What’s in a Islington pub name – new book reveals all

Published:
3:27 PM July 22, 2022



London is renowned for its bustling pub scene. 

The beauty of the capital is that, whatever your tipple, there are pubs aplenty to explore. 

We can all easily reel off the names of our favourite haunts, but fewer of us know their origins.

Luckily, Sam Cullen and James Potts have written a book on the very subject. 

‘What’s in a London Pub Name?’ is a real labour of love for the pair, who were inspired to write the book while walking through London in lockdown. 

Sam told the Gazette that while neither he or James are authors by trade, he has always been a pub enthusiast. 

“What I like about pubs is that there’s such a variety. I also appreciate what they are to communities – a real anchor.” 

Once set in their idea, James contacted publisher Capital History. 

They were receptive to the pitch, and the co-authors got to work in around April last year.

Gathering information in a variety of ways – through library and internet research, alongside face-to-face conversations – Sam and James spent around six months pulling together their masterpiece. 

Although they visited all 32 London boroughs and the City of London, certain areas – including Islington – are clear hotspots. 

“Islington has many great and interesting pub names, many of which have surprising stories,” said James.

“For instance we have the Owl & Hitchhiker on the Holloway Road, combining the works of Edward Lear and Douglas Adams.

“There’s also the question of who the Swimmer is at the Grafton Arms. Turns out it’s named after the landlord who won a national swimming competition when he was a teenager.

“In the south of the borough a pub also pays tribute to Dame Alice Owen, who outlived her three husbands and moved into philanthropy which included the construction of a school which still bears her name.”

For James, these names all represent “snippets of history that show you just how rich the area’s past is”.

There’s no truer example of this than the Bank of Friendship, which “remembers the days when residents of Highbury village used to wave to their neighbours in Stoke Newington who were the other side of Hackney Brook”.

To buy your copy, visit this link. 

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