Pubs are supposed to have silly names – it’s just better that way.
The Landlord of the Pickle & Whistle may well have picked the first two objects he saw when signing the deed but that’s okay. Now he can tell punters the name was born from the pickle fire of 72 or the whistle shortage of 87, the fact is he now has free-reign to make up some bullshit to fool unwitting drinkers, a barkeep’s prerogative. Whether the name’s story is of actual historical significance or just the mumblings of a pump-jockey, grasping at small morsels of entertainment on an otherwise slow weekday afternoon, here’s some bizarrely named London boozers for you.
The Salmon & Ball – Bethnal Green
This pub has held its name since the last ever game of Salmonball took place in Bethnal Green after a double public hanging in 1763. The game was banned in the 18th century when salmon numbers began to dwindle due to cold weather. King George III declared that the drying of salmon for the purpose of making ‘Salbal’ bats illegal in 1764, a seemingly outdated law that has not since been lifted.
The Coal Hole – The Strand
The origins of this one are fairly easy to decipher – a former coal cellar to the Savoy. As far as connotations go though, The Coal Hole is pretty strong. “You’re just being childish”, I hear you say. Read any sentence below aloud to a friend, family member or stranger and gauge their reaction then we’ll see who’s childish:
“The Coal Hole was evacuated due to an unexpected leak”
“Fancy whetting your whistle in Nicholson’s Coal Hole?”
“The Coal Hole’s packed all the way to the rear exit”
Dirty Dicks – Liverpool Street
No apostrophe. Just dirty dicks as far as the eye can see. Are they self-proclaimed dirty or is there a filth verification process in place? Does patrons strut trouserless to showcase their fetid peckers like a grotty badge of honour? So many questions.
Or maybe it’s Dirty Dicks? A members’ bar exclusively for men named Richard with no concept of; a dry handshake, Head & Shoulders, personal space or a non-brown suit. The type of Richard that’ll issue a hearty open-palmed slap on the arse of every woman to walk past, accompanied by an oleaginous wink and a bit of a dribble.
Either way, they definitely have toilets that smell like a pissy fish.
Cock & Dragon – Cockfosters
Camel & Artichoke – Southbank
The Asparagus – Battersea
Spreadeagle – Camden Town
Ferret & Firkin in the Balloon up the Creek – Chelsea
Red Lion and Pineapple – Acton
The Gun – Coldhabour
The Bell – Bush Lane