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Monday, 18 June 2012

Metal Detecting close to Village Inns (pubs)

In almost every village in England there is an inn (pub). These are always good to research if you are looking to go Metal Detecting. I have researched many an inn in the past and gained permission to detect close by. You will be surprised the amount of coins and artifacts to be found. Before the Reformation there were very few of these hostelries, as travellers were always accommodated at the monasteries, each of which had a hospitium, or guest-house, where their wants were attended to by special officers appointed for the purpose, and where
they could remain for several days. 

But the destruction of the monasteries produced many changes in the condition of the country; it introduced the necessity of a poor law, for the poor were always relieved by the monasteries; it required the erection of schools and places for education, as all the education of the country had been carried on in these monastic buildings; and when the old guesthouses ceased to exist, travellers, merchants, and pedlars required some place in which to lodge when they moved about the country, and inns became plentiful as time went on. Hence in almost every village in England there is an inn, which is generally a landmark; and if you wish to direct a stranger to some place where he desires to go, you doubtless tell him to turn to the right by "The Bull," or to keep straight on until he comes to "The Magpie."

Old inns have a great history. In former days they used to be meeting-places of plotters and conspirators. All the distinguished people in the country used to pass through the villages and towns on the great roads through the country, and when the horseswere being changed they used to partake of the good fare which the landlord provided. Those were busy times for the old inns, when there was stabling for fifty or sixty horses, and the coaches used to rattle through the village to the inn door long before the iron horses began to drag their freight of passengers along the iron roads, and the scream of the engines took the place of the cheerful notes of the posthorn.

The quaint-looking pictures and curious names which attract our notice as we pass an inn door have some queer stories to tell. We notice a very curious collection of animals sometimes, and a strange assortment of things; and the reason why our ancestors put some of these curious things together is somewhat difficult for us to find out. In olden days, other houses of tradesmen besides inns had signs. Grocers, tailors, candlestick-makers, all had signs; but most of these have disappeared.

One reason for the curious mixture of animals and other things which we see on signboards is that an apprentice, when he had finished his time and begun to set up for himself, adopted some sign, and then joined with
it the sign of his old master. This will account for such curiosities as "The Lamb and Dolphin," "The Goose and Gridiron," "The Fox and Seven Stars," combinations of things for which it would otherwise be difficult to account. Another reason is that signs were taken from the armorial bearings, or crests, of some popular character, or of some great family in the neighbourhood. For example, I may mention "The Bear with the Ragged Staff," which was the crest of Richard Nevil, Earl of Warwick, commonly called "The Kingmaker," who was slain in the battle of Barnet, 1471 A.D. "The Blue Boar" was one of the badges of the House of York. "The Bull" is a very common sign, because it was a very common crest, and we have them in all colours--black, red, white; lions also rage in blue, white, and red attire. Sometimes we meet with "The Cross Keys," the keeper of which was probably an old servant or tenant of an abbey or monastery, and chose his sign from that of the monastery with which he was connected. Frequently, in olden times, a cross was erected at the meeting of two or three roads, or where the pilgrims to Canterbury used to pass; afterwards an inn was built near it, and was, in many cases, called the Cross Inn.

One very common cause of curious signs is the way in which the original word has been corrupted by ignorant people frequently repeating words which they did not understand, and thus changing their whole meaning.
You may have seen an inn described as "The Swan with Two Necks"--a very rare bird indeed. But it was never intended to disfigure the bird by giving it two necks; the original sign was "The Swan with Two _Nicks_" and nicks were the marks which were cut on a swan's bill to distinguish it from other swans, so that it might be known to whom the bird belonged. But _nicks_ became _necks_ in course of conversation, until at last a fabulous creature with two beautifully curved necks appeared on the signboard. This same cause will account for the two strange signs, "Bull and Gate" and "Bull and Mouth." The original signs were "Boulogne Gate" and "Boulogne Mouth," _i.e._ the gate and harbour of the town of Boulogne, in France, which was captured by the English under King Henry VIII. in the year 1544. The English were very pleased to hear of thedefeat of the French, and of the taking of that important town, and several inns were named in honour of the event; but the French "Boulogne" was too much for our good English mouths to speak, so it became "Bull and."

