There have been two and possibly three of these in the town. The Unicorn is a sign of Goldsmiths, Apothecaries and Waxchandlers. For some reason it was also used by early printers. The Red Lion was made even more popular than it had been by the order of James I of England that the Red Lion of Scotland should be displayed on all public buildings and if publicans took this up why not the other supporter of the Royal arms? In any case, it is a good sign for an inn as the Unicorn symbolises purity. A unicorn horn is actually the tusk or tooth of the narwhal.
It is reported that the Unicorn's horn sweats when in the presence of poison, and for that reason it is laid on the tables of the great, and made into knife handles, which, when placed on the tables, show the presence of poison. But this is not sufficiently proved.
Also: The Red Lion
In Taylor's notes for the NN&Q he has, beside the Red Lion formerly called the Unicorn and the NRO have a document dated 1618 referring to this inn. RBN 1898 have a Unicorn, location Unknown on their 16th and 17th century list and I think this could be it. It is interesting that here we have the Unicorn of England becoming the Red Lion of Scotland and there is a possibility that it was once a George & Dragon (refer to the entry for: The Red Lion)
In the Northampton Mercury there were a whole series of notices and advertisements from 1726 to 1765 and possibly longer which refer to the Unicorn. Most of these mention Bridge Street and none Horsemarket. As advertisements are appearing at the same time for the Red Lion, Horsemarket I conclude that they all refer to the Unicorn, Bridge Street. I have been unable to fix its location.
The Book of Election Minutes 1768 mentions: - the Valiant Dragon Alehouse and later refers to it as being in Newland. Could possibly have been called the Valiant Dragoon?
I don’t feel there is any need to explain the origins of this popular sign; the town has had four of them - one of which survives.
This pub is Victoria House, which still stands at the northwest corner of the Market, facing the Corn Exchange. Only two entries, 1864 and 1869.
This pub stood at the road junction at the top of Semilong Road. It was lost during redevelopment in the 1970s. Entries run from 1864 to 1973.
A purpose-built Victorian pub that’s still with us, although it was for a time the Social Club of the Northampton Nene Angling Club. The earliest date I have for it is 1878 although the present sign over door declares that it was established in 1897. This photograph was taken when the Angling Club still had it.
Refer to the entry for: The Britannia
We have had two Vines in the town, but one was an abbreviation for the Hopvine, a different thing entirely. This sign wasn’t because the proprietor wanted to indicate that wine was available, but because of a large vine that grew outside the door. This was cut down in the 1880s and the inn itself was demolished in 1958. The pub stood one door east from the corner of Fish Street.
An indication of its age can be got from a reference of 1891 to a landlord of 60 years before (circa 1831) and no indication that he was anything like the first. As I understand it the inn was originally on one site and the house next door was a pub with no name. This nameless pub was opened by Mr. James Durham in about 1830 who left some time later. On his departure the landlord of the Vine, a Mr. James Ager, moved to these premises and took the sign with him.
The freehold of the property appears to belong to a 16th century St. Giles' Estate Charity and in the 1950s still had 800 years to run.
Refer to the entry for: The Hopvine
Also: The Forget Me Not
Still with us, but with a pointless name. At first it was called the Forget Me Not, one of those whimsical names like the Welcome Inn. The name by which most Northamptonians know it by is the Volunteer, an old popular name recalling the Militia of the old days I wonder if George Garrett, the landlord at the time of the change might have been one of these men?
In 1994 the pub had a facelift and the landlord appealed for ideas for names of the bars that were being created. The result was the Mobbs Room after Colonel Edgar Mobbs whose memorial stands facing the names on the War Memorial opposite the pub and the Whistling Walter. Walter The Whistler Flint used to wander around the town in days gone by happily whistling to himself no particular tune I could ever discern - a loveable eccentric who has long gone.
From the 17th century carriers were a vital part of the nation’s trade. They would travel the land with their wagons stopping on the way to collect and deliver goods. Bridge Street with its national traffic would be an obvious site for this sign.
Wright 1884 has a v after the proprietor’s name so this confirms it as an establishment that provided victuals and accommodation. It no doubt goes back a lot further than its earliest appearance in a directory of 1824 and was probably in business at the time of the Universal British Directory 1791, but, no doubt, was not posh enough to rate a mention in it. The last entry was in 1906. It stood on the south side of the jitty in Bridge Street known as Francis Jitty, more or less opposite Angel Street.
