Pubs have been a cornerstone of British culture for centuries, and quite often they have odd-sounding names.
Often the name of a pub will tell the story of a monarchy or a great battle, or of a local artist or inventor who hailed from the area.
Whether it’s a common pub name like the Cross Keys or a niche local like the No Sign Wine Bar, most of us have at least one memory of having had one drink too many. in a quirky pub with an impossible-to-forget name.
We’ve taken some of Swansea’s most popular pubs and looked at how they got their names:
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1. Unbranded wine bar
A favorite watering hole of Dylan Thomas and his “Kardomah” gang, the No Sign Wine Bar’s name stems from licensing legislation that required drinking establishments to have a recognizable sign.
Because the venue was a bar rather than a pub, no sign was assigned, so the owners creatively chose the title “No Sign”.
The bar was a bohemian hotspot in the 1930s and was originally known as Munday’s Wine Merchants, which is still printed on the upstairs windows.
Address: 56 Wind Street, Swansea, SA1 1EG
2. Dark Horse
A foodie and cocktail favourite, the name Dark Horse in Mumbles pays homage to the old pub The Nag’s Head, which was popular with Mumbles locals for years.
The name Nag’s Head comes from a time when smugglers hung a lantern around a horse’s neck to signal to ships that the land was safe to land contraband.
Address: 510 Mumbles Rd, The Mumbles, Swansea, SA3 4BU
3. Mary Dillwyn
The name of the Mary Dillwyn pays homage to Mary Dillwyn, originally from Penllergaer, considered to be the first female photographer in Wales.
At a time when Victorian photography was concerned with very serious subjects, Mary was known for taking candid and natural photos. She was the first woman to photograph a smile, and she also took beautiful images of women and children in the domestic setting in the 19th century.
Mary was the daughter of Lewis Weston Dillwyn and Mary Adams, the natural daughter of Colonel John Llewelyn of Penllergaer and Ynysygerwn. Photos of Mary are held at the National Library of Wales, some of which depict the Dillwyn Llewelyn family home in Penllergaer.
Address: Pontardulais Rd, Fforestfach, Swansea SA5 4BA
4. Cross Keys
One of Swansea’s oldest pubs, the Cross Keys is a common pub name with a religious leaning.
According to British Heritage, names such as Cross Keys, Angel or Bell indicate pubs near a church (Saint Mary’s, in this case).
In Christianity, the crossed keys symbolize Saint Peter, the apostle of Jesus who traditionally guards the gates of heaven.
Address: 12 St Mary St, Swansea, SA1 3LH
5. Poundffald Inn
According to a Gower Hidden History blog, the name Poundffald comes from the name of the hamlet before it was subsumed into the village of Three Crosses.
The prefix “pound” refers to a pound to keep stray animals, such as those still visible at Pennard and Penrice. The pound is kept in the pub buildings and is now used as a cellar.
Address: Tirmynydd Road, Three Crosses, Swansea, SA4 3PB
6. Plow and Harrow
Named after local farm equipment, The Plow and Harrow is a pub name that dates back to the Middle Ages. The Plow is one of the most popular pub names in the UK.
Centuries ago, medieval publicans would have distinctive objects outside their inn to distinguish them from surrounding properties.
Plows were common items placed outside pubs in farming areas, such as Bishopston and Llangyfelch.
Address: 88 Oldway, Bishopston, Swansea, SA3 3DJ
7. Bank statement
Obviously, this Wetherspoon pub once housed a bank back when Wind Street was the town’s shopping district.
This Grade II listed building was once a branch of Barclays and was previously considered a London and provincial bank.
The original Ratner bank safes are still in the pub today.
Address: 57–58 Wind Street, Swansea, SA1 1EP
8. The potter’s wheel
This Wetherspoon pub is located on the corner of Kingsway and Dillwyn Street, named after the Dillwyn family who owned the local Cambrian pottery. The building has recently undergone a facelift.
Famous for its fine china, the pottery was run from 1802 to 1817 by Lewis Weston Dillwyn, who later became the Mayor of Swansea.
Lewis Weston Dillwyn was the father of photographer Mary Dillwyn.
Address: 85-86 The Kingsway, Swansea, Glamorgan, SA1 5JE
9. The King’s Head
Pub names showing allegiance to a monarch were common throughout the Middle and Victorian Ages.
Records show that many 16th century bars named “Pope’s Head” were replaced by “King’s Head” following King Henry VIII’s split with the Catholic Church.
In keeping with anti-Catholic sentiment at the time, The King’s Head would have been a safe statement to the Crown.
Address: Llangyfelach Rd, Treboeth, Swansea, SA5 9EL
10. The Black Boy
A controversial name, there are many theories surrounding the Black Boy’s name, according to Get Outside.
One theory is that the name alludes to chimney sweeps or miners who would frequent pubs after work.
Another more popular theory is that the name honors King Charles II, who was nicknamed “black boy” by his mother because of his black hair and complexion. Charles fought for the restoration of the monarch in the 1650s, so the name of the pub could be a statement of allegiance.
Another theory is that the black boy’s name is a misspelling of black buoy. The Black Boy Inn in Caernafon has a black buoy painted on one side of its signage.
Address: 444 Gower Rd, Killay, Swansea, SA2 7AJ
11. The Red Lion Inn
The Red Lion in Morriston is a Wetherspoon pub, but its name goes back much further.
According to Historic UK, the name of the Red Lion pub dates back to the time of James I and VI of Scotland who came to the throne in 1603.
James ordered the heraldic red lion of Scotland to be displayed on all significant buildings – including pubs.
Morriston was built as an industrial village, initiated by Sir John Morris (“Morris Town”) for copper workers in 1768.
As the village was established schools, churches and pubs followed and the Wetherspoon website notes that the Red Lion Inn was to be frequented by workers from the Morriston Silica Brick Company factory which stood in front of the public house, on the site of the fire station.
Address: Red Lion Hotel, 49 Sway Rd, Morriston, Swansea, SA6 6JA
12. The Ancient Briton
Located in the Brecon Beacons National Park, at the very top of the Swansea Valley, The Ancient Briton is an award-winning pub that has 12 real hand ale pumps. It’s also the only true farm-to-fork menu in the Swansea Valley.
When owners Nils and Emma took over the pub in April, they decided to keep its original namesake which has been around since 1842 (although years ago it was the Welsh version – ‘Yr Hen Frython’) .
Britons (also known as Celtic Britons or Ancient Britons) were the Celtic peoples who inhabited Britain from at least the Iron Age (750 BC) until they diverged into the Welsh , the Cornish and the Bretons.
Address: Brecon Rd, Pen-y-cae, Ynyswen, Swansea, SA9 1YY
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