Shrinking down pub signs


This week I want to introduce readers to two of Rye’s historic pub signs from just after the Second World War. In the late 1940s and the early 1950s Whitbread’s  Brewery, which at the time was located in Wateringbury, Kent, started publishing  two inches by three inches miniature plaques featuring the Whitbread pub signs of Kent and the south-east portion of Sussex as far west as St Leonards-on-Sea.

Whitbread later issued more miniatures of the pub signs of Devon and Somerset. Beer and Skittles

Known as the “Whitbread Miniature Inn Signs Series”, there were originally five series of 50 each – a total of 250 – which landlords and landladies gave away with a pint of beer as a powerful form of advertising. And, as the collecting mania grew, customers were encouraged to visit other Whitbread pubs across the region.

Whitbread had to compete with cigarette cards and with many hundreds of matchbox labels also used by publicans to advertise their house. Groups of philluminists, i.e. collectors of match box labels, met in several Rye pubs, including the Ferry Boat Inn, to show off their labels.

In the 1940s the first three series of Whitbread Miniatures Inn Signs were printed on thin aluminium sheet because of the post-war paper shortage. Series four and five were later issued on thin card.   Included in the first series were two Rye pubs – the Ypres Castle (series one, number eleven) and the Queen Adelaide (series one, number twelve). And there might have been others in the town [if anyone knows ?].

The sign of the Ypres Castle
The sign of the Ypres Castle

Today, 65 years later, the Whitbread Miniature Inn Signs Series are still much sought after by collectors as a visit to ebay will show. There you will find complete sets in all their glorious colour and detail for sale by auction.

The Pubs of Rye, 1750-1950 by David Russell is available from The Rye Bookshop, 25 High Street, the Heritage Centre, Strand Quay; Adams, 9 High Street, or online Other books by David Russell are The Pubs of Hastings & St Leonards, The Pubs of Lewes, The Swan, Hastings and Register of Licensees for Hastings & St Leonards.

Photo : David Russell

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