Collingwood Society: Nautical Pub Names

The Collingwood Society had a bit of a change this month, with a talk on nautical pub names – partly a literal pub quiz, because you got to give yourself a point if you knew where the pub on the screen was, a point if you had drunk in it, and ten points if you had been thrown out of it (although no one was admitting to that) – not that there was any effort made to collect points, but it was good fun*.

We started with a brief history of pubs and pub signs, from grapes for the Romans to bushes for the English and a medieval requirement to have a sign by which your pub could be identified (and taxed), to the first pubs named for heroes (the Marquis of Granby being particularly popular).

The nautical pub names covered quite a variety, from the simple ‘Ship’, which was condemned as unimaginative, but does seem to be very common – and useful, because you don’t to change it if a new ship comes into fashion – and pubs named for types of ships.

Next came the pubs named for individual ships – from Royal Georges, Victories, Royal Sovereigns and a Fighting Temeraire (apparently now renamed plain ‘Temeraire’ because it was giving the drinkers ideas), to modern aircraft carriers and the Politician, wrecked on Eriskay with a cargo of whisky, and even Noah’s Ark!

Then there were the people, from the ubiquitous Nelsons to rare mentions like Earl St Vincent and more local heroes like John Borlase Warren in Nottingham – Wetherspoons were praised for often using local names – and a special mention for Upper and Lower Poppleton in Yorkshire, with a Lord Collingwood pub in one and a Lord Nelson in the other.

Captain Cook, however, seemed to have the widest spread, from places where he had definitely been to places like Alaska where he might have been to places like Mumbai where he had definitely not been!

A fun evening, and I will no doubt end up with a collection of signs myself – I’ve got quite a few Georgian ones already, although I’ve never tried to put them in one place…

(*I was handicapped by rarely drinking in Newcastle, and scored 7, althought with quite a nice geographical spread – I had drunk in a Ship in Holy Island, the Plimsoll Line in Redcar and the Lord Nelson in Gibraltar!)

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The Age of Sail in Everything – the Trafalgar Inn

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I thought I was finished writing about Fife, but I was wrong, because as I walked up a very rural road on Saturday, on my way to climb some small hills, I suddenly found myself looking at this sign.

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Trafalgar junction

A sign at the other side of the junction explains the name – the crossroads was the site of a coaching inn, built in 1803, and then renamed for the battle.

Whatever the impact of the battle on the wider war, I’m always struck by the impact it obviously had on minds across the whole country, or countries – this is a long way from any port, and a long long way from the Southern naval bases.

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Trafalgar Inn sign

The inn building itself is a bit shy and doesn’t want to have its picture taken, but it still has the name.

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Old Trafalgar Inn

Towards the end of the day I was up at the Hopetoun monument on Mount Hill, erected in memory of the 4th Earl of Hopetoun, who died in 1823.

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Hopetoun monument

A description I read helpfully described him as ‘the Peninsular war hero’, but I don’t really know enough about the war on land to understand the importance of his role. Still, he seems to have been well thought of, because it’s a good monument!

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Hopetoun monument inscription

Newport on Tay and the Fife ferries

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Newport Inn

I have finally reached the end of my journey round Fife, in Newburgh near the Perthshire border – but the real Georgian interest of this last stage was in Newport on Tay at the start.

There were ferries running between Newport and Dundee by about 1700, and a coaching inn was built there in 1715 – the current inn building at the top of the harbour brae, now a gallery, dates from 1806 when a turnpike road was opened from Cupar to Newport and the ferry took back first place from its rival at Woodhaven, a couple of miles to the west.

A new pier was built by Thomas Telford in 1823 – the first steam ferries ran across the firth in 1821, which presumably prompted the upgrade – and the building at the head of the pier dates from the same time, although I don’t think it’s Telford’s design – there’s also a much more dilapidated Victorian building which was a later waiting room. The pier is now used by a boat builder, so I couldn’t get in for a closer look.

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Telford pier
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Old ferry terminal

What I really wanted to post about, though, is this wonderful milestone on the wall by the ferry terminal – the whole thing is lovely, but I especially like ‘Newport 0’!

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Newport milestone

This was the route of the ‘Great Road’ across Fife – the road linking the Dundee and Edinburgh ferries.

I must have walked past Pettycur at the southern end of the route without realising it – apparently it’s the headland part of Kinghorn, once a separate settlement. Queensferry is the shortest crossing, but it’s a good way west of the centre of Edinburgh – ferries from Pettycur ran to Newhaven at Leith, and were later joined by services from Burnisland.

Cupar is still an important junction, if a bit bypassed by the A92, and New Inn is the junction of the Perth and Newport roads – now the A912 and A914 – north of Markinch, where a coaching inn stood which was at least 50 years old at the time, as it’s shown on a 1775 map. The junction is now the New Inn Roundabout, but the inn itself was demolished when the A92 was moved or widened in the 1960s.

The milestones are dated 1824, so presumably the route was being improved in some way at that point, fitting in with the improvements at Newport.

I thought this might be the only surviving milestone, but there seem to be quite a few more along the route – I foresee an expedition to track them down, although at least one person has been before me!