What’s behind the names of pubs in Diss?

PUBLISHED: 10:23 04 August 2018

The Cock Inn, Saracens Head, The Greyhound and The Thatcher’s Needle

The Cock Inn, Saracens Head, The Greyhound and The Thatcher’s Needle


If you’ve ever wondered why Diss pubs have their names or how some names came to be more common than others, here’s our potted guide.

Norfolk’s drinking heritage is slowly draining away as last orders are called.

Dozens of pubs have closed over the past decade, according to Norfolk and Norwich Campaign for Real Ale, which blames rising brewery costs, falling supermarket prices and changing social attitudes and tastes.

And with each pub goes another piece of heritage. Pubs aren’t just places to enjoy a quiet pint or a rowdy night on the tiles; their names and signs are each a piece of our local and national identity.

If you’ve ever wondered why Diss pubs have their names or how some names came to be more common than others, here’s our potted guide.

The Cock Inn

A landmark tavern in Diss for more than 500 years. A cockerel is a common and ancient tavern sign in use since the 14th century. Often it is an indication that in the past cock-fighting took place. In the 17th century the name also helped advertise the sale of cock-ale, which was ale mixed with the jelly of minced meat of a boiled cock amongst other ingredients.

The Thatcher’s Needle

From Thatcher’s Arms to Thatched Cottage, Inn or just plain Thatcher, the reed or straw roof covering has inspired countless pub names across rural Britain — it’s referred to as ‘Thack’ in Scotland. None are more specific though than the Diss pub’s name derived from the traditional tool used in thatching. Ironically when the pub was named in 2013 there was a mini outcry that it could be a reference to Margaret Thatcher.

Saracens Head

To the Greeks and Romans, a Saracen was a nomad of the Arabian desert. The word came to mean ‘Arab’ then ‘Moslem’, especially with regard to the crusades. Noble families who members had taken part in the crusades tended to include a Saracen’s head as part of their arms. It was then transferred to inn signs, usually showing a typical Arab or Turk by way of illustration.

The Greyhound

Inns across the UK share being named after greyhounds though for different reasons. Those on the route from London to Birmingham are often referring to the famous mail coach, with a similar one travelling from London to Exeter. It is sometimes also a heraldic reference to the dukes of Newcastle. However most refer to the dog with it on the sign. Also known as ‘grazehounds’ they were formerly used in the chase but now are mainly associated with greyhound racing. Incidentally the ‘grey’ in the name has nothing to do with their colour.

Two Brewers (now Number 11)

A fairly common pub name since the 17th century with at least a dozen still remaining in London alone. The ‘brewers’ referred to are usually draymen, who deliver the beer, seen carrying a cask between them, slung from a pole. This pub was once re-named Nut Bush and earlier this year became the Number 11 restaurant/bar.

The White Elephant

Though a common expression this isn’t actually that common as an inn name with the Diss pub being one of the most well known. The kings of Siam were said to have given a white elephant to courtiers they disliked. The courtier was obliged to pay the heavy expense of their upkeep, getting nothing in return as, the animals being scared, they were not allowed to work. The figurative meaning then is for something that drains your pockets.


The Crossways


A reference to crossroads where stagecoaches formerly picked up and dropped passengers. In the 17th and 18th centuries up to 40 coaches a day passed through Scole.

The Crown


Well over 500 pubs share this name which has been popular for 600 years, though it did disappear during Cromwell’s period in power.

The Swan Inn


Swans have appeared in pub names and signs since the 14th century, either in reference to the majestic bird or its role on coasts of arms. In the latter role it was much favoured by Henry VIII and Edward III.

The White Horse


One of the most popular of all pub names. It has been in use since the 15th century and remains common because of its heraldic use. A galloping white horse refers to the House of Hanover, and dates from the accession of George I in 1714.

Fighting Cocks Inn


Cock fighting with introduced to Britain by the Romans and was prohinited by Cromwell in 1653. It remained popular however until sterner measures were taken in the mid-19th century.

The Fox Inn


Common inn name in rural areas for centuries especially where fox hunting occurred. The fox is often paired with other animals, Fox & Hounds, Fox & Goose, or objects for comic effect, like the Fox & Knot in London.



Crown Street

Closed 1960

Bricklayers Arms

Shelfanger Road

Closed 1965

Cherry Tree

Roydon Road

Closed 1990

Denmark Arms

Denmark Street

Closed 1984


Church Street

Closed 1966

Green Dragon

Heywood Road

Closed 1969

Half Moon

Crown Street

Closed 1969

The Jolly Porter

Diss Station

Closed 1973

Rampant Horse

Heywood Road

Closed 1934


Mere Street

Closed 1968

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