Trendy Pub Names of 1951: The Flying Saucer

In 1947 the world was in the grip of flying saucer fever in the wake of American pilot Kenneth Arnold’s supposed sighting of several UFOs in Washington State in June that year.

As far as we can tell, Britain’s first flying saucer sightings of this period were in Kent as reported in various local newspapers, such as the Dundee Evening Telegraph on 10 July:

Claims to have seen a ‘flying saucer’ have been made by two people living in villages near Rochester, Kent.. Miss Tomkins, of The Nook, Snodland, said, ‘At 10.30 on Wednesday night I was astonished to see a peculiar round object in the sky travelling at great speed. I should say it was 1500 feet up.’ … A resident of Cucton, about a mile from Snodland, said he saw the ‘flying saucer’ at the same time and described it as being silver in colour.

Months later there was another similar event as reported in the Gloucester Citizen for 25 March 1948:

Mr and Mrs G. Knight of William Road, Ashford, Kent, claim to have seen a ‘flying saucer’… They say it appeared to be a large ball of dull-red colour several times the size of the largest star, and leaving a streak behind it. It was seen travelling across the sky in a south-easterly direction towards the Channel between Folkestone and Ashford.

This local angle perhaps explains why the name The Flying Saucer was chosen for a new pub in Hempstead, Kent, announced in 1951. The sign by T.C.R. Adams (about whom we’d like to know more) was displayed before the pub was up-and-running, at an exhibition in London to accompany the publication of a book, English Inn Signs.

Here’s one side:

Pub sign with cartoon spaceship/UFO.
SOURCE: Illustrated London News, 3 March 1951.

The other featured a cartoon of a woman hurling crockery at her startled husband — flying saucers, geddit? Ho ho.

This Dover/Kent history website has more on the story:  it says the licence for the pub came from a slum establishment demolished during clearance and was applied (we think) to a building that had until this time been operating as a working men’s club.

Perhaps surprisingly, The Flying Saucer is still there and trading under the same name, having had many different signs over the years, and what was a hip joke in 1951 has become a charming quirk almost 70 years on.

9 replies on “Trendy Pub Names of 1951: The Flying Saucer”

I never knew that. I’m impressed by the illustration as it shows the saucer “upside down” to the way we usually see them depicted now. The artist got this right – it makes more sense to have a transparent viewing floor. It’s something that’s often struck me. If we were the UFO entering another planet’s atmosphere with the viewing bubble above us, we’d enter “beneath” the planet to keep it above us. Once in the atmosphere, we’d be upside down and gravitational pull would start to be a problem. Sorry. Off-topic, just impressed the artist thought it through.

It could only be a 1950s illustration – all those bubble side-pods are clearly influenced by 1940s bomber aircraft. However then people got to see real-world space capsules, where the priority was not burning up on reentry rather than a nice view, and the bottom became a single heatshield.

Obviously filmmakers then thought it was a good idea to cut holes in that heatshield for stairs/ramps per Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, ET etc – but filmmakers aren’t rocket scientists….

Cor, that’s smashing, as they used to say.

Did you publish your research anywhere?

Mark Amies, collects references to space-themed pubs, too. A while ago he was trying to track down an image of the sign for The Apollo in North Harrow.

According to Michael Jackson, in his book The English Pub, the most vulgar pub name must have been the Flying Pisspot, a long gone London pub.

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