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Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem - the oldest pub in England

8 weirdest pub names from around Britain

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to have been established in 1189, which would make it the oldest pub in England. Pilgrims used to stop at the inn on their way to the Holy Land | Image: Peter James Sampson /

The Case is Altered, The Bear and Ragged Staff, The Treaty of Commerce, Ye Olde Trippe to Jerusalem, The Cat and Custard Pot, Old Mother Cullen’s Well - Britain has a wealth of unique pub names, some of which are very strange indeed.

Here, we take a look at how some of our public houses got their weird and wonderful names.

1. The Bucket of Blood

The name of this pub in Hayle, Cornwall, harks back to the days of smuggling. In 18th century Cornwall, smuggling was a way of life for an estimated 150,000 people. Determined to crack down on the loss of revenue to the exchequer, the government regularly sent tax collectors to the county. The collectors were given short shrift by the locals, who relied on smuggling to feed their families in what was one of the most deprived areas of England at the time.

Inevitably, some revenue collectors went missing in the course of their enquiries, and that is how the Bucket of Blood gained its macabre name. According to local legend, the landlord of the New Inn in Hayle went to draw water one day, but when he pulled the bucket up from his well it contained the severed head of a revenue collector bobbing about in a pool of blood. In honour of this grisly story, the New Inn officially changed its name to the Bucket of Blood in 1980.

2. The Drunken Duck

According to local legend, this cosy country pub in Ambleside in the Lake District got its name thanks to the landlady spotting what she thought was a dead duck in her backyard. Thinking the duck would make a lovely supper, she brought it inside and plucked it. However, just as she was about to put it in the cooking pot, the duck woke up and began flapping about and quacking noisily.

Perplexed, the landlady told her husband about the duck and he soon discovered the reason why it had appeared dead - one of his barrels had fallen over and cracked open, leaking beer into the ditch the duck drank from. The duck wasn’t dead; it was just blind drunk.

Racked with guilt, the landlady knitted an outfit for the duck to keep it from freezing to death while its feathers grew back. When the news got out, people began turning up at the pub to see the duck. Spotting an opportunity to make a pretty penny from passing tourists, the landlord changed the name of the Station Hotel to the Drunken Duck.

3. The Pickled Parson of Sedgefield

Reverend John Garnage, the rector of Sedgefield in County Durham, died suddenly in December 1747. His untimely death came just one week before he could collect the tithes owed by the local farmers and landowners of his parish. The parson’s wife wasn’t keen on the idea of a year’s worth of money going to the Bishop of Durham rather than to her and her children, so she devised a plan.

The widow kept the news of her husband's death a secret. To prevent his body from decaying, she stored it in a barrel of brandy. Once the tithes came in, she pulled her husband out of the brandy, let his body dry out, and only then informed the doctor of the Reverend Garnage’s death.

The doctor examined the parson’s body and found nothing untoward other than the stink of booze. He thought nothing of this because the reverend was known to enjoy a tipple...or five. The death certificate was duly issued, the widow kept the tithes and the story of the pickled parson lives on in the unique name of the local pub.

4. Bunch of Carrots

According to the World Carrot Museum (yes, that’s actually a thing), there’s only one pub in the world with ‘carrot’ in its name, and that’s the Bunch of Carrots in Hampton Bishop, Hereford.

The Bunch of Carrots got its unusual name from a local rock formation in the River Wye that runs past the back of the pub. Up until 1842, the pub was known simply as The Carrots. Local legend has it that a ferry used to carry passengers from one side of the river to the other so they could drink at the pub. The ferry eventually sank, was dragged ashore, and upturned in the pub’s orchard where it was used as a houseboat known as ‘Noah’s Ark’.

5. I Am The Only Running Footman

Now shortened to The Only Running Footman, the I Am The Only Running Footman once boasted the longest pub name in London. In the days before modern transport, carriages thronged the streets of the capital, and running before them to make sure the road was clear of obstructions were servants known as footmen. As the roads improved, the job of running footmen disappeared and those who had been employed in the trade were redeployed as house servants.

One footman decided not to stay on as a servant and instead bought a pub in Mayfair called The Running Horse and renamed it after himself. The pub is still going strong today, though many will not know of its quirky and somewhat egotistical origins.

6. Poosie Nansie’s

In 1784, the Scottish poet Robert Burns moved to a farm near the village of Mauchline in East Ayrshire. Burns liked to pop into the local inn run by a Mr. George Gibson and his wife Agnes, who went by the nickname ‘Poosie Nancy’.

Burns based his poem ‘The Jolly Beggars’ on the rowdy revels he witnessed in the inn, bringing the unusual name of its landlady to public attention. It was only a matter of time before the inn itself adopted the nickname of its most famous tenant.

7. The Pyrotechnists Arms

The sign for this pub in Nunhead Green, London once depicted the conspirators in the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. This led most visitors to conclude that it is named in honour of them. It now bears an image of Guy Fawkes, so the misconception seems likely to continue for a good while longer.

The pub’s name actually derives from the fact that it sits close to the site of the factory of what’s considered to be the oldest fireworks maker in England - Brocks Fireworks. Founded in the early part of the 18th century by a Mr. John Brock, Brocks became a well-known name in the industry, especially after the many spectacular displays it hosted in partnership with the Crystal Palace.

8. My Father’s Moustache

Finally, one of the weirdest names of all. The My Father’s Moustache can be found in the town of Louth, Lincolnshire. Two theories have been put forward as to how the pub got its unusual name - from a song that was briefly popular back in the 1940s or from a long-forgotten American insult (“Ya fadda’s mustache!”).

In fact, a quick call to the pub revealed both theories couldn’t be further from the truth. “It’s quite simple,” we were told. “Forty years ago, the landlord of the pub was building an extension and decided to rename the place. He asked his kids what he should call the pub and they said ‘My Father’s Moustache’ because he had a moustache. There’s nothing more to it than that.”

Sometimes, it’s best just to ask!

Five Facts About Pub Names

  • The most popular pub name in the UK is The Red Lion. A red lion was the personal crest of John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III. Gaunt was a very popular figure in 14th century England, and many establishments adopted the name in his honour.
  • Many of the earliest pubs catered for illiterate religious pilgrims. To easily identify themselves to travellers, innkeepers hung up signs depicting religious imagery, which is why pubs bear names such as The Lamb, The Angel, and Noah’s Ark to this day.
  • During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, many pubs bearing religious names changed their name to show allegiance to Henry VIII. Names such as The King’s Head and The King’s Arms became popular during this time.
  • The name The Royal Oak commemorates Charles II hiding in an oak tree from Cromwell’s forces following the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Many Royal Oak pub signs depict a tiny figure of Charles hiding in an oak tree’s canopy.
  • There are conflicting rumours about where J D Wetherspoons, Britain's third biggest pub chain, got its name from. However, founder Tim Martin appeared to reveal the true inspiration during a 1999 interview. He explained that his old geography teacher was too nice. "I can't control the pub, he couldn't control the class, so I'll name it after him." One thing is for certain though, the ‘J D’ was added after his favourite TV character, J D ‘Boss’ Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard.