Many of the inn signs I have photographed are just one small part of a fascinating building. Sadly many inns have closed in recent years and equally sadly, from my point of view, some which have remained open have lost their signs (for whatever reason).
One such is The Falcon in Chester, England. The above photo was taken in 2011 when on a trip around the city with GB. That sign, formerly on the North side of the building, has now gone but there remains a simple wooden board with the name on the East side of the building.
It might seem obvious why an inn should be called The Falcon (especially when next door to The Golden Eagle) – some local interest in falconry, the so-called sport of kings, perhaps. But there are a number of other potential reasons. At Bude, in Cornwall, The Falcon was named after a stage-coach that went across the Devon border and the sign depicts a coach not a bird. Falcon was a popular name for a ship – indicating, like the stage-coach, that it was swift. A monarch, local lord or dignitary might have a falcon on his crest as did Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. (There is no falcon on the Grosvenor family / Duke of Westminster’s crest.)
The Falcon building originated as a house in about 1200 and was later extended to the south along Lower Bridge Street, with a great hall running parallel to the street. During the 13th century it was rebuilt to incorporate its portion of the row. It was rebuilt again during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The house was bought in 1602 by Sir Richard Grosvenor who extensively altered it some 40 years later to make it his town house. During the English Civil War he moved his family here from his country home, Eaton Hall. In 1643 Sir Richard petitioned the City Assembly for leave to enlarge his house by enclosing the portion of the row which passed through his property. This was successful and it set a precedent for other residents of Lower Bridge Street to enclose their portion of the rows, or to build new structures which did not incorporate the rows.
In the late 18th century the building ceased to be the town house of the Grosvenor family. It continued to be owned by them, and between 1778 and 1878 it was licensed as The Falcon Inn. In about 1879 alterations were made by John Douglas. At this time it was known as The Falcon Cocoa House and it was re-opened as a temperance house. Originally the brainchild of the Society of Friends- the Quakers- local cocoa houses came about due to pious concern that Chester's working folk were preferring to spend their time and money in warm and cosy pubs and 'gin palaces' rather than staying in with their families in their cold, damp homes- or even going to church. Interestingly, prominent among those reforming Quakers were the Cadbury and Fry families- chocolate manufacturers! Their concern, evidently, was as much about profits as moral improvement.
By the 1970s the building had become virtually derelict and in 1979 the Falcon Trust was established, and the Grosvenor Estate donated the building to the Trust. Between 1979 and 1982 the building was restored and in 1983 it won a Europa Nostra award.
On the side of the building is what is described on one website as a road sign but it doesn't reflect the current road names. Perhaps the area adjacent to The Falcon was once known as South M...l Place? Any help in solving that little riddle would be appreciated.
This is a view of The Falcon (far right) as shown in a painting of Louise Rayner (1832-1924).