Fancy a pint at the Cod Smack? Discover the drinking holes of Victorian Surrey

PUBLISHED: 09:44 03 June 2014

The Rats Castle in Guildford circa 1970 (Photo: Surrey History Centre)

The Rats Castle in Guildford circa 1970 (Photo: Surrey History Centre)


Thousands of historic records pertaining to Surrey pubs have been published online for the first time – revealing the weird and wonderful names of some of our county’s oldest ‘boozers’.

Digitised by, part of the world’s largest family history resource, the records form part of The Surrey Collection 1696 to 1903 and detail the names of more than 65,000 victuallers – those officially licensed to sell alcohol – and their establishments.

Among the more unusual pub names, the records show that historic Surrey boasted two Lamb Breweries, a Cod Smack and even a solitary Leopard in Stoke next Guildford. Other wacky monikers no longer in existence include the Red Lettuce in St Saviour, Child’s Hall of Great Bookham and the Pig in the String in Dorking.

Still trading in the local area today is a further selection of curiously named pubs, including the Pineapple in Lambeth, the Rats Castle in Guildford and the Crooked Billet in Staines.

To obtain a licence, pub landlords in the 18th and 19th centuries were obliged to attend a local court hearing. Here, they took out recognisances (a pledge of a bond in court) to promise that they would run their pub in an orderly fashion and not cause any public nuisance.

Each record states the date, parish, the name of the victualler and the name of the establishment. Some records also include the name and residence of the person who vouched for the victualler in court.

As well as revealing unusual titles, the records shed light on popular pub names in the area over the 18th and 19th centuries. The Red Lion, White Hart and Crown all feature prominently in the collection along with the King’s Arms and King’s Head.

Further analysis of the collection also uncovered the number of licenses held in each parish, with Lambeth coming out on top (historic Surrey included some parishes, such as Lambeth and Camberwell that are now listed as Inner London).

Over a 118-year period, over 3,750 pub landlords took out the required licences in Lambeth, followed by St George (now Southwark) with 3,052 and Bermondsey with 3,007.

Digitised from original records that are held at the Surrey County Council’s Surrey History Centre, The Surrey Collection 1696-1903 is now available exclusively online at As well as victualler records, the collection includes nearly two million land tax records and over 200,000 qualified juror records.


Read on to find a selection of our favourite Surrey pubs to visit this summer

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