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Weird, Odd and Strange British Pub Names

Judith enjoys disconcerting herself and others with chilling stories from near and far.

The Bucket of Blood Pub Sign at Phillack

The Bucket of Blood Pub Sign at Phillack

Funny British Pub Names

Whether you refer to them as inns, hostelries, public houses or taverns, these bastions of booze have been around for centuries. In times gone by, their names were often chosen for the ease with which they could be illustrated; the customers would have been largely illiterate, so a pictorial sign would have been a must. Many pub names recur throughout the country and have retained their popularity for centuries. A few are unusual, however. Here are a few of Britain's oddest pub names.

The Bucket of Blood, Cornwall

The Bucket of Blood at Phillack is the only pub in Britain to bear this name. Nowadays, it is a friendly pub in the centre of the small town of Hayle, serving good Cornish food and local beer. The St Austell Brewery, which runs the inn, has named an ale after the pub. The beer is a red ale (naturally!), made with spicy hops.

Apparently, the inn did not have such a welcoming aspect some 200 years ago and was the regular haunt for local smugglers and criminals. The gory name arose when one morning the landlord went out to the well to draw a bucket of water and instead pulled up a bucket of blood. On investigating the cause, it was found that a body lay at the bottom of the well. The mutilated corpse was allegedly that of a Revenue officer, disposed of by the pub patrons.

Unsurprisingly, the pub is now rumoured to be haunted. Spectral figures allegedly stand on the opposite side of the road, gazing at the pub, whilst inside there have been reports of strange noises and unexplained phenomena. Some sources cite the pub as one of the top ten haunted pubs in Britain.

The pub sign is rather splendid and lives up to the old tradition of telling the pub's name through a picture. I doubt that anyone seeing this sign could pass by without wanting to go inside to find out the story behind the name - perfect marketing!

The Only Running Footman, Mayfair

Whether known by its former name I am the Only Running Footman or its slimmed-down modern version The Only Running Footman, this is an intriguing name for a pub. Its origins lie with its founder who was, unsurprisingly, a footman. But what is a footman, and why would he be running?

Footmen were employed by very wealthy households in London to run before their carriages to clear the way, the narrow city streets being crowded with people, carts and animals. Over time the city streets were improved (particularly after the Great Fire) and the need for footmen in their original role disappeared. However, the job evolved and they became household servants, called upon to run errands. Often they were picked for their stature and good looks. They also lived out their employers' vicarious athletic ambitions, sometimes taking part in running races with rival households.

One of these running footmen retired from service and was able to buy an establishment in a mews off Berkeley Square in Mayfair to cater for his former colleagues. He named it I am the Only Running Footman, presumably because he felt he was the last of his kind.

The pub is now a popular gastro-pub, serving traditional British food and gaining favourable reviews from critics. Why they dropped the "I am" from the name is a mystery - it seems a shame, but nevertheless it remains a charming name.

The Q Inn Has Won an Award

A Plaque at the Q Inn, Stalybridge

A Plaque at the Q Inn, Stalybridge

The Q Inn, Stalybridge

Stalybridge can boast two entries in the Guinness Book of Records. One is for this pub name, officially the shortest pub name in Britain. Although the current pub is fairly modern, it is named after an earlier hostelry that stood nearby, bearing the name Q Inn.

Why is it the Q Inn - I can't find an answer to that! If you would like to do your own detective work, you can visit the pub at 3 Market Street, Stalybridge.

The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn, Stalybridge

The Q Inn isn't Stalybridge's only record-breaking pub; The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn is the other one, holding the record for the longest pub name in Britain. Locals shorten the name to the more manageable "RIfleman Inn". Like the Q Inn, the Rifleman Inn boasts a blue plaque outside as well as its own entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

The Peveril of the Peaks, Manchester

The Peveril of the Peaks, Manchester

Peveril of the Peak, Manchester

The Peveril of the Peak, or The Pev to the locals, dates from 1829. It has withstood the onslaught of time remarkably well and sits like a little island beneath the towering modern buildings around it. Now a Grade II listed building, it has distinctive green ceramic tiles around its exterior. Reviews of the pub praise it for its friendly service, live music and real ales.

The name dates back to the pub's beginnings as a coaching inn. One of the fastest stagecoaches on the Manchester to London route was named the Peveril of the Peak, making the journey in a swift two days. So impressive was this feat that the inn took the coach's name. You can find the pub at 127 Bridgewater Street, Manchester - look out for the ghost too!

Most Common Pub Names

Some of the commonest are:

Royal Oak

Red Lion


White Hart

King's Head

Where to Find these Unique Pubs

© 2011 Judi Brown