Refer to the entry for: The Welcome Inn
Also: The Crowns
Also: The Warwick Arms
Only two entries (1901 and 1905) neither give landlords’ names, one gives a number and the number could indicate that this was the Crown(s)
There is a family called Ward with local connections. Sir Edward (1638-1714) was chief Baron of the Exchequer and second son of William Ward of Preston, Rutland. He had Whig connections, so it could be a political sign.
The other possibility is that ward is an occupation, as in warden this sounds rather archaic and I don’t believe that either of these two pubs is of any age. Both appear around 1900 neither lasted very long. Did the name have some short-lived significance that we are no longer aware of?
This pub stood on the west corner of Oak Street and Lawrence Street. Beer-Retailers, 1878, the name, 1900, last entry 1910.
Also: The Crowns
Also: The Ward Arms
The licence of this pub was given up and the proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey moved with the licence to the new Romany Hotel in 1938. Entries for this pub date from 1840 until 1938, but Aubrey 1940 & 1941 still have it in them.
The Battle of Waterloo on the 18th of June 1815 was one of the hardest fought in English history and the victory resulted in the creation of many place-names involving Waterloo and Wellington. This pub could have been one of them, although it is untraceable before 1893.
It stood on the north side of Gold Street a few doors from the junction with Horsemarket. O/S 1964 shows a small property at this number, so it was probably a beer-shop, although it doesn’t appear in any of the Beer-Retailer lists I have consulted. It ran from 1893 to 1910 according to the directories.
Originally, in the 1960s this was a restaurant, but Berni Inns purchased it and turned it into a pub-restaurant.
Also: The Hero of Scotland
Also: The Wallace
This is one of those pub names that use the word Inn as an invitation; the other popular one (we haven't got one) is the Dew Drop Inn. The earliest reference to this pub is 1845 when it was called the Hero of Scotland. Presumably the proprietor, Mr. George Roberts, was a patriotic Scot, for by 1864 it was being called the Wallace and since the film Braveheart we all know who William Wallace was - or do we? Somewhere between 1878 and 1893 it changed to the Welcome and has stayed as such to this day.
Also: The Blacks Head
This pub stood on the northeast corner of Albert Street and Lady's Lane. There is one appearance of a pub at this address in 1864 when it is called the Black's Head, it does not appear again until twenty years later when it is called the Wellington. It is possible that these are two separate pubs. The name Wellington runs from 1884 to 1911.
Law 1847 shows Wellington Place it as the east side of Barrack Road from Bull Lane (Campbell Street) to Lawrence Street. According to O/S 1964 number 19 is a small shop opposite Regent House, part of a terrace, but distinguished from its fellows by a side entrance. It is now a patch of grass having been redeveloped. The name is a good one for a pub so close to the Barracks, for many years it was listed under Beer-Retailers (1845-1878), was first named in 1884, the last entry is in 1948.
Refer to the entry for: The Tram Car Tavern
A Warfinger is a wharf owner. This pub stood on the east corner of the junction of Weston Wharf and Weston Street. The area went as part of the construction of St. Peter's Way. Entries run from 1845 until 1956.
This pub is untraced from the RBN 1898 list of 16th and 17th century inns.
A popular sign, both locally and nationally, not only for pubs, but bakers. The arms of the Livery Companies of Innkeepers, Publicans, Bakers and Brewers all carry a wheatsheaf as a charge
Dallington was a village outside the Borough so there is little information on its early days. It first appears in the directories in 1830 and I see no reason why it shouldn't be much older. The building is a Grade II Listed Building and is described as being 18th century. It is still a working pub.
Also: The White Hart
There is mention in a document of a White Hart on the north side of Gold Street in 1636 and I have also learnt that it was next door to the Three Tuns. By 1739, after the Great Fire of 1675, we have White Hart now commonly called Wheatsheaf although a deed of 1750 is still calling it the White Hart. The earlier date of 1636 is from an Abstract of Title of the Rose & Crown Inn dated 1767 from this document it is possible to work out that the inn occupied at least some of the site of the present Wilkinson's store. Directory dates run from 1824 to 1854. It must have been of some substance as it had a cock-pit in the 18th century:
AT THE WHEATSHEAF in Northampton, on Whitsun-Monday and Whitsun-Tuesday the 14th & 15th of May, will be a Match at Cock-fighting, between the Gentlemen of Daventry and Northampton, for 2 Guineas a Battel, and 10 Guineas the odd Battel. Each side to show 21 Cocks and Stags.
Northampton Mercury, April 9, 1722
The site of this pub, just inside the North Gate of the Medieval Town implies, along with the name, a possible early origin, however, the building must have been a replacement. The earliest directory entry is 1864 and the building could have dated from this period. The superb stucco-work shows that this could have only been a pub called the Wheatsheaf with the frontage surmounted by a stook of wheatsheaves. It closed as a pub in about 1957, but continued as a club for a time, it is now lost to road widening.
The word bear has been used as a pun on beer, a trade token, not local, of 1670 for an inn called the Bear has on it Beware of ye Beare - alluding to the beers strength. Anne, Richard III's Queen, daughter of the Earl of Warwick had a White Bear as her badge as a difference from her father's Bear & Ragged Staff and I think this is the most probably explanation for the sign.
This inn is one from the RBN 1898 16th and 17th century list, but in this case I have found a reference from the Vernalls Inquest (property rights and disputes) of 1681 where there is mentioned a, White Beare - widow Drables house. Sadly, I do not know where Widow Drable lived.
Also: The Kingsley Park Hotel
This is still with us and stands in a prominent position on the Kettering Road at the northern end of the Racecourse. Throughout most of its existence this pub was known as the Kingsley Park Hotel and it was only in 1955 - 72 years after it was built that an application was made by the owners, Northampton Brewery Company to the magistrates to change the name to the White Elephant. I was ten at the time of the change, but I had always known it as the Elephant, even though it had Kingsley Park Hotel outside - one of childhood’s mysteries!
The Racecourse was at one time an actual racecourse. When racing began in 1727 this was a piece of Common Land well outside the town. The races proved to be very popular, even King Edward VII (1901-1910) attended on occasions. The pavilion still stands, set back from the Kettering Road and now a restaurant. As the land is Common Land it cannot be permanently fenced or paths diverted and this caused problems leading to some dangerous and fatal accidents during races. In 1901 a man ran out to rescue his son and both he and the rider were injured, the man dying from his injuries two years later. In March 1904 a horse swerved on a bend, struck a post and threw its rider. The horse then somersaulted over the fence, landing on a spectator and ran off into the crowd. This was the last straw and no more racing took place here.
This was not good news for the Kingsley Park Hotel; it had been built by a syndicate of Sporting Gentlemen in 1883 as a residential club for owners, trainers and jockeys. Now only 21 years later it became redundant, standing as it did in splendid isolation outside the Borough at the top of a hill by a crossroads.
The other two roads at this crossroads ran to the villages of Kingsthorpe and Abington and in time gone by this junction was the place of public execution. Recently a concrete information ball has been sited on this corner of the Racecourse that declares that the gibbet was on the site of the White Elephant pub - this is incorrect; the gibbet was on the diagonally opposite corner to the pub where the large house is. Later moved to public land i.e. the Racecourse proper. The condemned would leave the town by the East Gate and if legend be true gain their last drink at the Bantam Cock on Abington Square. They would then be conveyed along the Kettering Road to be hung here. In the early 1970s during the construction of an extension to a doctor's surgery in Abington Grove human remains were found that could have been the victims of the gibbet.
Thus the Kingsley Park Hotel stood near this unhallowed spot, a landmark, empty and isolated for 18 years and acquiring the apt epithet of The White Elephant. But things move on and towns grow and in 1922 the Northampton Brewery Company purchased it and commenced trading, but it wasn’t until 1952 that they applied to change the name. Dr. Eric Shaw, Chairman of the Magistrates said in granting the change, We hope that in its new official name the White Elephant will prosper over the years. If in the past one had to apply to the Magistrates to change a pub’s name - why not now? They are part of our heritage and merely buying the property should no more give one the right to change its name as one the right to knock it down or paint it a silly colour!
We have had four of these, but it seems this is a sign that often changes to something else - only one of ours retained its original name throughout its career. The consensus of opinion is that it is the badge of Richard II. It seems that he declared in 1393 that all pubs must have signs and the theory is that many chose his badge.
The Whit Hind
In the 17th century there was a shortage of small change and many tradesmen issued their own tokens. An undated one (which was probably issued by one of the pubs listed below) from Northampton for a ¼d. has:
O: AT . THE . WHIT . HIND = a hind statent.
