Photographs, Negatives, Slides and Plates of Inn Signs.

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London : Inn Sign of The Escape at Mabledon Place in Bloomsbury [c.1974]

Located at Mabledon Place in Bloomsbury, London, this pub has had several names. In more recent times the pub has been known as Mabel's Tavern. In the past, and for much of its life, it traded as the Kentish Arms. The sign was featured in a series of 15 cards issued by Whitbread in 1973, though the quality is much better on the real signboard. The rear of the card stated that the "house is dedicated to the men who made their breakouts from prisons like Colditz and Spandau in World War 2." I wonder if the name was changed in response to "Colditz," the popular BBC drama screened between 1972 and 1974. This was essential viewing for young teenagers who would be glued to the telly on the evening it was screened. Inevitably, there was a board game set within the castle. Although I have not played it for several decades, it still sits within my games cupboard. Redolent of the imagery used at the time, I love the snipped barbed wire with the searchlights and goon tower. One glance at this and I can almost hear the theme music.


Whitbread Inn Sign for the Rising Sun

I spotted this Whitbread inn sign being sold at auction a few years ago. The sign had degraded so I took a photograph and tidied it up a bit. A lovely example of the Rising Sun inn sign, I do not know the location where this signboard once swung. There used to be a Whitbread-operated pub of this name on Royal Mint Street, a short distance from the Tower of London. However, this is not a confirmed location for this signboard.


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Woking : Inn Sign of The Rowbarge at St. John's [c.1973]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

This Ind Coope sign had not long been painted when photographed. Dated 1973, the board was signed by George Mackenney, one of the great inn sign artists of his time, and a man born above a pub in the East End of London. His wife, Thelma, was also an artist of fine repute. The signboard illustration does what it says on the tin in that a Rowbarge, or Row Barge, was a rowing vessel used to transport royalty and the elite upper classes. Here, the boat is being rowed by four men, with two courtiers making up the passenger numbers. The signboard seems to portray the River Thames but the Rowbarge is some distance from that watercourse. The building, located in St. John's, is close to the Basingstoke Canal and is said to have been built to serve the thirsty navvies digging the navigation. The canal does, however, connect with the River Thames at Weybridge via the Wey Navigation.


Norfolk : Bullard's Inn Sign of the Red Lion [2014]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

I took this photograph in 2014 but, of course, the signboard is of much greater antiquity. It formed part of an extensive collection of inn signs displayed inside the Fat Cat at Norwich, one of the great pub experiences of the UK. The signboard was painted for Bullard's who had a number of houses trading with the Red Lion sign. Many closed a long, long time ago. A likely candidate for this signboard was the tavern on the Market Place at Fakenham, a pub that closed around 1974. Another Red Lion operated by the brewery was located at Etling Green, near East Dereham. That hostelry closed in the 1950s.


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West Norwood : Inn Sign of the Horns Tavern [c.1973]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

This signboard hung from the Horns Tavern at West Norwood in the early 1970s. The hostelry was rebuilt by Courage during the inter-war years but there had been a tavern on the site for many a year, long before suburbia stretched out and absorbed West Norwood. I can only assume that some form of horn dance, similar to that of Abbots Bromley, was held in or near the forest here. But why such an overt reference to the Staffordshire village on an inn sign of South London? There is even a milestone showing the distance to Abbots Bromley.


Mayford : Ind Coope Inn Sign for the Mayford Arms [c.1973]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

This signboard was captured on film in the early 1970s when the Mayford Arms was operated by Ind Coope. In more recent times there was a similar scene on an updated signboard. However, the name of the hostelry, located at Mayford to the south of Woking in Surrey, has more recently been changed to the Drumming Snipe. The updated Mayford Arms sign had been toned down from this image which shows a bare-breasted woman canoodling under the tree. A lute player is lying down on the bank of the Hoe Stream that flows close to the hostelry. The waitress is probably thinking that these idling imbibers are a right bunch of numpties. Aside from the sign, the Mayford Arms was once kept by Vernon Robinson, a veteran publican who held a licence for 55 years before his death in September 1941. As a young man he had run the Royal Oak at Hascombe before moving to the Mayford Arms in the late Victorian era. He held the licence of the Mayford Arms for 46 years, before relinquishing it to his son in 1940. On his passing it was reported that he was "a popular host, and for a long time was treasurer to the Westfield Cricket Club."


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