The Brazen George

I’ve been looking back at the names of old pubs in Cambridge, many of them gone, long gone, and maybe some of them renamed as is the trend these days – names which have nothing to do with anything. It used to be that you could direct a stranger by the pubs in a place, now there are so many which are gone, and so many changed names to things like the Spoon and Follicle, the Warped Damson, the Jelly Mold… actually I have made those up, but there are some ludicrous modern pub names.

Cambridge before the war was not much bigger than a market town, even though it was a University city, and many pub names reflected the rural shire… the names of farm animals and occupations for example.

There were also many, many pubs called after famous personalities of the day, royalty and the aristocracy, and also the English patron saint, St George. There was one pub called the Brazen George, its sign showed a brass coloured George slaying the dragon; it was a going concern in 1500, so goodness knows how old it actually was. Like so many, it is long gone, and was long gone when my dad was a boy.

Here is just a sample of pubs named after people – either actual people of by their trades and occupations… and the mythological Green Man of course!

  • King William/King William IV
  • George III/ George IV
  • King’s Head
  • King’s Arms King’s Arms
  • Prince Regent
  • Queen Adelaide
  • Duke Of Sussex,
  • Duke Of Wellington
  • Duke Of York
  • Marquis Of Granby
  • Earl Of Durham
  • George/George And Dragon/Brazen George
  • Nelson/ British Admiral
  • Garrick
  • Black Moor’s Head
  • Bricklayers
  • Wrestlers
  • Britannia
  • Green Man

Animals in pubs

Our pub the Dolphin (named after an animal) is a creature friendly pub. Dogs are more than welcome, in fact there are two resident Jugs (pug/Jack Russell cross) Tim and Sim. There are other dogs who visit, some are regulars, but none is as famous as Penny, known as Mrs Pen, who died several years ago but is not forgotten.

I was researching something else and was looking at the names of pubs in Cambridge – well, the names of old pubs, so many have now disappeared or changed names. Cambridge not so long ago was little more than a market town with a university – although in actual fact it is a city. The rural nature of its surrounding countryside is reflected in some of the old pub names…

Animals of various colours and although there are some exotics, many reflect animals seen in the Cambridgeshire countryside  –

  • The Blue Bore/Lion
  • The Black Bear/Bull/ Lion/ Swan/The Little Black Bull
  • The Green Lion/Dragon
  • The Red Bull/Red Cow/Red Lion/ The New Red Lion/Old Red Lion
  • The Cock x3
  • The Cow and Calf
  • Dog and Duck/Hare and Hounds
  • The Horse and Groom/The Light Horse/The Race Horse
  • The Eagle/The Hawk/The Peacock/The Crane
  • The Lamb/The Ram
  • The Roebuck
  • The Pike and Eel/The Pickerel/The Salmon

… and of course there had to be…

  • The Dolphin

Penny, Mrs Pen at the back door of the pub


An elegant gentleman

I told the story of Herbert de la Rue – as far as I knew it, a couple of years ago:

We moved from the flat where I had been brought up as a child into a house which we bought from an old, very old friend of my grandparents, a Mr Pleasants, his wife and sister… I’m not sure now whether she was his sister or his wife’s sister, or maybe they were two sisters, but the three old folks had lived in their house for many, many years. They were pleased to have a family they knew buy it, and especially to have us two children move in with our parents.

For whatever reason they let various bits and pieces behind, no doubt they didn’t want them or couldn’t accommodate them where they moved into sheltered accommodation, I think on Honey Hill… its amazing what comes back when you think about things. Among the items we ‘inherited’ were some old pictures, including two very fine-looking Edwardian gentlemen we christened Albert and Edward, and a water-colour of Mr Herbert de la Rue. We knew this because it was inscribed on the back. My dad thought that the de la Rues were a printing firm who used to make playing cards, he also seemed to think that one of the old ladies had been a maid in service to the family in London.

We were doing some tidying and we came across the picture of Herbert de la Rue and I tried to find out more about him. He was born in 1855, his parents were Warren de la Rue of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and his wife Georgiana. In 1871 the family were living in Staines (now called Staines-on-Thames)  and three children lived at home, Herbert, Ernest and Alice, along with eight servants. Ten years later the family had moved to Portland Place in Marylebone, half as mile from where my family were living by Regent’s Park. Now there were only the two sons at home, Ernest was now a partner in the firm of de la Rue & Co who which was described as wholesale manufactures, stationers etc. Herbert was an underwriter at Lloyd’s

In 1851, four or five years before Herbert was born, Warren’s occupation is F.R.S &tc, Chemistry, Mechanics, Card Manufacturer, Envelope ditto, and Wholesale Stationer, Engineer (?) employing with partners 410 persons… so my dad was right, they did make cards. At this time two other children were living at home with Warren, Georgina and Alice, Warren junior and Thomas.

In 1891 I can only find Warren’s grandson, Warren, living with his parents Ernest and Florence, and his  sisters, Irene and Phillis. Of Warren senior, and Herbert I can find no census return.