R: IN . NORTHAMPTON = G . E . E.
This is still with us, its sign still in view as it is in mosaic set into the front of the building. The present building was constructed about 1900 and there is an inscription on the staircase newel P. Phipps 1899. An old photograph shows a steep roofed (thatched?) building at right angles to the present one. The earliest reference I have to it is an advertisement for patent medicine from the Northampton Mercury 1724, the last is 1966. The pub has been reopened by the Richardsons Group once more as a pub with the original name.
Refer to the entry for: Shipmans
Refer to the entry for: The Wheatsheaf
Refer to the entry for: The Trooper
This was, and still is, right on the Borough boundary. The pub was built in 1937-8 to serve the new Whitehills Estate. According to the Real Ale Guide 1983 it is claimed to be the largest pub in town.
The name of the estate and pub derive from a pit of white sand that was here. It was purpose-built by the Northampton Brewery Company who surrendered the licence of the New Inn at Hackelton for it.
It seems a green spectre was seen in the cellars of this pub in 1978 passing through the walls and several barrels. I wonder if it affected the beer? Perhaps with a sand pit nearby there could have been plague burials in the past - it would explain the green colour.
I have found five White Horses in Northampton. The symbol of a horse has always been popular, whatever its colour if for no other reason it is easily recognisable. Often this sign can celebrate some local or national horse of renown. The White Horse was a standard of the Saxons and one of the chalk horses has become the badge of Kent. A galloping White Horse was the device of the House of Hanover and it also occurs on the arms of Carmen, Coachmakers, Farriers, Saddlers, Wheelwrights and Innholders - so there has always been a good excuse to use it.
St. Andrew's Terrace only is shown on Laws Map 1847 at the acute corner made by Grafton Street and St. George’s Street. O/S 1901 shows a short terrace of four dwellings and number one is probably at the Grafton Street end as the building shown has quite a large yard with an entrance through a gatehouse in Grafton Street.
There is only one reference to this establishment, in Lea 1900-1. Oddly, this pub is not listed, but is in the form of a strip advertisement across the tops of pages 35-38:
1 St. Andrew's Terrace & Grafton st.
OLD WHITE HORSE - (G. Britten, Proprietor).
It was probably short-lived and by O/S 1938 the area is shown as void house shapes that could be the present houses under construction.
In 2009 Tony Horner produced a map of Kingsthorpe based on the Inclosures Map 1767; this shows the White Horse and its bowling green across the road to the east. The present White Horse is not the original building. In the past it had a reputation for its bowling green and cheesecakes. It is said that during Charles I's captivity at Holdenby he visited here to play on its famous green. During the War the house was used by Canadian and American troops as well as the Home Guard and as a result of its condition after the War it was decided to demolish it. The earliest date I have found in the directories is 1830, however from the Mercury we have:
By Order of the Gentlemen.
THE BOWLING-GREEN AT THE White-Horse at Kingsthorpe. Near Northampton will be opened on Thursday the 9th of May 1751, and the Ordinary will be at Twelve o’Clock and continue every Thursday Fortnight following during the Bowling Season by Their obedient humble Servant. WILLIAM BARNARD.
Northampton Mercury, 6th May 1751
Before the advent of the lawn mower in 1830 bowling-greens were cut by hand with shears and represented a considerable investment in time and effort, so this inn would have been of some local importance hence the King’s visits in the previous century. The Ordinary referred to in the advertisement is a set meal at a set price and at a set time. The pub is now boarded up and its fate unknown to me .
Although this pub features in many directories, I have no more on it. It was three doors along north of Church Lane, just south of St Sepulchre's churchyard. It had a victualler's licence in 1884; perhaps it never harboured a felon or drew the attention of the press in other ways, or felt the need to advertise? Dates run from 1824 to 1907.
A good name for a pub in this street, two references. Document in the NRO 1640 describing a property in Horsemarket and mentions: - signe of the White Horse on the South, and an advertisement for letting the pub dated 1716.
This inn was on the south side of Abington Street, about halfway between Fish Street and the end of Dychurch Lane. It definitely existed before the Great Fire 1675 as it is mentioned in the Fire Court books 1678. We also have references in St. Giles Parish records:
1663 Imprimis. spent at our choice at the White Lyon 00-05-00
1666 April 26 Spent at the White Lyon at making the poor rolls 00-00-08
1666 April 29 Spent at the White Lyon At the Visitatio 00-06-08
It had ceased to be an inn at the time of the writing of NN&Q 1890.
