20 January 2017

Cornwall: pubs and their signs

I’ve already included some of the many wonderful pub signs I discovered in Cornwall in my blogs about the places we visited but wait, there’s more!

Plume of Feathers, Porthscatho
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Porthscatho’s 17th-century Plume of Feathers pub would have been packed with local fishermen, celebrating (or commiserating about) the size of the day’s pilchard catch. The town is still a fishing port but these days the pub is more likely to be full of tourists and holidaymakers.

Interestingly, the plume of ostrich feathers on the pub’s sign is the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales, and there are many pubs with this, or similar names, in areas of Britain that are associated with royal estates.

The Red Lion, Newquay
The Red Lion was once the most popular name for a pub in Britain, with over 600 back in 1986. This particular Red Lion sits on a hill high above Newquay and enjoys lovely views over the old harbour, town and beaches. With its front verandah, it looks like it could be located somewhere in the colonies rather than a town in Cornwall: there’s a wonderful old photo of it, dated 1888, in the Francis Frith collection.

The Old Custom House, Padstow
As the name indicates, this building once contained Padstow’s Custom House, with a bonded warehouse and neighbouring house for the Customs officials. Sitting right on the edge of the picturesque harbour, the oldest part of the building probaby dates from the 18th century, though there have been later additions and alterations. The sign presumably shows a Customs official at work recording goods in his ledger.

The Shipwrights, Padstow
This pub’s website says the Shipwrights is a ‘traditional brick pub built originally to serve the fishermen and tradespeople of the bustling historic port of Padstow’ but, according to a photograph and text in the book Padstow History Tour by Malcolm McCarthy, the building was not always a public house. In the 1920s, ‘H. Brown, painter and decorator, was using it. In earlier times, this building was the site of the saw pit, where great baulks of timber were cut by hand for the flourishing shipbuilding industry in the port.’ Regardless of the truth of the matter, it’s a wonderful old pub that was being very well patronised on the day we were in Padstow.

The Golden Lion, Padstow
Finally, a website that includes details of the pub’s history. You’d think it would be something to celebrate for all old historic buildings. The site says: ‘The Golden Lion dates back to the 14th century and is the oldest in in Padstow.’ And ‘The Golden Lion is the stable of the Old ‘Oss which, on the 1st May each year, dances through the streets of Padstow to the sound of drums and accordions’. You can read more about that May Day event here

The London Inn, Padstow
The London Inn’s website also tells the interesting, if slightly garbled story of its history. I interpret their text to mean that the buildings that originally housed three fishermen’s cottages were converted to a public house in 1803, and, rather than referring to the city of London (which is what the sign seems to infer), the name London came from a local sloop that operated out of Padstow between 1877 and 1878.

Tywarnhayle Inn, Perranporth
The Tywarnhayle Inn sign, an interesting shape that has an image showing the local beach landscape, says this pub was established around 1830 but I’m afraid I’ve uncovered no further information about its early history. More recently, though, it has suffered a series of rather smelly problems – according to an article dated 13 October 2014 on the Cornwall Live website, the pub had several times suffered ‘from internal flooding, which means that raw sewage waste travels up through the floorboards, sinks and toilets when nearby storm drains overflow.’ The floods were so bad they had forced the landlords to go out of business. Presumably, the local council has since rectified these problems.

The Green Parrot, Perranporth
Congratulations to Wetherspoons for exploring and celebrating the histories of their pubs:
‘Wetherspoon’s chairman and founder, Tim Martin, said: “We take immense pride in the restoration and refurbishment of wonderful buildings into Wetherspoon pubs. We feel that it is right to celebrate the history of the buildings.”’ 

The website gives the following information on the Green Parrot:

'Built as a private residence, this building was converted into The Green Parrot in c1977. The old house stood in wooded grounds and was originally named Pentrig House, from the Cornish meaning ‘end of the sea’ or ‘low tide’. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, it was the home of Joseph Teague, ‘Capt. & Hon. Major’ in the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, Perranporth.'

That doesn't explain where the pub got its current name but it's certainly a handsome pub sign.

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