However, it is interesting that by 1911, Warren de la Rue junior, Herbert’s brother is living in Chippenham not far from Newmarket… Newmarket which isn’t far from Cambridge where the Pleasants lived who had the picture of Herbert de la Rue which set me off on this quest. Warren had a large number of servants, including a Swiss chef, a footman and a waiter… as well as several female domestic servants, one of whom may have been the lady I knew in her old age, living in the house we later moved into.


Respect your readers

I’m always very ready to accept ideas or to listen to good suggestions – for most things, but writing in particular! I write on my own (although I belong to a very helpful and friendly writing group, we share specifically written pieces rather than discuss on going projects!) and I self-publish so I don’t have an editor (but I do have a proof reader, plus kind friends who give honest criticism) … so any advice or suggestions I can find elsewhere I give serious consideration to!

I came across this headline:

5 Essential Pieces of Advice You Need Before You Publish

I immediately read it through, and although some of the advice was more relevant to me than other bits, it was all sound. The ‘5 Essential Pieces of Advice’ are:

  • Editing is VERY important
  •  Marketing can’t be avoided!
  • Reach out to other authors for advice
  • Research publishing – what’s a good fit for you?
  • Respect your readers, and the craft itself

This is the order in which they appear, but if I was to put them in order of importance to me – just my thoughts, you understand, they would be like this:

  1. Respect your readers, and the craft itself 
  2. Editing is VERY important
  3. Reach out to other authors for advice
  4. Research publishing – what’s a good fit for you?
  5.  Marketing can’t be avoided!

I was thinking about the first point – writing is about the audience as well as the writer! it took me a long time to understand the importance of ‘audience’ a very long time.

Here is something I wrote while ago but I think it is still very true:

I made a commented recently about the importance of not falling in love with my characters… and I had some great comments which I really appreciated, but it made me realise I need to make it clearer what I mean. I sometimes think that writers, particularly of a series of novels, that they become so close to their characters that they are no longer objective about them and become almost indulgent. I don’t wish to criticise P.D. James  heaven forbid! She actually is an old girl of the school I attended in Cambridge and a wonderful writer, a great writer. I, along with other people  will never forget the way she took apart the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, when she interviewed him in 2009… however… however… I think she is too indulgent with her detective, Adam Dalgliesh. I haven’t read her latest Dalgliesh mysteries so I may need to retract this statement!
Someone commented that a fiction writer is the creators and so makes the rules… I suppose that is true to a certain extent, especially for great writers… However, but I’m just an ordinary writer, a story-teller, and I want people to read my work so like it or not, to a certain extent I have to conform to a certain structure and convention. It’s the same as if I were a performer, I would want people to watch me, so maybe I would have to compromise in order to get that audience. As a writer, especially an unknown writer seeking an audience I might sometimes have to adjust what I write to catch people’s interest, and then sustain it… and yet I must continue to be  my own person and true to what I want to do.
I do love my characters, I really do, in fact there is one who I am almost ‘in love’ with! If you have read my three published novels you might like to guess who that is! I guess what I mean by not falling in love with them is that I should also try and see them objectively so they behave within the context of the plot in a consistent and believable way. maybe I should have used the word indulgent, perhaps I believe I shouldn’t be too indulgent with them.
My characters are important to me, really important, they live with me after all! They continue on with their lives long after the story has ended… just because there is nothing more for my readers doesn’t mean the characters don’t continue their lives and adventures!
As a reader I love it when characters stay with me…  and so they do when I write; I just don’t want to become too close to them!

In this piece I mention I’ve published three novels – well, I have now published twelve as e-readers, and one is available as a paperback. I would really appreciate your comments, and criticism, so here is a link:

Here is a link to the article ‘5 Essential Pieces of Advice You Need Before You Publish’ – I really recommend you read it!:


I shared this story last year… it haunts me and i think I might have to actually write it out more fully, maybe as a novel, maybe as part of a novel:

My uncle used to tell a story of when he was a boy… or maybe it was when his father was a boy… or maybe it goes back before that, or maybe it was just a local story he heard… He thought it was true, and had much more detail than I now remember.
A man who lived in a village near Cambridge in the early part of the twentieth century, or maybe it was the last years of the nineteenth, or maybe it was even before that… had a windmill… He was a miller, and maybe it was the mill he’d had for a long time, or maybe it was one he had bought to begin a new business. This mill needed its sails replacing and cost a lot of money and time and effort to do so… in fact the miller nearly brought himself to ruin by doing it.
After much hardship, and trouble for him and his family to replace the sails on the windmill, the day came when they could unlock the sails and let them turn gracefully and beautifully in the east wind. The sails began to gently turn and then disaster! Some miscalculation had been made, something went wrong, but the tip of the sail struck the ground with a juddering blow and became embedded, stuck.
The miller looked in horror at the end of his dreams, his future shattered before his eyes. Distraught he turned away, left the mill, left his family and went away somewhere and then the greatest tragedy of all, he took his life. I don’t know how he died, maybe he hung himself among trees, maybe there was a flourishing watermill nearby and he went and drowned himself in the mill-race, but I imagine his ghost walking, walking back to the mill to see if the sail was still stuck in the ground.
I don’t really know if this is a true, but it makes a terrific story.

