Hot Cross Buns and “The Widow’s Son” – English Pub Names

Quaint and bizarre English Pub Names and the tales behind them:

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Lord Moon of the Mall, Queens Head & Artichoke, Pig & Whistle, Olde Trip to Jerusalem and Mad Bishop & Bear – When travelling around England, one of the things that will certainly grab your attention is the unusual names of its pubs – some are quaint, some are amusing and others are just plain bizarre!

Having a pint or two at the local watering hole is a very English way of life and there are literally thousands of pubs in England, yet the majority of them have names that are quite original. Pub names like these must have some intriguing stories to tell as not even the most creative copywriter could come up with such unique names.

About The Widow’s Son

On Devon Road in Bow, which is in the East End of London, there is a Victorian pub called The Widow’s Son. This sad name has an equally sad story behind it. The Widow’s Son was built in 1848 on the site that was formerly occupied by a poor widow’s cottage. The widow had an only son who was a sailor. She baked some hot cross buns for him on Good Friday, expecting that he would return at or soon after Easter. According to folklore, it was believed that buns baked on Good Friday would not deteriorate and the widow obviously followed this belief. When her son failed to return, she hung the buns from the net of the ceiling of her cottage, and year after year she repeated the action, and continued to do so until her death.

Bun Day and a Naval Tradition

When the pub was built where the widow’s cottage once stood, it was named “The Widow’s Son” due to the popularity and fame of the story locally. Some locals also refer to it as The Bun House. Not only was the pub named in commemoration of the widow and her son, but it has also started a little piece of naval tradition in recent times. Every Good Friday a Royal Navy sailor would present a new bun to the pub for inclusion in the net. The custom developed over the last few years, with sailors visiting on the Bun Day to pay their respects. Of course, whilst they were there, they had a drink, or two, to the memory of the lost mariner and this was accompanied by a sing-a-song or two. These days a sailor’s hat is also presented to the pub in addition to the bun.

As with most fork-lore and ancient customs, there is little to prove the veracity of the story and a glance at the net of ancient and blackened buns hanging from the pub ceiling gives the lie to the Good Friday bun-baking belief. Nevertheless the tradition has been embraced by the locals and the navy as it symbolizes for all the dangers of the sea and the bond between sailors and those whom they leave behind.

If you’re in London or planning a trip to London, call in at The Widow’s Son and check out the hot cross buns.

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