Warmongering Pubs

If I said I’d been away on holiday in New Zealand for three weeks,1 that’d hardly make much difference, given that at best I seem to put up one post on here a month, for all my good intentions. So I’ll just get straight down to it. This post returns to the subject of pub names.

London, as the country’s capital, was once the capital of a vast Empire stretching around the globe. Maintaining an Empire requires a strong military, so it’s no surprise to see pubs which reflect that history. Of course there are many pubs named after admirals, generals and other figures known for their wartime heroics (not to mention the occasional prominent warship or important battle). There are plenty of Dukes of Wellington, several Nelsons, quite a few Churchills, the list goes on.

The Army and Navy (Stoke Newington N16)
Figure 45. The Army and Navy (Stoke Newington N16).

Signing Up

Before you can have armed forces, you need the forces, and ideally they’ll volunteer — indeed, there are quite a few pubs of this name, like The Volunteer (Marylebone NW1).

Then there are the many different branches of the armed forces to which volunteers might sign up. Given their long history and importance to the Empire, the Army and Navy are well represented (as in the Stoke Newington pub The Army and Navy, fig. 45), whereas the Marines and the more recent Royal Air Force (formed in 1918) don’t find their way into pub names too often.2

The Navy Arms (Deptford SE8), now closed The Royal Navy (Limehouse E14), now closed The Volunteer (Bexleyheath DA7) The Volunteer (Marylebone NW1) The Volunteer (Plumstead SE18)

Weaponry

Once you have your forces, they need to be armed. Weapons must be manufactured first, and many of those early industries were based in London, which once upon a time was the Empire’s manufacturing centre as well as its capital.3 Almost all industry has long since moved away, but it is remembered in pub names like The Gunmakers (Clerkenwell EC1, fig. 46), which recognises the work of Hiram Maxim, based in nearby Hatton Garden.4

Gunmakers, Clerkenwell, EC1
Figure 46. The Gunmakers (Clerkenwell EC1).

The Gunmakers (Marylebone W1) The Gunmakers' Arms (Debden IG10)

Once the weaponry has been made, it’s ready to use, and there’s certainly no shortage of pubs named The Gun (this example in Blackwall E14, thumbnail below).

The Artillery Arms (Bunhill Fields EC1) Ye Olde Axe (Haggerston E2) The Gun (Blackwall E14) The Gun (Croydon CR0) The Gun (Hackney E9) The Gun (Spitalfields E1)

Military Roles

The enlistees then need to be assigned ranks and roles within their respective forces. There are few ranks to be found in pub names beyond Admiral — and there certainly aren’t any called The Private (or, for that matter, The Cannon Fodder)5 — but you can find a few usefully martial skillsets among pub names. The Marksman (Bethnal Green E2, fig. 47) is just one such,6 though another called The Gunners (Highbury N5) no doubt owes more to a certain nearby football club’s nickname.

The Marksman (Bethnal Green E2)
Figure 47. The Marksman (Bethnal Green E2).

The Gunners (Highbury N5) The Master Gunner (Moorgate EC2)

Emplacements

On the field of battle, you need to shelter your soldiers against the danger as best you can. I’ve already written about pubs named after castles, and it’s not surprising that the kind of close camaraderie that undoubtedly comes from these embattled emplacements lends itself easily to the public house. Then again, a pub like The Fort (formerly The Royal Fort, Bermondsey SE1, fig. 48), probably has more claim than many to a siege mentality.

The Fort (Bermondsey SE1)
Figure 48. The Fort (Bermondsey SE1).

Bünker (Covent Garden WC2) The Garrison (Bermondsey SE1)

Success

Finally, if one’s forces fight well, maybe they’ll achieve Victory (this example being in Bethnal Green E2, fig. 49). Quite a few of the pubs by that name, though, seem to have renamed or closed, and perhaps, given the predictions of gloom in the industry, that’s not entirely inappropriate. I certainly hope that’s not the case.

The Victory (Bethnal Green E2)
Figure 49. The Victory (Bethnal Green E2).

The Conqueror (Shoreditch E2), now closed The Victory (Bermondsey SE16), since renamed The Golden Lion, and now closed The Victory (Camden Town NW1), now closed The Victory (Hoxton E2), since renamed Melange and now closed The Victory (Regent's Park NW1) The Victory (Southall UB1), now closed The Victory (Colliers Wood SW19), since renamed The Tup and now closed

Footnotes:
[1] Yes, I had a nice time, thanks. I went to a few brewpubs (I’d recommend The Twisted Hop in Christchurch, particularly) and quaffed some nice ale, which they like to keep at a much colder temperature over there. Also tried an interesting seasonal from Mac’s called Brewjolais which uses very young hops, though I don’t personally understand all the technicalities. On the way home, we stopped off in Seattle, which also has plenty of fine microbreweries. However, this blog is dedicated to London pubs, so enough of that.
[2] Though The Dog and Bell (Deptford SE8) used to be called The Royal Marine.
[3] Not all manufacturing of explosives was turned to war, and if I find nowhere else to mention one of my local pubs and one of the more strikingly sui generis pub names in London, then I shall shoehorn it into a footnote here: The Pyrotechnists’ Arms (Nunhead SE15), named for a former local manufacturer of fireworks.
[4] The pub’s website gives information about the historical connections. Also, you’re probably aware of it, but the publican’s blog (Jeffrey’s Beer Blog) is one of my favourites, and I can heartily recommend it, even to those who don’t obsess about the gravity of real ale, or whatnot.
[5] As far as the photos I have, The Driver (Pentonville N1) used to be called The General Picton, and I daresay there are others I’ll uncover in time, but already I have The Admiral Duncan (Soho W1), The Admiral Hardy (Greenwich SE10), The Admiral Keppel (Hoxton N1, now closed), and The Lord High Admiral (Pimlico SW1).
[6] Incidentally, it appears to have been given a makeover in the last year, as befits its proximity to Columbia Road Market, perhaps.

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5 responses to “Warmongering Pubs

  1. Under “Success” you could have had the Conquering Hero, SE19.

  2. Alas, though, I don’t have a photo of it (yet). When I do have a photo of this or any other relevantly named pub, this post may be quietly updated… I add ‘Railway’ and ‘Castle’ pubs to the relevant posts as I find them as well.

  3. I would have guessed that lots of pubs called themselves The Victory specifically in honour of Nelson’s ship.

  4. Oh yes, I don’t daresay. A lot of ship names are rather similar to those kinds of demonstrative nouns (Endeavour, Enterprise, et al.), that it can be a bit difficult to tell at a glance where they come from.

  5. My ex lived right behind The Fort. It’s certainly not a pub any more. The clientele are… “interesting”. Bring a towel!

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