A Cavern That Overlooks the River Avon

When I was growing up in Cambridge, we had local giants, Gog and Magog, or maybe it was a single giant Gogmagog after whom some low chalky hills were named… or so I always believed and so we learnt in our local history lessons when I was at junior school.  However there is also a Biblical connection, but Gog was the giant and Magog was his land…

Now we live near Bristol, it seems there were giants here too, Goram and Ghyston, or Vincent, who lived in a cave in the Avon Gorge… you can still see the cave today, but here is a poem by Robert Southey, who lived from 1774 to 1843; he was born in Bristol and obviously knew the legends:

For a Cavern that Overlooks the River Avon

Enter this cavern, Stranger! Here, awhile
Respiring from the long and steep ascent,
Thou mayst be glad of rest, and haply too
Of shade, if from the summer’s westering sun
Sheltered beneath this beetling vault of rock.
Round the rude portal clasping its rough arms,
The antique ivy spreads a canopy,
From whose gray blossoms the wild bees collect
In autumn their last store. The Muses love
This spot; believe a Poet who hath felt
Their visitation here. The tide below,
Rising or refluent, scarcely sends its sound
Of waters up ; and from the heights beyond,
Where the high-hanging forest waves and sways,
Varying before the wind its verdant hues,
The voice is music here. Here thou mayst feel
How good, how lovely. Nature! And when, hence
Returning to the city’s crowded streets,
Thy sickening eye at every step revolts
From scenes of vice and wretchedness, reflect
That Man creates the evil he endures.

Robert Southey

Her is what the cave looks like:

Ships That Pass In The Night – 5

I’m sharing a series of diary entries my mum and her sisters made during the war:

10th August – 2nd September 1940 (L. – 11′ Sep)

Leslie Gould                     Home:- Swansea
Fredrick Charles —     Home:- Romford
Fredrick Cobbett.
182nd Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C.
Stationed: – Pinehurst, Harston

We all three went to a dance in Harston Village Hall on 10th August and met the Legionnaire, Tall Fred and Howard. More fun!

The Legionnaire (who was a C.O.) was a tall Cub-Master before being called up. Beryl and Monica gave him this nick-name as they thought he looked rather fierce and just the type for the French Foreign legion.

Tall Fred had a very attractive smile. He was about the tallest soldier we had met so far, hence the adjective. It was after this dance that Beryl, who thought she was walking home with the Legionnaire, kept talking about Tall Fred whom she hadn’t properly met and asking who he was, arrived at the gate, to her dismay (or delight?) she found she had been walking home with Fred not Leslie!

Howard, who was a ship’s barber in civil life, got his nick-name because he was so very like a cousin of ours of this name. He was actually another Fred. The Army seems over-run with them (Freds we mean)

We also went to another dance on 17th August, but didn’t really know them, apart from having met them at the previous dance.

On the 24th August when Rose Bowyer was staying with us, we four girls and three boys spent an afternoon on the river in Cambridge We had a punt, took sandwiches for tea and had a grand time.

Punting on the River Cam; Audrey, a friend, and a soldier

It was unfortunate that Leslie, who had been so good all the afternoon, while the other two boys had been trying to sink the punt by “rocking” it should fall in. He was trying to get on the bank from the boat when the latter wasn’t moored and it just sailed from under him and in he went! He was rather wet and came home for a hot bath and supper, but before getting home there were more adventures!

Three small boys in another punt spent the afternoon following our boat and trying to sink it. It was getting late and we were afraid of missing the bus home as all our efforts to return downstream were thwarted by these boys. Then Fred had an idea. He leapt from our punt to theirs, got hold of their mooring rope, then leapt on to the bank and there he sat holding their boat fast while we hurriedly paddled downstream.

Monica and a soldier boy on the River Cam in the summer sunshine

When we were well on our way and out of reach of our tormentors, Fred let go of their rope (after having suffered much splashing from the boys) ran along the bank and rejoined us some hundred yards further down. Fred certainly saved us from missing our bus.

Leslie used to come in most evenings and one afternoon, the 8′ September, he took Monica on the river at Cambridge in a rowing boat. The other two never actually came to the house.

We saw Tall Fred on 12′ October when the convoy he was in paused for refreshment at the Old English Gentleman. We just had time to say “Hullo” and “Goodbye.”

A safe and happy voyage through life, lads!

What a wonderful time the girls must have had; as intelligent young women and with a brother serving in the RAF, they must have listened anxiously to the BBC news on the wireless, and read the reports from the Front in the newspaper, but they were young, and lovely and enjoying their life!  

The confusion of Beryl over the identity of the young soldier who walked her home is understandable because it would have been a black-out, no street lights, no lights allowed from windows, it really would have been very, very dark! Going on the river was a regular and common thing for Cambridge folk… forget the University, they are ‘gown’ think of us Cantabrigians, we’re ‘town’!

The photos were actually taken the following year, the summer of 1941, and I don’t know the identity of the young man paddling them along!