Beer Background

A Pub Crawl Through History

Added: Wednesday, September 1st 2010

A new book from Mike Pentelow and Peter Arkell, published by Janus at 16.99.

My local is the King William IV. There are scores of pubs with the same name. Why? He was on the throne for a brief period and his nickname "the sailor king" suggests he didn't devote much time to kingly duties.

Pentelow and Arkell are equally unimpressed by the large number of pubs named after monarchs and aristocrats. They have unearthed, as a result of a mammoth pub crawl, pubs named in honour of "common people" - ie uncommon people - who have made massive contributions to society and the welfare of their fellow citizens.

The cover shows a pub devoted to Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants' Revolt in the 14th century. The Scots and the Welsh are not ignored, with taverns named after William Wallace, Rob Roy and Owain Glyndwr. Robert Kett, leader of the agricultural workers' rebellion in Norfolk in the 15th century, has a pub bearing his name in Norwich.

Surprisingly, there are only two pubs in the country named after Oliver Cromwell. This is a period of English history we seem anxious to forget, even though it ushered in parliamentary democracy and the final end of feudalism.

There are pubs named after less well-known but equally fascinating people, such as the female highway robber Moll Cutpurse and the London witch, Mother Redcap. Another witch, Mother Shipton, is celebrated with a pub in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. William Penn was an English Quaker who founded Pennsylvania after being hounded from this country for his religious and political views.

Thomas Becket, not surprisingly, has a pub named in his honour in Canterbury. A pub in Camberwell, London, celebrates William Tell, who liberated Switzerland from Austrian rule. (Memo to the authors: there should be a pub called the Johan Ernst Protz in Camberwell, for that's where my great-great-grandfather lived when he moved to London from the Royal Kingdom of Baden in the 1840s). With scant regard for history, a William Tell pub in Dublin has been renamed the Hairy Lemon.

Samuel Pepys turns out to be something of a tippler as well as a famous diarist. There's a pub bearing his name in Huntingdon, a few miles from his birthplace. In 1650 he won a scholarship to Cambridge and three years later he was "solemnly admonished" for being "scandalously over-served with drink" after enjoying the "coarse bluntness" of the local taverns and their barmaids. John Wilkes, the great social reformer and champion of the working man of the 18th century, for whom the expression "Wilkes and Liberty" was coined by London's labouring masses, has a pub named in his honour in Leek in Staffordshire.

This is not a worthy but dull book (though it does show the limitations of self-publishing as Peter Arkell's photos are disappointingly small). Mike Pentelow, who wrote the text has a ribald sense of humour. I was in hysterics for several days after reading the entry for the children's writer Richmal Crompton - she has a pub named after her in Bromley in Kent. There's a quote from one of her Just William books written in a less politically correct time that I can't quote here but it's worth the price of the book.

Click to buy from Amazon for £14.44.