Pub signs

Public houses often show the development of a town over the years, and this page will show that element of Shrewsbury’s background – rather than a beer drinkers’ guide!  If you spot  a Shrewsbury pub sign that appeals and/or has a significant story behind it, please send a photo [0.5Mb ideal] to us.

In the late 1800s there were almost exactly 200 ‘pubs’ in this town – sadly now the number is much smaller, with more closing down each year.  Three breweries supplied much of the beer: the last to close (1967) was the Salop Brewery in Chester Steet, Coton Hill – it had started in 1816, just after the Battle of Waterloo.

Names at that time often reflected the ‘business’ of the town.  For instance “The Union” [at the bottom of St Mary’s Water Lane] stood from 1824 to 1894, and was a building with warehouse attached – serving the boats lying alongside the Union Wharf.  “The Barge” and the “The Wherry” were at the lower end of Wyle Cop from the 1780s.  “The Anchor” in Frankwell was also recorded as early as 1780.By contrast, some of the old coaching Inns would have the name of the Coach – “The Comet” in Ditherington for example.  Another – near the present English Bridge – had stabling for 200 horses, and was called “The Unicorn”.

Railway pubs seem to have faded away.  In the heyday, there were two “Engine & Tender” pubs – one in Belle Vue – while the other still trades and has been renamed “The Brittannia” [by the Royal Mail Sorting Office].  “Coal Wharf Tavern” in Castle Foregate was probably derived from a mixture of canal and railway related background.  “The Railway Tavern” in Castle Foregate has disappeared, but “The Station Hotel” still lingers on.

Once they said that Shrewsbury had a pub/drinking house for every day of the year!  How many now?


  CANAL TAVERN, Castlefields at the Shrewsbury terminus of the Shrewsbury & Newport canal. The canal basin is now buried under Morris oil yard and the railway car park.  The nearby Buttermarket (an abandoned night club, but now under renovation) was the warehouse where the barges would load/unload their cargoes.
  THE STEAM WAGON – Harlescott – a modern pub set in a recent development of residential housing, but named after a piece of history unique in industrial Britain.  At the Sentinel Works in 1915 the production of steam powered lorries (and subsequently railcars) started, and continued just into the 1950s.  A few of these unusual vehicles survive and may be glimpsed in rural Shropshire in late August heading for the Steam Festival.
  The GOLDEN CROSS HOTEL, Princess Street, is reputed to be the oldest licensed Public House in Shrewsbury dating back to 1428.  Its original name was the Sextry, so called because it was originally the sacristy of Old St Chad’s Church (the ruins can be seen opposite).  Golden Cross Passage was originally Sextry Shut, and here were the lodgings of the Vicar’s Choral of St Chad’s.The Sacristry was connected to the church by a covered passageway since demolished. Much of the existing building dates back to the last quarter of the 15th century.The earliest surviving record for the inn is a Bailiffs’ Account for 1495, which shows that the sum of 13s.2d was spent on ‘The King’s gentlemen in sextre at the comyng home of Mr Prynce from London’.The first known licensee of the inn appears in 1619, when the Bailiffs’ Account mentions a lawsuit between John Cleve of the Sextry and his father-in-law John Price of the Pheasant in Mardol.  The inn was first recorded as the Golden Cross in 1780 and it has been a popular meeting place throughout its history.  In 1796 William Hill, corrupt tory politician bought votes from the local freemen by plying them liberally with food and drink at the Golden Cross Tavern, before bankruptcy forced him to hang himself.
  BIRD IN HAND Coton Hill
First record of pub on this site in 1780.
Name could be attributed to the sport of Falconry, or a more down-to- earth meaning that NO CREDIT would be given.  Meeting place of Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Machinists, Millwrights & Smiths in 1850s
  THE WOODMAN    Coton Hill
Present building constructed in 1925, after fire destroyed the 19th century structure: only the stables remain from that earlier hostelry.  Origin of name uncertain but could be linked to Sawmill and woodyard in Greenfields: imported timbers being barged upstream from the Bristol Channel ports to Shrewsbury as early as 1720.
Milk Street
Dates from the 16th Century and is the last of 5 public houses that were licensed in Milk Street. The others were The Angel, The Beehive, The Mug House and The Sun Tavern. The Old Post Office has kept the same name throughout it’s history. The has nothing to do with The Royal Mail, but refers to a posting house horse-drawn coaches and as late as 1900 there was stabling for thirteen horses. Wagons to Lyth Hill, Condover, Ryton and Wheathall would depart the inn on Wednesdays and Saturdays of each week.
Dates back to 1640 and was first known as the Fishes, then the Old Three Fishes and from 1838 to the present day as the Three Fishes. The most likely origin of its name is that it reflects the fishmonger’s trade that was carried out in the street from boards hung on the wall opposite and stretching from the Bear Steps to the junction with High Street. The fish market was held there on certain days of the week up until 1869 when it was removed to the new market hall at the top of Mardol.  More here
  THE BRICK,   Abbey Foregate      For many years this pub has been referred to as ‘The Brick’ when its correct title was “The Bricklayers Arms”: consequently, when a new management updated the sign, they put up the name by which most locals knew it!  Earliest record as far back as 1780.