The 23 April is a saint’s day in England – not just a saint’s day but St George’s Day – celebrating the patron saint of England. The pub name of ‘St George’ or ‘St George and the Dragon’ were once even more common than they are today. The name has been shortened over the centuries to ‘George’ – as in the case of the George Inn, Borough High Street.
There are also pub names of the ‘Royal George’. They are, in the main, derived from the 100-gun Royal Naval ship, built at Woolwich Dockyard and launched on 18 February 1756. At the time it was the largest warship in the world. She saw service during the Seven Years’ War including being Admiral Sir Edward Hawke’s flagship at the Battle of Quiberon Bay and later taking part in the Battle of Cape St Vincent. The end for the ship was less heroic because she sank undergoing routine maintenance work whilst anchored off Portsmouth on 29 August 1782, with the loss of more than 800 lives, one of the most serious maritime losses to occur in British waters.
The name of ‘Royal George’ has nothing to do with St George and the Dragon. The last monarch of the House of Stuart was Queen Anne. On her death on 1 May 1707, her reign was followed by four kings called George – George I, George II, George III and George IV – members of the House of Hanover. It was a new name for British monarchs and many pubs were named ‘George’ – after the kings and the warship.
Returning to the picture, the pub sign is one of three that hang outside the George Inn. One sign hangs above the pavement of Borough High Street but there are two more, including this one, which hangs on the wall of the pub in the large courtyard. The design of the sign is unusual in that is in the form of a Victorian stained-glass church window.
Here’s wishing you a Happy St George’s Day!