Saturday, December 10, 2016
Not so rare…
My previous post about the Elephant pub in Bristol reminded me that there is one three-dimensional inn sign that I’ve been meaning to share with you for several years. This is the sign of the Unicorn in the High Street at Uppingham. This is no longer a pub but the sign remains to draw our attention to a building of various dates (17th to 19th centuries), with a rendered, pale-painted front. He’s rather heraldic, this unicorn, in his conventionally seated pose, and retains some nice details that generations of paint have not obliterated.
The beautifully spiralling horn, the curly-ended leonine tail, and the collar and chain that look as if they ought to be gilded – all these details point to this being a heraldic unicorn, the seated posture and raised paws making it, in heraldic language, a unicorn sejant erect, I suppose. I do not know whether the beast belongs to a specific coat of arms, though.
The Unicorn is not the most common pub name, although I’ve posted another one in the past in Oxfordshire. Uppingham’s must have stood out among the many inns in the High Street. Falcon, Bell, Crown, George and Dragon, Unicorn – this small town, like so many small towns, had numerous inns, and they were essential sources of hospitality and hubs of communication. They were one way in which country towns, which can seem just pleasant, quiet places to visitors today, once punched above their weight. And with a range of facilities from inns to ironmongers, butchers to bookshops, ones like Uppingham still do.