Medieval Tavern Names

Looking for a cool name to call your drinking establishment? Check out what the names of these taverns from medieval London.

From 1423 to 1426 the names of over fifty taverns were recorded by William Porland, who was the clerk for London’s fraternity of Brewers. In an article in the Journal of the English Place Name Society, Barrie Cox takes a look at these names and some of the reasons how they got them. Here are few:


1. The Swan – this was the most popular name, with six taverns in London using it. Other taverns were named for birds as well, including The Crane and The Cock. There were even taverns called The White Cock and The Red Cock.

2. The Dolphin (Dolphyn) was the name of a tavern near St. Magnus’ Church. Other animal names for taverns include The Horse, The Lamb and The Old Bull.

3. The Seven Stars (vij Sterres) – according to medieval knowledge, the seven stars represented the sun, the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. Another tavern had the name The Three Moons.


4. The King’s Head (kyngeshed) – a few other taverns had a similar name, including The Horse’s Head, The Ram’s Head and The Saracen’s Head

5. Two taverns were named after saints: The Christopher, after the patron saint of travellers, and The St. Julian, who was the patron saint of hospitality.

6. The Pewter Pot (peauterpotte) could be found in Ironmonger Lane in Cheapside. It probably got its name for a type of drinking vessel.


7. The Pannier (panyer) on Paternoster Rowe would have been based on the French word panier, which means bread basket. Barrie Cox writes “this seems appropriate as a name for a lowly eating- and drinking-house.”

8. The Cony (Cony yn Conyhooplane) was a Middle English word for a rabbit, leading Cox to believe “the name suggests a small tavern where a rabbit stew could be enjoyed.”

English-Inn-and-Tavern-NamesOther names of medieval taverns include The Ball, The Basket, The Bell, The Cross, The Cup, The Garland, The Green Gate, The Hammer, The Lattice, The Rose and two that were called The Ship.


Barrie Cox’ article ‘Some London Inn and Tavern Names 1423-1426’ appears the Journal of the English Place Name Society, Vol.30(1997-8). He also wrote the book English Inn and Tavern Names, which was published in 1994 and is available from the Institute for Name‑Studies, University of Nottingham.

Top Image: Medieval Tavern Names – the Swan continues to be a well-used name, such as this one in current-day London. Photo by Mike Quinn / Geograph Project


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