End of the line pubs

Here’s a thought that occured to me as I was negotiating the night-bus network home last night.

There are lots of parts of London named after pubs, which helps lend the place a certain exoticism, and perhaps underlines the importance of pubs in our culture. Angel and Elephant & Castle are a couple of famous ones, but there are loads more, particularly in the suburbs, where they act as landmarks / terminus points for buses.

Some of these have long since been demolished, although that doesn’t necessarily stop them having a review on Beer in the Evening (eg the Crooked Billet in Walthamstow, which despite being knocked down well over twenty years ago still achieves a 6.3 rating).

Anyway, as I got booted off the bus next to the Swan, in Tottenham, which has a certain infamy, I whiled away the time trying to think of any of “landmark” pubs which are both (a) still in existance and (b) any good, i.e. that you might actually choose to go to.

I’m still struggling.

Incidentally, is naming areas after pubs just a British thing? Can’t say I’ve noticed it in other countries, but I am pretty unobservant.


Picture of a London night bus courtesy of Alistair Rae on Flickr.

8 replies on “End of the line pubs”

I think the best example of this phenomenon is Fitzrovia – an entire district of Central London apparently named after a pub. People consider Angel and Swiss Cottage to be areas named after pubs but I’d dispute that they’re areas at all – Angel is a spot in the very northern reaches of the parish of Clerkenwell and Swiss Cottage is a traffic island.

I gave up on nightbuses years ago. They just aren’t worth it. I remember when I lived in the sarf I feel asleep on one and ended up in Wimbledon. Scrambling downstairs, I found I’d left the book I’d been drunkenly reading upstairs. Someone shouted from the top window “mate you’ve left your book”. It came hurtling through the air and hit me straight on the head. It was a particularly weighty biog of Mussolini. A pretty revisionist one. You have to write something weighty if you’re going for revisionism of that order.

Not really nightbuses, but last buses. I remember waking up in Penny Lane bus sheds a couple of times when I first lived in Liverpool, much to the astonishment of the various cleaners and the like. I can still see that odd orange glow and smell the diesel fumes in my mind’s eye! Can’t think of any Manchester or Liverpool areas named after pubs though.

I have a funny one about lastbuses as well (aren’t we getting off topic?).
It was a few months after moving to Prague. We decided with my mate Mark to go for one or two pints of after work that turned into 15 or so. Living in a village outsite de capital I had the schedule of the last bus hardwired in my brains. I don’t remember paying the bill (I did), I don’t remember taking the tram that will take me to my bus stop, I vagely remember taking A bus (I think it was the right one). Next thing I know, the driver is shaking me awake. Still pretty intoxicated I managed to mumble the name of my Village to a group of people and they pointed pointed to the opposite direction they were going. When I turned around I saw darkness, just empty fields. I shrugged, and having no other choice, I started walking. Soon I got to a road sign and using my mobile display as a torch I read that my village was 6 (it could have been 8) km away. Shrugged again, zipped up my jacked and resumed my stumbling down the road. I don’t know how long I had been walking (actually, I don’t even know if I was going the right direction) when I saw a car coming my way. I sticked my thumb out and expecting the driver to stop, but he did! It was one of those old Škodas, the driver was a big bearded bloke. When I got in I said to him “I don’t speak Czech, but take me to Velké P?ílepy” (that was my village’s name). In just a couple of minutes, we were there. I never knew his name, but I will be forever grateful. If I had been the driver and I had seen myself, I wouldn’t have stopped.

Now, back to topic.
Naming stops after pubs isn’t only a British thing. Czechs do it as well. There are several cases, but I remember two specific ones. The village of ?erný V?l, northwest of Prague, has two bus stops, one of them is called ?erný V?l, Hospda (simply, pub), that pub has been tapping beer since the 15th century, apparently.
Then, in the village of Chýn?, there is the stop Pivovarský Dv?r, in honour to the local brewpub.

There’s a village in North Tipperary called Horse & Jockey, named after a pub on the site which is still there. Dublin has several major junctions named after businesses which once stood on them — many of which, funnily enough, were pubs. Doyle’s Corner still has Doyle’s pub on it. I don’t know if Leonard’s Corner was named after a pub, but it now has a pub on it called “Leonard’s Corner” in a weird fit of topographical reflexivity.

I’d forgotten about Fitzrovia. The Fitzroy’s a decent pub, albeit very crowded these days.

Angel’s been Angel for as long as I or my parents remember. But perhaps owes the persistance of its name to the tube station rather than the pub.

PF – in my arbitrary rules that I’ve just made up, it’s got to be an area named after a pub, not just a bus stop.

And if we’re going off topic: There’s something romantic about night buses for me. It reminds me of coming back from gigs as a teenager. Also, Londoners are more talkative on night buses than anywhere else and will strike up conversations with strangers. There is the occasional nutter, but I’ve travelled on my own on them plenty of times without hassle.

Your day bus user wouldn’t have bothered trying to return Stonch’s book!

This is a turnaround from when pubs were often named after landmarks in the vicinity. For example, the early inn “in the shade of the oak tree” might eventually become “The Oak”.

Or pub owners would help people locate their pub by placing a distinctive object outside or by painting the building a different colour – this was at a time before house numbers remember. Hence pubs called the Blue Posts, Red House or Crooked Billet.

Whilst Crooked Billet sounds like a dodgy place for soldier to sleep it is actually a log or branch, especially one cut for firewood. If a large branch were felled in a storm, an enterprising landlord might drag it in front of the pub as a landmark and a source of firewood.

Elaine Saunders
Author – A Book About Pub Names

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