17 July 2016

Cardiff: pubs and their signs 1

It’s almost a year since I moved to Cardiff and I haven’t yet written a local pub signs blog – how can that be? There is certainly no shortage of old pubs or wonderful old pub signs, so without further ado, let’s have a cold one!

The Romilly, Canton
The pub sign shows the coat of arms of the Romilly family, their motto ‘Persevere’, and the note at the bottom reads: ‘Arms of Baron Romilly 1866-1905’. 

The Baron was the son of Sir Samuel Romilly, who bought most of the land where the south Wales coastal town of Barry now sits in 1812 and, in 1818, was granted the Manor of Llandaff by the contemporary Earl of Llandaff, Francis James Mathew. That Manor encompassed a large chunk of central Cardiff, including the area where the pub now sits, on Romilly Road.

Samuel’s son Sir John, who had served as Solicitor General and Attorney General of Britain, was created a baron in 1866, hence the date on the sign.

The pub, built in 1898, was initially a coach house. I haven’t been able to find out when it was transformed into a public house.

Black Lion, Llandaff
From Wikimedia Commons
Appropriately enough for a building that sits slap bang in the middle of the Cardiff suburb of Llandaff, this pub also has a connection to Francis James Mathew, who was Earl of Llandaff in the early 19th century. The pub’s name and the black lion shown on the pub’s sign – in heraldry-speak ‘Or, a lion rampant sable’ – are both taken from the Earl’s coat of arms. The image of the coat of arms shown at right is a memorial tablet in Llandaff Cathedral where there are effigies, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, of three earlier members of the Mathews family. 

Though it looks old, the pub itself is not a listed building and probably only dates from around 1910. It originally had a shop operating next door, which later became an off-licence, before being incorporated into the public house itself. The Black Lion has had several name changes over the years, having been known as the Glamorgan Arms for a short period, and also, in the nineteenth century, when Sir Samuel Romilly was granted the Manor Llandaff (as mentioned above), it was called The Romilly in his honour. When Sir Sam sold the manor in 1852, the pub’s name was changed back to the Black Lion.

Butcher’s Arms, Llandaff
Just up the road from the Black Lion is the Butcher’s Arms. The building only became a pub in 1880. Before that, as you might suspect from the name, it was a butcher shop, with a slaughterhouse out the back. The sign shows the arms of The Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of the ancient trade guilds that was first granted its licence by James I back in 1605. The motto, ‘Omnia subjecisti sub pedibus oves et boves’ is theirs too, and translates as ‘Thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen’. Many of the mottos of the early guilds were taken from the Bible and this is no exception; it comes from Psalm 8 ‘A Psalm of David’, verses 6 and 7. The Arms of the Company were first granted by the College of Heralds in 1540 and show items representative of the butchery trade.

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