Strange Business Signs (19th-Century London)

Here is an amusing article from Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine (June 1861) about some peculiar business signs found in Victorian London:

A stranger is surprised in London by some of the signs, which have been handed down for generations, which are used to distinguish particular places of business. Many of them are perfectly unmeaning, but are corruptions of the original signs. A public house was called ‘The Bag of Nails,’ which was derived from the old name, ‘The Bacchanals.’ ‘The Bull and Goat’ was corrupted from ‘The Bologne Gate,’ as the place was called in compliment to Henry VIII, who took the place in 1642. There is another public house called ‘The Goat and Compasses.’ It was established in the old Puritan times. In the days of Cromwell, it was ‘God encompasses us;’ but in Queen Victoria’s time it is ‘The Goat and Compasses.’ There is one public house called ‘The Three Loggerheads.’ The sign has a picture of two men, and the inscription underneath:

‘We three
Loggerheads be.’

And the passer by wonders, as he reads it, where on earth the third loggerhead can be.

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

8 thoughts on “Strange Business Signs (19th-Century London)

  1. Martha Grimes’ Jury series, as I am sure you know but maybe not some of your other readers, is set in different English pubs with odd names, the dirty duck, for example, is in Stratford on Avon, and is actually a swan, then there is the old fox deceived, etc. Loved this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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