Book Review - All About Pub Signs by Dorothy Nicolle

Pub SignsAll About Pub Signs by Dorothy Nicolle

Softback, 144 pages. £12.99. Published by Blue Hills Press, Wem, Shropshire

I purchased Dorothy Nicolle’s latest book All About Pub Signs in Ludlow last June. The cover drew me to it like a magnet and I bought it without even flicking through the content. “Wasn’t that a rather foolish act?” I hear you say. No, on this occasion, it wasn’t.

It must be Dorothy’s job as a professional Blue Badge tourist guide for the Heart of Britain that enabled her to guide me through the complex yet fascinating and colourful world of the pub sign (‘colourful’ being the operative word). It might have something to do with the fact that Dorothy is also a member of the Inn Sign Society.

The book is packed with colour. There’s not a black and white image in sight. Dorothy writes clearly, authoritatively and with passion and enthusiasm, tracing the early history of signs and English pubs and breweries before taking us on a carefully ordered tour of all categories of pub sign including those incorporating heraldic devices, political signs, transport, local and national heroes, sports and leisure and politically incorrect signs.

The latter category includes controversial signs such as ‘The Black Boy’, ‘The Quiet Woman’ and ‘The Tanya’s Charms” (possibly the first time a modern nude has been featured in a book on pub signs). But – wait. No red-blooded male need rush to see the sign. It only lasted four days before it was taken down; ironically not because it was offending people but because the sign was by a very busy road and the fear was that it might cause a serious accident. Fortunately Dorothy has recorded ‘Tanya’s Charms’ for posterity.

My only (very minor) gripe with All About Pub Signs relates to my own passion - darts. Although Dorothy mentions darts in the introductory quote to Chapter 16 (Sports and Leisure Activities) and makes passing reference to the game in the first paragraph, there is no signboard depicting darts to be found.

But that’s just me isn’t it…

Entertaining, informative and easy to read and very easy on the eye All About Pub Signs is not only a book for all those wanting to learn about the origins and development of pub signs for the first time. It is also for the more established lover of pub signs who simply wants to add to his or her knowledge of how the history of Britain is forever embedded in this unique form of art.

Patrick Chaplin

  • Diary Dates

    What we're doing and when we're doing it. You might even find a date or two for your diary from other like-minded groups. More details can be found by following the link below.

    Continue Reading »

  • Mail List

    Not sure if you want to be a full member yet? Why not sign up for our occasional newsletter, no obligation, no pressure! More details can be found by following the link below.

    Continue Reading »

  • Membership

    Becoming a member of the Pub History Society is a great idea. You'll have access to all of our back issues of our newsletter and even a downloadable bibliography should you need it. More details can be found by following the link below.

    Continue Reading »