Pub Signs

Everyone who has visited England will have noticed the colourful signs which hang outside almost all of the public houses. Other countries make use of the idea, but it is in England that to me they appear at their most vibrant.

The practice of hanging a sign outside a drinking house dates from 1393, when during the reign of Richard II, a law was passed to make them compulsory. This was in order make them easily visible to passing inspectors of the quality of the ale they provided. At this time, water was not always good to drink and ale was the usual replacement.

The first signs were often not painted, but consisted of such things as bunches of hops or implements to do with brewing which were suspended above the door. Nicknames, farming terms and puns were also used. Events were often commemorated. The signs are often of heraldic interest, bearing in many cases the arms and badges of local lords.

Sadly, they have begun to disappear over the last twenty years or so, with the onset of trendy bars and equally trendy names. This is a reflection of the same wish to replace civic arms with tasteless logos.

I felt that here would be a good place to preserve some of the pub signs of England.

There are, of course, thousands of them, and I wanted original illustrations. I have therefore concentrated on the area of North Lincolnshire, with occasional visits to other places where the same sign occurs, or helps to add something to the commentary.

So far, the types of signs are grouped into those taken from photographs and those taken from the Whitbread series of cards


Most of the illustrations are based on photographs taken by Mike Power & Joy Lodge. For aesthetic reasons, I have deleted background and compensated for such things as perspective and distortion.

I have also based some of the illustrations on photographs from The Inn Sign Society, whose members are able to purchase CDs of collections of signs. The site can be accessed from the Links Page.

If you would like to send me photographs of pub signs of any sort, I would be very pleased to put them in this section, with due credit.

Article on The Sheffield Arms
Heraldic Signs, Lincolnshire
Heraldic Signs, Sheffield
Heraldic Signs, Miscellaneous
Heraldic Symbols, Cross Keys
Heraldic Symbols, The Lion
Heraldic Symbols, The Crown
Heraldic Symbols, The White Hart
Personal Arms, 1 Cavendish & Norfolk
Personal Arms 2, Miscellaneous
Royal Arms



In 1949, the first series of inn signs were produced. These and successive series were based upon inn signs to be found in Kent. Later, the field was widened, and the last cards were issued in 1974.

Devon & Somerset
Isle of Wight