TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 22nd March 1993 and 10th February 2002 (p1 & p7), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

The colour photograph which accompanied the article was of The Chequers Inn at Froggatt.


Excavations at the Roman town of Herculaneum, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius, have gradually revealed almost a thousand trade signs, a great many of which belonged to inns.

We can assume that when the Romans introduced inn signs to Britain, the chequerboard, being the most common found at Herculaneum, was amongst them. This sign actually indicated that board games, which the Romans loved to play as they drank their wine, were available in these 'tabernae diversoriae' where the occupying soldiery rested and relaxed.

The 16th century Chequers Inn at Froggatt is the only one in the Peak to use this ancient sign, which was also displayed in medieval times as the symbol of a money changer.

The sign of The Bush was also known in medieval England when tavern keepers were required by law to identify their premises by hanging out a real bush - probably often substituted with a leafy branch. Holly was a common choice, giving rise to Hollybush Inns at both Pikehall and Grangemill and the Holly Tree at Hackney - a short distance from The Labernum. Hostelries inevitably came to be given individual names although any sign had to be pictorial, illiteracy being the norm.


The Red Lion, the most common inn sign in England, was an interpretation of the lion on John of Gaunt's shield. The chivalrous John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, had connections with the Peak, where Red Lion inns were established in market towns and quiet villages alike: Wirksworth, Bakewell, Matlock, Birchover, Wensley and Litton.

The White Lion, as at Great Longstone and Starkholmes, signified allegiance to Edward V whilst the White Hart, seen at Bradwell, was connected with Richard II. Pubs at Bamford and Middleton by Wirksworth took the sign of the Rising Sun from a badge of Edward III, in whose reign, incidentally, a statute was brought in to constrain inn-keepers to sell their food at fair prices.

The Crown was universally recognised as a tribute to the monarch, a wise choice when an inn stood on Crown land. A particular king might be honoured instead, The George being a popular favourite and found at Tideswell, Wirksworth, Youlgreave, Castleton, Taddington and Hathersage.

The King's Head supposedly commemorates Charles I, who lost his own under the executioner's axe, although the sign seen at Bonsall shows Charles II, to whom the crown was restored after the Commonwealth. It was his earlier refuge, the Boscobel oak, which inspired the widespread choice of Royal Oak for pubs including Tansley, Bakewell, Stoney Middleton, Wirksworth, Eyam and Earl Sterndale.

A sign was just as likely to take its subject from the armorial bearings of the local Lord of the Manor. The Peacock, crest of the Manners, was a natural choice at Rowsley, Baslow and Bakewell, all close to Haddon Hall. Bakewell also has the Manners Hotel and one of several Rutland Arms.

John Manners, eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland, had a fitting tribute at Bamford under his title Marquis of Granby. This brave and brilliant soldier fought in the Seven Years War, after which he set up as inn keepers those of his senior non-commissioned officers who had been left disabled.

If a soldier's ultimate memorial is an inn sign, then we should mention the Duke of Wellington at Matlock and Middleton by Wirksworh - which also has a Nelson's Arms - and the Duke of York at Elton and Flagg. Son of George III, this Duke of York was Commander in Chief of the British Arms.

But by far the most common 'allegiance' sign in the Peak is the Devonshire Arms, found in and around estates owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Naturally they clustered around Chatsworth - at Beeley, Pilsley, Ashford, Sheldon, Baslow and Bakewell. The Devonshire Arms at Peak Forest keeps its old name even though the village passed out of ducal ownership in modern times. The Snake Inn on the A57 takes its name from the serpent on the Cavendish arms, and the Flying Cilders at Stanton in the Peak was originally called Bay Childers, a successful racehorse owned by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1720s.


Pub signs depicting women are few. However. the Quiet Woman at Earl Sterndale is famous for its rare name and the headless figure on its board, but this is almost identical to one seen on the picture of an old English inn called The Good Woman.

Like the majority of old village pubs, the Quiet Woman was also a farm in days gone by, run by an innkeeper-cum-butcher. Thus may account for the numerous Shoulder of Muttons and Bull's Heads which have a strong presence in traditional farming villages - the former at Bradwell and Winster, the latter at Wardlow, Ashford, Castleton, Eyam, Hucklow, Monyash and Youlgreave.

At the turn of the century there were between twenty and thirty Bull's Heads in the Peak, the most common sign by far. Lazy tipplers might make for the sign of the Anchor, said to signify security and rest though it seemed to come to favour in the days when Britain ruled the waves. It has gone now from Litton and Bakewell, but survives at Tideswell and in the Hope & Anchor at Wirksworth.

On the other hand some pubs honoured hardworking Peaklanders; lead- miners who supped at the Miner's Arms in Brassington, Eyam, Carsington and Over Haddon or at the Pig o' Lead at Bonsall. Here was also a Miners Standard, seen too at Winster and Wirksworth - mining commmuties all.

Many hostelries thrived on passing trade; two centuries ago a cottage at Little Longstone was converted to an inn and is still in business as The Packhorse, whilst Hathersage has a Scotsman's Pack.

Another type of sign is inspired by some local landmark or tradition. Fascinating legends lie behind the Druid Inn at Birchover and the Moon Inn at Stoney Middleton. The reason fur a Castle Hotel at Castleton is more obvious than for that of Bakewell, where the castle is long gone. At Hope the name of Old Hall Hotel suggests its earlier role, whilst you would now look in vain to see why pubs at both Whiner and Bradwell are called the Bowling Green.

Some of these old inns have had a charge of name and others called last orders long ago, but most still hang out their traditional illustrated signs which so often never get a second glance.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 22nd March 1993
and 10th February 2003.

Photograph of The Chequers Inn, Froggatt (elsewhere online)

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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