This page attempts to explain the significance and meaning behind the Red Lion Inn Sign. Research is augmented with photographs of pub signs.


Inn Signs
Inn Signs
Red Lion

Background Information
The sign of the Red Lion was once easily the most common sign in the country. Indeed, in 1986 there were over 600 Red Lions in Great Britain. However, the number is slowly decreasing as pubs close and others are renamed with more contemporary titles.

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The Red Lion inn sign evolved because of John of Gaunt who, during the fourteenth century, was the most powerful man in the England. Born in Ghent in 1340, he was Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of Edward III. Gaunt is a corruption of his birthplace.

In 1359 John of Gaunt married his cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, and was created duke in 1362. His wife died in 1369 and in 1372 he married Constance, daughter of Pedro the Cruel of Castile, and assumed the title King of Castile - though he failed by his expeditions to oust his rival, Henry of Trastamare.

Before his father's death, he became the most influential personage in the realm and was thought to have ambitions for the crown. He opposed the clergy and protected Wycliffe. The young King. Richard II, distrusting him, sent him in 1386 on another attempt to secure a treaty for the marriage of his daughter Catherine to the future King of Castile.

After his return to England in 1389 he reconciled Richard to his [John's] brother, the Duke of Gloucester, and by Richard was made Duke of Aquitane and sent on several embassies to France. On his second wife's death, he had married in 1396 his mistress, Catherine Swynford by whom he had three sons, legitimated in 1397. Henry VIII descended from the eldest of these. However, he was not a competent general and he became increasingly unpopular amongst the ordinary people. When Wat Tyler led an insurrection in 1381 it was John of Gaunt's palace which was destroyed.

John of Gaunt is mainly referred to in pub names by a reference to his badge. In Scotland, the Red Lion is a heraldic reference because when James I [also James VI of Scotland] came to the throne he ordered that a heraldic red lion should be displayed in public places.
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Inn Sign
Inn sign of the Red Lion at Little Haywood [1972]

Inn sign of the Red Lion at Weobley [2005]

Inn sign of the Red Lion at Birchover [2005]

Inn sign of the Red Lion at Bewdley [2001]

Links to other Websites
Inn Sign Society

Featured Inn Signs
Click here for a list of inn signs featured on the website, along with an overview of British pub signs.

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Inn sign of the Red Lion at Leek [1973]

Inn sign of the Red Lion at Bromsgrove [2005]

Inn sign of the Red Lion at Powick [2010]

Alexander the Great
"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.
Alexander the Great

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Bar Parlour Stained Glass

Beer and Pipe Smoker

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Public Bar Stained Glass

Woman Serving Beer

Brewery Buildings