"The public-houses of London are as motley an assemblage as can well be imagined — so far as signs are concerned We find among them about 70 royal dukes— 'Cambridge,' 'Clarence,' 4 Cumberland,' 'Gloucester,' ' Sussex,' and 'York'; a few royal duchesses: 60 or 70 'Georges' and 'George the Fourths'; 'Victorias' and 'Royal Alberts' in great abundance ; 80 'Crowns' and 20 'Crown and Anchors'; 70 'King's Arms' and 90 'King's Heads'; 20 'Queen's Arms' and 50 'Queen's Heads.' Next comes a menagerie of extraordinary animals, — 30 ' Green Men,' with or without 'Stills,' 'Bells,' and 'French Horns'; 120 'Lions' — red, white, blue, or black; 25 'Black Horses,' and 45 'White'; 70 'White Harts'; 55 'Swans,' black or white as the case may be —and so forth. Then we have a series of couplets—55 'Coach and Horses'; 25 'Horse and Grooms'; 55 'Rose and Crowns'; and numerous' Ships,' combined in an extraordinary way with 'Blue Balls,' 'Blue Coat Boys,' 'Punchbowls,' 'Rising Suns,' 'Shears,' and 'Shovels.' The system of numeration has been carried out by the licensed victuallers more fully than they themselves, perhaps, are aware; for we shall find 'One Tun,' 'Two Bells,' 'Three Suns,' 'Four Swans,' 'Five Pipes,' 'Six Cans,' 'Seven Stars,' 'Eight Bells,' 'Nine Elms,' 'Ten Bells,' and 'Twelve Bells': let any enterprising publican hit upon 'Eleven' something—' Cricketers,' 'Virgins,' or what not — and the duodecimal system will be complete. Some numbers are great favourites, especially number three, which developes itself in all the varieties of 'Three Brewers' and 'Three Colts'; three each of 'Compasses,' 'Cranes,' 'Cups,' 'Doves,' 'Elms,' 'Foxes,' 'Goats,' 'Hats,' 'Herrings,' 'Horseshoes,' and 'Johns' ; 'Three Jolly Bakers,' 'Three Jolly Butchers,' and 'Three Jolly Gardeners'; 'Three Kings,' 'Three Loggerheads,' and 'Three Lords' (three loggerheads between three kings and three lords might appear sarcastic, were not the order of the alphabet alone responsible) ; three 'Mariners,' 'Merry Boys,' 'Neats' Tongues,' 'Nuns,' 'Pigeons,' 'Spies,' 'Sugar-loaves,' ' Stags,' 'Suns,' 'Swedish Crowns,' and 'Wheat Sheaves.' A wonderful display of tapsters' ingenuity occurs in such signs as 'Blade Bone,' 'Coffee-pot,' 'Essex Serpent,' 'Knave of Clubs,' 'Lilliput Hall,' 'Naked Boy and Woolpack,' 'Old Centurion,' 'Pickled Egg,' 'Prospect of Whitby,' 'Tippling Philosopher,' 'Widow's Son,' 'Valiant Trooper,' 'Sun in Splendour,' 'Running Footman,' 'Experienced Fowler,' 'Good Man,' 'Kentish Wag,' and 'World Turned Upside Down.'"The Three Johns? Isn't that John Lydon, Sid Vicious and Jah Wobble?
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, pages 460 - 475.
I particularly like the list of unusual names at the end of the list. You know what's really rather odd: I've drunk in two of them. I was in the Prospect of Whitby not long ago. And the Widow's Son, on Devons Road, I drank in when I lived just around the corner in the late 1970's.
I couldn't be arsed to check the whole list of odd names to see how many survived. The Essex Serpent is still around, but unfortunately the Naked Boy and Woolpack is no more. Shame. The World Turned Upside Down on the Old Kent Road seems to have only recently closed. Double shame. It's now a Domino's Pizza, though the building doesn't look that old.
I found a little more about the Naked Boy and Woolpack:
"Naked Boy and Woolpack, No. 23 PARISH STREET, TOOLEY STREET, SOUTHWARK, the last of the public-houses in London retaining the sign of the Naked Boy. Respecting the origin of the name there has been much difference of opinion. This is supposed to have been originally a Negro boy seated on a cotton bale. But the explanation is doubtful. Probably the origin of the name was in most instances a naked figure affixed to a house. Thus the Fortune of War public-house, at the corner of Cock Lane, Giltspur Street, used to be in vulgar language the Naked Boy, from an effigy outside it of a youthful Bacchus astride a barrel. Hatton, 1708, Maitland, 1739, and Dodsley, 1761, give one Naked Boy Alley, three Naked Boy Courts, and two Naked Boy Yards in London. In 1880 the only survival was Naked Boy Court, on the north side of Ludgate Hill, and that euphemised into Boy Court."Boy Court sounds almost as bad as Naked Boy Court. Still, better than a pub called the Naked Boy on Cock Lane.
"London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions" by Henry Benjamin Wheatley, Peter Cunningham, 1891, page 571.
Here's another mention of the pub:
"On Wednesday the Prisoner underwent another examination, and two other persons appeared as prosecutors against the unfortunate Ezekiel. One of these persons was Mr. James Tuck, the landlord of a public-house at Horsleydown, known by the queer sign of "the Naked Boy and the Woolpack," and the other was a Mr. Saker, an honest layer of brick, and neighbour to mine host of the Naked Boy and Woolpack. They charged the prisoner with borrowing money, and swindling them out of board, lodging, &c."It seems to have been used regularly to hold inquests:
Sussex Advertiser - Monday 03 May 1824, page 2.
"Mr. Payne held an inquest on Wednesday evening, at the Naked Boy and Woolpack, Parish-street, Horseley-down, on the body of William Wright, an infant aged seven weeks, who was suffocated by its mother under the following singular circumstances . . ."
Hereford Journal - Wednesday 29 November 1843, page 4.
The Tippling Philosopher was in a bit of London I know quite well, as it's just around the corner from Jeff's Gunmakers in Clerkenwell.:
". . .in London there used to be a Tippling Philosopher, now extinct in Liquor Pond Street, opposite Reid's great brewery in Gray's Inn Road."
"English Inn Signs: Being a Revised and Modernized Version of History of Signboards" by Jacob Larwood, John Camden Hotten, 1951, page 273.
There's one great thing about pubs with unusual names: it's easy to search for references to them.