Another name which puzzled our forefathers was "_La Belle Sauvage_" ("the Beautiful Savage"), which was named after a noted savage beauty who was the rage at Paris. Others assert that the name of the landlady
was Isabella Savage, shortened into Bella Savage. However, in course of time the name was altered into "Bell and Savage," and a picture representing this odd combination stood over the door. In the same way the original sign, "Whip and Nag," between which there is often a very close connection, became "Whip and Egg"; and the reason why these two articles should be placed together is not so evident. So also there does not seem any reason for an inn to be called "Bag o' Nails"; but when we are told that the original word was "Bacchanals," _i.e._ followers of Bacchus, the old god of wine, we can understand how the corruption, "Bag o' Nails," arose. Before the days of licensing, when everyone could sell liquor who chose without obtaining any licence from the magistrates, it was the custom to put a bush over the doorway, in order to inform the passers-by that liquor could be purchased there. This is the origin of the saying, "Good wine needs no bush."

"The Catherine Wheel" tells us the sad story of St. Catherine, who was born at Alexandria, and for converting fifty heathen philosophers to Christianity was sentenced by the Emperor Maxentius to death on a wheel, devised by most ingenious cruelty, armed with knives, saws, and nails. It is recorded that she was rescued from this fate, but was afterwards beheaded (305 A.D.). It is curious that this instrument of torture and the story of St. Catherine's heroism should be recorded on a signboard. But it may have been brought before the public by a certain miracle play, founded on the life of St. Catherine, which used to be performed on festival days. However, the Catherine wheel appears frequently on the coats-of-arms of several families, and it may be that the sign was taken from these.

"The George," also, is a very popular sign; and the "St. George of merry England" is the patron saint of this country, and the battle-cry of her knights and yeomen of ancient days. Who does not remember that stirring scene on St. George's Mount during the Crusades, described in Sir Walter Scott's _Talisman_, when King Richard tore down the Austrian banner, which the Austrian monarch had dared to erect beside the Royal
Standard of England? St George is generally represented as slaying a dragon. He was a soldier who served gallantly under the Emperor Diocletian, and commanded a legion of soldiers; he was a Christian, and by the dragon whom he slew is meant the devil, red with the blood of the Christians. So popular a personage as St. George, whose name inspired our ancestors with courage, and was often borne by them into the heart of the foe, would soon be recorded in paintings and become a general sign. "The Goat" is a common sign, and is taken from the crest of the Duke of Bedford; but "The Goat and Compasses" has puzzled many people as to its origin. It appears to be a corruption of a pious expression, "God encompasseth us"; and this shows how strangely words may be twisted and converted by ignorant and careless usage.

There are some very noted inns where great events have taken place, such as the Bull Inn at Coventry. Here Henry VII. was entertained the night before the battle of Bosworth Field, when he won for himself the English crown. Here Mary Queen of Scots was detained by order of Elizabeth. Here the conspirators of the Gunpowder
Plot met to devise their scheme for blowing up the Houses of Parliament. And when the citizens refused to open their gates to Charles I. and his soldiers, no doubt there were great disputings amongst the frequenters of "The Bull" as to what would be the result of their disloyal refusal.

Some of the inns in remote country places did not enjoy a very enviable reputation, and were little better than man-traps, where the unfortunate traveller was robbed and murdered. At Blewbury, in Berkshire, there was an inn, the landlord of which was suspected of murdering his guests with great secrecy and mystery, and no one could
tell what he did with the bodies of the victims he was supposed to have murdered. Some years ago an old tree in the neighbourhood of the inn was blown down, and on digging up the roots a skeleton was found among them. People wondered how it could have been placed there, but at last a very old inhabitant told the story of the mysterious disappearance of the bodies of the late landlord's guests, and the mystery was at length accounted for. Whenever he slew a man he planted a tree, placing the body of the murdered victim beneath it. The constables never thought of looking there; and probably under every tree which he planted (and there were several), when their roots are dug up, the bones of his numerous victims will be discovered.

Another story is connected with the old "Hind's Head" at Bracknell, which was another of these man traps, where many travellers slept to rise no more. One winter's night a stout-hearted farmer stayed there, and joined several jovial companions round the kitchen fire. They ate and drank merrily, and at last the serving-maid showed the traveller to his chamber. She told him that he was surrounded by robbers and murderers, showed him a trap-door at the side of the bed, on which if he stepped he would tumble headlong into a deep well. She directed him
to tie the bed into a bundle, put it on the trap-door, and escape by the window. He did so; down went the bundle, instead of the farmer, into the well, and he managed to effect his escape. Rousing the neighbourhood he captured the villains, who were all executed, and the bones of many of their victims were found in the well. Happily such
inns were rare.

To discuss the history of our English inns would take much more than a web page and hopefully one we can come back to in the future but if you are looking for somewhere to start of detecting - give it some research. Some of the inns may now be demolished. But give it some thought. If you were a traveller or soldier looking for somewhere to hide a hoard, it would make sense to leave it somewhere you could find it. Perhaps a large tree by the inn??

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