Growing up in Nottinghamshire, we made regular family jaunts to Clumber Park to enjoy a picnic and take a stroll. One of the main attractions of these outings, other than weir which always fascinated me, was the chance to see unsuspecting people, not local to the area, being menaced to distraction by the somewhat fearsome geese that roamed the area. They always seemed singularly cheeky to me though and perhaps that's why this pub sign appealed to me so much!
Sign makers in the 18th century had to contend with the fact that many people who used shops and taverns were unable to read. The most beautifully written sign would be no of no use to anyone if the customers of a business were unable to read it and for this reason, sign makers naturally gravitated towards pictorial signs.
As we have already learnt, St Paul's Churchyard was home to a tavern named The Goose and Gridiron. It was here that the Grand Lodge of Freemasons had its first meeting in 1717 and had served as a meeting point for Masons long before that, under the leadership of Sir Christopher Wren.
The inn had previously been a music-house named The Mitre and when it became a tavern, the name Goose and Gridiron was chosen. In 1878's Old and New London: Volume 1, author Walter Thornbury suggests that the name was intended as a parody of Swan and Harp, a popular name for music-houses. This seems a peculiarly specific joke and Thornhill thinks so too, offering the alternative suggestion that it is simply a somewhat earthy take on the coat of arms used by the Company of Musicians that would have hung above the door at the Mitre. To suggest that this is no longer a house of music, instead of the swan and tressure the tavern has adopted the goose and gridiron.
Whatever the explanation, the sign perfectly suggests the name of the establishment and its purpose by simply depicting a goose and gridiron. With a wordless sign such as this , the innkeeper could be sure that customers would easily find their destination, regardless of their literacy skills!