell people it was time for Prime, Nocturn or Matins, and people who didn’t have clocks (everyone) relied on church bells.

Bell is therefore the ninth most common pub name in England.

Just within a mile or two of Holborn there are several – Old Bell in Fleet Street, the Bell in the City of London, and the Ten Bells in Shoreditch.

Religious symbols in pub names

The word Cross is very common in pub names. Sometimes it’s clearly not a religious reference, as in the Victoria Cross pub in Manor Park, or the New Cross and King’s Cross pubs in…. New Cross and King’s Cross!

Cross Keys is a popular pub name, and that does have a religious origin. St. Peter, guardian of the gates to heaven, was frequently represented by the crossed keys he held.

There are Cross Keys pubs in Covent Garden, Hammersmith, Chelsea and Islington, all in London, as well as across the country.

I’ve seen it confidently asserted in several places that pubs with Lamb or Shepherd in the name refer to the Lamb of God, or Christ as the shepherd of his flock. That might be true, but pubs could equally well be named after the animal or the earth-bound shepherd, too.

Hope & Anchor together appears to be after a Biblical phrase. Hebrews 6:19 says, Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.

There is a large group of pubs called either the Hope and Anchor or the Anchor and Hope. In London there are examples in Islington, Camden, Waterloo, Charlton, Hammersmith, and Chelsea, and lots of other across the country.

Pubs called just the Anchor are more likely to be maritime-related, though.

Lion and Lamb, although not a particularly popular pub name, is also probably a scripture reference. The commonly quoted And the Lion Shall Lie Down With the Lamb isn’t actually in the Bible, but the closest is in Isiah 11:6:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

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