My shaggy dog story is that I saw a very fetching shaggy dog in a Citroën 2CV on Fore Street.
Being a bit of a traditionalist, I was delighted when Wetherspoons named their Hertford pub the Six Templars, having briefly toyed with the Five Bishops – after the first General Synod which took place in Hertford. The Templars (as locals now call it) was named after the Knights Templar who were imprisoned in Hertford and allegedly built the labyrinth of tunnels under the town.
Then along came the Merchant House on St Andrew Street (a former merchant’s house), the Master’s House on Fore Street (which used to be a boarding school and then the residence of the headmaster of Richard Hale School) and the Bluecoat (named after the uniform worn by pupils at nearby Christ’s Hospital).
But now, curiously, they’ve metamporphosed into Ruby, Saloon and Aqua respectively … names which have no connection with Hertford whatsoever and sound more like bars in Ibiza or Stevenage or somewhere ghastly.
I guess I am being a bit perverse here, because the now-extinct ‘traditional’ pubs of Hertford had pretty peculiar names themselves – the Unicorn, Glove and Dolphin (as in Dolphin Yard) and Cold Bath.
And some local pubs even adopted their quirky nicknames. The Chequers in Essendon became the Candlestick, because of the landlord’s habit of illuminating the bar with a single candle. He then plunged the bar into darkness when he took the candle down to the cellar.
So there is a tradition of eccentric names. But Ruby, Saloon and Aqua just seem so random to me. I demand more Hertford-related pub names, such as The Mystic Moorhen, The Tipsy Toothbrush, The Ubiquitous Ruffles or whatever.
If you don’t live in Hertford, you won’t have a clue what I’m going on about. But surely that’s the point.