Go to a pub and you're continuing a tradition that probably started in Roman times, when they developed a network of sort-of-inns to offer refreshment for workers and travellers.
The King of Wessex apparently established legal ale houses in the 7th century but the main contributors to the English pub were monks.
Pub signs and names
Have you ever wondered how pub signs and names developed? The Romans were the first to paint signs outside buildings to indicate the profession of the inhabitants. The large illiterate population depended on simple illustrations. For example a picture of the Roman god of Bacchus would symbolise a wine merchant.
In 1393 all pubs were ordered to hang a sign outside to make them easily visible. Hops, barley and barrels were often used as the main illustration, giving rise to pub names such as the Three Barrels.
Many early pub names were religious, such as The Angel, The Cross or Crossed Keys (emblem of St. Peter) or The Bell indicated pubs near to churches. Some were influenced by local landowners such as The Devonshire Arms.
The king in 1393 was Richard II so many pubs were called The White Hart (it's about 4th most popular pub name in Britain), which was the personal badge of Richard II, as their sign. Through the ages many pubs used names that showed their loyalty to the monarch, such The Crown. There are still many pubs called The Rose and Crown which commemorated the end of the Wars of the Roses when Henry Tudor (Lancaster - red rose) married Elizabeth of York (white rose).
The Red Lion is another popular name, with several possible origins. A red lion was the personal badge of the Duke of Lancaster (very powerful in the 14th century) and then later of King James I. Names like the Royal Oak refer to the Oak in which King Charles II hid from his enemies. The Queen's Head refers to the picture of Elizabeth 1 or Queen Victoria on its sign, rather than a beheaded queen like Anne Boleyn.
There are plenty of pubs named after famous battles and admirals. Other pub names refer to special events or local features such as The Railway, The Station, The Cricketers, or The Coach and Horses, a place where horses were changed and stagecoach passengers fed or rested. The Plough was a common name in farming areas for obvious reasons. Some pubs have more complicated names that tell even more of the story behind their origin such as the curiously named Black Bull in Paradise. Several pubs in the Yorkshire Dales bear the name of another famous cow - the Craven Heifer. This was the largest cow ever shown in England, which was bred on the Bolton Abbey Estate, and which weighed a mighty 312 stones!