Public House Names

Recently I've been forced into visiting a number of Public Houses... all in the name of "research" you understand! Pub names generally fall into one of three groups:
 (i) the monarchy (e.g. The George or the most popular English pub name The Crown),
 (ii) wildlife (e.g. Fox and Hounds,The Swan, etc.), or
 (iii) the locality (e.g. The Steyne).

While the pubs themselves may have a history these names are relatively uninteresting. Occasionally however, pubs have more unusual names hiding a more curious meaning.

Most Yaptonians will know we are endowed with four pubs in the village (rather unusual in itself to have so many!). The Lamb Inn was first recorded as a "beerhouse" in the 1871 census, selling cider pressed from the neighbouring orchard. As with most beerhouses it evolved from a farmer’s cottage, parts of which can still be identified among the later additions to the building.

The Shoulder of Mutton and Cucumbers once appeared in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest pub name in Britain but where does the name originate? The earliest reference I have found is in court proceedings from 1732 where the witness said she had, "A Shoulder of Mutton and Cucumbers" for her supper. However, I can find no references to how to cook it! Was the cucumber a garnish added after cooking or perhaps a pickle or sauce? It seems more likely that the cucumber was a staple food (remember that the potato wasn`t widespread until after 1780) so was probably eaten in bulk rather than as a trimming or in a salad. If anyone has a recipe for this dish then please let me know.

The pub sign
(circa 1957)

The Black Dog

Until recently, the Olive Branch was, of course, called The Black Dog - and is still called that by most locals! The Black Dog is a fairly common name for a pub but there’s a suggestion this one dates back to the time when smuggling was widespread in this area in the mid-1700s. The smuggling was controlled by two gangs: the Hawkhurst gang under their leader Thomas Kingsmill and the Goodhursts. Kingsmill had a large and vicious black dog which used to warn him if anyone set an ambush. The story continues that the Hawkhurst gang frequently drank in this pub and it's possibly named after this very dog. But is this pub really that old? I think I need to do some research in the beer cellar to gather evidence!

Little is known of the history of the Maypole Inn but does anyone know anything about the derivation of the name? Did the May Day celebrations actually take place in its grounds? Until recently there was no village green as such so was the focus of the village actually in North End and the area surrounding the Maypole? Until the 1950s, most people lived in North End, Church Rd/Church Lane/Main Rd or Bilsham Rd. so you would expect "the Mutton" or the Black Dog to be a more centrally located place for village events.

Oh, and one more question... since most of the area around Yapton was arable farming, why then do sheep appear in two of the pub names? The Sussex downland was popular sheep country and was presumably the source of meat for most of the population - not many cows or pigs around at the time?

If anyone knows the answers to any of these questions, I'll be pleased to hear from them.

Geoff Westcott
August 2005

(Originally published in Yapton News & Views, September 2005)