Every month I choose a photograph from Flickr to appear here. Hopefully something interesting and informative or just plain silly.
Photo from eltpics taken by @sandymillin, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license
In the UK pub names are often displayed on signs like this and there is a historical reason for this:-
In 1393 King Richard II compelled landlords to erect signs outside their premises. The legislation stated "Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale." This was in order to make alehouses easily visible to passing inspectors, borough ale tasters, who would decide the quality of the ale they provided. William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, was one such inspector.
Another important factor was that during the Middle Ages a large proportion of the population would have been illiterate and so pictures on a sign were more useful than words as a means of identifying a public house. For this reason there was often no reason to write the establishment's name on the sign and inns opened without a formal written name, the name being derived later from the illustration on the public house's sign.
The earliest signs were often not painted but consisted, for example, of paraphernalia connected with the brewing process such as bunches of hops or brewing implements, which were suspended above the door of the public house. In some cases local nicknames, farming terms and puns were also used. Local events were also often commemorated in pub signs. Simple natural or religious symbols such as 'The Sun', 'The Star' and 'The Cross' were also incorporated into pub signs, sometimes being adapted to incorporate elements of the heraldry (e.g. the coat of arms) of the local lords who owned the lands upon which the public house stood. Some pubs also have Latin inscriptions.
Other subjects that lent themselves to visual depiction included the name of battles (e.g. Trafalgar), explorers, local notables, discoveries, sporting heroes and members of the royal family. Some pub signs are in the form of a pictorial pun or rebus. For example, a pub in Crowborough, East Sussex called The Crow and Gate has an image of a crow with gates as wings.
A British Pathe News film of 1956 shows artist Michael Farrar-Bell at work producing inn signs.
Most British pubs still have decorated signs hanging outside, or over their doors, and these retain their original function of enabling the identification of the public house. Today's pub signs almost always bear the name of the pub, both in words and often in a pictorial representation. The more remote country pubs often have stand-alone signs directing potential customers to their door.