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What's in a Name?

As I mentioned in my previous prattlings, the post I had prepared is having to be put on hold, for the pub it featured seems to have reopened. A sale has resulted in new owners and a new Facebook page showing recent pool matches certainly suggests that, to paraphrase what Mark Twain didn't actually say, reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

Although it would be premature to publish that post, I'll hang on to it for a while because, sadly, there's a fair chance that it may come in handy in the future. I have to say that I hadn't come across a pub with its name before.

If you're sad enough to take a quick look through this site's index you'll find that there are already quite a few Red Lions listed along with the King's Heads and Arms and a number of Ploughs and Railway Inns. Unsurprising really, as these are some of the more common pub names. But what's drawn me to include some of the pubs seen in these pages is their, probably, unique name. Hostelries like the Safety Valve, the Belisha Beacon and the much missed lost haunt of my youth, the Highlands. Just how did they acquire their names? Who on earth at Steward & Patteson decided to call their new pub in Norfolk, the county of all those in the UK whose highest point stretches the least distance towards the sky, the Highlands? And why?

Whilst many pubs are named, or renamed, after Kings, Queens, popular historical figures of the time or even farming implements, the precise reason for the choice will have some local input. Not all, if indeed any, of the nation's Red Lions will have been named as a result of an edict from James I/VI or from the badge of John of Gaunt. Some of the country's pubs going by this name weren't built until the twentieth century, by which time the influence of both James and John had noticeably declined. The reasons behind the naming of the Red Lion in Wensley won't be the same as for those in Glastonbury, Costessey or Thorpe St. Andrew.

Whilst some local input would have been behind the choice of the nation's Red Lions, Crowns and Chequers, its influence would have been much greater in less common or unique ones. Ones like the Two Hundred in Harpurhey or the still serving Never Turn Back in the village of Caister, a couple of miles north of Great Yarmouth. The reason behind the naming of the Two Hundred was explained in this earlier post, but what about the Never Turn Back?

This Lacon's pub, now Grade II listed, opened in 1957 and was designed by A. W. Ecclestone who'd been behind Gorleston's lost Links Hotel, amongst others. Its unique name – I challenge anyone to find another identically named boozer – stems from the 1901 Caister lifeboat disaster when nine crew lost their lives. At the inquest into their deaths, former assistant coxswain James Haylett, who'd had two sons, a son-in-law and two grandsons on board, was asked why, given the conditions, the lifeboat had continued in its rescue attempt. His reply was, "They would never give up the ship. If they had to keep at it 'til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her. Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that." The press of the day simply reported this as "Caister men never turn back" and Never turn back became a motto of the RNLI.

And it was the unique nature of its name that caught my attention for the main subject of this post. A bit ago I came across this image of a magic lantern slide. It depicts a pub, The Rent Day, selling Whitbread beers, at 4 Cambridge Street, Edgware Road, London. Was it still serving? How did it get its name? I started doing a little digging.

Rent Day Cambridge Kendal Street Paddington
The Rent Day.

Simply finding Cambridge Street wasn't straightforward as it no longer exists – it's been rechristened Kendal Street – but here it is on an old Ordnance Survey map with the Rent Day marked as a PH. The other one shown at the apex of Connaught and Cambridge Streets is the still operating Duke of Kendal.

Ordnance Survey 25" map. Revised 1914 Published 1932.

Having arrived at a location for the Rent Day it's now time to ponder why it may have been given the name that it was. What was the local input?

One possibility is that the name was taken from the title of a painting by Royal Academician Sir David Wilkie.

The Rent Day by Sir David Wilkie RA.

The painting dates from 1807 and it's known that Wilkie was living in Great Portland Street, about twenty minutes walk away, in 1808. But this probably pre-dates the pub by too much.

Another, more likely, possibility, that's also linked to Wilkie, is that the pub took its name from a play entitled The Rent Day by Douglas Jerrold. Inspired by Wilkie's painting, this popular melodrama was premiered in 1832 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, just two miles distant from the pub with which it shared a name. This is also around the time that the hostelry started to appear in directories. The earliest record that I've come across is from Pigot's 1839 edition, when Ariel James was the landlord, although Pubwiki lists an entry from 1836, but nothing before that.

Extract from Pigot's 1839 directory.

Whatever the source of its name, the Rent Day continued to operate until the 1920s. Oliver Barratt was mine host in 1921.

Extract from Hughes' 1921 Business Directory of London.

Around this time the body that essentially became the Church of England Commissioners started to redevelop this area of the Hyde Park Estate, of which they owned, and still own, the freehold. This meant that the final curtain fell on the Rent Day and Oliver may very well have been its last landlord. Whether he was or not, the building is no more. This compound image shows what stands on the spot today.

Site of the Rent Day, then and now.

The block of flats bears an English Heritage blue plaque to inform punters looking for the Rent Day that the Austrian tenor Richard Tauber once lived in one of the flats built where it used to stand.

Without knowing it, I must've walked past the site of this plaque whilst wandering back to my temporary residence with its own blue plaque, in Portsea Place, following my near encounter with the bygone Giraffe in 1975. I can at least say that I'd heard the name Richard Tauber, which is more than I can for the author Olive Schreiner.

The lantern slide image comes from the University of Exeter's Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource and is part of the Hecht Collection, Screen Archive South East (University of Brighton). Digital image copyright © 2006 Ludwig Vogl-Bienek / Media Studies, Universität Trier.

Martin Speck's image of the Never Turn Back is copyright and is reused under this licence.

The map extract is copyright and is reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under this one.

The modern component of the then/now composite image is © Google 2022.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

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