I am currently staying briefly in Stockport. Among the vast array of historical education that the town offers, is a most refreshing feature, given the current heat wave in North-west England. That is Robinsons' Brewery. I note from their museum that one of the their pubs, at Hurdlow in Derbyshire is called the Bull I' Th' Thorn Inn.

I feel certain that @Edwin Ashworth will be able to explain that.


Of course I am supposing it means 'Bull in the thorn'. But interestingly the letter 'I' is written as a capital in the pub name.

And what might be the precise pronunciation in the Derbyshire accent?

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    What about asking about this at the Inn? I understand you are there now!! – user66974 Jul 24 '14 at 7:57
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    @Josh61 No I am in Stockport. But thanks, you have given me a good excuse for a visit and another jar of the Old Tom ale. I just have to persuade my wife to take a detour on the way home. Might be difficult when she discovers what it is for! – WS2 Jul 24 '14 at 8:05
  • I can't do better than suggest that Janus' findings are probably right, and that 'Hurdlow House' became known as 'Hurdlow Thorn' because of local geographical features (cf Moreton in Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold). Linguistically. However, as regards breweries ... – Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 '14 at 8:13
  • Thornbridge Hall is in Buxton. Not sure how close that would be, a few miles? nor whether there is any connection. – Frank Jul 24 '14 at 8:32
  • In this 1895 Directory of Derbyshire, one William Wigley is listed as the "vict" [victualler?] at the Bull-in-the-Thorn Inn in Hurdlow. The latter-day elisions are just an attempt to add "local colour" to attract the tourist trade. – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '14 at 13:38

Is there any reason why it would not be something simple, like

  • bull -> male cow
  • i' -> in
  • th' -> the
  • thorn -> prickly bushes
  • inn -> pub

So [the] pub [named] the male bovine [that got stuck] in prickly bushes.

As to why pubs and inns are given such names, that would be more fodder for a psychologist than a linguist I'm afraid...

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    According to this ghost tour site, it's a mixture of two earlier names of the house: The Bull (original name of the inn from the 1400s onwards) and Hurdlow Thorn from the 1600s onwards. No idea how reliable that is, though—it's just from a quick Google search. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '14 at 7:53
  • Well, the pub's been there since 1472. I'm not sure they had psychologists then! It hadn't escaped me that it might mean 'Bull in the thorn', but I am intrigued as to the history. – WS2 Jul 24 '14 at 7:55
  • @WS2 - that the did not have psychologists doesn't mean they wouldn't have needed them... – oerkelens Jul 24 '14 at 7:57
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    @oerkelens In the fifteenth century they used axes where we use psychologists - cheaper! – WS2 Jul 24 '14 at 8:00

There is a wide variety of pub names in Britain, from the fairly sensible to the downright bonkers.

While many pub names include animals, there is a significant subset that refer to some action of the animal. This is particularly true if it refers to some famous local event - either real or imaginary.

One feature of the dialect of Yorkshire and, to a lesser extent, Derbyshire is the elision of many conjunctions and prepositions. The most famous is T' for The but includes I' for In.

So the sign is just exaggerating The Bull In The Thorn Bush to attract passing trade. It would be pronounced as it is spelt on the sign.

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  • See @Janus comment – WS2 Jul 24 '14 at 8:07

Pronounced: bull inthorn its common up north to use the word 'inth' or 'ith' instead of saying 'in the'

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    I'd have said it was pronounced Bull int' thorn – WS2 Feb 18 '15 at 7:37

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