On the A38 road between Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, there is a pub called The Odessa Inn. Gloucestershire is thousands of from the Black Sea and the pub is at a remove from Gloucester, which once had docks, so why has a pub in the English countryside have the name of a port city in the Ukraine?
Perhaps it was something to do with the Crimean War? Had someone from the area gone off to fight in the ill-fated 1850s war against the Russians? A web search says that the pub was opened in 1864 and was named after the “Battle of Odessa.” The battle took place ten years earlier in 1854, and was a bombardment of the port of Odessa by ships from the British and French navies. For the name to be used a decade later suggests that someone connected with the pub had seen action at the battle and wanted to commemorate the engagement.
The Odessa Inn prompted thoughts about how many other pub names came with their own history.
The pub with which my own family has the strongest connection is The Rose and Crown, a pub more commonly known as “Elis’s,” at Huish Episcopi (the landlady is a fourth cousin with an encyclopaedic genealogical knowledge).
The Rose and Crown is a common enough pub name in many parts of England, and until I had looked up The Odessa Inn, it had never occurred to me that pub names might be filled with historical significance. In the Langport area, it seems that The Rose and Crown is a pub name with its own historical provenance.
As a pub name, The Rose and Crown is said to celebrate the end of the War of the Roses and the uniting of the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York when Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York. The local connection is that Henry Tudor’s mother was Lady Margaret Beaufort, a woman who had inherited the manors of Curry Rivel, Langport Eastover and Langport Westover from her father John, Duke of Somerset.
It would never have occurred to me that The Rose and Crown was name redolent of a woman who visited the area in 1467, that the sign on the wall of Eli’s was a reference to Henry VII.
No-one knows how many English pubs will survive the present times, how many will recover from lockdown, but it seems that the closure of many will take with them pieces of history of which few people were ever aware.