Although a fairly common sign the only explanation I've found is that it was the badge of Edward III. Northampton has had three White Lions.
The site is now a block of flats O/S 1938 shows a property labelled Inn on the south corner of Arthur Street and Kingsthorpe Road.
I have very little information about this pub. It appears to have stood on the west corner of St. James' Place and St James' Street, which were not in St James' End, but amongst the streets, now demolished to make St. Peter's Way car park, south of Marefair. Dates run 1864-1941.
Refer to the entry for: The King William IV
Refer to the entry for: The Queens Arms
This is a fine, early 19th century Northampton sandstone house standing beside the main road; it is a Grade II Listed Building. The first entry is in 1884 and it is still open. Was there a windmill nearby?
The Woodbine or Honeysuckle was a popular image in days gone by. According to a 1920s book of household knowledge in my possession the woodbine flower symbolises devotion - a feeling the landlord may have wished to engender in his customers!
From the O/S Plans I calculate this pub must have been on the south side of the upper Mounts about halfway between the ends of Earl Street and Great Russell Street opposite. Dates run from 1893 to 1910.
A Woolpack is a pack of wool weighing 240lbs. This sign is common in wool producing areas such as here, once being an important wool market.
This inn stood on the west side of the street not far from the top and must have been of some importance as it is listed in the Universal Directory 1791, there are directory dates until 1958.
According to O/S 1964 number 8 is two doors west of the King William the Fourth (King Billy) and if this numbering holds for the last century or so it must have been where the pub garden is now. The reason for the sign is probably the same as above, a woolstapler being a wool dealer. There are only two references to this pub, 1845 and 1864.
There are no pubs starting with this letter, no Xebec, Xerxes, X-Rays or Xylophones, but ‘X’ can stand for the unknown and I have an alehouse with no known name. The illustration is of a possible sign for a pub called The Xebec, a sailing vessel. So X will stand for the Pub With No Name.
An Unnamed Alehouse(176 Bridge Street?)
This establishment was to the north of the Crown & Anchor and adjoining it. Deeds often define a property by the properties around them. According to a deed of 1772 there was:
to the north of the Guy of Warwick, later the Crown & Anchor, a property, now alehouse occupied by Amy Dray
This is all we know of it, but at least we know the name of its proprietor. As it seems to have been a humble alehouse it may never have had a sign.
This pub stood on the southwest corner of York Place and Weston Street; that both disappeared under St. Peter's Way. The known proprietors are; William Jones 1864-1879 and Charles Henshaw 1884-1906, there are entries with no names from 1910 to 1933.
We have had two of these, the other in York Road below, so there is a simple explanation for their names. However, it is said that this sign was often given to a pub run by ex-soldiers and can be an abbreviation of the Duke of York.
One entry for this pub, probably short-lived, G. M. Lewis 1936, it was at the north corner of the junction on York Road and St. Edmund’s Road, now a shop.
Like X - Z has no pub name to represent it. A Zebra would make a good sign, as would a Zulu, Zeppelin, Zenith and Zodiac - even a Zero! We have had X - the pub with no name, so for Z I’ve chosen the last entry in my book. The tribute to all the pubs that have been missed for one reason or another - a sort of Tomb of the Unknown Drinking House.
The sign I've designed for a Zeppelin pub is based on an incident that took place in Northampton caused by the anti-German scares that were about just before the First World War. It seems that a Zeppelin was seen over the town shining its lights onto the roofs of the houses of unsuspecting and sleeping inhabitants. The sign is based on a drawing from a local publication showing an impression of the reported incident. However, it seems that Mr. Basset-Lowke had launched a gas balloon from his Kingswell Street premises with a lamp attached which had drifted over the town causing the Anti-Hun panic!
There must have been hundreds of unnamed pubs in Northampton's past. Many of the beer-shops in the 19th cent never had names, or they weren’t smart enough to get printed in the directories. Many changed name at the whim of a new owner, or because of some political or historic event. Some appeared and quickly melted away - businesses still do this today. In older times if the alehouse, inn or what-have-you didn't get a mention on some deed or other and that document didn’t survive, we now have no knowledge of it. Much damage was done by the Great Fire of 1675, destroying not only many inns and taverns but also much of the town’s documents. There will always be a host of pre-1675 pubs about which, without new discoveries, we will never know.